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Old 01-27-2014, 01:43 PM   #1
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RV generator as backup power source for home

I am a new member but here it goes.

I have a 2003 Forest River Windsong with a Onan Marquis Gold 5500 generator. I would like to use the generator as a backup power source for my home. THe generator has 2 breakers one 30 amp and on 20 amp. The wires go into an automatic transfer switch. If I run the 4 wires from the generator into manual switch box then to the auto switch box then From the manual switch box for the other out would go to a female 50 amp plug(similar to the plug you use for power at an RV Park) . I would then use a cord to go to another 50 amp plug next to my breaker box. Go through another manual switch then to my breaker box to a 50 amp breaker. Would this work and would this provide 240 volts to my panel?

Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:00 PM   #2
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First - Welcome to IRV2!!

Without addressing the 240 VAC question initially, I'd like to point out that the BIG issue is not feeding 120/240 VAC power into the utility lines that linesmen will/may be working on - for their protection. You'll need an electrician to provide a safe connection to the house power panel to prevent electrocution of power company personnel responding to any power outage.

That said, it can be done. Unless you're qualified in electrical installations, I'd suggest turning to an electrician to protect both the linesmen and yourself against unforeseen circumstances.

You can find lots of discussions on this issue on the web site by searching using the "search" feature toward the top of the page. Here are just a couple of the discussions:

Hope that helps...
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:14 PM   #3
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Most RV generators are 120 volt AC until they get above 10K. Not the 240 volt AC you need to supply power to a home. The Marquis Gold 5500 produces 120 volts then splits it off to 2 circuit breakers. Here is a link to ONAN RV generator spec sheet's.
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:28 PM   #4
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You'll first have to determine if your generator will supply 240 volts. You said it had a 30 and 20 amp breaker which I'm thinking that your coach only has a 30 amp service. That being said it only provides 120 volt to your coach. Now you'll have to check out the ratings off the plate on your generator to be sure. You don't just add 30 + 20 and come up with 50amp 120/240 volts. It doesn't work that way.

The best way to protect the utility lineman is to install a 3 pole manual double pole double throw transfer switch between the panel in your house and the utility meter. This will break all three lines coming into your home with no chance of any back feed. Just sit down when you get the price for that switch but it's a fool proof system for safety. JMHO!
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:37 PM   #5
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Your generator doesn't produce the 240 v needed to run your 240 v. furnace, dryer, or electric range. For emergency purposes, I'd just run extension cords from the RV to the house for lights or portable heaters. You'd need a dedicated 240 v generator and the power line isolation system others have mentioned.

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Old 01-27-2014, 04:01 PM   #6
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In theory, what you want can be done BUT, have a professional electrician do the work.. Also look into one of these Interlock Kits. You will need one of these at the house
( Generator InterLock Kit Manual Transfer Switch ),
to ensure that you never feed generator power onto the grid. On the other hand the same could be done with a slave service box connected to the main service box for your home. Good luck..
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Old 01-27-2014, 04:30 PM   #7
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RV to House

All I really want to do is be able to run my furnace 15 amp single pole.
Run a few plugs 20 amp single pole.
The above is the most important.

I have a well pump that is a 15 amp double pole. Can the 20 and 30 amp from the RV be used to run the 15 amp double pole for the pump?

Thank you for all the responses. I will use a professional to hook all this up I just want to know if it is possible and to understand what has to be done to the RV as well as the house.
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:00 PM   #8
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I have a 200A ATS for my S&B BU Gen. The setup is similar to what we have in our RV's but sized and certified for domestic service. Indeed as others have said, it is essential that the incoming line be isolated from the Gen power supply for safety reasons.

And I agree, a 200A ATS is not inexpensive. A manual knife switch is cheaper but not cheap, but the ATS is the way to go for my application. If the line power is off for my gen starts and connects to the house service panel via the ATS after a 3 min delay if on auto. When the external power comes back on, it must be on for 3 min, the ATS switches power back to the line and the gen shuts down.

My son has a manual knife switch, for his manual start BU gen. Whatever system is used, it requires a modification on the wires before the main distribution panel with all wires in conduit and power boxes.

Both of our systems were inspected by the utility provider. Don't know if this is a requirement everywhere but our electrician organized this for our benefit, and possibly for his liability protection.
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:35 PM   #9
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Any type of transfer switch or modification to the electrical system of a home requires a permit to be drawn up and plans submitted proving the modification meets the electrical and fire codes of your community. Some communities will allow you to do the work yourself if the plans are drawn up by a licensed electrician, licensed architect or licensed electrical engineer while others will only allow a licensed electrician to do the work.

Since the generator will not support the whole house then most code enforcement officers would insist on a transfer switch that does not switch the main breakers and only targets the circuits that you want to provide backup power to, which is what we did next door at my brothers home using a contractor type portable 240 volt generator.
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Old 01-27-2014, 10:45 PM   #10
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Another consideration is whether your home is wired with shared neutrals. If so, a 120V generator would cause further challenges and a professional electrician would definitely be required.

Could you run an extension from the trailer to the furnace?
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Old 01-28-2014, 12:32 AM   #11
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I looked at doing this a few years ago. Decided easier and better to go with a standalone portable 240vac generator. Bought a good used 5000 watt unit via Craigslist for $350 or so, installed an inlet connector near the house main breaker box, and a mechanical interlock on the main breaker for safety. Works great.
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Old 01-28-2014, 03:34 AM   #12
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Here is an example of a basic 6 circuit transfer switch:
Reliance Transfer Switch Kit 6 Circuit, Model# 31406CRK | Generator Transfer Switches| Northern Tool + Equipment

To interrupt the mains you would need one that matches your main panel amperage unless the generators amperage was higher.

If you need to mount the switch outside then you'll also need a waterproof model or a waterproof cover.
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Old 01-28-2014, 04:21 AM   #13
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Your well pump requires 240v, your rv genny will not power it.

Before we put our transfer switch in our home, I put a cord on my furnace. When the power went out I would unplug the furnace from the wall and run a 14 ga. extension cord from the RV to the furnace. I once ran another cord to the house for the fridge during an extended outage. Just made sure it was on a separate circuit in the RV where I plugged it in.

We now have a portable genny that does 240v so we can run our well, furnace, fridge and a lighting circuit. I believe it is a 6500w genny.
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:41 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by NeilV View Post
Here is an example of a basic 6 circuit transfer switch:
Reliance Transfer Switch Kit — 6 Circuit, Model# 31406CRK | Generator Transfer Switches| Northern Tool + Equipment

To interrupt the mains you would need one that matches your main panel amperage unless the generators amperage was higher.

If you need to mount the switch outside then you'll also need a waterproof model or a waterproof cover.
Indeed you need a transfer switch to meed the mains supply if you interrupt the main power input line. And likely to meet the maximum current in any circumstance or at lease the main fuses in the panel. I have a Generac system and I believe my transfer switch alone was about $600 without the box and wiring etc. I noted the referenced one is about $300 but that only supplies 6 specific circuits. It is not a backup for the entire house and does not interrupt the main supply.

You need a gen to match your load.

I have 200A service but my Gen is 22KVA (18KW) - my normal load is much less than the Gen supplies but if I put everything on in the house, such as two wall ovens. The AC. Electric Dryer, dehumidifiers, Air Compressor, Steamer, etc. I might pop a gen circuit breaker. But most of the time one can control the load. I would never put everything on all at once that would exceed 18Kw while on Gen power, albeit my Gen is of a decent size and larger than most domestic BU systems.

If the system is manual, one can obviously use a much lower power Gen to run the essentials in a house very easily. You still need to isolate the gen source from the mains and throw off any breakers you do not need to control power consumption in the house. Very simple to do. My son does this. When there is a main power failure, he throws his knife transfer switch and turns off all of his breakers and then starts the gen. He then brings on the circuits he needs one by one and does not exceed the gen power. He can control that as necessary by switching circuits on and off. Doing it manually prevents a big surge by having all motors etc trying to start at once.

Some people do it a non official way by not having a transfer switch and use much smaller portable generators and things work out just fine. (I know of several people who do this and it works but I prefer to use the Certified Transfer Switch method.) The transfer switches in the post quoted are a much better option IMHO because the Gen can be autostart but both ways work.

These folks use the main breaker in the house to isolate the main power. Then through a suitable 4 wire plug wired to the main panel that is fused. And again turn off all circuit breakers and only bringing load items on as required. The key is to throw the main breaker before you bring the gen online.

So one only needs a gen to match the load. One can control the load manually.
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