Still preparing for winter storms

I have upgraded my emergency power system to the point where I can activate it in about five minutes. This upgrade is a major improvement as most of the work can be done
indoors where it is dry and warm and only the final stage requires me
to go outside and start the generator.

Previously, it would take me an hour to set up the emergency generator and all of the extension cables required to power the refrigerator, stove blower, and other essential appliances. Furthermore, doors and windows would have to left ajar to accommodate the cables feeding power to the house.

I realize, of course, that upgrading my emergency power system may have ensured that we will experience no more neighborhood power outages in 2007. That is OK with me. I don’t mind having emergency backup systems that remain unused. The peace of mind will be well worth the cost and effort.

I eventually want a hard-wired switching system that will allow us to switch from utility power to emergency power either automatically or manually. That will require major rewiring of our switch panel and the services of currently scarce electricians.

My current solution involves mating a 25 foot generator extension cable to a 4 foot dryer cable so that I could back-feed power into my house through the dryer connection – after disconnecting my house from outside power.

This was not a trivial task. I spent an hour checking connections and breaker settings with the help of neighbor Tom King, before I ventured to actually go through the procedure and switch from utility to generator power. Then I had to mark breakers and document what steps to take and in what order so that I could do it reliably the next time. I took the view that I would probably be doing it in the dark and in terrible weather with all kinds of distractions so my instructions to self on switching to emergency power had to be crystal clear and essentially foolproof.

This is not something I would suggest for the inexperienced as it can result in blowing up your generator or damaging your house if incorrectly done. The local building inspector says that a properly wired switch is the only way to accomplish transferring from utility power to generator power safely. I heartily agree with him.

As soon as we can arrange for an electrician to set up a hard-wired switchover system, we will have one installed. Meanwhile, we are prepared for whatever comes.

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