poor man's back up generator

Chic Rustler

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picked this thing up used for $300. it's 5500 watts and just had a fresh tune up. then I bought 5 gas cans that were 5 gallons each and filled them up, along with the tank. treated all the fuel with sta-bil and marvel mystery oil. the most important thing is the fuel cans are sealed and air tight. I'm hoping to get a year out of the fuel and if not used by then I'll run it in my lawn mower and cars and then refill for next year.
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Chic Rustler

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so next I needed to work on a system to wire it all in. I could have bought a generator cord, generator plug, and transfer switch but that all adds up to a good chunk of change. I picked up a receptical that is the same as the 250 volt plug on the generator, 12 feet of 10 awg 4 conductor power cord, two male cord ends that are of the same style, a weather proof box and some other goodies. I also put in a welder plug in the shed while I was doing all of this.

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this is the plug for the generator. it gives 2 hots, a neutral, and a ground. everything you need to power hour breaker panel just like the grid does.
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here's the same type plug outside in a weatherproof box. the only down side to this set up is I have a cord with 2 male ends. it works to e but if you were to plug in into the generator while it was running there would be a risk of electric shock if you came into contact with the prongs of the plug. I wanted a male receptical on the wall and a regular male/female cord but I couldn't find one around town. so the safe procedure is to plug the cord in both sides before you start the generator.

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so this was basically what I found when I opened the sub panel in the shed. it's a dang mess. a couple breakers had overheated and melted. there's no ground buss, they just tied all the grounds and neutrals together (not legit at a sub panel!) and just a general untidy rats nest.

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after some work and breaker changeouts were are in business. I got a ground buss Installed, all the bonding straightened out and it's ready to go.
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so the top double pole breaker on the left is the one for the generator or welder. in the event I want to weld I'll turn it on and run the machine. when I'm done I'll unplug the welder and turn the breaker off.

here's where it gets tricky. in the even I want to run the house on the generator I'll got to the main panel in the house, turn the main breaker off and separate my house from the grid. then I'll turn all of the 250 volt double pole breakers off (water heater, oven, heater/ac, ect) except for the 60 amp breaker that normally feeds the shed, I'll leave that one on.

then I'll go outside, plug up the generator cord, start it up and then turn the breaker for it on. (upper left corner of the shed sub panel)

then it powers the house until we run out of gas
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I we t over everything with the wife on how to do it. and did a test run tonight. it ran every light and fan in the house and shed, the refrigerator, and deep freezer. then for fun I turned on the coffee pot (900 watts) and the microwave. with all that on I got a little bit of a flicker when the microwave kicked on. so I'm betting that was pretty close to max.
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with the price of the generator, the costs of the gas cans, fuel, additives, and electrical supplies I'm up to about $600 total investment. you can't get a new 5500 watt generator for $600 after taxes and a transfer switch runs between $500 and $900.


not too bad for a poor boy
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