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Generators and oil burners

  1. #1
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Generators and oil burners

    I have an 8k generator. I have an oil fired boiler for my heat and hot water. Today I found out that this generator cannot power my boiler. This surprises me. The thing powers almost everything else in this house. Fridge, well pump, toaster. This morning my wife even made coffee on the electric range. But the oil burner would not fire. I have been running the tank near the ragged edge. I figured I'd run the tank down too far. I ran to the gas station, dragged home 10 gallons of diesel. Still wouldn't fire, so I started trying to purge the supply line. The blower/pump motor on my burner would not stay running for more than 10-15 seconds or so before the thermal trip on the blower motor would pop. The motor was warm to the touch.

    Called my plumber guy, figuring the motor was shot. Bearings froze. Hell if I know. He calls me back and asks if the house has power. No, we're rockin' the generator, but its got gobs of gas, come on over. He stops me right there. Wait for the power to come back on, I bet your motor is fine.

    I stoke up the wood stove. Just as I get the temps in the living room past the 60-F mark the power comes back on. And wouldn't you know, the furnace runs just fine. (Once I finish purging the feed line.)

    Now.. why the hell can't I power an AC motor off my 8k genny?

    It's interesting that my wife has a slightly smaller 7k genny and has no problem running the oil burner on her forced-hot-air system.

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    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Is your generator 220v?

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    Changes come butcher bergs's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Are you certain the boiler wiring is on the same circuit as whatever the genny is supposed to be powering?

    FWIW, my 5k runs my 220v well pump and tankless boiler and coffee maker and refrigerator and lights and...well, you get the idea.

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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    My 8500peak Rigid runs my well and oil burner pretty much without coming off idle.

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    Is your generator 220v?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by butcher bergs View Post
    Are you certain the boiler wiring is on the same circuit as whatever the genny is supposed to be powering?
    Yes. As I say the motor would run for 10-15 seconds, then pop the thermal breaker.

    The only thing I can think of is I have this thing jacked into a 3-prong dryer plug. My wife's setup is a real 4-prong with a switch panel.

    Or maybe my generator just sucks.

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    I also tried isolating the burner, turning off every other breaker in the house until the only two on were the back-feed from the dryer plug and the boiler. Same results.

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    Lifer
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    Yes. As I say the motor would run for 10-15 seconds, then pop the thermal breaker.
    When you say thermal breaker, do you mean the red button on the blower unit furnace controls that starts it? The Cad Cell Relay. If so, you're hearing the blower spin up but the next step in the sequence is the CAD relay is supposed to create a spark to ignite the oil stream. As a safety, if it doesn't detect this, the relay shuts everything down and the red button pops up.

    I wonder if power to the ignitor is off a different breaker? Either that or you aren't getting enough voltage to make a decent spark?

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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    <guessing>Generator isn't producing enough voltage to operate the boiler pump at rated load and current at the point of the boiler.

    IDK what your setup looks like, but it's likely that you have some voltage drop between the generator and wherever it connects to your panel. There's additional voltage drop from that point to the panel. These drops aren't there when you are running on utility power.

    If you could throw a clamp on meter on the feed to the boiler I'd bet it's running higher than rated to compensate for being undervoltage. </guessing>

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    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Bubs it sounds like your genny isnít properly grounded and bonded. Motors are a lot more picky about this when equipped with thermal overloads. Get a 4 wire setup done and youíll be good to go.

    Using a 3 wire drier outlet as your service entrance is requiring your ground to act as a neutral at a point in the system where youíre already bonded. This is causing excess heat thus tripping the thermal on your motor. Your other devices are also generating more heat, they just donít have thermals to trip.


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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by aldend123 View Post
    When you say thermal breaker, do you mean the red button on the blower unit furnace controls that starts it? The Cad Cell Relay. If so, you're hearing the blower spin up but the next step in the sequence is the CAD relay is supposed to create a spark to ignite the oil stream. As a safety, if it doesn't detect this, the relay shuts everything down and the red button pops up.
    No. I mean the much smaller red button on the blower motor itself. I'm fairly certain this is a thermal trip. The trip would not reset immediately, I had to wait a few minutes to get it to reset.

    After power came back I was able to run the motor just fine for longer periods and I did have the control unit trip. (CAD relay, I guess it's called.) It makes sense that it would trip then as I was bleeding the supply line and the boiler was not firing. My supply line goes up the basement wall for some distance and is a bit of a pain in the ass to purge. So I had to reset the controller a couple times to finish.

    Jason's explanation of the voltage loss in my wiring makes sense, I guess.
    Maybe there's a lot of drop in the back feed cable I have.
    Odd that it powered everything else in the house; the well pump, the electric range.

    My HVAC guy said something about generators not making the right kind of power. My generator is obviously not an inverter type. I'm sure the power it makes is crusty as hell. I'd expect this to be a problem for electronics with switching power supplies.. not for an AC motor.

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by loudbeard View Post
    Bubs it sounds like your genny isn’t properly grounded and bonded. Motors are a lot more picky about this when equipped with thermal overloads. Get a 4 wire setup done and you’ll be good to go.

    Using a 3 wire drier outlet as your service entrance is requiring your ground to act as a neutral at a point in the system where you’re already bonded. This is causing excess heat thus tripping the thermal on your motor. Your other devices are also generating more heat, they just don’t have thermals to trip.
    Ah, okay. I thought I was just running the risk of shock by letting the ground float. I didn't realize that would have an effect on loads in the house. I mean there is still a ground path through the panel. I'd expect the genny to be screwed, not the load.

    A proper switch panel with a 4-plug feed has been on the shortlist anyway. If you say that'll fix it, we'll just follow through. I'd be somewhat annoyed to install all that and not be able to run the heat though.

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    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Free way to test my advice; swap generators with the wifeís house. Iíll wager you see the same results in both places.

    Just to clarify though, your generator is 220 volt 4 wire, correct? When you feed the drier plug with the generator, youíre connecting both 120 bolt legs and the neutral, leaving the ground not connected?


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  13. #13
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by loudbeard View Post
    Just to clarify though, your generator is 220 volt 4 wire, correct? When you feed the drier plug with the generator, you’re connecting both 120 bolt legs and the neutral, leaving the ground not connected?
    Correct on all counts.

    I have no idea how wife's generator is configured; if her ground connects to chassis or not. Pretty sure mine is still chassis grounded. I think if I plug mine into her system I'll be adding a ground loop. If hers is not grounded, I'll just have the generator -> dryer plug portion completely ungrounded.

    Or I could just get off my ass and install a correct transfer switch setup like I've been meaning to for years. Seems we get power outages enough to warrant the investment.

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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    I would agree with the stoutwhiskers. Also, throw a multi meter on the feed when running AND loaded and see what the voltage is. If the voltage is low, chances are the frequency is off as well and that will wreak havoc on a motor.

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Frequency is off would indicate a problem with the generator, no? Like it's running too slowly maybe?

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    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Yes, usually just an adjustment to the governor, govna.

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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    Or I could just get off my ass and install a correct transfer switch setup like I've been meaning to for years. Seems we get power outages enough to warrant the investment.
    I had my electrician install a lickout switch on my main panel. Cost me $100 parts and labor, vs $400 for a transfer switch. It's basically a plate fastened to the panel cover that only allows either the main breaker, or the generator breaker to be on at the same time. It's simple and easy and 100% legal

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    I'm still (I think I posted about this in the past) mulling over my options. My garage is on the south side of the house and the panel is on the far North side, some 60' away. Running heavy gauge 4-conductor that far seems expensive.

    An option I've considered is pouring a small pad on the North side of the house and building a dog-house of sorts to house the generator full time, then put one of those outdoor between the meter transfer thingies on my meter. That'd free up some garage space, get this 8k generator out of there. I happen to need to have the meter pulled to repair some siding this summer anyway. But those are like $700.

    Another option is to just throw an outdoor ~40 amp generator hookup plug in the same location. The feed through the wall to the panel would be short.

    Although I do not think I have space to back feed through the existing panel as my panel is pretty chock full. I already have a couple circuits on tandem breakers and have 3 double pole 220 breakers; dryer, well pump and range. We're considering installing propane and converting the range to gas. So that would free up some space.

    Much to consider. In the meantime I keep putting it off as, really, how often do we really lose power anyway?! (All the fuckin' time, it turns out!)

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    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    An option I've considered is pouring a small pad on the North side of the house and building a dog-house of sorts to house the generator full time, then put one of those outdoor between the meter transfer thingies on my meter. That'd free up some garage space, get this 8k generator out of there.
    That's my plan. I also plan on putting my air compressor out there. Would I need to pull any permits or such to do that?

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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    In my town "so glad you asked, of course you need a permit for that! permit fee is $xxx, thank you"

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  21. #21
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    In my town "so glad you asked, of course you need a permit for that! permit fee is $xxx, thank you"
    So maybe.. Don't ask don't tell..

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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    That's my plan. I also plan on putting my air compressor out there. Would I need to pull any permits or such to do that?
    For a compressor, keep in mind what drawing cold air from outside into a warm garage will do with condensation and all your air tools.

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  23. #23
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by GearHd6 View Post
    For a compressor, keep in mind what drawing cold air from outside into a warm garage will do with condensation and all your air tools.
    Good thought but my garage is anything but warm..

    Maybe someday that will be heated and insulated!

    I have an air line drier before the tire machine but might want to put one on the other line also.

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    Last edited by csmutty; 03-09-18 at 11:15 AM.
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    That mini drier they put on that machine is near useless, my brothers broke pretty quick. A whole system drier would be best.

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    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Generators and oil burners

    Quote Originally Posted by GearHd6 View Post
    That mini drier they put on that machine is near useless, my brothers broke pretty quick. A whole system drier would be best.
    I'll put an order in through smc at work. Thanks for the heads up.

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