UPS Backup and Home Generator questions

I'm currently looking at UPS backups for my home network. Right now, I'm thinking I need/want 8-9 backup outlets. I was figuring on getting 3 cheap 3 outlet back ups. The kind you can find at most any electronics store, so when one "breaks" as these cheap ones have done with me often in the past, I can just replace it with another.

Then I got to thinking about generators.

What would be involved in getting a home generator hooked up to my house? Also, I wonder if there is a way to have it turn on automatically when power goes out. But then how do I keep the power in the house from breifly going out before the generator kicks in? Im guessing this is done in the corporate world by running the critical items on a UPS system, that once normal power goes out (and all non essential things go out, like the lights) the genaerator is turned on, feeding power to the system.

I found this link that sells small sized generators like this:

Anyone have some thoughts, ideas, insight into home applications like this? I wont mind splitting up points to more then 1 response, just trying to get some ideas and better understand of how I might go about this.
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kryticalAuthor Commented:
Also ran across this link:

Shows how you can power only certian essential devices in a power outage. ("essential" like computers, tv, mini-refrigerators, stereo, etc. lol)

Im guessing a UPS backup system could be placed after the "automatic power transfer switch", so it will still see that power is out, but still allow the UPS Backup to give temporary power.

Looks like its "a little" too complicated for a novice to install all this however.
You can hook up generators to provide backup power in case your normal power goes out.

Unless you want to spend a lot of money on a generator that can power you whole house, you will need a second service panel as shown the the link that krytical provided.

Not only is this a bit complicated for the novice, it is dangrous.  First, in order to connect a second service panel you MUST, that is MUST (not an option not to do), but MUST have the electric company disconnet power to your house.  The MUST pull the meter head out so that NO power is being provided to your house.  I am not sure about other places, but in the US houses have 120 volt 200 AMP service normally.  This is not something to play with.  I would assume in other parts of the world you would have 220-240 volt 200 AMP service.

In fact most places may require that you have a licensed/certified electriction do the work.
You don't need to have a full second service panel. The process is:
1) Identify the things you would like to have running during a power outage. Note that referidgerators and freezers do not ned to run the whole time. Include lights (at least one per occupied room), some outlets ( Usually one 220 for electric stove and/or cloths dryer, hot water and other things you will need.
2) Add up the wattage of all these items. Be reasonable and figure out how much time each will be on and devise a schedule to minimize the amout of current that will be used at any one time. Use the washer during the daylight hours and lights at night.
3) Compute how many generator hours you have available. Most generators that can be purchased for under $10,000 are not continuous duty. They can only be run so many hours then shutdown so many hours. Draw up a chart that defines the cycle of each appliance. Add up the highest current requirement you have.
4) Now you are ready to buy your genrator. I got mine at Home Depot. They have a lot of info about how to hook it up and their prices aren't bad either. Look for generators with Honda motors if you can afford them. They can be run longer than the Tecumsah or Briggs and Stratton engines.
5) Home Depot also has all the appliances to hook the generator to your house circuit.
6) There is a transfer box that routes current from your generator to the circuits in your home.
7) For the most part, if you can change out an electric socket, you can install a generator. Very few places require a licensed electrician as long as you are working on your own house and all your connections are on the house side of the master breaker.

Once all hooked up, make sure you don't run the generator in your garage or in your home.

This setup will not be a UPS system. UPS systems for large companies use batteries to drive the system until you can start the generator. If you have items that need to be uninterrupted, use smaller UPS boxes on your computers.

These are just the highlights, but if you have additional questions, just ask. I have installed 3 generator systems so far.

One thing to consider: don't forget your alarm system when buying UPS boxes.

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kryticalAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the helpful comments and links here. Definately have a better understanding of what I need to do to make this happen
kryticalAuthor Commented:
Hmmm, I dont seem to have the link to "Split Points" now.

Anyone know how I can give the three "comments" as "answers" with 25 points each?
kryticalAuthor Commented:
Gee that FAQ is actually helpful (bowing head in shame).

I  curious.  That I am aware of you can either put the switch before the breaker box or after.  

To put before you must get the electric company invloved and licensed electrictions and will provide power for the whole house.

If you do it after, you have to rewire so that the circuits you want backed up are wired from the breaker box, to the transfer box, then to the outlets.

I personally would not consider the fact that you can re-wire an outlet qualifications to start messing inside a breaker box.

Am I missing something.  Is there another way to put your generater in without touching the breaker box?

To  Krytical:
Here is a link to a Popular Mechanics page that desciribes the process.  If you don't mind going into your breaker box and installing a new breaker.
The short answer is no and yes. I will explain 'no' first.

The circuit has to go like this:
(my best attempt ot do circuits in stick figures)

Normal Circuit...
Socket in house ------> Breaker Box ----------> Outside Connection

Circuit with Generator...
Socket in House -------> Switching Panel ----------> Breaker Box ----------> Outside Connection

The switching panel has breakers just like the regular panel. They are three position breakers - Off, Power, Generator. The only rewiring that needs to be done is moving the wire from the circuit you want on the generator to a position in the switching panel. There will be one wire from the switching panel to the regular panel. For this, obviously, the current will be off. If leaving the power on is important, then all you have to do is shut off the breaker to the circuit you are moving. I DON'T recommend that!

As for putting the switcing panel on the other side of the breaker box, I can't see a way to do that because of the design of the switching panel. It is not designed to carry the current for the whole house. In fact, they only come with 4, 6 and 8 breakers in them. Plus, there is no master shut off in the switching panel.

As for qualifications, you only do what you feel comfortable doing. Each circuit going into a breaker connects three wires: hot, common and ground. With the current turned off, it is simply turning a screwdriver. The skill level is no greater than changing out a socket. If the fact that there are a lot of wires there gives you pause, then you should definately find someone else who is qualified to do the job.

The second answer is yes there is a way to install a generator without touching the breaker box. It involves running new wire (most easily done during construction or remodeling) and new sockets. You may notice in hospitals and in some data centers and telecom centers, there are sockets with a different color (usually red). These are the UPS circuits. They are run to a super version of a switching panel. They will always have power and you can do that for yourself as well. The downside to that is you will have to unplug everything from the regular sockets and plug them in to generator supplied sockets. That could be a real pain when that involves the refrigerator and the stove.

The first choice is the most common and the one for which the retail switching panels were designed.

That is exactly what I thought, you have to re-wire the cicurt from the breaker box.  Most places require any work done inside the breaker box to be done by a licensed/certified electriction, at least they used to.

Yes, I know what is in a circut breaker box, I have done work in there myself a few times.  However, just turning off the circut break for the wires you are moving is not safe.  Once slip of the screw driver to one of the other live circuts and if you live you will be across the room.  Turning off the master breaker will be safe, but your still in a box that still has the potential of 240 volts and 200 amps.

Yes, outlets on UPS/Generator have different colors, our are orange.

Actually, once the master breaker is off, there is no current in the box. The wires coming in from the outside are not exposed.

I do agree with not using the one breaker off technique. You might note my comment: I DON'T recommend that!

I believe most codes require all professional work to be done by a licensed electrician. I know the national code allows for anyone to do their own work on their own residence. Many local codes require an inspection though.

< Turning off the master breaker will be safe, but your still in a box that still has the potential of 240 volts and 200 amps.>

Funnything about shutting down breakers to work on circuts. My brother used to run lighting for a band. Most the bars, that he would setup, he would have to tap into their breaker box for power. He had to tap into the box live because he was not alowed to shut the main down.
Well, what I have been told is that as long as the meter head is installed, there is current in the box and the only way to not have current in the box is to have the elec. co. remove the meter.  With the main off, there is no current going to the bar, but there is still current in the box.

Yes, most places will not allow you to turn off the main.  They do want electricity.  I have done work in live circuit boxes a few times, I have done a few other things on live circuits that should not be done.

I personally do not recommend telling somebody to do something that is very dangerous without knowing their skills.  But to each their own.
If you have ever looked at a breaker box new or preinstallation, you will notice that the cables coming in from the electric meter connect to the master switch only. That is located near the entry point of te cable. The master switch conects to copper busses to which the individual loads snap onto. with the master switch in the of position, no current passes through the switch to the busses. This is the way it has been designed so people (including experts) won't accidently get cooked. You can take a meter and check it out if you like.

I maintain that if there is no electricity, there is no danger.

I will put in a caveat here: if the box is properly wired, this is true. If, somehow, the box has one of the hot wires connected to the ground, the box will be hot when the master is off. But of course, if that were to be, you would have much more serious problems than your box as every ground wire in the house would be hot and one might notice a few bodies lying around before you got as far as the electric box. One of the bodies would lkely be the installer. That, plus the fact it would never pass inspection.

As far as recommending stuff, again you will note I stated: I DON'T recommend that. As far as skill level goes, everyone has to figure that out for themselves. You don't withhold knowledge - just give it with appropriate warnings.


 Experts on here tell users how to do stuff that could that could harm their computers all the time.
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