Generator question is flickering power bad for a fridge — parallax forums gas cap code

It’d be interesting to see how your neighbor is connecting that generator to his service panel….hmmm. Given the size of the generator, I’d guess that the flicker in the lights is resulting from temporary slowing of the generator as the single cylinder, 2-stroke engine starts its compression stroke. This could cause a voltage fluctuation in the power signal at a frequency below 60Hz. An oscilloscope connected to an available outlet would tell an accurate story of what is happening. Given the low power requirement for the lights, he could use an UPS to clean up the power on the lighting branch of the circuit (not exactly NEC practice, but…) – also would not recommend connecting anything expensive like a LCD TV, etc. without an UPS. The refrigerator motor shouldn’t be an issue – probably a universal motor, and I imagine the insulation rating is 300V. The only possible danger would be additional mechanical stress on the motor, particularly the bearings, but this is something that would occur over a long period of time.

Here is Taiwan, they love to make items look just like the heavy duty version – but withhold costly material. Just because a cord is orange doesn’t assure the gage of the wire inside. Household wiring is usually 12 or 14 gage solid copper wiring, sometimes 10 gage. Running a 16 or 18 gage extension cord is likely to upset the whole scheme by added resistance, even if the cord is short and in good condition. Having a generator feed a whole house which minimally have a 60amp serviice mains is rather ridiculous in the first place and many newer homes are 120 amp service mains. Add an extension cord between the generator and the home, you just have that much less to offer.

If you must use an extension cord because you want to keep the generator outside (to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and noise), it is far better to set up a separate limited power distribution than to try to drive the whole home. Somebody that doesn’t understand electrical distribution is likely to turn more things on. Alternatively, shut down unneeded circuits at the circuit breaker box if you must use the house wiring to distribute power AND consider using some ROMEX (with nice solid copper 12 gage wire) to connect the generator to the house service.

It’d be interesting to see how your neighbor is connecting that generator to his service panel….hmmm. Given the size of the generator, I’d guess that the flicker in the lights is resulting from temporary slowing of the generator as the single cylinder, 2-stroke engine starts its compression stroke. This could cause a voltage fluctuation in the power signal at a frequency below 60Hz. An oscilloscope connected to an available outlet would tell an accurate story of what is happening. Given the low power requirement for the lights, he could use an UPS to clean up the power on the lighting branch of the circuit (not exactly NEC practice, but…) – also would not recommend connecting anything expensive like a LCD TV, etc. without an UPS. The refrigerator motor shouldn’t be an issue – probably a universal motor, and I imagine the insulation rating is 300V. The only possible danger would be additional mechanical stress on the motor, particularly the bearings, but this is something that would occur over a long period of time.

When I bought my house in 1984, it came with an already-ancient Sears Coldspot refrigerator. Sometimte in the mid-90s, the compressor crapped out. It would not start; it just sat there and hummed. I went to the local appliance store, and they told me I did not need to replace the compressor and, instead, sold me a "start booster", which I wired in ahead of the compressor. Here it is 20 years later, and the fridge still works like a champ. It’s a good thing, too, since old-style compressors are far superior to the new ones. The old ones are sealed units which actually run in the coolant that they pump, thus preventing overheating and extending their service life.

Anyway, the point of bringing this up here is that, if you suffer from fluctuating or fading voltage, it might be advantageous to add a start booster to the compressor to make sure it starts under adverse conditions. I don’t recall the one that I purchased being very expensive, and it’s kept my old workhorse alive all these many years later.

Personally, for anything over about 20-30 feet, I run 10 gauge cords. They aren’t cheap, but I’ve never, ever had anything fail or run poorly up to 100′ (two 50′ in series.) Most often, I’ll just lead out with the 10, and then use an ordinary one from there.

A similar thing goes for house wiring. I’ve noted a trend in newer homes to settle on 14 gauge wire almost everywhere. For a larger home, and a few junctions in the circuit, there is a considerable drop! I’ll see them do it on 15A circuits too, which blow early due to that drop, and it’s not approprate if a 15A socket needs to be dropped in somewhere.

The last one I did saw 10 gauge from the breaker to the room junction, unless it’s a short distance, then I used 12. From that junction to the outlets, I used 12, and then 14 to connect a few short distance, parallel wired outlets. Honestly, the difference in wire cost wasn’t all that much, given some planning. The nice thing about doing it that way, is you generally exceed local code requirements, and if a 15A socket is needed somewhere, you’ve got it covered.

Lights a bit brighter, portable heaters not blowing breakers, etc… And nice, cool, long lasting circuits. Nobody wants to tear into that stuff. And on the off chance somebody pushes it someday, the wires are there to handle it. The home I’m in right now was done with 12 & 14, and it’s kind of crappy. One of these days…

Again, for nicer tools and appliances, they’ve designed it well, basically reducing the need or benefit from the larger diameter wires and cords. These days, I’m seeing way too many cheap-o things that do not perform well, or generate excessive heat at more than average room length distances on smaller diameter wire. After I lost a drill assembling a fence, that was it for me.

@Phil: Never heard of such a thing! I have two units with the sealed compressors and they are getting older. So far, they’ve performed fine, and that may be due to my preferences on wiring to them above, but I’m filing this info away for when I will need it someday. Seems like a great "life extension" option for older, but perfectly servicable appliances. I have an older "coffin" style freezer that gets right down to about 10 degrees F. Love that thing. Quiet, and old. Would hate to replace it and it’s been in service for a very long time.