STILL Not A Generator Plug

I used to get a magazine for electricians, EC&M, I think. Every month they’d have a photo layout of scary stuff that electricians and inspectors had come across.

Our recent “not a generator plug” photo would have gone well in that feature. While I was concentrating on the dangers of having the shiny bits electrified in a bootleg generator lashup, electrician Michael spotted a couple of other problems.

Note that either side of and below the 30 amp dryer socket, there are 110v duplex outlets. A basic 220 line consists of 3 wires. (Often there is a fourth wire, which is a ground wire.) Two of them provide the 220 (sometimes 240, but who’s counting). Take one of them and the third wire, known as the neutral, and you get 110v. What happened here was each hot “leg” (I don’t know why they are called legs. I just accept it and suffer no anxiety over the matter.) was connect to an outlet pair to provide some 110, if needed in the barn where this is located.

I doubt that anything was ever plugged into these particular outlets, but Michael noted that there is no fuse or circuit breaker in the mix, potentially allowing a lot more than the usual 15 amps through these outlets. The problem isn’t so much with plugging A cord into AN outlet. Michael has worked in hurricane country and observed the tendency that folks seem to have of plugging a LONG and LIGHT duty 16 gauge cord into such a plug or directly into the generator. Then there is one or more outlet strips on the far end of the cord with all manner of things connected, exceeding the AMPACITY (remember that word?) of the wiring. Fire ensues, much to everyone’s disappointment and dismay.

What Michael could not know, from the photo, but probably suspected, the generator is a large tractor-driven model that puts out a whole lot more than 30 amps, so even the big socket was in danger or a meltdown. There’s that AMPACITY business, again! We won’t even discuss the cable that was used between the generator and the not-a-generator-plug!

That might give me anxiety.

–Neal