|HOW TO SURVIVE A POWER FAILURE
PRIMARY AC POWER BACKUP SYSTEM
COLEMAN/POWERMATE VANTAGE 7000 GENERATOR
GENTRAN MODEL 30310
MANUAL POWER CUTOVER SWITCH
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW/TUTORIAL IS COPYRIGHT 2008 BY EmPrepUtah.com
ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.
Owning a system capable of providing AC power backup is a most useful feature to the automated home, can be critical to
the home business, and is a real life-saver in an emergency for any home.
The parts and connections necessary to make this happen are not difficult to install, but it is important to do this properly
to prevent injury to yourself or others.
NOTE: WE CAN NOT ACCEPT ANY LIABILITY FOR OUR READERS DOING THIS WORK THEMSELVES. WE CAN NOT BE
HELD LIABLE FOR ANY DEATHS, INJURIES, FIRES, OR DAMAGE AS A RESULT OF READERS WORKING AROUND THE
POWER REQUIRED TO DO THIS THEMSELVES.
WHILE IT IS NOT DIFFICULT, WORKING AROUND ELECTRICAL SERVICE SYSTEMS IS DANGEROUS IF PROPER CARE
IS NOT USED. READ ALL PRODUCT MANUALS CAREFULLY. IF YOU DO NOT FEEL TOTALLY COMFORTABLE DOING
THIS WORK, CALL A QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN.
In the Pacific Northwest, as in many areas of the world, wind storms often combine with ice in the winter months to knock
power lines down. In this situation, it is highly advantageous to have a backup power system - especially if your home is
heavily automated or you are a HAM Radio Operator providing emergency communications.
While a good UPS will do for short-duration outages, it will usually only power a computer or two. If you are a HAM Radio
operator, you may need a really big UPS to power all of your radio gear in an emergency.
Your best bet is to have a generator that can provide you with sufficient power for long-term outages - including power for
heating, lighting, cooking, and other necessary functions.
Connecting a generator to your home is not quite as easy as most people think, but it certainly is not very difficult either.
Most people think that you can just run an extension cord between a power generator and an electrical outlet in the
home/office to provide power during an outage. While that can work, it presents a MAJOR problem - it can backfeed to the
utility company and endanger the utility crews making repairs, maybe even killing someone. DO NOT EVER CONNECT A
GENERATOR TO YOUR HOME IN THIS MANNER. Let me explain that.
The power from your generator can travel back along the electrical lines from your home to the utility poles. On many
utility poles, you will see large cannisters. These are transformers. These take very high voltages from the electric
company and reduce them down to the 240V that are supplied to your home. Your home is wired in such a way that most
circuits in the home get 1/2 of this, or 120V.
If power from your generator goes through the transformer backwards - from your home to the pole - the transformer
works in reverse, boosting the voltage up to those higher levels. A utility worker - believing the wires to be dead - can be
killed if they touch one while re-connecting things.
It can really open you up to a lawsuit, and can result in tragic injury or death. Don't let yourself be a part of this. If you are
going to hook a generator to your home, DO IT RIGHT!
In order to make a safe, usable connection between a generator and your home, you need an interface that will cut your
home off from the utility before allowing the generator power into your home/office. The interface should also allow for an
easy connection between your home/office and the generator.
We started by evaluting the capabilities of a number of electrical power generators. There are a few factors that you want
to take into account.
You Should Always Use A UPS Between Your Computer(s) And Your Generator : The electrical utility company is a HUGE
generator. They are not greatly affected when your heating or air conditioning turns on. You can observe this by the fact
that your computer does not suffer a short power loss when another device in your home is turned on. A portable
generator, being MUCH smaller than the utility company, can take a couple of seconds to adjust when you turn on another
device. During this time, your PC could reboot. A good UPS will charge from the generator - and will keep the PC on during
any short readjustment periods on the generator.
You Want A Generator With A Clean Power Output : Most good UPS units will monitor the incoming power and switch to
battery if the incoming power has a dirty or erratic waveform. You want to make sure the power coming from your
generator is clean enough that the UPS will charge itself when your generator is on - not be continually running on battery
due to poor power. Usually, a larger generator will output a cleaner waveform, eliminating this problem and providing
better power for other electronics such as television sets, microwave ovens, and battery chargers. Sometimes running
another load at the same time - such as a small heater - can help to make the generator run cleaner by giving it a higher
load to start with.
You Want A Generator With Sufficient SUSTAINED OUTPUT : There are two power factors to consider when purchasing a
generator. The first is the sustained output. This is the wattage that the generator can output under normal conditions for a
long duration. Make sure that your generator can output more sustained wattage than you plan on using at any one given
You Want A Generator With Sufficient SURGE OUTPUT : The second power factor is the surge output, or the total number
of watts the generator can output for a short duration of time. This is important to consider when starting many inductive
motors - such as your refrigerator - which need more power for a short time when they start up than when they are
operating. You need to make sure that your generator can handle those loads as well. Some generator manufacturers
quote the surge value in the model number [Honda and Yamaha do this] and the generator actually has much smaller
sustained output. Beware of this practice, and make certain that you identify both the surge and sustained values before
you buy. .
You Want A Generator That Is Easy To Maintain : Some generators have screw-on oil filters, others require special tools to
deal with filter replacement. Some use fuel filters behind a cover of some sort, others have an in-line fuel filter that is easy
to replace. Some have a small gas tank, others have a 5 gallon tank that is sufficient to do large jobs. Some use engines
that are hard to find parts for, others use common names that are easy to locate. You want a generator with a name-brand
engine that is east to maintain.
You Want A Generator That Features A NEMA L14-30 Outlet : This is a twist-lock receptacle designed to handle a lot of
power - up to 30 Amps. It is a 4-wire [2 phase] outlet that you will need to connect your generator to the cutover switch you
will be installing.
After a series of careful evaluations, the generator we selected to recommend to our readers is the
COLEMAN/POWERMATE VANTAGE 7000.
The Vantage 7K features a Briggs and Stratton 14HP V-Twin Dual OHV engine with an electric starter. This is a most useful
feature when you consider that an engine this large is slightly more difficult to start than a smaller generator.
The Vantage 7000 also features a control panel with an idle control switch [meaning that the generator will idle at a slow,
quiet speed when there is no load connected to it], circuit breakers, and multiple electrical outlets - including a NEMA
L14-30 outlet. The Vantage 7000 can send out 7000 watts sustained, and 8400 watts surge.
We also recommend that you get the optional wheel kit from Coleman [about $30 retail] which will make the generator
much easier to move into position. It weighs quite a lot, but the wheels make it very easy to move.
On the Vantage 7000, the choke is the lever with the wire ring at the upper-left. Note the key switch to operate the electric
starter and the pull-handle for the manual starter. The air filter is at the top under the cover that says V-TWIN. The battery
for the electric starter can be purchased at any auto-type parts place. We got ours at a local LES SCHWAB dealer, we just
told them the brand/model of generator and walked out with the correct battery!
The Coleman/Powermate Vantage 7K control panel swings down to provide easy access to the oil filler cap, dipstick, and
the in-line fuel filter. This makes maintenance fairly simple, as does the screw-on oil filter. You change it much like the filter
on a car.
The engine holds about 1 quart of oil [SAE 30 for temps above 40-degrees F and 10W-30 for temps below 40-degrees F].
The top-mounted fuel tank holds 5 gallons of unleaded fuel. Coleman recommends adding STA-BIL to the fuel if you will
be storing the unit for any period. Since ours is used on a limited basis we opted to do this. STA-BIL is a fuel stabilizer that
keeps fuel fresh when it is stored for an extended period. STP also makes a fuel stabilizer that seems to work fine too.
Once you have set up the generator according to the manual that comes with it - and have tested it to make sure it works
as a standalone generator - identify a location where you can safely run the generator. DO NOT USE IT INDOORS OR IN
ANY ENCLOSED SPACE. The generator uses a gasoline engine just like a car, and does output some exhaust. A covered,
open sided carport can be a great location.
Now you are ready to install the systems which will let you connect the generator to your home. Remember that your
home must be isolated from the electrical utility company if you do this, so you need a device to do that for you. This
device is commonly called a cutover switch.
The basic principle of the cutover switch is very simple. It is essentially a series of single-pole double-throw switches that
are connected behind your circuit breakers.
In position 1, the power from the electric company goes is routed to the circuit breaker in your electrical panel and is sent
down the line to the devices on that curcuit.
In position 2, neither the electric company nor the generator is powering the circuit. The circuit is cutoff from ALL power.
This is to insure that the generator can NEVER backfeed to the utility company.
In position 3, the circuit breaker in your electrical panel is bypassed - cutting the curcuit off from the power company - and
power from the generator is substituted and sent down the line to the devices on that circuit.
There are both manual and automatic cutover switches on the market. They perform the same function, but there is a big
Automatic cutover switches are really neat - they automatically start the generator and switch over to the generator in the
event of a power failure. The problem is that they are very expensive, and require special connections to your generator to
start it - meaning a more expensive generator to start with. These are more common in larger businesses or medical
A manual switch is essentially a panel with a set of single-pole double-throw switches and a connection point for a cable
from your generator. These are easily affordable, and as long as you a UPS system on your essential circuits they work
just fine. There are a lot of these on the market - and the differences are subtle, yet important.
The GENTRAN 30310 from Reliance Time Controls is the best manual cutover switch we have been able to find. It features
large paddle switches, and incorporates a 4-wire NEMA L14-30 twistlok plug for generator connection. It also has power
level meters for each phase to help in load balancing, and true break-before-make switches for each circuit to assure that
you are completely cut off from the utility before it will let the generator supply power to the house. It wires right in to your
breaker panel, connected by a 1-inch conduit.
The Gentran Model 30310 Cutover Switch is designed to supply up to 10 circuits in your home. Keep in mind that while
you can hook the unit up to 10 circuit breakers, you may not be able to power everything on all 10 of those circuits at the
same time. You need to pay attention to the total load presented to the generator, and to the total output capability of the
generator. Never let the load equal more than the sustained load capability of the generator.
You can determine the load that will be presented by looking at the labels on the products plugged into your walls. This
includes lights, stereos, heaters, etc. Do this at the same time you identify your breakers.
Before installing the Gentran 30310, you need to identify exactly what outlets and lights are connected to each of your
circuit breakers. This way, you can see which ones you want to connect to the Gentran switch.
Start by making a small map/drawing of your house. Show each toom, and mark the locations of each outlet and light.
Then ID the breakers. You can do this my unplugging all appliances and electronics, but leaving lights turned on and
plugged in. Turn off each breaker individually and note what outlets/lights have no power. Mark the breaker number next
to the outlet/light. Turn that breaker on and repeat for all of the others. Some you won't need to worry about, generally your
water heater, furnace, A/C, and other larger fixed systems will be pre-labeled.
Remember that you can turn individual curcuits on or off using the Gentran 30310. For example - I have all of the lights
hooked up, my office with my LAN, PBX, computers, and HAM Radio gear, and the Master Bedroom hooked up. If I need to
run the refer or my water heater, both of which take more power, I can turn off the lights or the bedroom or other circuits,
and then turn on the refer or water heater - keeping the total load below the 7000W sustained output of the Vantage 7000
Now, some of you may know that the refer takes a LOT of power to start but not too much to run. This is due to the fact
that inductive motors, compressors, and some other devices take more power to start than they do to run. The Vantage
7000 generator has this taken into account - it has a SURGE rating of 8400W.
The best way to see this is after you have installed your Gentran 30310 - you will want to make a few tests using the meters
on the unit. We will talk more about this later.
One other thing that I will mention, you need to make sure that your loads are balanced. The Gentran 30310 is a 2-phase
system. Your generator connection is 240V. Each side of the Gentran switch is from 1/2 of that 240V - making each
connection 120V from one phase or the other. You want to keep the load on each phase as balanced as possible. This way
the output from the generator will be more stable. That's what the meters are for on the front of the Gentran 30310. You
should make your initial connections based on the loads you found earlier. You can then fine tune it based on the loads
you will be using after you have installed the unit
After you have ID'd all of your breakers, you need to figure out which circuits you will connect through the Gentran 30310.
These should power electrical outlets in various parts of your home, some lighting, your refrigerator, maybe even your
dishwasher - plus any computers/automation gear you want to keep operating.
You need to calculate the total load that you can expect to have on each breaker, and make sure that at no time does the
total exceed the maximum capability of the generator. You can easily switch loads on or off to power higher power loads.
For example, switch your lights off in order to power your refer for a time.
After you have identified the breakers you want to switch, you are ready to install the Gentran 30310.
REMEMBER - IF YOU ARE NOT TOTALLY COMFORTABLE DOING THIS, CALL A QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN. WE CAN NOT
BE RESPONSIBLE FOR DAMAGES OR INJURIES AS A RESULT OF READERS INSTALLING THIS THEMSELVES.
INSTALLATION OF THIS PRODUCT REQUIRES THAT YOU WORK INSIDE OF YOUR ELECTRICAL PANEL.
WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU TURN OFF THE MAIN BREAKER - OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOME IF POSSIBLE - BEFORE
PERFORMING THIS INSTALLATION.
The GENTRAN 30310 measures 7 1/8" wide by 16" tall by 4 3/4" deep. A conduit comes from the bottom of the unit which
you need to connect to your electrical panel. We had to make a modification to the Gentran switch to do this in our
Test/Demo Home. The conduit shipped with the unit comes out of the bottom of the Gentran and makes a right-angle turn.
It is meant to be mounted to the side of your electrical panel. As you can see in the photo below, this would not work in our
Test/Demo Home, so we replaced the right-angle conduit with a straight conduit. It comes straight down out of the cutover
switch and goes into a 1" opening in the top of our electrical service panel.
You will need to punch-out the appropriate 1" opening in your circuit breaker panel.
As you can see, I have already mounted this one to the wall, and run the 1" conduit to an appropriate opening in your
electrical panel. There are four mounting points on the 30310 - two at the top and two at the bottom. I used E-Z ANCHOR
wall fasteners to hold it onto the wall. A 2" wide incision was made in the wall from the top of the electrical panel up about
8" and the conduit was passed through this and secured to the inside of the electrical panel.
The wall was then repaired using mesh wallboard tape, Custom Building Products Wallboard Joint Compound, and
HOMAX Easy Touch Spray Texture. The mesh tape is used to cover the incision, three applications of wallboard joint
compound are then placed over this at 12-hour intervals. After another day, it is sanded down and textured using the
spray texture. The nice thing about the Homax spray texture is that it comes out VERY white. If you are using it on a white
wall you may not even need to paint it - we didn't need to in this installation. As you can see, you can't tell where the wall
was torn up to install this.
After the unit is mounted and you have attached the conduit to your electrical panel - carefully feeding the bundle of wires
into your electrical panel - you just need to make your electrical connections.
For each switch on the GenTran 30310 there are two wires coming out of the conduit - one red and one black. Each is
labeled with a letter corresponding to the switch [A-E are down the left of the GenTran 30310, and F through J which are
down the right side of the GenTran 30310].
Locate the red and black wires that match the switch you are connecting.
Route them near the circuit breaker you are working with.
Turn off the circuit breaker you are working with.
Carefully unscrew the wire coming out of the breaker and remove it.
Route the black wire from the GenTran unit to the end of this wire. Cut off the excess, strip about 5/8" of insulation from the
end, and connect them together with a 56B [yellow] wire nut. You may want to cut off the end of the original black house
wire and re-strip it to make a good end, or at least straighten it out with a pair of linemans pliers.
Route the red wire from the GenTran unit to the breaker. Cut off the excess, strip about 5/8" of insulation from the end, and
insert it into the breaker, tightening the screw.
Turn on the circuit breaker and verify that the GenTran switch is in the LINE position. The devices on that breaker should
now be active.
That's all there is to it. Repeat this process for each breaker you wish to back up with the generator/Gentran switch..
There are two sets of switches on the GenTran 30310 [D&I and E&J] that are connected together. You can use these two
connect to any two double-pole breakers in your panel. If you have no double-pole breakers that you want to connect, you
are free to unscrew the bar holding the switches together and use them as individual switches.
After you are done, connect the WHITE wire from the GenTran to the NEUTRAL BAR in your circuit breaker panel.
Double check all of your wiring work, then close up the panel and turn the power back on.
That's almost all there is to it. You just need to connect the generator, verify that the generator position on each switch
works, and do your final load balancing.
Hookup of the generator is the easiest part of the whole operation. You just take a cable and run it from the outlet on the
generator to the port on the Gentran 30310. After that, power up the generator, let it come up to full speed for a minute or
two [turn off the idle control switch], then switch the loads from LINE to GEN one at a time.
You will notice that A-E have a meter dedicated to them at the bottom of the GenTran, and and F-J have another. These tell
you how may watts are being used on each phase [A-E and I-J].
You want to make sure that the meters read as close as possible to each other. This way the loads are balanced equally on
each phase of the generator - making it run more smoothly and efficiently.
If you find that they are seriously out of balance, you may need to change some of your gentran connections to make them
more even. You can also turn off one or more switches on the side that is drawing more power.
That's really all there is to safely hooking a generator up to your home or business. If you want an extra measure of safety,
you can switch off your main breaker while using the generator. This isn't necessary, but it doesn't hurt either.
We feel very comfortable recommending the Coleman Powermate Vantage 7000 Generator. We have put it through a lot of
testing and it has always proven reliable. We feel the same about the GENTRAN 30310 from Reliance. There are other
switches on the market, but I like this one the best.
Lastly, please remember that if you are not comfortable doing this work, contact a licensed electrician in your area.
Here is a copy of the GENTRAN instruction manual if you would like to learn more.