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PTO Driven Generators

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botics
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 64 Miami, Florida
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2003-06-05          56717


Most homes have a 150 amp panel which means bus a and b can handle 300 amps total. I called a company called Winco, located at www.wincogen.com and asked a bunch of questions here is what I learned:

1. Yout tractor's mid pto HP is the most important consideration as it dictates which generator you can buy. You can put any generator on your pto but it will only generate the wattage your mid pto HP is rated for. Example: a Grand L4630 has a mid pto HP rating of 39.5. A generator I am looking at may need 50 hp to deliver 104 amps so if my tractor is under the rating I wont benefit; get a smaller generator with less amps. If the generator is more powerful that what I need, I am still capped at a certain amp rating.

2. This is a cheaper route than a stand alone generator for your home.

3. There is no oil to add or check and no gas. I called Kubota and they said a quality tractor is meant to idle at pto for long periods of time- which being in Miami I could see going through another Hurricane Andrew with no power for two weeks.

4. Spoke to my electrician today and it is very easy to hook up a generator to a transfer switch or a breaker; have a qualified master electrician do this for you.

5. Shop around on the price- many models to choose from.

Hope this helps.


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AC5ZO
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 928 Rio Rancho, NM 87144
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2003-06-05          56723


When you are figuring the needed capacity for a generator, the load capacity of the panel is not a good indication. 150 amps at 220 VAC for example is over 30 KW. It is highly improbable that you would need 30 KW for a typical household. You really need to figure the real usage and that takes some homework by adding up the power for each essential service.

In my experience a generator for a home that is 12KW or so would handle most households. Most can get by with less but some will need more. My backup generator is 7KW with 9KW peaks. By being careful, I have provided backup power for my house with a 2 KW generator.

You should not add the amperes from the two phases. When supplying power to your breaker panel, it is generally best to connect the 220 V line and balance the loads the best you can to minimize the current flow through the neutral conductor. For a 12 KW generator, that will amount to about 55 amps delivered at 220 VAC. You should only add amperes if you plan to supply all of the power with 110 VAC. This is not a particularly good idea, because the wiring in the alternator has to be sized for twice the current of the 220 volt generator for the same overall power.

But, let me back up for a second. If you needed 30KW for whatever reason, you will probably need a tractor of more than 50 HP to the PTO to produce that. You mentioned the Mid PTO, but most generators that I am familiar with operate on the rear PTO with a 540 RPM shaft. They use a gearbox or belt drive to increase shaft speed to reach an alternator speed of 3600 RPMs.

I tend to not want to use my tractor for power generation. The most likely time that I may need backup power is during some sort of storm. We don't have much snow where I live, but we do have flash flooding. Anyway, I think that I might not want to tie up my tractor for power when I may need to build a quick diversion dam or in other parts of the world, remove snow from my property.

My personal favorites are the Generac or other automatic units that connect to propane. If you lose power they kick on and switch over to supply power. When the power comes back on they shut off. I don't have one of these, but will in the near future. Since the power is interupted for a bit, sensitive electronics should be connected to APC or equivalent brands of UPS power supplies.

There is another thread on this subject that you may want to read. ....

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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 64 Miami, Florida
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2003-06-05          56728


The mid pto is my fault; I meant rear.

The service coming in is usually rated at 150 amps which is common.

A 30 amp generator will require 50 hp at rear pto

I see your point on the generator part- but why spend $10,000 and not less for a generator you can move around. I guess we could go back and forth as you do make sense but being in south florida it may be a better shot for me. ....

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AC5ZO
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2003-06-05          56731


I agree that the service coming into your property can range from 100 to 200 amps or more. Most people do not size their backup generators to provide the full power that they might pull from the AC Line.

30 amps is only a ~7 KW generator. It only takes a motor of about 14 HP to drive this and even with the efficiency losses in a gear speed increaser it would take less than 30 HP. My 7KW/9KW peak generator has a Honda 18 HP gas motor and will deliver 30+ amps of 220.

I have not priced the Generac. If it is $10K then I am going to find something else. My current generator runs on gasoline and the maintenance issues that you mentioned originally do apply.

I was simply trying to put the whole picture in perspective for you. You might want your tractor with a FEL to move debris during one of the hurricanes that frequents your state. I have relatives in Tampa and around Tallahassee. They have different needs even being in the same state.

I like PTO generators in general, but I think that their best use is for power generation in remote areas, like construction sites, rather than for routine backup power at home. ....

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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 64 Miami, Florida
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2003-06-05          56733


Your correect on all levels. Based on the price I will probably drop down to something smaller. ....

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Chief
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 4285 Southwest MiddleTennessee
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2003-06-05          56742


Question is........ is it worth putting all those hours on your tractor to run a PTO generator for say 10 days or more. Depending on how many hours a day you run the generator, the hours can add up fast. On my Dad's dairy farm, they had a 30 KW pto generator. In 20 years I cannot remember it ever being used. ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2003-06-06          56757


My 6.5kw peak Honda generator runs the house just fine during outages. It will run everything OK but just not at the same time. I may have to juggle loads during outages but that seems a reasonable thing to do. The advantages are that a small generator costs less and it's also much easier to transport if I need AC out in the bush.

I installed ours as part of putting in a new service and panel. I had to change the wiring on most of the branch circuits to a new panel so I went for a generator panel that operates as a sub-panel to the main service panel. They are a bit cheaper than transfer switches since the breakers are rated for the branch circuit rather than the full utility service. I would have gone for a transfer switch if I hadn't been installing a new panel. I think that the costs of transfer switches are subsidized in some areas to encourage people install proper generator backup systems.

In my case the house was on an old 60A service and the new service is 200A. I took a few circuits such as the dryer and outbuildings on the main panel, split some existing circuits in the house and virtually all the original house ends up on the generator panel and not much is on the main panel. It is handy to have some lighting on the main panel so I can tell when the power comes back on. Our generator system doesn't automatically switch on and off.

I never thought about it much but I wonder how grounding is handled in most transfer switches and if the backup generator is assumed to have a neutral bonded to ground?
....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7155 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2003-06-06          56768


I'm going to go at this from a slightly different angle, economy & logistics.

If you lose power for 2 weeks thats going to mean running your tractor at PTO speed for something between 240 & 360 hours, lets work with 350 for easy figuring.

First problem, if hurricane Andrew comes back through, will you still HAVE a tractor, it may be in a field of palmetto's somewhere over near Lake Wales.

Secondly, 350 hours at PTO speed means you're going to need something in the order of 400 gallons of diesel, do you have a tank this big, because if you need a generator not many service stations are going to have electricity to pump fuel, if they even have any to sell.

Third, if you consider the practical life expectancy of your tractor at 5,000 hours, and a cost of $30,000 (for illustration purposes) then the 350 hours you would put on your tractor will cost you about $2100 ($30k/5,000 = $6.00) add to that the cost of fuel (which will be WAY above what a stand alone generator would cost to run) of $400 (assuming diesel at $1.00 / gal.).

Now the cost of running your tractor for two weeks is about $2500 PLUS the cost of the generator itself.

Considering you can buy a self-contained 18hp LP-powered generator with a 10Kw output, which would give you 50 amps, for $3200 at Northern Tool it doesn't seem to make much sense to tie up your machine for two weeks.

Especially if a disaster like that happens, you wouldn't have anything else you might like to be doing with your tractor?

Best of luck. ....

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Billy
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 975 Southeast Oklahoma
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2003-06-06          56781


Or you could buy a cheap 6,000 KW for less than 500 bucks and run the essentials. Those B&S engines will churn for a long time and don't use that much gas. Maybe if I lived in hurricane country I'd look at it differently but all we get are tornadoes and ice storms. ....

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AC5ZO
Join Date: Jul 2003
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2003-06-06          56789


Tom, the best way to ground the generator is to run a ground back to the same single point ground for the electrical service. The transfer switch neutral should be connected there as well. If the panel is the primary panel, then the Neutral and Grounds will be bonded together in that panel. If the panel for the generator is not the main electrical panel, the ground and neutral are held separate and only connected together at the main panel. What I use for this is a 4 wire interconnect cord that has the ground. Some generators may not be set up for the four wire connection, but it is easy to adapt in a J box near the generator.

Doing otherwise may cause a phenominon called a ground loop. This is where there is current flowing through the ground wiring which results in a voltage potential. This is OK as long as all grounds are tied to a single point. If you have multiple grounds, currents can flow between the ground points and foul up electronics and other things.

It sounds like most of us agree that PTO generators may have a place, but not for routine backup power at your house. I have used one, but I don't own one. ....

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Chief
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 4285 Southwest MiddleTennessee
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2003-06-06          56797


What Murf said. He put it in a nut shell. Well said. ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2003-06-07          57006


Thanks AC! The switches we're required to use here have 3-point main breakers so the service panel neutral would be disconnected from the panel when operating on generator. What I didn't know is if all transfer switches nowadays have 3-point disconnects. If so I don't know whether the transfer switch is bonded to the service panel so the generator would get its ground through the service panel ground bus or if the transfer switch has its own bonding to the service ground. My generator panel is bonded to the service panel through the ground bus so my generator would be grounded through the service ground. It uses 3-conductor plus ground line.

I was wondering how it would work with a 3-point transfer switch if the switch weren't bonded to ground in some way. I suppose the generator would have to have its own ground and then the generator neutral and ground should be bonded. I'm not certain the neutrals and grounds are bonded together on all generators but knowing for certain could be important for some hook ups. I think the neutral would float otherwise. The main point of all this is that people who install generator backups should understand grounding or have it done by an electrician.

The single-point grounding ideal is sort of ironic because almost be definition most people around can't have it. Codes require well casings, plumbing and metal septic system drains etc. to be connected to the panel ground bus. Any outbuildings that house livestock have to have supplemental grounds.
....

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AC5ZO
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2003-06-07          57018


For a generator, the ground connection should be connected to the generator frame and the neutral should be floating at the generator. They should be bonded at the Service panel.

Additional intentional and unintentional grounds are common. If you set the generator on dirt, it may get some grounding through the frame as well as being grounded at the service panel. You might see the same thing happen when you connect some equipment with grounded frames to GFI outlets on long electrical runs. If the ground potential is different enough between the local ground and the conductor bonded to the service panel it may trip off.

Auxilliary grounds on remote buildings are fine. The problems happen if you bond all the grounds and all the neutrals together in all the panels. If you just run the two hot wires and the neutral to the remote panel, you should be OK. If you run a local ground, you will be OK. You MAY run into problems if you bond the ground and neutral together in that remote panel. There is no safety problem if the ground and neutral are not bonded together in the remote panel as long as they are bonded at the main Service Panel. (Ten volts of voltage difference between the neutral and ground is not hazardous to humans, but could generate large currents in a low resistance conductor.)

Where I have seen these separated grounds become a big problem is with computer network and cable TV wiring. I have seen sparks fly when an Ethernet cable from one building is connected to equipment in another building and the the coax is grounded on both ends. This is because of different ground potentials and huge currents can flow. You have to separate the grounds and isolate the equipment. This can be done with transformers or optoisolators.

So, what happens if you do bond the neutral and ground together in the remote panel? You may have current flowing in the ground and neutral wiring because of the different ground potentials. This current has the potential to set up some long term problems with respect to corrosion of the building elements and structure. The local ground rod itself could corrode due to anodic action. If that local ground fails, then anchor bolts in moist concrete that are tied to a grounded metal building frame may carry the current and start corroding. This may take years to develop and does not happen if the bonding only happens at the main service panel. No extreme safety issue with respect to electrical shock should exist as long as the ground/neutral bond is still good at the main service panel.

Codes vary and change. You need to do what is defined locally as the standard to keep your local authorities and insurance companies happy. ....

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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 64 Miami, Florida
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2003-06-07          57019


After reading all this stuff I elected to purchase a diesel generator in a weatherproof container. Who the hell wants to tie up a tractor to this kind of abuse anyways.

God knows what I was thinking-spend the extra money and do a stand alone and do it right.

http://www.winpowerinc.com/ ....

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Chief
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 4285 Southwest MiddleTennessee
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2003-06-07          57031


I went through the same drill and came to the same conclusion. Good call! Kubota makes some really nice stand alone gennys. ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2003-06-08          57079


AC: Thanks for the explanation. I never knew why sub-panels aren't bonded--just that it's one of the things inspectors always check. An inspector told me that the utility did some research and the even with proper installations, typical grounds start deteriorating after only five years in the soils around here.

I guess that a 3-point transfer switch breaks the neutral from the utility and makes it to the generator feed. The service ground is still on the panel side of the transfer switch so the generator neutral is connected to the service ground. My generator panel is a little different.

The important thing as I understand is to ensure that a generator has its neutral bonded to a good ground somewhere and ideally at only one point. A floating neutral can produce 120V of ground potential.

My generator does have a bonded neutral and ground as it has to for standalone operation. I connected the generator ground into the shed's supplemental ground and I leave it that way. I suppose that does give me two points of grounding and maybe some loss of efficiency through ground loops. However, then I'm sure the generator is always grounded when I use it as a standalone. Otherwise I'd have to make sure the feed line to the house was connected just for the ground connection.

I had a sideline sound and lighting buz for ten years and grounding can become a specialty all its own.
....

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AC5ZO
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2003-06-09          57169


Tom, a lot of what I was talking about relates to how the panels are supposed to be installed. From a practical standpoint, you have to ask a simple question...How often and how long am I going to be using the generator?

If you have a cabin and it is powered by the generator alone, then multiple grounding points are probably not going to apply. If you are using your generator for emergency power, then it is not going to be on for more than a few days at most, and is not going to cause the ground loop problems as long as it is completely removed from the electrical panel by the transfer switch when it is not being used. You may want to look for groundloops if you have problems with electronic equipment, but most of us are going to be more worried about refrigeration, heat, water pumping and so forth rather than computers and stereos. ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2003-06-10          57260


That's how I reasoned it as well. I wonder if the reason our utility company research found that good grounds don't last very long around here is that most of us have to have multiple point grounding by code?

When I installed our new service and panel I used two grounding rods or plates as required by code (which is not multiple grounds since they are on the same unbroken service ground line). I did extend the ground line to run to the opposite corner of the house where the soil stays damper due to drainage. Soil near the meter is sandy, dry and poorly compacted. The inspector liked the idea. He also said that the other benefit I mentioned of reducing the risk of lightening jumps inside the house was a rumor he had heard. I guess he was saying that it doesn't work. ....

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AC5ZO
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 928 Rio Rancho, NM 87144
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2003-06-10          57275


That kind of grounding extension is OK.

You should see what kind of grounding I do for my amateur radio towers. Each tower gets 9 to 12 eight foot ground rods. These rods are all buried below grade and the conductor connecting them is welded to each rod. But even these towers are tied to the single point ground at the incoming power service panel.

....

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melensdad
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 90 Northwest Indiana, near Lowell and 8 miles from Beecher, Illinois
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2003-07-02          58731


I put in a 2nd panel and moved "critical" circuits to that panel. I have a natural gas generator, not PTO powered, rated at 9000 watts. We lost power for 7 days due to ice storm - needed a tractor to dig out and still wanted a warm house, TV, water, microwave + lights. ....

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