Pigtailing a water heater

fa_f3_20May 21, 2011

During the four-day power outage we had in North Alabama a few weeks ago, I found myself wishing I had a way to power the electric water heater from my (6 kW) generator. The WH is a typical dual-element electric unit, 50 gal. I recall that when I lived in south Florida back in the '80s, the water heater in my apartment was wired with a pigtail that plugged into an outlet.

It occurs to me that if I had a pigtail for my water heater, I could plug it into an outlet that I install for normal usage. Then, if I need to run it off of the generator, I can unplug that and plug it into an adaptor cord that I'll make. Well, I went down to the big box stores, and I was not able to find a pre-made pigtail of the proper configuration (needs to have a NEMA 6-30 plug). So it looks like I'll have to make my own. Question: what kind of cord or cable do you use for a 230V, two wire with ground, 30A pigtail, and where do you get it? And, are there any code implications (besides the obvious) to connecting a water heater this way, vs. the usual direct wiring?

(The generator is not connected to the house wiring, and I don't want to do that right now.)

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I have no idea if a cord/plug/receptacle will pass where you live, but it won't in my area. The installation instructions for my WH specify "10 gauge solid copper wire".

IF it would pass, and I wanted a ready made cord, a place that sells/repairs window A/C units would be where I would go. NEMA 6-30 is a common plug for larger ones.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:07PM
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Could you use a transfer switch? In LINE mode, the WH would be powered from the line from the main panel. In GEN mode it would be powered from a socket you would put under the switch. Then use an extension cord from your generator to the socket.

The marine guys use cords like this a lot for shore power. Probably cost more than you want to spend, but it is available.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 12:56PM
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