I purchased my ’63 GT 7 months ago and from what I remember, seller had the trailer plugged into an extension cord (regular everyday orange extension cord) from his garage to single exterior outlet on lower street side of trailer.
For the 1st time I am attempting to plug my extension cord into this outlet and I see the outlet is a FEMALE plug in – Not the male style I have used before.
Is there a special adapter (male-male) used for this outlet?? Any help is appreciated! – 1963 19′ Globetrotter
“Backfeed in motion, baby. I’m going to have to penalize you, yeah” (sung to the great tune by Mel and Tim, which you can listen to HERE). But I digress…
OK, let’s review exactly what is happening here, why they’re doing it, and why it’s so terribly dangerous. Plus this is something you’ll often see when somebody needs to do a quick (cheap) hookup of a generator into a house for emergency power. So everything that follows is a Code Violation and is VERY Dangerous.
DON’T DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING. THIS IS A LESSON IN HOW NOT TO FEED ELECTRIC POWER INTO A HOUSE OR RV FROM AN EXTENSION CORD OR GENERATOR.
First of all, here’s a picture from the forum describing what they’re actually doing. Instead of using a regular male shore power inlet on the side of the RV, they’re backfeeding the power into an exterior electrical outlet.
That’s right, this is an exterior female outlet on the side of the RV, which is normally used to supply power to an appliance on the outside of the RV. But in this case it was used to backfeed power from the house into the RV. This is wrong for a lot of reasons. But first, let’s review how they must have done it.
Suicide Cords Are Dangerous
They used something called a “suicide cord,” which is aptly named, as you’ll see shortly. It’s a male-to-male, 15-amp Edison extension cord you can buy on Amazon (believe it or not) to backfeed power from a generator into a house that’s lost power from the electric company. Here’s what one looks like.
There are also versions of this suicide cord (often called a backfeed cord on Amazon, but DON’T buy one) that adapts from the twist-lock outlet on your generator to a dryer plug in your house. The idea is that with a $60 male-to-male adapter cord you can plug a generator into your house electrical system and not have to bother with a proper transfer switch. Just because they sell it does NOT make it safe or legal.
Why is This Dangerous?
Well, the primary danger is that if you unplug the male cord that’s feeding the outside outlet on the RV, you now have exposed plug contacts that are energized with 120 volts at full circuit breaker current. That’s dangerous enough on an RV, but if you do it in your house there’s a secondary problem that’s even MORE dangerous.
If you use one of these generator backfeed cords to power your house and forget to turn off the main circuit breaker in your service panel coming from the power company, you will begin backfeeding the 120 volts from the generator into the power company transformer on the street. And that 120 volts will now be stepped up to 11,000 volts or so on the street power transformers, energizing the supposedly dead power lines that a utility worker is attempting to fix. Lineman have been injured and even killed from exactly this type of stunt by a homeowner, so NEVER do it. EVEN IN AN EMERGENCY.
For your RV, make sure you have a properly installed male inlet on the outside of the RV, and use the correct shore power cordset to connect it to a portable generator or shore power. If you don’t know how to do this properly, then please find a properly licensed RV technician to do it for you. And if you have to look it up on YouTube to figure it out, then you have no business attempting this yourself. Seriously!
For your house, you’ll need to have an electrician install a proper male electrical inlet on the outside of the building and a transfer switch hooked up to your service panel that will properly isolate the generator from the electrical company wiring, as well as direct the generator power to the proper circuits in your house.
This is the ONLY safe way to provide power to your home from a generator, so please don’t use a backfeed cord in either circumstance. Yes, some municipalities allow you to use a generator interlock, but that’s a little different and potentially dangerous if someone removes the cover of your service panel. Always check with your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) before doing anything like this, and have it properly permitted, installed and inspected. Don’t go cheap on this, people, as other lives are in your hands.
I’ve also had numerous requests about what it would take to use the generator you already have in your RV to power your house in the event of electric loss by your utility company. Yes, I do know how to do this safely and to code, so it will be the topic of a future article. Stay tuned…
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.