Issue with Generator Sensing with non-ATS Generators

I attempted to setup my new Flex clamps (CT) for my portable generator on 7/24/2020 with no success.

I followed the SENSE installation guide. However, I do not have an ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch) as they show in their documentation. My process is manual (with a manual interlock). Basically, I am back-feeding from an existing garage-to-house circuit.

Any suggestions? Has anyone attempted this that does not have a ATS? I already entered a ticket to SENSE support, but have not received a reply from them.

I’ve been fighting the exact same issue. I’ve been unable to read the generator at all with the flex CTs, yet if I move the mains over it reads fine. Back and forth with support several times over 3 weeks and I finally got this answer:

I have been able to check in regarding your particular generator setup with our engineering team. The way that Sense interacts with generators, an ATS is expected to be seen in the setup as Sense relies on this to know when the transfer is made between utility power and generator power. Unfortunately, the breaker-fed manual interlock does not allow Sense to observe this in the same way. As a result, Sense’s generator monitoring functionalities are not fully compatible with this particular setup

So… it seems the reason many of us bought our Sense for is unavailable.

Electrically, I don’t get the difference, as Sense will “see” a loss of power on the mains, then a restoration by generator.

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I had to struggle to get it to work. I found that with a bit of effort you can fake your way through calibration which is really a way for Sense to determine the polarity of current through the sensors and the polarity of the power, 240V, to the sensor. Try looking at your Settings -> My Home -> Sense Monitor and scroll down to signals for Mains and in my case Solar. You may find that some of those are negative, in which case flip the sensor around. If you are still seeing wacky results, swap the red and black power lead to the sense 240V breaker. I have a generator on a transfer panel. After a lot of frustration and trial and error I was able to get the system to work by:

  • Installed main sensor leads as per Sense guidelines, label towards power source
  • Installed solar leads backwards, label away from source. This sort of makes sense since the transfer panel is pulling power from the main panel rather than feeding power from a solar array.
  • Swapped red and black power circuit panel. Before the switch, it almost looked like it was working, but sometimes I would see power on the generator panel higher than the main panel which is impossible. Swapping red and black fixed it.
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How would you see both at the same time… on has load the other none?

power on the generator panel higher than the main panel which is impossible. Swapping red and black fixed it.

I was wondering how the Sense monitor would sort out phase and polarity between the mains and generator feeds, in Solar mode, without seeing both the mains and generator energized at the same time. Solar setup typically requires both turned on and grid synchronized, plus shutting off of the solar for “calibration”, that also allows Sense to figure out which “tap” / feed-in configuration is used for the solar and the mains.

Sounds like you coerce Sense to configure by getting through setup, then swap the Flex CTs to give correct readings with the generator on.

I think the key to this discussion is whether or not the user has an ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch) for their home generator.

@capngeo and @Dcdyer do not have an ATS. The documentation (written by SENSE) does not emphatically state that you must own an ATS before starting. Since their installation document was new and contained other errors, I assumed that an ATS was not required. Like @capngeo I would like to see SENSE develop a solution for customers without an ATS.

In my case I do have a ATP so both the main panel and transfer panel will draw power at the same time. I have had a previous house that backfed the main panel with a portable generator and had a mechanical safety lockout. When the generator was on main power was disconnected. I would turn off every circuit, enable the lockout, crank up the generator and plug it in and then turn on the few circuits I wanted to use.

I used a efergy monitor with two sets of probes. One set was to main power and the second went around the generator feed. Since efergy only has one probe connection, I would manually swap the probes when the generator was in use. Not particularly elegant, but it worked.

With your current set up you will see zero on one and power on the other. Sense is a bit cumbersome to set and manually sort out the polarities, but you might be able to test the readings by shutting down main power and running on the generator. Good luck

I agree! I think the advertising was a little deceitful; had I been told I couldn’t monitor my generator I would have bought the $20 digital amp meter on Amazon, and hardwired it to my generator.

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Thanks for bringing this up, everyone. I set-up a touch-base with Product to review the feedback here. I know there are plans to build on this integration moving forward to add more insight in Sense from the generator side of the equation, but I don’t have more information yet on timing.

Overall, it seems like there needs to be more clarity on the Generator installation guide re: Generators without an ATS and on the features you’ll get ‘out-of-the-box’ with this integration (at the moment).

One suggestion as a hack to be able to monitor your generator as drawn in the diagram is to hook up the probes as shown, but leave the generator probes unplugged from Sense. When you switch to generator, unplug the main probes and plug the generator probes into the same port. That will let you see how much power you are consuming while running the generator. Sense will think that the 2nd set of probes are the main probes and not even realize you are running on the generator.

@gbertocci Thanks for the suggestion. This idea would work for me because I mounted my SENSE monitor external to my breaker panel. Other users would have to remove their panel cover to make this change. I am guessing that the switch would have to occur when no electricity is flowing through the clamps and the power is off to the SENSE monitor. I’m not certain other users would feel comfortable opening up their panel to make this switch, but still - it’s a good suggestion.

My History: I have had a SENSE monitor installed for almost 3 years. I already have plenty of history on my appliance loads. When I need to run my emergency portable generator, I am not concerned about how much power any particular appliance is using. What I am more interested in seeing is how much power my generator is supplying. My goal was to monitor total input power so that I do not overload my generator.

Request to SENSE software team: Please consider writing additional code that allows the SENSE monitor to meter the wattage input from a portable home generator without an ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch). Thanks

@capngeo I am considering purchasing a local meter and installing it at my panel to monitor my generator during emergencies. Do you have any experience with this product? I would need 2 units - one for each leg (or phase).

Dcdyer,
Like you, my SENSE is exterior to my panel; I’m wondering if (until Sense gets software written to address the matter) a simple rotary switch 4PDT could bring the separate CTs to the “Mains” port?? I’m still stuck with the conundrum of why the Flex CTs won’t read the generator even when in the main port, yet the main CTs read in either. In my most recent correspondence with support, they claim the differences in the CTs are only cosmetic. This doesn’t wash with the observations.

I have no experience with the Amazon panel, but at their price-point, I wouldn’t mind taking the risk to try them (not to mention Amazon is very good about taking things back)

···

On Jul 27, 2020, at 3:32 PM, Dcdyer via Sense <sense@discoursemail.com> wrote:

Dcdyer
July 27

@gbertocci Thanks for the suggestion. This idea would work for me because I mounted my SENSE monitor external to my breaker panel. Other users would have to remove their panel cover to make this change. I am guessing that the switch would have to occur when no electricity is flowing through the clamps and the power is off to the SENSE monitor. I’m not certain other users would feel comfortable opening up their panel to make this switch, but still - it’s a good suggestion.

My History: I have had a SENSE monitor installed for almost 3 years. I already have plenty of history on my appliance loads. When I need to run my emergency portable generator, I am not concerned about how much power any particular appliance is using. What I am more interested in seeing is how much power my generator is supplying. My goal was to monitor total input power so that I do not overload my generator.

Request to SENSE software team: Please consider writing additional code that allows the SENSE monitor to meter the wattage input from a portable home generator without an ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch). Thanks

@capngeo I am considering purchasing a local meter and installing it at my panel to monitor my generator during emergencies. Do you have any experience with this product? I would need 2 units - one for each leg (or phase).

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CrocSee AC 80-260V 100A CRS-022B LCD Display Digital Current Voltage Power…

CrocSee AC 80-260V 100A CRS-022B LCD Display Digital Current Voltage Power Energy Frequency Power Factor Multimeter Ammeter Voltmeter with 100A Split Core Current Transformer - - Amazon.com


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| gbertocci
July 27 |

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One suggestion as a hack to be able to monitor your generator as drawn in the diagram is to hook up the probes as shown, but leave the generator probes unplugged from Sense. When you switch to generator, unplug the main probes and plug the generator probes into the same port. That will let you see …


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@Dcdyer Thanks to everyone for the feedback here, I’m going to move this to a public thread. We’re going to update the installation guide with the feedback provided from this thread. Regarding non-ATS generator compatibility - it’s not on our short-term roadmap, but I do encourage folks who would like to see this to continue upvoting this thread and sharing feedback. As with our product wishlist threads, we’d love to see how many folks here would like to see this added in the future.
That being said, we do hope to build on this integration moving forward.

My Sense is also outside the panel, way too crowded to fit inside and also makes connecting to a second generator panel easier. I don’t think there is any concern about unplugging and reconnecting different sensors to the main Sense box while everything is still powered, as long as you are not reaching inside the breaker panel.:slight_smile:

The ammeter will work for sure, but it won’t broadcast to your phone. As long as you have internet and wifi with the generator Sense is more convenient since you can monitor generator load with your phone. I used to have an efergy system that I used exactly as you noted, to monitor power consumption with the generator. I would swap the probes when I powered up the generator, It had a small battery LCD display that sat on the kitchen counter that would show power. efergy was all battery powered so it worked just fine during a power outage.

If the power outage is local to our neighborhood block, then using the SENSE flex clamps would be ideal.

If it is a city-wide outage (power is off to the internet provider servers due to a hurricane), then maybe the local ammeter might be a better solution. @gbertocci You are correct, if there is no internet, then there are no SENSE readings available to the phone.

@capngeo I agree with your comments.