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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Archive for the ‘220/240VAC’ Category


Insulated with packing peanuts and getting 220VAC from a truck

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Hi Jeff:

Have been reading your articles for years. Especially liked the one about reducing loads that just eat you to death.

I have been pointing out to people for years that their phone chargers use electricity whether the phone is connected or not. They are incredulous. So for years I have been shopping for a power bar, (multiple outlets), that has a separate switch for each outlet. Seems to me like the perfect set up for families with multiple phones, tooth brushes, etc that all need charging. It doesn’t exist, so I intend to make one, one of these days.

At any rate, I have a couple questions to ask.

1) Could styrofoam packing peanuts be scattered in an attic to make insulation? I hate working with fibreglass.  Seems like we get them all the time, and out they go in the trash. And what about the wheat paste version?

2) Awhile back, a fellow came to our house to steam clean a couple carpets. His cleaner machine was 240 VAC powered. Instead of waiting for me to open the garage to plug into the Arc welder outlet, he had a simple solution.  He had twin extension cords to plug in around the house until he found two that were on the separate sides of the sine wave, and went to work.

So I was wondering, if I took a couple automobile-type inverters and hooked them up to my truck, could I get 220/240 by hooking  both neutrals together in an adaptor? Or do the waves have to be coordinated? I was just hoping I could use my arc welder anywhere I could drive.


Glenn Willis


Good questions!

1.  You are not the first who wanted to insulate with these “peanuts”. The problem is these are not all the same materials and many are polystyrene, which is extremely flammable and will give off very toxic gasses when it burns.  Others are made from bio-degradable materials which can break down when damp or with time.  Since you are planning to do this over time, this means you will be collecting many different packing materials even if they are all peanuts.  Due to the danger of getting the highly flammable materials, I would not recommend this.  If you want to check this out, take a few samples outside and light with a match and you will see, but do not breathe the gasses given off so stay upwind!

2.  The power from the grid into your house has each “phase” of the 240 VAC power in phase, regardless of which outlets you use, as long as one is wired to each phase.  However, when you have 2 different inverters, there is no way for one to know what the other is doing, so taking the output from each separately will have the differences between the phases changing all over the place. Not only will you not hold 240 VAC, but you could actually damage your connected load because the resulting voltage will be changing over 60 times per second.  However, many high end inverters now include a communications cable that allows each inverter to time its output with the correct timing and phasing in reference to the other inverter so you can get a true 240 VAC output.

I doubt if your lower cost automobile inverters will have this timing capability.

Good luck!

Jeff Yago


Electric operating costs

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Hi Jeff, since electric companies charge a consumer by the kilowatt hour is their any advantage to running an appliance on 220 volts instead of 110 (assuming the appliance is located close to the electric panel) ? Amperage is cut in half but the wattage is the same.




Rule #1 – The electric companies will always get you.

Rule #2 – Go back and read rule #1

Residential electric kWh meters have dual coils, each adding to the spin of the meter. One coil is reading the load on L1 & Neutral leg (120 volts AC) and the other leg is reading the load on L2 & Neutral leg (also 120 VAC).

Any load in your home connected to both L1 and L2 leg (220 to 240 VAC) is being read by both coils together.

This means that it makes no difference of your loads are 110, 120, 220, or 240 volts, the meter will read and spin the dial accordingly.

Note that the meter is reading “watts” not amps and volts. This is why it makes no difference what the voltage is. If you take a given watt load and could cut the amps in half, the voltage will double.

Example – 20 amps X 110 volt = 2,200 watts. or 10 amps X 220 volts = 2,200 watts

Bottom line, connect the appliance to the correct voltage it was designed for.

Jeff Yago



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