Transfer Switch for Portable Generators (Step-by-Step Guide)

by Johnathan Roos
Last Updated on

A portable generator is great to have on hand whether you are on the go or are just looking to be prepared in case of emergencies. There are many different types of portable generators on the market each with different power requirements and run times but all generators require a  generator transfer switch in order to get the best perfromance.

Here, we will be discussing everything there is to know about portable power generators and the proper requirements for generator transfer switches.

What Is a Transfer Switch for a Generator?

A portable generator requires a transfer switch to connect the machine to the circuit breaker of your house. Once the transfer switch has been connected to the circuit breaker, you can run all your home appliances.Transfer Switch For Your Portable Generators

Since you cannot connect each appliance of your household to the transfer switch, connecting it to the circuit breaker of your house will do the job because then they are connected permanently to your house grid.

How Does a Transfer Switch for Generators Work?

There are two different types of transfer switches- automatic switches and manual switches. You can choose between the two of them based on your power requirement. The automatic transfer switch requires less time while a manual one requires a bit more time to connect the generator to supply power to your house grid.

An automatic transfer switch can change the power source of a generator in an automated way. There is a way by which an automatic switch can sense a power outage and promptly it switches the power source to the generator.

A manual switch does the same thing but in a different way. You need an operator to change the power source from an electric grid to the generator power. This may take a bit more time.

How Do I Install a Transfer Switch for My Generator (Step by Step Install Guide)

Installing a transfer switch for your power generator is a task that you can easily take up yourself, without professional help. While this process is fairly easy, it is important to take specific safety measures in order to ensure that installation will be done safely and properly. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when installing a transfer switch:

Before you go to purchase a transfer switch, you need to consider the wattage requirement of the switch. Your portable generator will help you determine which transfer switch actually you need. If you see that your home or organization requires a higher wattage, you have to consider a heavy-duty transfer switch.

Here are the steps to installing a transfer switch:

Step 1

The first step to a secure installation process is to make sure that the main power source is off in order to prevent any accidents that may happen along the way.

Step 2

Determine which appliances would require more energy in the event of a power outage or emergency. Usually, this includes lights, air conditioning, and the refrigerator.

Step 3

Match the required circuits with circuit inlet on the transfer switch. After you have done this you want to make sure to balance the load with your appliances in the transfer switch.

Step 4

Connect your transfer switch. You will see many knockouts at the bottom of the panel box. Remove them one by one depending on the size of the connector so that it can enter into the panel flexibly.

Step 5

Feed the wires coming from the transfer switch to the panel box. Make sure you install each of them to the correct feeds. The labeled wires will lead you to the desired destination of the circuit in the switch box.

Step 6

With a locknut and bushing, you have to secure the flexible conduit that comes from the transfer switch box to the main service panel box.

Step 7

Attach the transfer switch box to your wall but make sure it is at least 18 inches far from the main service panel box.

Step 8

Remove the breaker and first circuit from the main panel box. Also, make sure you have disconnected the hot wire from the breaker.

Step 9

After disconnecting the circuit, locate the red wire for the switch box circuit. Then attach the red wire from where you removed it from the breaker.

Step 10

Now, he black wire of the transfer switch needs to be fed using a yellow connector. You have to do the same process again with the next circuit.

Step 11

This may require connecting to a 240 volt circuit. Attaching the red wire that directs from the switch to the double-pole breaker will do the job.

Step 12

After finishing all the circuit connection, you have to attach the white neutral wire that comes from the transfer box to the main service panel box.

Step 13

Don’t forget to attach the green ground wire coming from the transfer switch to the main service panel box. After this, your installation of the transfer switch may complete.

Choosing a Transfer Switch for my Generator

Transfer Switch For Your Generators

Before choosing a transfer switch for your generator, you have to consider a few important things including its type, wattage, comprehensive kits, warranty and UL / CUL certification. Otherwise, you may be lead to the wrong one that ultimately will not fulfill your requirements.


Transfer switches come in two types: automatic and manual. The core difference between the two is an automatic transfer switch requires no operator while a manual one needs an operator. Other than that the working process is almost the same to transfer the power source location at the time of power outage.

Wattage Rating:

This is another crucial aspect to consider before buying a transfer switch. You have to check whether your transfer switch is capable of transferring the running watts your households need.

When calculating the amount of wattage you require, you have to consider its tolerance before making the purchase.

UL / CUL Certifications:

It is important to have the certifications of UL / CUL. Most brands follow the safety standards of their products. But it would still be wise to have a look at the code specification whether they have followed the rules of safety standards.


The warranty of any product increases the trust to the manufacturing company. Household transfer switches have a high wattage requirement and run the risk of electrical damage. Consider a transfer switch with a warranty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we will be answering the most frequently asked questions to help with all your transfer switch needs.

Do I need a permit to install a Transfer Switch?

Yes, just like with any permanent electric device, permission is required from a local authority before installing a transfer switch.

Can you use an automatic Transfer Switch with a Portable Generator?

Yes, it is easy to use an automatic switch to your transfer switch with a portable generator. An automatic transfer switch will do the job faster and in an automated way without needing an operator.

How far can a Generator be from the Transfer Switch?

It depends on the length of the wire you want to connect your transfer switch to the portable generator. But it is good to keep the distance in between 60 feet to 70 feet.

Final thoughts

A portable power generator is great to have in case of an outage, emergency, or if you need an external power source away from home. But without a portable transfer switch, it is difficult to switch the power source location from the main electric grid to the generator.

A manual transfer switch is more efficient and popular for a portable generator. Though it requires a bit more work than an automatic transfer switch, it provides you more control.

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