The Generator Transfer Switch Installation Useful Guide

by Bill Cooper

Living in an area where power outages occur from time to time is hard. It is frustrating to dive into the dark just to find something that can work as a source of light. The struggle does not end there. For just a few hours without electricity, the fresh food inside your refrigerator will spoil. Having an electric well pump can also give you a headache since a power outage means that there will be no water source to flush your toilets or for you to take a bath.

Finding a solution to this problem is essential if you want to continue your daily routine with ease. Perhaps, one of the most accessible options people choose nowadays is to call professionals for a generator transfer switch installation.

Generators are one of the best technological solutions that people discovered to easily resolve power outages. Though it does not actually create electricity, it can convert mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy. The demand for portable generators is increasing since it is simple and easy to use, offering a variety of options that can power almost everything. By having a generator, home and establishment owners will not have to worry about power outages anymore.

It is essential to keep in mind that generators should have transfer switches to avoid certain complications with your appliances.  That is why experts highly recommend a generator transfer switch installation. It is an excellent way to maintain these temporary energy sources, and it can help you avoid problems in the long run.

What is a Generator Transfer Switch?

A generator transfer switch is, generally, a compact breaker box that is installed at home beside the main electrical panel. It is wired into the main panel and connected to the most critical circuits like the furnace, refrigerator, well pump, and interior lights. This is an important device to use because if you skip the transfer switch and connect the portable generator directly to the electrical service panel, it can badly fry your appliances. It could also endanger utility workers who might be working on power lines, and it could damage your generator. This is why a generator transfer switch installation is an important safety measure when running either a stationary or a portable generator.

How does a transfer switch works?

This device has a specific set of switches for each circuit. It is easy to operate like any light switch in your house. If you have a stationary generator, the transfer switch will connect automatically when the generator runs. Once the power is restored, it shuts off on its own. On the other hand, if you have a portable generator, you will have to connect it to the generator and flip the switches manually. When the power is restored, you will need to flip the switches again by hand.

Having a transfer switch makes it easy to choose which household circuits need power during an outage. It means you will safely run power to your refrigerator, microwave, computers, television, and other appliances required during a power outage. It can also run a security system, well pump, and HVAC blower. A single load transfer switch helps connect generator power to a home, garage, or establishments that utilize one circuit. You can also use it as a backup to supply power to a suction pump or HVAC system.

In some cases, the transfer switch is required to connect to more circuits than the generator can accommodate all at once. This is why it is also essential to keep track of which circuits are on. Also, be careful not to overload the system. Read the manual that comes with the transfer switch. This way, you will know the proper operating procedure for the device.

Types of Transfer Switch

Power outages are such a headache for most of us, especially to those who are business owners. With the aid of a generator transfer switch, you do not have to wait for hours or days until the power returns. Simply switch to another energy supply, and you can go on with your day. To provide more information, below are two types of transfer switches that you can use:

  1. Automatic

    This type of switch is used with standby systems. It has a control circuit that senses the power supply. It is a helpful device because it allows the control circuit to start up the Genset. It then disconnects the house from the utility, and connects it to the Genset when a power interruption occurs. After that, it continues to monitor the main status, and then once it is restored, it will commutate the household wiring from the generator back to the utility. This type of transfer switch is best used for businesses since it is more of an advanced option.

  2. Manual

    This one is mostly used with portable Gensets. It consists of two double-pole breakers with mechanically interlocked handles, unlike the usual ones with a true DPDT device. It is installed next to the main service panel to override the normal electric service, which gets power from a backup generator when a power outage occurs. It is mostly used and stored in small spaces since it is not exactly that big, making it the ideal choice for homes and other small areas. Aside from that, this type of transfer switch is much easier to find, obtain, and install.

Much like other devices, a transfer switch also has its disadvantages:

Automatic Transfer Switch:
  • An automatic transfer switch can sometimes respond to false signals. Usually, this type of switch senses signals in a building’s primary power supply that seems to indicate an impending power outage. It sometimes switches the building from utility feed to generator feed to avoid the incoming power outage. But, there are transfer switches that respond to false signals, which often leads to the waste of generator power.
  • Some transfer switches are pricey, especially the automatic ones. Automatic models usually are larger and contain more complex components than manual switches. The price also varies depending on the style of the switch an establishment needs. And of course, the cost also depends on the company who made it.
  • Automatic transfer switches require more maintenance than manual switches. It has more complex components that need more monitoring to ensure that it works properly.
Manual Transfer Switch
  • From the word itself, this is a manually operated switch. When a power outage occurs, you have to get to the generator and turn it on manually. This is not an ideal tool for business owners since it requires more tending to than automatic switches.

These two types of switches are both helpful, but it is still essential to choose what best fits your needs. The brand of the transfer switch and generator that you’re going to purchase will also matter in certain situations. It is for you to be able to mount it next to the household electrical panel in the garage, basement, or any other location.

Importance of a Transfer Switch

You may be wondering why you should invest in a transfer switch, and the answer to that is because a standard generator cannot operate without it! It is the device that allows the transfer of power from the main service of the home to the generator, and vise versa. Aside from that, it is one of the key devices that play a huge part in solving power outage problems. Here are a few of the reasons  why you need to get a generator transfer switch today:

  • Safety

A transfer switch is a device that does not only make switching to backup power easier, but it also highly contributes to your safety. Even if you are an engineer, it is still dangerous to manually hook up generators to circuits, especially in low light conditions. With the help of a transfer switch, it is safe to say that threats and complications while doing the job are less likely to happen.

  • Convenience

As mentioned earlier, a power outage is a struggle and adds to frustration on the lives of some people. This is hard if you rely mainly on electricity for your health or for work. A transfer switch allows you to get the sufficient power you need, regardless if it is automatic or manual.

Factors to Consider when choosing the Best Transfer Switch

Now that we have provided the types and importance of transfer switches, it is now time to give you the criteria in selecting one. The following factors are essential so that you will not waste money on something that will immediately get broken, or worse, cause a lot of trouble. Make sure that you take note of these before we proceed with the generator transfer switch installation:

  1. Check the wattage rating – Similar to selecting appliances and other electrical equipment, a transfer switch must be suited to the required wattage. Take note that the higher the wattage requirements of your home or establishment needs, the more heavy-duty the transfer switch should be.
  2. The need for kits – It is also essential to decide whether or not you need to get a kit. Inside them are all the materials, plans, and at times, tools you need to install transfer switches with less hassle. Getting all the necessary materials could be helpful for those who do not want to spend a lot of time looking for them in case they are needed.
  1. Certification – Since safety is the number one priority, purchasing a transfer switch with certification is highly recommended.
  1. Cost-Effectiveness – If you select a transfer switch, checking and knowing the manufacturer is a must. You have to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. You should also check the warranty information before buying to ensure that everything is secure within the transaction.

Installing a Generator Transfer Switch

After choosing the transfer switch, you can now proceed with the generator transfer switch installation steps below. If you have experience with similar tasks to this, following these instructions will be much easier.

  1. The first step is to mount the transfer switch near the main electric panel.
  2. Choose up to 10 circuits to be powered by the generator. Take note that 240-volt circuits require two spots on the transfer switch.
  3. Make sure to turn off the house or establishment’s power at the main electric shut off.
  4. Remove the cover on the main electrical panel.
  5. Check for any available knock out hole on the electric panel and remove the plug. Then, attach the armored cable from the transfer switch to the panel.
  6. After that, connect the ground and neutral wires from the transfer switch to the proper bus bars on the main panel.
  7. Track down the first circuit to be powered by the generator and remove the power wire on the existing circuit breaker. Replace that wire with the red wire from the transfer switch marked “A.” Splice the black wire marked “A” from the transfer switch to the removed power wire using a wire nut.
  8. Repeat step 7 for all ten circuits and ensure that the red and black wires from the transfer switch are a matched pair.
  9. To connect the transfer switch to a power inlet outside, use a 10-3 non-metallic wiring.
  10. Use the provided generator cord to connect the power inlet to the generator. But you can also make your own cable if a longer one is desired using bulk wire and connectors.
  11. Make sure that the generator has unleaded fuel and oil inside, then start the generator.
  12. Test the wiring connections by flipping the switches on the transfer switch from “Line” to “Gen.” The generator should power the selected circuits.

Generator Transfer Switch Installation Requires More than Just DIY

You may be tempted to do the generator transfer switch installation yourself. If you do not have the appropriate experience and still get confused with the instructions above, it is highly advised to get help from a professional electrician to do the job. Remember that the switch must be installed in an electrical panel box. If you haven’t done this or something similar to it before, trying to do this task may bring more harm than help. There is a possibility that of you getting shocked or burned because of the power currents, so it would be best if you did not bother doing a risky job that is not in your area of expertise.

If you face power outages regularly and you constantly do tasks that require electrical power, then you should consider having a portable generator and a generator transfer switch. Say goodbye to frustrating dark moments with a generator transfer switch installation!

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