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Generator Transfer Switch: A Guide to the Tool, Its Types, and Its Installation Process

Using generator in personal or commercial property is a great way to make sure you always have backup power whenever you need it. However, is it enough to just use the generator on itself? For the most optimum use, generator transfer switch is one of some additional elements needed to make the process of power backup smoother and safer. Despite of its small physical body, it bears huge beneficial function. Read through the following information below about what it is and how to install it.

What Is Transfer Switch?

generator transfer switch

To put it the simplest way, generator transfer switch is a permanently installed switch that works by connecting power box to adjust the power load. It usually occurs in automatic manner for permanent backup power sources when the power suddenly becomes unavailable. It is an ideal function to have because it keeps smooth flow of energy with minimum amount of delay,

For residential or personal property generators, the transfer switch is typically located in the circuit panel where the generator is plugged in. That way, it can adjust the power load to the generator when the equipment is turned on.

Automatic Transfer Switch vs. Manual Transfer Switch

Transfer switches in general have two different types available: manual and automatic. For the automatic one, it can route the power smoothly from main power source all the way to the backup power source without command. It always stands by and ready to work whenever the owner needs power. It is used by majority of businesses properties so they have automatic power transitions as the critical part of their businesses.

On the other hand, the manual switched needed to be activated manually – as the name implies. You need to flip the level in order to turn it on. Manual switch usually is provided in portable generators, although it may come with automatic switch as well, in order to offer convenience to the owner.

The Installation Procedures

It may sound so tempting to get the installation of generator transfer switch done by yourself. However, it is extremely recommended to have the job done by professional electrician. It is because the work involved the electric panel box, which for most parts isn’t understood by common people in average. It carries a high risk of inducing errors, which is critical when it comes to power and its hazards. It’s not an easy matter to take on your own hand if you don’t completely understand about the procedure.

Additionally, transfer switch installation is usually required permit as well. People who work as licensed electrician can help to manage this part for you, so the process can be done and you just need to add it into installation cost. You may check the required permit types and its cost by discussing it with the local building code agency or to experts in contractor fields.

The Transfer Switch Kit

Kits for transfer switch are available in the market. Its price depends on the varieties and the generator sizes. Automatic transfer switches, for obvious reasons, are usually pricier compared to the manual versions.

Manual transfer switches are usually sold in the price range of $300 to $500, while automatic ones may cost anywhere at $400 to $800. Moreover, the specialized types of automatic switches, which usually designed for industrial and commercial generators, can cost $2,000 to $20,000.

For those of you who own or just buy portable generator, chance is, you need to separately purchase the transfer switch kit. However, for standby generator that’s permanently installed within a property normally already equipped with transfer switches that’s included in its cost.

How to Wire a Generator Transfer Switch

The process of wiring manual generator transfer switch depends heavily on the model and its own manual. You have to review the manual carefully. If you have manual transfer switch and you want to activate it, follow the guide below:

  • When the power becomes unavailable:
  • Connect the cord of your generator to the transfer switch
  • Switch off the circuit breakers within the transfer switch
  • Activate the generator and allow it to warm up for a while
  • Switch the transfer switch’s main breakers to the position of Generator
  • Activate the circuits that want to be powered. Do this one at time to avoid overloaded generator.
  • When the power becomes available again:
  • Switch off the transfer switch’s main breaker to the position of Utility
  • Activate the previously switched off circuits
  • Turn your generator down
  • Disconnect the generators’ cord

For automatic transfer switch, all you have to do is just connect it to the generator and start the generator itself. The tool will detect and adjust power in automatic manner. Make sure to turn off the generator after you get the utility power back.

How to Connect Generator to House without Transfer Switch

Before you connect generator without using transfer switch, ensure that your generator have big round plug to power breaker box’s sides. There may be written code on the generator, so you can find it and determine if it allows dual powering.

You also need hole or space in order to wire the generator to the property. This needs to be fit enough to make the wires set within, so find the comfortable spot to put the generator and create a hole for it, then create another hole in distanced space, approximately several feet away.

  1. Mount your power inlet box in the hole that made besides the generator hole. Attach the power inlet with glue properly and make sure it is watertight.
  2. Pull wires across conduit body one by one. Wire the plug from generator inlet. It is required to eliminate at least 0.75 inches for every wires’ insulations.
  3. Tighten the wire up by using screwdriver.
  4. Have the breaker box prepared to receive wires. Turn down the breaker box and every appliances connected to it. Then, test if everything works correctly.
  5. Cover the hole and it is done.

Installing generator transfer switch is something that you have to consider when purchasing generator. Transfer switch that’s installed and used properly will make sure the process of power backup goes safe and easy.

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