Are you looking to use a home portable generator as a backup power supply for your property? We understand: An emergency like a power outage can be inconvenient in so many ways. Using a portable generator is an ingenious way to save you from the stress of an unhoped-for power cut.
Although you may think that a portable generator is all you need to have a backup power source, you are probably mistaken. For a portable generator to function safely, you have to use a generator transfer switch. But what exactly is a transfer switch, and why is it a vital tool when using a generator?
In this comprehensive guide, we will help you discover what a transfer switch is, the kinds of transfer switches, the top transfer switches that best suit your home, and how you can wire the equipment in your home. We hope you will make an informed decision on the right transfer switch for your home after reading this guide.
The Best Generator Transfer Switches
If you’re in a hurry to buy a transfer switch for your generator in anticipation of storms, you might settle for something that’s easily available. But if you plan ahead, you can shop around to find the best product for your needs at an affordable price. Read on to find out more about two of the most well-known and reliable transfer switches on the market today and why we recommend them.
The Reliance 31410CRK comes with all the crucial components that enable a seamless transfer of power from the generator to appliances during power failures. The transfer switch flaunts circuit wiring with decipherable labels, an on-off switch for stress-free control, and a built-in junction box for fast and easy installation. The Reliance Controls Corporation 31410CRK is also fitted out with watt meters to prevent overloads. Overall, this model is ideal for users who depend on small, portable generators during electricity cuts.
- Supports generators up to 7500 watts
- Comes with a comprehensive kit (including a 30A power inlet box, 10-foot power cord, extra 20A plug, and wire connectors)
- Backed by a five-year warranty
- Easy configuration
- Not suitable for larger homes
The Generac 9855 HomeLink is a safe transfer switch known for its function to prevent back-feeding effectively. This model is ideal for portable generators with GFCI-protected outlets. The product makes upgrading from a portable generator to automatic standby power simple and affordable.
This transfer switch is suitable for larger home as it supports generators up to 11,00 watts.
It’s easy to operate and you can switch from utility to generator mode with only one button.
The comprehensive kit includes a power inlet box, 10-ft cord, install manual, wiring harness, conduit, and fittings
- Supports home standby generators up to 11,000 Watts
- Easy to operate
- 5 year limited warranty
- Has a comprehensive kit
- Prevents fatal back-feeding
- Has power indicator lights to show when you have switched power from utility or generator
What Is A Transfer Switch For Generators?
If you want an effective way to ensure that your home has continuous access to power in the face of a blackout, a transfer switch is the tool to use. A transfer switch is essentially a generator accessory that allows you to link your portable generator to your circuit breaker. These switches provide power at the flip of a switch in a power failure.
The switch is essential as it modifies the load from one source of electricity to another. For portable generators, the switch changes the load from the principal electricity supply straight to the generator and the other way around. A transfer switch also makes your power setup safer, as you remove the need to use extension cords with every single appliance. Transfer switches offer a mess-free and stress-free function, allowing you to enjoy safe and fast access to electricity from your portable generator.
The transfer switch stops two electricity sources from feeding into the generator’s circuit at the same instant. Keep in mind that two power sources that feed into the same circuit simultaneously can be tremendously dangerous and even life-threatening.
A transfer switch is legally required in the United States for portable generators that are connected to homes or buildings. Transfer switches are also necessary to install in recreational vehicles and residential backup generators.
Do You Need A Transfer Switch For A Portable Generator?
The National Electrical Code (NEC) has made it mandatory for a home power connection to have a generator transfer switch.
While transfer switches are legally required in the US, some say that portable generators don’t necessarily need transfer switches. In some other countries, authorities simply suggest that you use one. Some places make transfer switches mandatory only for standby generators. If you’re not sure whether your local area requires a transfer switch, you can always reach out to the office of building code enforcement. This is because certain kinds of generators require transfer switches and others don’t.
All in all, these accessories are principally used for safety reasons, so using one is always a good idea. If you want to be entirely sure that your portable home generator will keep your loved ones safe in the next power interruption, do yourself a favor and use a transfer switch.
Note that directly linking up your generator to your electrical service panel can do a lot of damage. It can fry up your devices, destroy your portable generator, or endanger the life of utility workers.
If your portable generator produces more than 5,000 watts, you have to consider a transfer switch at all times. These devices are important not only for your safety but also for the overall ease of use of your generator. Note that the level of power that the electricity source produce requires the use of a regulator. This helps prevent surges and back-feeding the grid.
As we have mentioned, if you use transfer switches in your home, you can power your devices via your circuit breaker panel instead of using extension cords. Note that using a transfer switch is the only completely safe way to run the hardwired appliances such as dishwashers, cooktops, water heaters, air conditioning systems, and more that are connected to your home’s circuit breaker panel. You just can’t safely use these appliances without installing a transfer switch because these devices eat up so much energy.
Remember that the electricity to power these devices can either emanate from your utility provider or your portable generator, but not both. Transfer switches function by having a devoted set of switches for each electrical circuit that you want to supply power to. Through the help of a transfer switch, you will only have one connection to build. You can connect one end of a line or cable into your generator and the other end into a dedicated box, which is linked to the generator transfer switch.
What To Look For In A Transfer Switch
To pick out the best transfer switch for you, there are a few specific things to look for. Always keep in mind that selecting the right transfer switch is crucial to make your generator as reliable as possible in emergencies.
We’ve made the selection process easier by listing a few significant factors that you need to look for when selecting the ideal transfer switch.
One of the most vital requirements for a generator transfer switch is the wattage rating that the accessory will be able to support. Always make sure that you buy a transfer switch that can manage the rated wattage of your portable generator. For example, if you have a portable generator that can provide up to 5000 running watts, you need a transfer switch that can support up to 5000 watts.
Type of Transfer Switch
There are two common kinds of transfer switches: manual and automatic. Both of these electrical transfer switches have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. We’ll discuss both types of transfer switches later in this article.
You have to ensure that the transfer switch that you will buy has UL/CUL certifications. Most reliable brands will have these necessary credentials as proof that their transfer switches are up to code specifications.
A warranty tells you how much the brand stands behind its products. When looking for the ideal transfer switch, consider the item’s warranty and how much it covers.
Comprehensive Transfer Switch Kit
Once you have chosen and purchased a transfer switch, always carry out an initial inspection of your transfer switch kit before leaving the store. While most dependable manufacturers sell transfer switches that are complete with all the necessary accessories, it doesn’t hurt to check your kit to see if it has everything you’ll need to install it.
Through an initial inspection, you will be able to determine whether you are missing an item or two. This saves you time, money, and effort to buy any additional parts. You don’t want to have to rush to the hardware store when the electrician arrives to install your transfer switch.
Types of Transfer Switches
In this section, we are only focusing on the home application of transfer switches. For your home, there are two common types of transfer switches that you can use: manual and automatic.
Both manual and automatic transfer switches are suitable for portable home generators. Each of them has pros and cons, so the best choice depends on your needs and your specific generator.
Manual Transfer Switches
If you use a manual transfer switch, you need to manually flip a switch whenever there is a power failure or whenever the mains electricity restarts. As the name suggests, manual switches allow you to switch the power source from the grid to the generator by hand alone.
These transfer switches are more affordable than automatic ones. However, they also require you to manage the amount of load on your generator manually to prevent it from overloading.
Automatic Transfer Switches
If you use an automatic transfer switch, the electrical load is mechanically channeled. The device automatically switches the power source from the grid to the generator during a blackout or simple loss of electricity. An automatic transfer switch can be programmed according to the size and make of your portable generator.
As you might expect, this convenience comes with an added cost. Because these transfer switches have more features and have usually higher wattage ratings, they can be quite pricey.
So which one should you pick? According to some experts, a manual transfer switch is ideal for a portable generator, while an automatic generator transfer switch is perfect for a home standby generator.
Generator Transfer Switch Installation
You might be curious about installing a transfer switch on your own. However, we strongly encourage hiring a professional electrician to carry out the task for you. Wiring a generator transfer switch to your home requires precision, which takes years of training and experience.
Nevertheless, if you think you have to necessary know-how to do the job, here is a step-by-step guide on how to install a transfer switch:
- Switch off all the electrical circuits in the transfer switch
- Using a generator cord, link up the generator and transfer switch
- Start your portable generator and allow it to warm up on the outside
- Change the main circuit breakers on the switch from “Line” to “Generator” power
- Switch on the circuits you need to power one by one to ensure that the generator doesn’t overload
- Once utility power is restored, put the main circuit breakers on the transfer switch back to “Line” power
- Switch off the generator
- Unplug all the cords
An electrical transfer switch makes your generator safer and easier to use, making it an excellent investment. It’s also mandatory in the US to use a transfer switch when connecting a generator to a home power connection. The factors listed above should help you choose the best transfer switch for your needs, so you’ll be prepared for any emergencies that could cause a power outage.