In this post, we will talk about the transfer switch for your generator. One of the most important items you want to consider before adding a backup source of power for your home is a transfer switch.
The time spent reading this article will be rewarded as you will have a better idea of what a transfer switch is and how to select the best for your needs.
A word of caution: there are several safety precautions to keep in mind while installing a transfer switch. Along with that, there will be guidelines and codes to follow, depending on where you live.
We will talk about transfer switches, the types that you can get, which type is best for your home, and how to install and use to transfer the power from your generator to your house when needed.
Once you have spent quality time with this article, you will be well-informed and will be able to make an educated decision on the use and application of transfer switches. You will be able to choose the best one for your needs and be able to install it following the instructions that come with the transfer switch.
What is a Transfer Switch?
Simply put, a transfer switch is an electrical switch that transfers electrical power between two sources.
Most portable generators have an automatic transfer switch (ATS) already installed between the house and the generator. It is found near the electrical panel of the home.
The transfer switch will make it possible for your portable generator to provide power to your home in case of a power outage. With the transfer switch installed, it eliminates the need for running several cables and extension cords to all the appliances you want to power with the generator.
The transfer switch makes your home safe and code-compliant to use with a portable generator.
Is there a need for a transfer switch?
In this section we will explore the basic question, do I really need a transfer switch?
If you look at it from a purely technical side, no, you don’t need a transfer switch. But, it is highly recommended that you have one installed for the safety of your home and for the convenience it provides.
For one, it is required by the National Electric Code (NEC 700.5 and 701.5). The code requires the home to have the transfer switch properly installed.
Keep in mind that if you ever plan to sell your home, and you don’t have the transfer switch properly installed, the home will be in electrical code violation.
The practical need is that having the switch makes transferring the power from the grid to the portable generator effortless in case of emergency and power outages.
You know very well that all the major electrical appliances like your fridge, air conditioning, furnace, water heater, are hard-wired and cannot easily be connected to a portable generator using an extension cord.
Just imagine yourself looking for extension cords, untangling them, and trying to find where each will go in the dark.
Having the transfer switch will allow you to instantly transfer power over from the grid to the portable generator. It is a quick and easy, reliable, and safe way to switch power sources in times of need.
Not only is it recommended, but having a transfer switch is the safest way to connect a portable generator to your home. Extension cords can cause a back-feed and be an electrical hazard, which can increase the risk of fire and electrocution leading to serious injury or even death.
What To Look For in A Transfer Switch
When you are in the market for a transfer switch, you will be presented with several choices. This section will help you identify the optimum characteristics of a switch and guide you to make an educated selection.
Here it goes:
There are two main kinds of transfer switches, automatic, and manual. Each comes with its own pros and cons. We will discuss them below.
The key factor is simplicity in the installation of the switch. A comprehensive kit will provide all the correct parts. You will have all the ingredients in one packet.
As a practice, most switches come as a kit. But is always a good idea to double-check while purchasing to be on the safe side.
Your generator comes with a number called running watts. Make sure that the switch you are buying meets the requirements, and is able to support the portable generator.
It is important to determine the appliances you want to power through the transfer switch and calculate the watts it will take to run them.
Even though most brand name switch kits will be compliant to these certifications, it does not hurt to make sure that the switch you are getting meets the specifications.
This is a no-brainer. You will always check to see how the company stands as far as the warranty goes and its customer support for their products.
Since you are handling a large electric load, having a warranty will give you peace of mind you want.
Types of Transfer Switches
In this section, we will do a comparison of manual vs automatic transfer switches
Transfer switches come in many shapes and sizes, e.g., open transition closed transition, and delayed transition switches. But these are more useful in office settings and various business environments.
For this article, let’s concentrate and focus on home use only.
Again, for home use, there are basically two types, manual and automatic transfer switches. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending upon your budget and application.
After reading this, you can select the one which is the best fit for your needs.
Manual Transfer Switches
As the name suggests, the manual transfer switch lets you manually switch the power source from the grid to your portable generator with the flip of a switch.
Although these types of switches are less expensive than their counterparts, the automatic ones, it will require you to access the switch during a power outage. Make sure to keep a flashlight handy!
The manual switch also will let you manage the amount of load on your portable generator, thus preventing overloads.
Manual Transfer Switch Pros
Less expensive – compared to their automatic counterparts, they cost much less.
Ease of setup – Installation is easier as there are lesser moving parts and no programming is needed.
Ease of load control – Since there are switches on each of the circuits, you have full control of your portable generator’s load. This is a good idea to prevent overloading.
Manual Transfer Switch Cons
The basic disadvantage is that in case of a power outage, you will have to manually switch from the grid to the generator to allow it to power your home.
Automatic Transfer Switches
As the name suggests, when you lose power to your home, the automatic transfer switch will transfer the power source from the grid to the generator without any input from your side.
You can program these switches to automatically power the high priority appliances and circuits during a power-out.
As the saying goes, with convenience comes a cost. The automatic transfer switch with all its feature, higher maximum watt ratings, and bells and whistles, will be priced higher than their manual counterparts.
The best advantage that the ATS has over the MTS is that it will automatically switch the power source. No manual switching is necessary.
Many ATS are programmable. This enables you to put a higher priority for necessary appliances, avoiding overloading
Compared to their manual counterparts, the ATS is definitely more expensive. But, you will also get more features out of it.
Best Generator Transfer Switches: Our Recommendations
Depending on your budget and how easy it is to access the breaker box in your house (or location of the switch), you will take a call whether you want to invest in an automatic or manual transfer switch.
The market has several models for you to decide, depending upon what options you want.
We will compare four best models, guiding you to pick the optimum for your needs.
1. Reliance Controls Corporation 31406CRK
There are many good reasons why the Reliance Controls Corporation 31406CRK is an Amazon favorite.
This all-in-one model, manual transfer switch kit includes all need to effectively and safely transfer power from the grid to your generator when needed.
Another plus point is that it is competitively priced.
The kit includes a pre-wired transfer switch with wattage meters, a 10-foot power chord, 30A power inlet box, wire connectors, and an extra 20A plug end.
Max Running Generator Watts: 7,500
5-Year Product Warranty
- Kit includes 31406C six-circuit prewired transfer switch, PC3010 power cord (10 feet, 10 AWG, L14-30 ends), PB30 outdoor painted steel remote power inlet box, wire nuts, and L14-20 male plug for 20A generator outlets
- Convenient kit for your transfer switch, circuitry and multi-wiring needs
- Maximum generator running watts: 7,500
- 18-inch flexible conduit whip attaches easily, and indoor surface mount transfer switch designed for fast installation in both residential and commercial applications
- cUL1008 listed and comes with a 5-year product warranty
2. EmerGen Switch 107501G2(Great For Outdoors and Indoors Applications)
When you need a versatile solution, the indoor-outdoor compatible EmerGen EG107501 is the solution.
One thing to keep in mind about manual transfer switches is that many are supposed to be mounted indoors. Taking them out of the equation for those who need an outdoor mounted box.
It is here that the Emergen 107501G2 outshines its competitors.
The kit comes with a NEMA 3R Rainproof Power Inlet Box, keeping your connections safe while giving you the freedom to select a versatile mounting location.
Max Running Generator Watts: 7,500
UL Listed, Certified Frustration-Free
1-Year Product Warranty
- FOR PORTABLE GENERATOR: This transfer kit is designed for use with emergency generators that have up to a 30 amp output, Nema L1430. With easy-to-follow instructions, this unit is incredibly easy to install and is a cheaper alternative to running your portable generator without it.
- VOLTAGE: This transfer switch kit is designed with the capability of 2 pole circuits and allows 240-volt circuits, making it perfect for well or water sump pump applications. If one of the installed 2-pole circuits are not needed, the tie bar can be removed to allow for 2 single pole circuits.
- INDOOR OR OUTDOOR: The designed enclosures of the power inlet and transfer switches to be used either indoors or outdoors and have a NEMA 3R rainproof rating allowing the kit to be installed wherever is convenient for you and you home.
- COMPATIBLE WITH ALL LOAD CENTERS: This backup generator inverter is compatible with all residential load centers including: Challenger, Cutler Hammer, GE, Home line, Siemens, Square D, and Westinghouse load centers.
- POWER SURGE PROTECTION: The double throw rocker switches absolutely eliminate the possibility of power back feeding to the utility line or to your generator when power is restored. All Connecticut Electric products are ETL listed, ensuring its compliance to UL Standard.
3. Reliance Controls Corporation 51410C
The RCC 51410C is an excellent choice for portable generators with 12,500 running watts.
The installation is quick and easy.
The simple and practical design makes it quick and easy to install in either office or home settings.
Reliance Controls Corp. 51410C kit comes with a high-quality powder-coated steel box, resettable branch circuit breakers, six combination knockouts, and non-defeatable double-throw switches.
Max Running Generator Watts: 12,500
It is designed for quick and smooth installation
2-Year Product Warranty
- Designed for fast installation in both residential and commerical applications
- 18-inch flexible conduit whip easily attaches to load center
- Maximum generator running watts: 12,500. 15 amp single pole circuit breakers. 20 amp single pole circuit breakers
- Maximum single-pole circuits: 10, Maximum double-pole circuits: 5
- Features rugged powder-coated steel cabinet, six combination knockouts, resettable branch rated circuit breakers and non-defeatable double-throw switches
4. Generac RTSW200A3
The Generac RTSW200A3 is hands down the most popular automatic transfer switch.
This ATS is built to produce enough energy to power an entire house or small office.
The Generac RTSW200A3 has a 200A, 120/240V single-phase rated transfer switch. It features a convenient service disconnect, which makes it easy to maintain and repair.
The NEMA 3R Rainproof Rated Power Inlet Box ensures that the switch stays protected, albeit accessible when needed.
Max Running Generator Watts: 48,000
UL/CUL Listed, Frustration Free
2-Year Product Warranty
- 200-Amp 120/240 volt single phase Smart transfer switch with service disconnect which is housed in an aluminum NEMA/UL type 3R enclosure with electrostatically applied and baked powder paint
- Transfer switch connects through the utility meter for easy installation
- Heavy duty Generac contactor is a UL recognized Device, designed for years of service, the controller at the generator handles all the timing, sensing, exercising functions and transfer commands
- Can be used in Tandem with Generac Smart Management modules, up to 8 more loads can be managed as well, providing the most installation efficient power Management options available
- 5-year limited warranty; Replacement for RTSW200A3
How to Wire a Transfer Switch To Your Home
Please read the DISCLAIMER before proceeding — what follows is a general guideline and we cannot assume any responsibility whatsoever for any property damage or injury occurred as a result of the information provided in this article.
It is best to leave the wiring of a transfer switch to a professional. But if you feel that you have the mindset and dexterity of taking up the task yourself, here is a quick guide and overview of the proper steps to follow.
- Locate your panel box to determine where you want to mount the switch. It is common practice to mount the switch near your panel box. This provides ease of installation.
- Mount the transfer switch onto the wall. Please ensure that the mounting is secure and free of any appliances or obstructions.
- Locate the main electrical panel of the house.
- Turn off the main power
- DOUBLE CHECK that the electrical power to your home is switched off by testing any appliance.
- Carefully and correctly connect the wires from the transfer switch to the breakers you want to control in the panel box.
- Using the correct 1 1/2″ drill bit, make a hole through the wall of the house from the outside to feed the electrical cables through it.
- Install the included electrical box above the hole that you have made on the outside of the house.
- Run the correct electrical cable from the electric box through the hole into the transfer switch.
- Locate the electrical receptacle that came with your switch and connect it to the electrical cable on the outdoor box.
- Mount the electrical receptacle to the box.
- Connect the other end of the same cable to the transfer switch which is inside the house.
- Make sure that the portable generator is in working order before testing the transfer switch.
Testing the installation:
- Leave the main power of the house off.
- Plug the generator into the outdoor electrical receptacle.
- Flip the transfer switch from the line to the generator
- Check that the connected circuits are receiving adequate power from the generator.
- If all is in order;
- Flip the switch back to the original position.
- Turn off the generator
- Turn on the main power back on.
- Seal the hole in your wall with a proper sealant to prevent any moisture, bugs, weather, etc.
We hope that this guide has helped you and given you the needed information to make an educated decision on the choice of transfer switches.
We have included a short guide to help you install it. (Please read the disclaimer).
Keep in mind that a transfer switch is an excellent and viable investment to help put power back to your home in an emergency power outage. You will be pleased that your important appliances are running when most needed.
Have you used, or are using a transfer switch? In what situations has the transfer switch helped you?