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Transfer Switches

transfer switches

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In one of my recent posts we learned about generators and the differences between portable generators and whole home systems. In this article we’re going to look at transfer switches, how they work, why they are important and how, if you are using a portable generator, you will save time and headaches by using a transfer switch.

First, what is a transfer switch you ask? Simple answer, it works like any other switch in your home except in this case we are switching from one power source to another; the main grid to our generator and back when the power is restored.

Automatic transfer switches are pretty standard fare when it comes to whole home generators. If you are going to make the investment to power the whole home when the grid is down doing it seamlessly makes the most sense. The addition of an automatic transfer switch does not add that much to the cost and when the power goes out it is back on in a very short period of time with no effort on your part. Again this is a big advantage to having the whole home system. The next question is why is a transfer switch needed if you are using a portable generator?

A transfer switch is not needed if you like running extension cords everywhere; personally, I think that is kind of a pain in the you know what. What a transfer switch allows you to do is use the existing electrical system in the home and attaches your portable generator to it. Using a transfer switch with a portable generator requires a little more work than the automatic whole home version. You first must hook the portable generator to the switch and engage it. Before doing so make sure that all the interior circuit breakers are in the off position. The reason for this is very simple a portable is not going to be able to power your whole home.

Once the transfer switch is engaged, the unit will be sending power to the interior circuit breaker panel, every breaker that is in the on position will send power to the designated spot. Once the generator is up and running most people start with the breaker that powers the refrigerator and go from there depending on the size of the generator. The owner’s manual of your generator should give you a guideline as to how many things can be powered at once. Also, having a transfer switch in place with the portable will allow you to manage what in your home is getting power using various circuit breakers. Once again depending on the size of the generator you may be able to for example, turn off the fridge for an hour and cook a meal or shut down everything and send power to the water heater for awhile. The trick is to know how many amps each breaker is using and how many amps of demand you are placing on the generator.

A typical 7,500 watt generator can deliver around 60 amps to the interior panel. You just need to make sure whatever circuit breakers are on are using less than the 60 amps that your generator can provide. The amps are marked on the end of each circuit breaker.

Lastly, even when utilizing a transfer switch with a portable generator precautions must be taken. Keep the generator 10’ away from any door or window, use caution when fueling it and have your electrical system inspected annually by a qualified electrician to ensure all pieces and parts are in top condition and working order. It’s not going to do you a lot of good to have electricity if you burn the house down in the process.

Alright my friends until we meet again, I have rocked down to Electric Avenue; proceeding to take it higher and awaiting further instructions. House Whisperer out!!

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