How Does a Transfer Switch Work?

Every year, as the storm season approaches, homeowners all over the midwest flock to their local hardware stores to buy generators in preparation for inclement weather and the power outages that come with it. Unfortunately, in a rush to get set up, a critical safety component often gets forgotten, the transfer switch. Without one, a home and everyone inside it could be in danger.

What is a Transfer Switch, and How Does it Work?

A transfer switch is an electronic component that allows you to switch from grid power to electricity created by a generator during a blackout. There are two types of transfer switches, automatic switches and manual ones.

Automatic switches are permanently installed and connected to your home electric system. These devices constantly monitor the influx of electricity to your home, so when the power goes out, the switch will detect a lack of grid power and signal your generator to start running. Most modern stationary whole house generators come with an automatic transfer switch built-in. However, if your model doesn’t have this feature, a qualified generator technician can install one near your home’s breaker box.

Like their automatic counterparts, Manual transfer switches are permanently installed near your home’s service panel. However, instead of automatically transferring power output to your generator, the switch must be made by hand.

Deciding between an automatic and a manual transfer switch is no easy task as each has its own advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you can save hundreds of dollars by opting for a manual switch. On the other hand, installing an automatic transfer switch gives you peace of mind knowing that appliances like your refrigerator and HVAC system will kick on if the power ever goes out while you are away from home.

Do I Really Need a Transfer Switch?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, nearly every state legally requires you to use an appropriately sized transfer switch when powering appliances in your home with a backup generator. The danger lies in an issue known as backfeeding, which happens to homes equipped with transfer switches when their power comes back while still connected to a running generator. This puts you in danger of setting your house on fire and can send a fatal amount of electricity back to any unfortunate electrical technicians working on powerlines.

Choosing the Right Transfer Switch

Unfortunately, choosing the proper transfer switch for your home isn’t as simple as deciding between an automatic or a manual switch. You also need to consider the size of your home, the power output of your generator, and how many circuits will be connected to the switch.

To your average homeowner, this process can be complicated and confusing. So it’s best to contact the pros for help finding and installing the perfect transfer switch for your home’s needs. If you are in the market for a transfer switch, please feel free to give us a call. Our expert technicians at Midwest Generator Solutions can lead you to the perfect unit to keep your home and family safe during the next blackout.


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