Transfer Switches – Is It Necessary For Your Portable Generator?
Last updated August, 2019
A transfer switch is used when two power sources are involved and it is imperative to toggle between the two. Transfer switches come in both manual and automatic variants. As the names suggest, an automatic switch can be set to switch between the two power sources based on certain parameters while in the other, one needs to manually flip the switch.
Why use a transfer switch...
It is the switching capability that makes transfer switches indispensable with a portable generator. They ensure two things. First, power will not flow simultaneously from the main line and the generator at the same time and secondly, there is power for most of the appliances at all time. As soon as the main line goes out, the transfer switch will see to it that the portable generator becomes the main power source and electricity to the chosen appliances and/or switches is restored.
Word of Law
Like everything else, transfer switches to have their pros and cons prompting a few to consider against installing this device. However, the law says that it is necessary to install a transfer switch in order to operate a portable generator. In fact, the National Electric Code has made it mandatory for a power connection to a home to have a transfer switch. Thus, if you are planning to get a whole house generator for your residence, a power switch isn’t an option but a necessity by law. One just has to have it.
A transfer switch is needed for safety too. To begin with, it isolates the selected circuits from the main grid. This ensures that ‘back feed’ never happen. Back Feed is an electrical phenomenon in which the power starts going down the power lines in an inverse direction. It can be dangerous for the generator and any connected appliance. It may even lead to a short circuit and eventually fire. In extremely rare and unfortunate cases, if there are any technicians or electricians working on the power grid at the very same time, they may get electrocuted. Having a transfer switch would eliminate all these risks!
Increase in Efficiency of Generator
One of the biggest issues with keeping a portable generator is efficient power management. There are very few cases in which one can decidedly say which appliances need power and which don’t. Most of the time, the choice is varied. What may be more important now may not be so tomorrow. For example, on Christmas eve, the power to the refrigerator is most important while on a working day, you may just need to fuel your laptop or home system at the most. Using a transfer switch with a generator will help solve the problem in quite an efficient manner.
A transfer switch makes power management child’s play. With a transfer switch, changing power needs can easily be accommodated by turning off or on various circuits as needed. Thus even a smaller, less expensive portable generator might be sufficient to fulfill your occasional power requirements. Moreover, the generator can be used in a more efficient manner with less manual intervention required.
In a general scenario when appliances need to be powered by a top portable generator, one might need to run a lot of circuits and wires. This isn’t so if one has a transfer switch. With it, the existing home circuit can be used to transfer power directly to connected appliances. Also, items such as well pump or furnace, which cannot be connected to the generator directly, can easily be powered through a transfer switch.