I’ve had customers ask me if they can buy any generator without using a transfer switch. The answer is, it depends.
Some of you might be asking: “What is a generator transfer switch?” or "What transfer switch do I need for my generator?"
In short, a generator transfer switch acts as the brains of the generator and connects it to your home for direct power. Our guide explains how this works for both portable and standby generators and steers you to a wealth of additional information.
There are three components used to hook up a portable generator with a home’s main breaker: a manual transfer switch, a power cord, and a power inlet box (in many cases).
The manual transfer switch's amperage should match that of the largest outlet of your portable generator. The power cord and power inlet box will also need to be matched to this amperage. That’s why we recommend buying all the components at once.
A manual transfer switch lets you power select home circuits with one cord running from a portable generator to your main breaker panel, although sometimes a power inlet box is necessary.
Without a manual transfer switch, you would have to run multiple extension cords from your generator to indoor appliances. Also, you wouldn’t be able to backup systems like your furnace or A/C without a transfer switch because they are hardwired to your breaker panel.
If you get regular power outages, I highly recommend having your electrician install a manual generator transfer switch for easier power and convenience.
You need a power cord to connect your manual transfer switch to your portable generator.
Make sure the amperage of the power cord matches that of the largest generator outlet. If the cord doesn’t match, you won’t be able to use your generator’s full potential.
That’s where a generator power inlet box comes in. It sits on the side of your house and is hardwired to your manual transfer switch inside. During a blackout, you simply plug your generator into the inlet box with a power cord.
An outdoor transfer switch has the power inlet on the bottom because it's installed outside. In that case, a separate power inlet box is not necessary.
Unlike a manual transfer switch, which is permanently hardwired to select circuits, a generator switch panel can power different circuits at different times because it's connected to your entire panel. So, if you want to power your kitchen and living room during the day but switch to powering your bedrooms at night, you can easily do so.
Just like with an indoor transfer switch, you need a power inlet box to connect your generator with a transfer panel.
If you buy a home standby generator, then you need a transfer switch without exception.
Standby generators don’t work with a manual transfer switch. You need an automatic transfer switch, which links your generator with your home.
An automatic transfer switch constantly monitors the power coming into your home from the utility. When a blackout happens, it automatically switches your home to standby power without any manual effort on your part.
Transfer switches aren't the easiest pieces of equipment to understand, but they're extremely important to your generator working.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of how transfer switches work. If not, you can contact us at any time to speak with one of our knowledgeable, in-house experts about which transfer switch you need.