Generator Automatic Transfer Switch Buyer's Guide
How to Find the Right Generator Power Transfer Switch
One of the most important aspects of getting a standby generator is making sure it can properly connect with your home during a power outage. As soon as the utility power goes out, there should be a seamless transition to backup power as if nothing happened in the first place.
Along with choosing your standby generator, you'll need to select the right transfer switch.
What is a Generator Transfer Switch?
A generator automatic transfer switch connects your backup generator with your home's electrical panel. Once connected, the transfer switch transfers electricity from your generator directly to your home and safely disconnects utility power.
An automatic transfer switch differs from a manual transfer switch in that you never have to flip it on manually. After it is installed, the automatic transfer switch will take the reins during a power outage. For this reason, automatic transfer switch models are best for standby generators, allowing you to fully enjoy their hands-off convenience.
Choosing the Right Automatic Transfer Switch
There are two main types of automatic transfer switches, depending on your needs, a load center for the essentials or a service disconnect to restore full power.
Powering Your Entire Home
If you want to power your home's entire electric panel directly, you will first need a generator large enough to do so. Then, you will need to figure out your main breaker's amperage.
How to size a backup generator transfer switch
You should purchase an automatic transfer switch with a service disconnect that has an amperage matching that of your breaker panel. For example, if you have a 200-amp main breaker, then you will need a 200-amp automatic transfer switch.
Powering Essential Circuits
If you have purchased a smaller standby generator that cannot handle your entire electric panel, you will need to go with a load center automatic transfer switch.
Load center automatic transfer switch units are hardwired to select circuits on your main breaker, that are typical essentials like lights and heating. You won't be able to power your entire home unless you buy a larger generator along with a service disconnect transfer switch. Alternatively, you may use power management modules (discussed below).
Contact us to determine which type of transfer switch is right for your generator and home. Load center automatic transfer switch units tend to be more costly to install because of the increased labor involved to wire individual circuits. As a result, you might save money buying a larger standby generator with a service disconnect switch versus a smaller standby with a load center switch.
Unless you buy a generator that's big enough to handle every conceivable power need in your home, you will need to manage the power loads.
You could do this by monitoring what you turn on during a blackout. For example, maybe you can survive without jumping in the hot tub or running every appliance in your kitchen.
Your other option is to use load shedding. Typically, built-in load shedding is done with air conditioning units due to their high surge wattage. If the air conditioning wants to come on, but there isn't enough power to start it, the automatic transfer switch will shut off less-critical appliances. Once the air conditioning turns on and stabilizes, the automatic transfer switch will turn the other appliances back on if possible.
In addition to your generator's built-in load shedding capability, you can buy power management modules that will manage multiple electric loads. They will prioritize power to appliances of your choice. These modules typically allow you to buy a smaller generator because you'll be using its energy more efficiently.
After deciding on the best automatic transfer switch for your standby generator, you can be confident that you'll enjoy a seamless transition from utility to backup power during a blackout.
All that remains now is to get your generator and transfer switch installed.