Generator Transfer Switch Options: Manual Vs. Automatic

Generator Transfer Switch Options: Manual Vs. Automatic

When a power outage strikes, you never know how long it’ll be until the power comes back on. That’s why a generator with an automatic transfer switch is ideal, keeping your business going no matter what.

Optional standby systems, also known as “back-up generators,” are installed to provide a secondary source of electricity during power outages. A large back up generator can fuel an entire commercial or residential location. There are several ways to safely transfer power from the utility line to your generator and visa-versa. By adding an automatic transfer switch, the generator will take over power as soon as local power lines go out. Manual transfer switches require someone on-site to turn on and turn off the generator as needed.

Transfer Switches

A transfer switch is used to supply power to an electrical circuit from multiple sources. The only type of generator that does not require a transfer switch is a small portable back-up generator that relies on an extension cord to provide electrical signals to appliances. This type of generator will not supply enough power to keep your business going.

The transfer switch is part of the back-up system installed with a back-up generator. An electrician must be present during the process to ensure everything is done safely and up to code. If there are mistakes in wire transfers, major health and safety concerns arise for workers or anyone present in the building. It is illegal to “back-feed,” a process in which electrical wiring is attached directly to the building’s electrical wiring without the use of a transfer switch. It’s illegal because it’s dangerous, so it’s not one of those things worth breaking the law over.

A legal transfer switch prevents electricity sent from a generator from going right back into the local power grid. That means without a transfer switch you could end up fueling the street utility power lines. As a result, if an electrician or neighbor is working on a nearby pole, they could be electrocuted or seriously injured. Furthermore, the process can cause serious damage to the generator as well as your electrical wiring.

Manual Vs. Automatic Transfer Switch

There are manual and automatic transfer switches available, ranging in design from super simple to more high-tech. There are single and multi-circuit options. Transfer switches rated “Suitable for Use as Service Equipment” can be installed in the electrical system upstream, located on your electrical panels’ main circuit breaker. This is complex stuff that requires a licensed electrical contractor to assess and install.

Manual transfer switches are more affordable and simplistic. But, someone must be on-site to operate the generator, starting it and turning it off. That means it won’t turn on automatically when the power goes off.

Automatic transfer switches (ATS) are costlier, but they offer advanced technology that’s well worth it. This type of switch automatically transfers the power to the generator in a power outage. ATS can start and stop the generator, detect power disruptions, and automatically switch to an alternate power source as needed. When power returns to the utility line, the ATS equipment automatically transfers back to the original power source and powers down the generator. Installing this sort of set up is complex and always requires a qualified electrician on site.

Add A Transfer Switch To Your Electrical Panel

Adding an automatic transfer switch to your electrical panel doesn’t take a lot of time and it doesn’t have to be dangerous if it is conducted by a licensed electrician. While there are multiple transfer switches to choose from, you don’t have to worry about any of that because we take care of it all when we set up your back-up generator. 

It is paramount that compatible equipment is used for your existing panelboard. It is unsafe to use a different brand and can potentially lead to electrocution, or major damage to your building’s electrical system.

There are non-approved transfer systems available on the market. Never fall prey to these dangerous systems. Properly installed systems should always include a permit and undergo inspection by a local electrical inspector.

Rent or Buy Back-Up Generators from Cooling Power

Stay prepared no matter what by buying or renting one of our top-rated back-up generators. We have a wide variety of sizes and models available to accommodate the needs of businesses big and small. Contact us today to learn more.