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Generator Transfer Switch, Opinions ?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Dix, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    The post from seige101 above gave you your answer.. The two common setups are the Reliance Controls style transfer switch box, or a a panel interlock backfeed breaker.

    The interlock breaker is cheapest in terms of materials (maybe $50-75 for the interlock kit and another $100-200 for the input box and wiring), but you need to either get a big gen to run the whole house (prob need a BIG one for the well pump anyway) or know to turn off a lot of loads before switching over. And with the entire house disconnected from the street you will only know the power came back by watching for your neighbors lights to come on.

    The transfer panel is a bit more cost of materials (maybe $300-400 with wiring, etc) but lets you selectively choose circuits to power and works with smaller gensets better.

    Add a few hours labor by a pro electrician and permitting fees to either.

    E

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  2. FrankMA

    FrankMA Member

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    I have something very similar to these two transfer switches. They work quite well and the breakers automatically switch over to grid power when the grid power becomes available again. I decided to do a legal install as I would not want to be responsible for injuring a lineman by backfeeding into the 240V plug outlet that's located just below my 200 amp electrical panel. Everyone says you just have to disconnect the main breakers when you backfeed and all is safe but I would not want to take the chance.
  3. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    +1 same reason I put in a dedicated transfer panel. the other danger folks forget is that to back feed a dryer outlet you need to make up a double male end 220v cable. Those are nicknamed suicide cables for a reason...
  4. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Check out www.renovationheadquarters.com, How to wire a generator transfer switch, for an illustration of a subpanel with manual transfer switch installation.

    Ehouse
  5. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    There is another possible option. I forget exactly what it's called (I'll call it a thingy here), but the meter gets unplugged from its socket, the thingy gets plugged into the meter socket, then the meter socket gets plugged into the thingy. That is, it is sandwiched between your meter & the meter socket. The thingy has a generator cord receptacle on it, knows when the power goes out, and when it does it switches from the main power supply to the generator receptacle. You just have to plug your generator into it & fire it up. When the power comes back on it switches itself back. They were new around here when I checked them out a bit a year ago. Supplier was temporarily out of stock then. They were around $700, had to be done by an electrician, and required a disconnect & reconnect by the power company. I have since put it off (i.e. forgot about it), but I should look into it again - we haven't had any serious long outages here for a while which just means we're way overdue. But it definitely sounded like the easiest, simplest & cleanest solution. No rewiring or anything like that - just plug & play installation. By qualified people, that is.
  6. Tramontana

    Tramontana Burning Hunk

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    I think the "thingy" mentioned by maple1 is called a GenerLink, which I found by Googling "meter socket transfer switch".

    Interesting concept, but might necessitate installation by the Utility versus a licensed electrician. At least in my service area (Xcel Energy) I believe it is illegal to remove the seal that they apply at the meter socket.

    Cheers!
  7. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    All the responses are filled with great information. But, I'd like to take a look at the OP's needs:
    She wants to run 2 refrigerators and a freezer, and possibly the well pump.

    The well is the troublemaker. If you can get by without it, (as indicated), you're best, least costly option is to run a small (3Kw maybe) genset with 2 electrical cords. This is an annoying way to do things, but simple, easy to understand, and many, many others do the same.

    If you like staged construction planning, you could buy just the genset now, (plan for a bigger size), and add in the electric panel conveniences as future budget allows.

    Be advised that the 240v well pump won't be included in this scenario.
    That's what I would do. Heck, that's what I currently am doing. (We fill the bathtub before the storm. I'll bet you do too.)
  8. ironpony

    ironpony Minister of Fire

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    why is everyone so concerned about the well pump??? a 1hp deep well pump only draws 8.5 amps 220 volt
    a standard 5000 watt 6250 surge generator will easily run a well pump and quite a bit more
    my summary of advice given so far, which is all very good but might still be confusing you.
    have a licensed electrician come out and give you an estimate to install a transfer switch with the circuits you would like to run
    have him calculate the load for said circuits
    match generator to load size with some extra
    I think you will find it to be less than you think.
    in the end, flip switch start generator, power in house no messing with breakers etc.that could be forgotten to turn on/off
    so simple a caveman can do it
    Defiant likes this.
  9. CTguy9230

    CTguy9230 Feeling the Heat

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    i would agree with ironpony,,it will be less then you think

    and you'll have peice of mind that its done right and wont kill the guy trying to restore your power
  10. FrankMA

    FrankMA Member

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    Here's my experience with switching from grid power (when it goes down) to generator power using my new generator and transfer switch. I highly recommend spending a few extra $$$ to get this arrangement as it will be well worth it when your time of need presents itself. I've never had a generator before and this explains just how easy this type of set-up is to get you powered up and back into the world of electricity.

    Take generator to outside of my garage, start generator and let it warm up for a few minutes, plug power cord into generator recepticle and other end into recepticle located next to transfer switch box, flip the breaker switches on transfer box from "line" (grid) power to "generator" power - that's it! Generator power is now running about 95% of all my electrical needs in my home and all is right with the world.

    Yes, you have to spend some money but #1 - it's safe for my family and any line workers, #2 - it's easy (wife does not like this kind of stuff but can easily and safely do it if I'm not around), #3 - I have power within 10 minutes of losing grid power.
  11. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Generlink - yes, I think that's it. And yes, it would require a disconnect & reconnect by the power company as I mentioned above. But no extra wiring or circuit re-arranging or anything like that. I'm waiting on my electrician to come hook up my new backup electric boiler - I think I'll quiz him on this again.
  12. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    I checked with my nephew who is an electrical instructor at SUNY Delhi. He says the use of a sub panel with a manual transfer switch (on off on) is perfectly legal and safe. It may be less common than other methods, but by no means rare. It's used extensively in agricultural applications as well as PV, Generator installations. He says people don't use it for the same reasons they buy a Cuisinart coffee maker instead of a Mr. Coffee $20 special. A quick web search will turn up many examples. If your setup is, as I suspect, of this type, and your subpanel has your desired loads, then you don't need anything more than to replace the transfer switch with one that's outdoor rated. You'll also need a plug in of some sort to connect the genset to the transfer switch. I don't see one in the pic. Have your electrician out for a look see.

    One caveat; if you're hooking the generator directly to the subpanel, that would be illegal and unsafe, as you'd be using the transfer switch as a disconnect. The genset must be hooked into one side of the transfer switch.

    Ehouse
  13. Tramontana

    Tramontana Burning Hunk

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    I hate to beat on this horse any further, but a couple of points that haven't been made;

    Whoever installed this transfer switch either didn't know better than to install a properly rated outdoor enclosure/device, or didn't care. Either way, given what is and is not visible in the photos, I would question the remainder of the install, clear back to the sub panel. If they also installed the sub panel, I would get the whole system inspected.

    What I fear is that this installation is likely so far out of date, or completely non-compliant, regarding code, that this opens an entire can of worms of having further work made to the system.

    All the more reason to have a licensed electrician check the entire thing out.

    Cheers and good luck.
  14. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    I completely agree. I was shocked someone would even suggest to have the old beat up rusted probably barely working switch relocated inside.
  15. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Bite your tongue! Dixie can do ANYTHING!

    I'd vote for replacing the disconnect and installing an interlock kit. That can be done by removing the current disconnect and installing a splice box with a plug outlet./inlet where the generator would be connected. Then you "back-feed" to the panel, turn off the main breaker (with the disconnect kit) and turn off/on the breakers you want to use when you want to use them. This is usually the most cost-effective way to get the most flexibility. The number of circuits you run is entirely up to you and the size of the generator you procure. It's also the cheapest for the DIY person. You drill/bolt the interlock to main panel cover (couple small holes) move a couple breakers around and you're good to go.

    The problem with the interlock kit is there not available for every panel. They also don't disconnect the neutral like a true transfer switch which may be needed depending(recommended) which generator you get.
  16. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Exactly the setup I have.
  17. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I just backfeed my panel. My solar panels are setup the same.
  18. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I was surprised how much the interlock 'kits' cost for a couple bits of sheet metal and stickers. Most panel manufacturers sell replacement face plates with a factory installed interlock on them. Many get a UL listing, you don't need to drill holes into your panel face, and should have an easier time on inspection or resale. Then you can just backfeed with a cheap socket and cord.

    Google you panel brand name and 'interlock panel'.
  19. hilbiliarkiboi

    hilbiliarkiboi Member

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    Nice pun! But if a qualified electician thinks its servicable, there is no need to replace it.
    If it works move it in. I bet everything is kosher. If not, a new switch and generator receptacle will likely suffice.
  20. hilbiliarkiboi

    hilbiliarkiboi Member

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    Generator receptacle/input boxes have a male plug recessed in a box that is not exposed while connecting.
  21. hilbiliarkiboi

    hilbiliarkiboi Member

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    I also think an inspection is due, but I also believe the person that used it was capable.
    If the parts you have pass, a rect/input and new conductor installed should not be much more than a service call.
    As noted, your switch is rated @ 30amps max. Btw, was it protected by a porch or overhang?
  22. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Yup, thats what I have. Just pointing out that folks who don't want to spend the money for an interlock or transfer switch and think they can backfeed the house on the cheap sometimes get the idea to just hook into a dryer outlet :(
    hilbiliarkiboi likes this.
  23. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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