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Generator Transfer Switches

A generator transfer switch is a device that allows safe connection of the electrical circuits in a home or business to a generator.

These switches are referred to by several different names:

Generator Transfer Switch

Portable Generator Transfer Switch

Manual Transfer Switch

Automatic Transfer Switch

Power Generator Transfer Switch

Home Generator Transfer Switch

There are two primary types of transfer switches. The manual transfer switch for use with portable generators, and the automatic transfer switch for use with permanently installed standby generators.

Manual Transfer Switches

generators transfer switchesThe most common use of portable generators is powering lights and small appliances. Small appliances can be microwaves and other plug-in appliances - appliances that can be connected with a typical extension cord (or multi-outlet generator cord). Some essential appliances needed during an emergency are not the plug-in type. For example, the furnace fan cannot be plugged in. To operate items like a well pump, furnace fan, or central air conditioner, which are wired directly into your home's electrical circuits, you will need a generator transfer switch. A generator transfer switch (also referred to as manual transfer switch, power generator transfer switch, portable generator transfer switch, )[SEE GRAPHIC] eliminates the need to run multiple extension cords for many appliances, and allows your generator to safely power entire rooms or circuits in a building or home.


Manual transfer switches make controlling your generator load particularly simple(see information below), but also perform another important function. A Power generator transfer switch prevents the potentially-lethal condition known as back feed. Back feed happens when electricity from a portable or home generator enters outside lines. This puts utility employees at risk for electrocution as they work to repair power lines. In order to avoid this potential problem, a portable or home generator must never be plugged directly into a home's wall outlet. It is worth noting that, because utility workers doing their jobs are left so vulnerable(to the threat of back feed), many jurisdictions have criminalized the reckless or improper use of a portable generator. Steep fines and even incarceration can be the end result.


A portable generator transfer switch (also referred to as transfer switch, manual transfer switch, power generator transfer switch) is installed beside your fuse box, and then hardwired to the circuits you want to run in an emergency.

The typical manual transfer switch can run from 4 to 6 circuits. How many of these circuits can be run simultaneously will depend on the wattage of your generator and the power draw on each circuit. There are large manual transfer switches that can channel power to an entire building or house. As a rule, these portable generator transfer switch models will have a 10 or 12-circuit capacity and need a portable or home generator with a rating of at least 10,000 running watts to operate effectively.

automatic transfer switch In order to understand the circuits that can be connected to a portable generator transfer switch, examine your fuse box[SEE GRAPHIC]. Any of these circuits, which can be turned on and off by the switches in your fuse box, can also be run with a portable generator. Your kitchen will probably have its own circuit. Probably so will your livingroom, and each bathroom in the house. Many homeowners choose to power a utility or laundry room, frequently the location of a water heater or furnace. After you have chosen the circuits you want hardwired, it's a quick and simple procedure for a licensed electrician to connect these to the circuits of the transfer switch[SEE GRAPHIC]. portable generator transfer switchYou can put away the multiple generator cords, so tedious and easy to tangle, that once hooked appliances into your generator's outlet panel. Now you'll need one power cord to plug the generator into the manual transfer switch[for information on selecting the right power cord to accompany your generator and transfer switch, see section: Power Transfer With Power Cords].


The majority of portable generators are not large enough to simultaneously power all circuits hardwired to the transfer switch. Employing flip-up switches on the face of the power generator transfer switch, you can choose to run one circuit at a time - or two or more circuits together, depending on your needs, and generator capacity. With the activation of one circuit for instance, power can be directed to your kitchen, where it runs a refrigerator and microwave - and then, by turning off that switch and activating another, redirected to the laundry to operate a water heater, furnace, or perhaps a central air conditioner. Activating a third circuit can send generator electricity to lights and a TV in the livingroom, or to a space heater and electric blanket inside a bedroom.


An automatic transfer switch functions in a similar way to a manual transfer switch. The primary difference is that an autmatic transfer switch is connected to a permanently installed standy generator rather than a portable generator. The automatic transfer switch detects a utility power loss and then automaticall starts the generator and distributes power to circuits of the home or building. The automatic transfer switch also peridically starts and exercises the generator to assure that all parts remain adequately lubed and in good working condition.

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T-Rex Generators distributes products from many different standby and portable generator manufacturers at substantially discounted prices. These represented companies include: Asco automatic transfer switches, Briggs & Stratton generators, Winco generators, Generac Generators, GenTran transfer switches, Reliance Controls Transfer Switches, and Zenith automatic transfer switches. T-Rex also carries Honda powered generators which have the same time-tested Honda engines as the substantially more expensive Honda generator brand units.