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Old 04-01-2011, 04:16 PM   #1
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


I have a portable 5500 watt backup generator for emergencies. I've wanted to get a back up switch installed but haven't due to the cost of hiring an electrician and also not knowing what all I would need. I recently saw at one of the big box stores a "generator transfer switch kit" It says everything is included for installing a backup switch. Has anyone purchased and installed one of these? Are they really an "everything you need kit" How hard would it be for a DIY'er like myself to install it??

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Old 04-01-2011, 05:07 PM   #2
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


A real transfer switch is either
1. Connected between the entering service cables and your main panel, usually a job requiring an electrician and coordination with the power company, or,
2. Connected between a pair of branch circuit breakers in the main panel and a subpanel, where only the sub[panel branch circuits are eligible to get generator power. You can do this one yourself.
A real transfer switch is somewhat like one of a pair of three way light switches where the common terminal (a set of three terminals for two hot wires and a neutral) are connected to the panel receiving the generator power and the other terminals (sets of terminals) are connected to the generator (one set) and the source of power ultimately coming from the utility (the other set).

They also make transfer interlocks which usually have to be for the specific make and model of panel. This is a system of levers or cams that prevent both the main breaker and a pair of side breakers that admit generator power to the main panel from being on at the same time.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 04-01-2011 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 04-01-2011, 05:42 PM   #3
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


Instead of a transfer switch that is more expensive or is limited to perticular circuits, I opted to install the main breaker interlock kit.

This way all circuits of the panel are powered (obviously you can turn on everything at once or air conditioning).

The installation is simple - just install a breaker and backfeed it via a generator inlet, and install the interlock kit so that either only either the main or backfed breaker can provide power to the panel.

Cheaper too.
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Old 04-01-2011, 06:18 PM   #4
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
A real transfer switch is either
1. Connected between the entering service cables and your main panel, usually a job requiring an electrician and coordination with the power company, or,
2. Connected between a pair of branch circuit breakers in the main panel and a subpanel, where only the sub[panel branch circuits are eligible to get generator power. You can do this one yourself.
A real transfer switch is somewhat like one of a pair of three way light switches where the common terminal (a set of three terminals for two hot wires and a neutral) are connected to the panel receiving the generator power and the other terminals (sets of terminals) are connected to the generator (one set) and the source of power ultimately coming from the utility (the other set).

They also make transfer interlocks which usually have to be for the specific make and model of panel. This is a system of levers or cams that prevent both the main breaker and a pair of side breakers that admit generator power to the main panel from being on at the same time.
Option 3
Transfer switch kit that only transfers specific circuits that you connect into it at install. Six three way type switches that have to be manually flipped to energize the required circuits.
Here's one a HD

http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/10...ws/reviews.htm

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Last edited by joed; 04-01-2011 at 06:21 PM.
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Old 04-01-2011, 06:28 PM   #5
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


I did a little research on the main breaker interlock kits and really like that idea. It seems easier, cheaper, and will allow me to gain electricity back to the whole house vs just a few circuits, I obviously wouldn't be able to have a lot of stuff on with only a 5500 watt gen, but like the idea of having the option of being able to choose which lights/outlets to use. The only problem is, I have push type breakers not the ones that go side to side. Will I still be able to use an interlock kit with these? Also I don't have any free breakers available. Is there a way around this, or will I have to combine some circuits?
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Old 04-01-2011, 08:36 PM   #6
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


We have a transfer switch similar to the one that JoeD has shown, that is wired into an ITE Pushmatic panel. Before deciding which way to go, I mapped out our panel, in order to determine essential circuits, and the way that I configured it, we have power to our main refrigerator, the "beer" refrigerator in the garage, a freezer, the well, furnace, both bathrooms, our master bedroom, and a few other circuits throughout the house. I do not have power to the central air conditioning, nor the electric range, but we have a couple of fans, a propane grill, and microwave. So, will a panel as JoeD described work, and can you install it yourself? Yes, and yes, depending on your on your own knowledge and comfort level, as well as assuming that you are allowed to perform this type of work in your jurisdiction. Now, before you do anything, what are your plans for the future? And this is simply a rhetorical question, but if you are considering a home addition, garage, or any other project(s) that would cause you to upgrade your service, you may want to consider replacing your main panel with one that has the generator receptacle installed in it, as this is the "cleanest" method, in my opinion.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:43 PM   #7
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


I still like the idea of all circuits being available if needed. Plus the ease of install for the breaker interlock is a huge plus. By the main breaker being turned off there isn't any chance that power flows out to the main line outside the house, right?? I don't want to put power company workers in danger.

We don't plan on doing any additions in the future either.
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Old 04-05-2011, 01:41 PM   #8
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


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I still like the idea of all circuits being available if needed. Plus the ease of install for the breaker interlock is a huge plus. By the main breaker being turned off there isn't any chance that power flows out to the main line outside the house, right?? I don't want to put power company workers in danger.

We don't plan on doing any additions in the future either.
Correct - with the main off nothing goes back to the power company lines - the interlock ensure only one power path, either the power company or the genertor is connected.
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Old 04-05-2011, 01:47 PM   #9
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


So why is a male/male cord going from the generator to a plug inside the house so dangerous to power company workers? Can't you just turn the main breaker off to ensure the power doesn't flow outside the home to the power lines??
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Old 04-05-2011, 02:20 PM   #10
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


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So why is a male/male cord going from the generator to a plug inside the house so dangerous to power company workers? Can't you just turn the main breaker off to ensure the power doesn't flow outside the home to the power lines??
They are called suidce cord for good dammed reason as due one male end will be engerised and someone touch it by mistake they will get hit pretty hard.

Second thing I never trust main breakers 100% of my time due some older main breaker may not open all the way thru.

Third ., When someone in a big rush to get the genertor running and not turn off the main breaker off and it can backfeed to the power companiť grid and someone working on the line can get hurt pretty bad.

As you can see why we don't encourage that part at all so the safest way is do the proper way as we been posting for a while { you may have to search it. It do come up pretty frequent }

As far for the sliding interlock cam or lever on resdenetail panels some of the inspectors may NOT approve it in some area so that part you may want to double check that part. { I know couple spots in Wisconsin do not allow that }

Merci.
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:20 AM   #11
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


Frenchelectrician, I appreciate your response but not your tone.

I understand that one end is energized and someone can get zapped, but someone can get zapped just as easy from the end that plugs into the transfer box/inlet to house. My question was about power flowing back into the lines using a "suicide cord" with main off vs interlock with main off.
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:46 AM   #12
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


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someone can get zapped, but someone can get zapped just as easy from the end that plugs into the transfer box/inlet to house.
This is not true. The cord from the generator has a female end on it, and the transfer switch has blades, which are not hot, except when the cord is plugged to the transfer swich, in which case the blades are obviously inside of the plug. The only way that you will get "zapped" by a standby power cord is the same way that you would get "zapped" by a conventional cord, i.e. foolishly inserting a screwdriver or other item that does not belong into a receptacle. You never have exposed blades that are hot.

As for transformers, keep in mind that they work both ways. While they typically step power down to enter your house, they can step power up if the power source is at the house, and it feeds back through the transformer to a line that a utility worker otherwises assume to be dead.
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:09 AM   #13
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


I understand all the risks of suicide cords, I don't plan on using one I was just wondering if someone did foolishly use one but shut their main off would electrify flow back to the lines, since the interlock is kind of the same concept just with a safety aspect so the main can't be on if using it.
So back to my original question. If using an interlock and the main is shut off can power go back outside to the lines endangering power co workers? vsheetz says no, frenchelectrican says yes.....
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Old 04-08-2011, 08:03 PM   #14
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


Lucky, no point in discussing your premise. It is expressly forbidden and illegal to install any generator, permanent or portable with out an approved interlock switch and/or transfer switch. Now, that being said the interlock / transfer switch will prevent backfeeding the utility. Invest in the switch pictured here and designate 6 circuits. Should you need more, get a permanently installed generator with a large transfer switch.
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:40 PM   #15
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Generator Transfer switch "kits"


To make it clear why I say oui in first place due some of older main breaker may not alway open up due I have ran into couple allready so with my thumb of rules always double check to make sure they are complety disenaged or disconnected.

The modern breaker useally not a issue as long you do not have any abnormal sistuation affect the breaker itself.

Before you get the sliding interlock or transfer switch make sure you run by the inspector first sometime they may not approve some type of transfer switch { it depending on the state / local codes }

Merci,
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