A generator is one of the most worthwhile investments you could ever make. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in – out camping, at home during a power outage, or tailgating – you’ll need a reliable backup source of power.
There are two types of generators to choose from, namely standby and portable generators. Standby generators are placed at a far distance, but close enough to provide power to your home, whereas portable generators can be taken anywhere, you want to go on the face of the Earth. However, just because a portable generator can move doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for your home.
One common question people ask about portable generators is how they can connect it to their homesWell, as long as you have the right power cord and a transfer switch, then you should be good to go.
What’s a Transfer Switch?
It’s completely understandable if you don’t know what a transfer switch is. In fact, my first-time generator buyers don’t have any clue about what to look for. Allow us to enlighten you.
A transfer switch is a switch found on your home’s electrical panel which allows your home to use electricity from two different sources: utility and generator. When everything’s running all dandy and fine, you can leave the switch on UTILITY mode to draw power from your city’s power lines. When all hell breaks loose, the switch needs to be flipped to GENERATOR mode so your portable generator can begin supplying power to your home.
What’s an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS)?
There are two types of transfer switches that to choose from – manual and automatic. Manual transfer switches require you to head down to your basement and flip the switch on your electrical panel each time you need to switch power sources. Nobody likes going down into the basement, especially during a blackout, and risk being mauled to death by monsters or bears.
The more convenient version, the ATS, automatically switches to GENERATOR mode when it detects no running electricity coming from your utility company. It definitely saves you time and could potentially save your life (remember those bears hiding in your basement?)
Do I need a transfer switch?
Technically, you don’t need to have a transfer switch if you need to keep your home’s refrigerator and/or computers on. You simply need to plug whatever electronics you want directly into the generator’s power outlets or an extension cord.
However, there are some risks and downsides involved. First, since any generator emits toxic fumes, there’s absolutely nowhere you’re going to be able to plug your fridge into the generator’s outlets unless you drag your refrigerator outside.
Second, it’s not wise to plug sensitive electronics (computers, tablets, Smartphones, etc.) directly into a generator since there might be random surges that could break any sensitive electrical components.
Third, the last thing you want is to deal with a long extension cord when it’s pitch-black in your home. You might end up tripping on the cable and falling into your basement (remember those bears).
However, depending on where you live in the world, you may be obligated to install a transfer switch in your home if you plan on running a generator at home. So for these people, you absolutely MUST have a transfer switch.
There are several benefits to installing an ATS in your home. First of all, it’s the absolute easiest way to supply your home and certain circuits with power during blackouts. Second, it’s the safest way to use a portable generator at home. Third, there aren’t any cords running through your windows and into your home since generators need to be operated outside.
Automatic Transfer Switch Buying Guide
If you have a portable generator and plan on using it during emergency situations at home, you might be wondering to yourself what certain specs/features to look out for an ATS. The following segment will explain briefly what the most important considerations there are to make when shopping for an ATS.
The first thing you need to consider is the number of watts that the transfer switch can support. This means taking a look at the wattage ratings on each of your most vital appliances and electronics and making sure that they don’t surpass the wattage rating of the transfer switch.
Most brands are already certified UL/CUL, so this doesn’t play as big a role in determining which transfer switch to get. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard it completely. Make sure that any transfer switch you think of getting is certified by either UL or CUL to ensure that you’re getting a reliable piece of equipment. Anything that’s uncertified can potentially lead to disastrous results.
Indoor or Indoor/Outdoor
Transfer switches can be installed inside or out, depending on where you’d like it. Indoor-only models can handle being a little wet so moisture from your basement won’t be an issue. However, outdoor models have seals that keep the inner components completely dry, even during heavy rainfall.
Some ATS can be programmed to direct greater amounts of power to where it’s needed. For instance, when your refrigerator’s compressor kicks in, the ATS will transfer power from one circuit to the fridge’s to prevent a power overload.
It goes without saying that purchasing any appliance should only be done if the manufacturer offers a warranty. However, what we want you to know is that installing your own transfer switch might invalidate the warranty. ATSs can be a bit complicated to install, so it’s always safer to delegate the task to trained professionals.
Portable generators are great for when you need to hit the open road, but they can also work as standby models for your home during emergencies. The safest and most reliable way to use your portable generator at home is with a transfer switch. With a flick of a switch, you can choose GENERATOR or UTILITY mode to determine from which source your home will draw power.
There aren’t that many things to consider when purchasing an ATS. However, it’s extremely important that you pay attention to the wattage rating that the switch can support since going overboard can potentially wreak havoc to your generator, your home’s circuits, and the transfer switch.
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