Monday, September 26, 2022

What Is A Generator Transfer Switch?

Do you know what a generator transfer switch is, or are you probably wondering what it might be? Then, read through what is a generator transfer switch article to get all you need to know about it.

This article holds all the information you need to know about a generator transfer switch. Knowing that this information has to be extensive and well-detailed, this article is divided into sections.

This will help you understand what a generator transfer switch is better. For this reason, I will start with an overview.

Then, move on to discuss how generator switch transfer works. After that, I will discuss the factors to consider when buying a generator switch transfer.

In the next section, I will discuss its pros and cons. Then, I will proceed to give a few recommendations of the device from which you can pick.

Also, I will provide answers to the frequently asked questions about the generator transfer switch. Lastly, I will conclude the article in the final section. will earn a tiny commission if you purchase a product from one of the links in this article. This enables us to keep the lights on, but it has no impact on the price you pay. Visit our Affiliate Disclosure page for more details.

What Is A Generator Transfer Switch: Overview

First, you should know that a generator transfer switch is an electrical device. It allows you to use your home wiring system to turn on any of your appliances with your generator.

In simple terms, it keeps the mains and generator supply separate so that one of them can supply energy to your load when you use a generator.

A transfer switch is a constant switch that connects your power box and changes the power load between two sources.

In addition, a generator transfer switch allows you to power your appliances on the circuit breaker panels, such as hardwired devices like a water heater.

Overall, it is a mini circuit breaker panel that receives supply from your generator instead of the power lines.

Types of Generator Transfer Switch

Manual Transfer Switch Or Manual Transfer Switch Panel

The manual transfer switch panel is a transfer panel used with a diesel generator to switch between the mains and the generator in any case of power failure.

One thing about the manual transfer switch is that it requires you to turn a handle or an alternative lever.

Once you do that, you will be able to switch between the mains and the generator and start the generator manually.

Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS)

Firstly, an automatic transfer switch is a self-acting, intelligent power switching device regulated by the attached control logic.

ATS makes sure that power is supplied constantly from one of the two sources to a connected load circuit.

Moreover, an ATS can control when your backup generator relies on the voltage within the primary supply for the building. After that, it must pass the load to the backup generator.

This prevents the backup from being the power source before the generator backup is turned for temporary power.

Step By Step Process An ATS May Use Is:

  • When power fails in a building, the ATS will start the backup generator. For this reason, the generator will be ready to supply power to the house.
  • The ATS will switch the urgent power to the load if the generator is ready to perform.
  • Furthermore, the ATS will notify the generator to shut down once the Utility power is restored.

However, the automatic transfer switch function is to protect the generator from overloading. Another preventive measure is the cooling function to cool the generator from overheating.

Difference Between Automatic And Manual Transfer Switch

In terms of importance, the automatic and manual switch performs the same switch transfer function.

However, an automatic transfer switch changes a power supply from its primary source to a generator backup.

This happens when there is a power failure in the primary source until the mains is restored.

On the other hand, a manual transfer switch needs you to manually turn on the switch between the mains and the generator.

For clarity, the automatic transfer switch changes over by itself and starts up or stops the generator as well.

As a result, it saves your time and reduces stress and power outage length.

What Is A Generator Transfer Switch: How It works

A generator transfer switch consists of three main connections. This switch connects one to the load, one to the mains, and lastly to the generator.

These three main connections are very important. For this reason, the generator switch makes sure that it does not connect the two, that is, the load and the generator.

To make it simpler for you, when the electric service is out of your reach or fails, you can easily plug your generator into an outdoor outlet that connects your house to a transfer switch.

An electrician usually installs the switch close to your main circuit breaker panel. With the help of an electrician, you can decide which circuit you want to power in the case of power failure.

Also, remember that cooling and heating component is essential. On this note, using a transfer switch will enable you to switch on different loads simultaneously.

Technically, you can connect a generator to your circuit panel without a transfer switch, but it is dangerous.

How To Install Generator Transfer Switch In Your Home

For you, wiring a transfer switch in your home can be a difficult task on your own. However, just with a tip of electrical ideas, you can finish the job in a few minutes.

But if you are not comfortable working with your home’s main electric panel, please hire a generator transfer switch installer or an electrician.

Step-By-Step Guide

Here is the step-by-step procedure to enable you to install your transfer switch faster:

  • First, you have to figure out where you would like the transfer switch installed. Then, you have to make sure it is close to your panel box for easy mounting.
  • Afterward, you might have located a safe place for your switch, ensuring it is far from obstructions. After that, you can safely install your switch on the wall.
  • Ensure you turn off the main power to your house at the main panel. Make sure you test your devices to be sure that the power is off.
  • After that, locate the cables that are coming from the transfer switch. And then, connect them with the circuits in your panel that you wish to control.
  • Another step is to drill a 1 and a half inches hole through the wall of your house from the outside near the switch.
  • Also, if your switch has an outdoor box, mount it above the hole on the exterior wall.
  • Now, you connect the wire from the transfer switch to the electrical box, passing it through the drilled hole.
  • Again, you now connect the electrical receptacle to the electrical wire in the outdoor box and mount it to the box.
  • Lastly, ensure your generator is in good condition before testing your work.

The Final Test Of Installation

To test your work with the main power supply still off, use the generator power cable.

Connect the cable to the generator and the outdoor electrical receptacle.

After that, start your generator and move the transfer switch from the power line to the generator.

At this stage, your appliances suppose to have light now.

If everything works accordingly, you change the transfer switch from a generator to the line.

You can now switch on your main power back.

Conclusively, it is advisable to cover the drilled hole to avoid bugs, moisture, and dirt entering your home.

What Is A Generator Transfer Switch: Features/Factors To Consider

Factors To Consider

Often, there are things to consider when selecting the best transfer switch for yourself. Here is a guide to enable you to pick the right generator transfer switch for your needs:

Types Of Transfer Switch

There are two main types of transfer switches for your generator backup; automatic type and manual operated type. You have to consider which of the two types is best for your use.

First, check on the functions and their effective operations. Also, you have to look at whether you want to do the task by yourself or want the generator to switch over itself.

Comprehensive Kits

Before going for a particular generator transfer switch, you need to consider the installation unit. However, you must include all the installation parts to have easy, fast, and stress-free installation.

For this reason, having all the necessary part in one kit is essential and efficient for the job. Check properly to avoid having to piece things together since transfer switches are sold as a kit.

Wattage Rating

When looking for a transfer switch to buy, one of the most important things to consider is the watt rating. This will enable you to have the exact number of running watts it can support.

Determining which circuit you want to power with your switch is also essential. After that, calculate the number of watts it takes to run them.

UL/CUL Certification

Another important thing to consider when selecting a transfer switch is the logo. Most brand-name switch kits will have this certification.

To be sure with the one you pick, you need to double-check to ensure that it is the right one.


As for any items or purchases, you will like to see how well the company stands behind its products. When working with all these devices on a heavy load, it is lovely always to have peace of mind and hitch-free time.

What Is A Generator Transfer Switch: Pros And Cons

Here, I will talk about the pros and cons of the two types of generator transfer switches.

Manual Transfer Switch


  • The manual transfer panel is less expensive compared to an automatic panel.
  • The automatic switch will force your generator to start even when you are away from home.
  • You don’t need control cables using a manual transfer switch, just electric supply cables.


  • You require to start the generator whenever your mains fails and also to run the generator.
  • Using a manual transfer switch, you require to start the generator manually each time.
  • Once you are far from home, there will be no means to start up the backup power for your appliances.
  • It takes a longer time to start any time your mains fails to compare to an automatic that responds immediately.

Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS)


  • Automatic transfer switches can automatically transfer the load of the power on the generator.
  • It consists of a built-in sensor that easily detects any current drops in the voltage and frequency of the main power supply.
  • This also has a time delay function, which ensures that your generator device and electric circuits are protected from current surges.
  • The automatic transfer switch saves time and energy and is very easy to use.


  • The automatic transfer switch is more costly than the manual transfer switch.
  • It requires a more technical expert and maintenance routine as compared to manual transfer switches.
  • There is a higher margin of mistakes or errors in various establishments. For this reason, it leads to error selection to match the switch in order to support the number of generators that is in place.

My Recommendations

ProductsDimensionWeightOperation ModeCurrent RatingOperating Voltage
Reliance Controls 31410CRK Pro/Tran 10-Circuit 30 Amp Generator Transfer Switch Kit7 x 4.5 x 13.75 inches1.91 poundsON-OFF-ON30 Amps120 Volts 
EZ Generator Switch – Generator Manual Transfer Switch4 x 4 x 4 inches1.87 poundsON-OFF-ON20 Amps120 Volts
GeepKey Latest 50 Amp Generator Power Inlet Box, NEMA 3R Generator6.54 x 4.61 x 4.57 inches2.7 pounds N/A50 Amps250 Volts
110V Dual Power Automatic Transfer Switch Dual Power Generator Changeover Switch5.91 x 5.39 x 4.65 inches2.84 poundsAutomatic63 Amps110 Volts
110V 63A Automatic Transfer Switch Dual Power Generator Changeover Switch7.68 x 7.36 x 6.02 inches3.09 poundsAutomatic63 Amps110 Volts

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is A Transfer Switch Necessary For A Generator?

A transfer switch is required for a generator for safety reasons and ease of use, especially if your generator is 5,000 watts and above.

2. Can You Use A Portable Generator Without A Transfer Switch?

Yes, but you must connect the generator to the breaker box in your house.

3. Do You Have To Turn On The Main Breaker When Using A Transfer Switch?

When the utility power goes out, you need to turn off all the circuit breakers in the transfer switch by switching them to the off position.

4. Can I Install A Generator Transfer Switch Myself?

You can install a transfer switch yourself, provided that you have the knowledge and experience of working with electronics.

5. Where Is The Transfer Switch In A House?

A manual transfer switch is installed next to the main service panel to override power from the generator during a power outage.

6. How Much Does A Transfer Switch Cost?

A transfer switch, including the installation, can cost between $500 to $1500 or lesser.

7. Which Is Better An Interlock Or Transfer Switch?

Interlock kits allow you to run power from a generator to any circuit within the electrical panel, while the transfer switch has a limited number of circuits.

8. What Size Transfer Switch Do I Need For My Generator?

To pick the best size of a manual transfer switch, try to match it to the largest outlet on your generator.

9. Do I Need A 30 or 50-Amp Transfer Switch?

A 30-amp transfer switch is suitable for generators up to 8000 watts, while 50-amps is suitable for 8500 to 1500-amp generators.

10. What Are The Types Of Transfer Switches?

Manual and automatic transfer switches are the two types of transfer switches.

My Final Thoughts

A generator transfer switch is not only the safest means to connect a generator to your home, but it is easier and faster.

Having a transfer switch will possibly keep your devices active during power failure.

It also protects your generator from overheating, giving you peace of mind.

However, it is essential to have extra equipment to keep your power flowing without outage or downtime.

Nevertheless, I have been able to provide you with the necessary information on “what is a generator transfer switch.”

Reading through our blog post, I leave you with no doubt to pick one of the best generator transfer switches for your needs.

Just check the “My Recommendations” section above to make your choice.

I hope you found this PowerVersity pick helpful.

If you found it helpful, kindly share your thoughts with the “Leave a Reply” form found towards the end of this page.

Finally, you may want to read other articles like this. Visit our below pages:

What Is Hydroelectricity: Generating Electricity Through Flowing Water

5 Best Inverter Generators

Jonathan Ogbonnaya
Jonathan Ogbonnaya
Ogbonnaya Jonathan writes for He holds an HND in Electrical/Electronic Engineering (Power). Jonathan loves listening to solemn music and playing sports. For, Jonathan writes reviews, buying guides, and best-pick articles.
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