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Thread: Manual transfer switch

  1. #1
    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Default Manual transfer switch

    This is a question for my house which is on the grid but I wasn't sure where else to ask this.

    I have wanted for some time to install a manual transfer switch so I can run the house off generator power when there's an outage. I assume this could be done for pennies on the dollar by someone who actually knew what they were doing. I have a basic knowledge of house reno's and have done lighting, etc, but not super comfortable tinkering with the breaker box.

    So Lowes has this item for sale for $250:

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_182534-48019...3131281&rpp=32

    Anybody familiar with this? Is it easy to install? I assume in return for the cost they make it simple for you?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    If you are "not comfortable tinkering with the breaker box" you won't be able to install that.
    There are many ways to take your house off the "grid" and connect a generator up to the house.
    Do you require 230v or just 110v?
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    Member Delta Tenderfoot's Avatar
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    If you indeed have a fear of the electrical gremlins I would find an electrician friend.
    The concept of switching is fairly easy. It is a switch that allows you to switch from grid to your genset. The switch itself is a Grid-Off-Genset, three position switch in most cases that isolates the power from each source. The pre-packaged panels do a fair job of this.

    The considerations are a) it will not be able to switch the entire 200 amp panel. B) it will giveyou either 6 110V 20 amp options or 4 110V and a single phase 220V line. And c) the pre-packaged panels max out at either 30 or 40 amp, maybe 50 amp input. each have a differing plug option to attach to your genset.

    So first, make a list of the circuits you want in the event of an outage. When I had one of these it was the well-pump, (220V), lights on first floor, furnace, refrigerator,freezer, and kitchen outlets. That kept us in water, heat and our food cold and use of a microwave.

    My last one I installed was a 200 amp whole house automatic circuit with a 20KW NG stand-by genset. Well worth the investment in keeping spousal unit warm and in her Sat TV and internet.

    Simple answer, it is not difficult but takes knowledge of working with installing breakers. They do tend to have decent instruction enclosed.
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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I'd suggest hiring an electrician to make sure the job is done right. Possible issues of doing it yourself incorrectly, electrocution, house fire, house failing inspection when you go to sell it and having to either rip it out or pay an electrician to do it right, etc.
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    Member akriverunner's Avatar
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    I prefer to set a transfer switch next to the meter on the house. That way you can and have the ability to run the whole house off the gen. Figure out if you have a 100 amp or 200 amp meter and buy a transfer switch with the same rating.


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    After reading Delta Tenderfoot information. By the way very good information rep point sent.

    The six circuit manual switch may not be big enough for what you want to do. You are going to have to make a list of what you want to run on the emergency generator. Open up the circuit breaker box and find the circuits that go to the items. Measure or determiner the load for each circuit. You will need to know this information in order make sure you have the correct swith a big enough generator and let not forget too balance the load.

    If your not comfortable doing this or don't know how, make friends with D.T.

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses. Seriously, I only really care about a couple breakers. Basically keep the deep freeze and the refrigerator running, +/- maybe a few lights. Don't even need heat since we have a woodstove. I don't care about the 220V breakers. I only have a generator capable of 3500W / 110V anyway. As for the installment, I'm mostly afraid of getting fried as I don't know how to isolate the entire house. I just wondered if that item was a good deal inasmuch as its installation would be easier than buying individual parts. If there's good instructions I might go ahead and then just have a handyman friend help me out if I need it.

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    Isolate by turning the outside main breaker off at the meter. Then you can double check with a voltage tester inside your interior panel to double check yourself. With a good understanding of how electricity works this is a fairly easy install. Last one took me 2 hours but that was before the drywall was up. The instuctions if read thoroughly will basically walk you through the whole install. Ive done a couple on clients cabins ive built and so far so good. Quality of product seems up to par, kind of expected to see some gold bricks in there though

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    Just how long do you expect the power to be out? The reason I ask is the freeze and the refrigerator will stay cold for several hours, just don't keep opening them. Anyway if that's all you want to do just run a extension cord from the generator to the freeze, refrigerator and a light or two and be done with it.............

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    The generator transfer switch is a good buy and thereís notmuch to hooking it up. Itís defiantly not worth trying to build one. All you dois take the circuits that you want to power off the generator and remove thewires from the breaker in the main panel and wire nut them onto the wires goingover to the transfer switch and hook the wire coming from the transfer switchto the breaker where you just removed the wire. Turn the main off outside and verifythe panel is dead before you begin as stated above. If you have any specific questionsPM me. Iím a licensed electrical contractor.

    Also you should check out Relianceís Youtube video on how toinstall the transfer switch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7--oK3BXN5U

  11. #11
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    The way our new house is being wired the transfer switch is between the meter and the panel. The generator won't run the whole house, but the nice thing is we can run what we want w/o being limited to particular circuits, though it does require a 220 VAC genset. BTW costco has 7500w dual fuel gensets on sale for $600, hard to pass up. The nice thing with dual fuel is you can set it up with a propane tank and not worry about gas going bad or the carb getting gummed up. If we have to run it for an extended time we'll run it on gasoline.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

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    Member Ronster's Avatar
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    Another great kit here http://www.interlockkit.com/ if you haven't already purchased one. Pretty easy to do and instructions in the kit.

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    That device isn't a manual transfer switch. You can buy a whole home manual Transfer switch for about $100. They work great.
    http://m.lowes.com/pd/Generac-60-Amp...witch/50070403

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    Here is another simple affordable one.
    http://m.homedepot.com/p/GE-100-Amp-...323R/100171587

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    Default breaker switch

    We have a Farmer panel with breakers running different cabins. When the power goes out I turn off the Main breaker. I have the generator wired into another breaker. It acts like a Main breaker. As the generator is not able to run everything I turn certain breakers off. Other ones I want on are switched on. This is all manual and works great. Just remember to switch off the main or your generator will try to light up the neighborhood.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerbear View Post
    We have a Farmer panel with breakers running different cabins. When the power goes out I turn off the Main breaker. I have the generator wired into another breaker. It acts like a Main breaker. As the generator is not able to run everything I turn certain breakers off. Other ones I want on are switched on. This is all manual and works great. Just remember to switch off the main or your generator will try to light up the neighborhood.
    Oooooohhhh. Bad bad advice and idea!!!
    If I am understanding U correctly this is really bad and u need to change it.
    Breakers are a electrical component that can and does FAIL. If u are generating electric current to the BOTTOM side of your main breaker, and relying only on the main breaker to disconnect to the usual used system, you are putting the 'system' -- including the men working on it at Risk of death.
    You MUST have a visible me 'open' to properly generate at your home.
    Please seek further advice before you accidentally kill your local lineman working an outage in your area due to a faulty breaker.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  17. #17
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    Oooooohhhh. Bad bad advice and idea!!!
    If I am understanding U correctly this is really bad and u need to change it.
    Breakers are a electrical component that can and does FAIL. If u are generating electric current to the BOTTOM side of your main breaker, and relying only on the main breaker to disconnect to the usual used system, you are putting the 'system' -- including the men working on it at Risk of death.
    You MUST have a visible me 'open' to properly generate at your home.
    Please seek further advice before you accidentally kill your local lineman working an outage in your area due to a faulty breaker.
    Yup. There are lots of generator ready load centers readily available out there. There's no excuse to do something so dangerous.
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    I am a former electrician... i can tell you, with a high level of certainty (at least in my area) that insurance companies will NOT pay if you install something like this yourself and you have an electrical fire, even if the fire had nothing at all to do with the addition of the transfer switch. Before you try to do anything like this, or anything in your breaker box, yourself i would get written approval from your insurance provider. Without this approval or a post install inspection from a licensed and insured inspector (which can cost more that just hiring an electrician), you may just lose everything and still be stuck with a mortgage (if you have one)!

  19. #19
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    We have a Farmer panel with breakers running different cabins. When the power goes out I turn off the Main breaker. I have the generator wired into another breaker. It acts like a Main breaker. As the generator is not able to run everything I turn certain breakers off. Other ones I want on are switched on. This is all manual and works great. Just remember to switch off the main or your generator will try to light up the neighborhood.
    I know of a case here (in Pennsylvania) where the homeowner was convicted of manslaughter after doing this very thing and causing the death of a lineman when the isolation failed and the power back-fed into the system! Not to mention some breakers have solid state parts inside them that won't "trip" the breaker you are using for the gen set input in a reverse condition like this if a problem does come up.
    In general this is just a extremely bad idea all around!

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    just a note i forgot to mention... i have installed over 20 of these transfer switches before, and it takes very little time and all that is involved is hooking up a few wires, so having an electrician do it for you should not be very expensive.

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