What is a Generator Transfer Switch

What is a Generator Transfer Switch? A Brief Guide

4 Min Read

A generator transfer switch allows you to automatically or manually transfer your home’s power source from the electrical grid to the generator when the power cuts off.

It’s no secret that the power grid is prone to failure, especially during inclement weather. A generator transfer switch can help you use your Generator with ease and safety!

Let’s dive into what is a generator transfer switch, the types of transfer switches available, and how they work.

What is a Generator Transfer Switch?

A transfer switch connects a generator to your home’s main circuits and switches them all on backup power during an outage.

The transfer switch is responsible for isolating the electrical load going into your home, whether that’s the municipal supply of electricity your home usually runs off of, or the electricity produced by your generator.

This component is solely responsible for not just isolating those loads, though, but guaranteeing that they do not mix.

Basic Operation of a Transfer Switch

The transfer switch is the device that controls electricity in your home. It does this by switching between two power sources.

How a home transfer switch works
  1. The power inlet box connects the emergency power source to the transfer switch
  2. The generator connects to the power inlet box
  3. Electricity created by the generator flows to the inlet box then is diverted to the home electrical system by the transfer switch

Currently there are two types of transfer switches – manual and automatic.

What is a Manual Transfer Switch for a Generator?

Manual switches work similarly to the way that breaker boxes work. There’s a switch that you’ll have to flip to decide which source of electricity your home runs off of at that particular point in time. There’s a certain level of control here that is tough to pass up on.

Advantages of a manual transfer switch

  • Cost – the Manual transfer panel is much cheaper than an automatic panel.
  • Control – the automatic switch will cause the generator to start even if you aren’t home – unless you remember to turn off the generator.
  • Wiring – there are no control cables needed, just the electricity supply cables.

Disadvantages of a manual transfer switch

  • You need to switch it every time the mains fails and you want to run the generator.
  • You need to start the generator manually each time.
  • If you aren’t nearby, you cannot start the backup power.
  • It takes longer – the automatic panel can react as soon as the mains fails.

What is an Automatic Transfer Switch for a Generator?

An automatic transfer switch can detect when the electrical grid has failed and switch your home’s power source instantly. This process only takes a few seconds.

Once you’re disconnected from an outside source, the transfer switch will connect to a generator for backup power.

Advantages of an automatic transfer switch

  • Constantly monitors the power system and can activate the generator as needed
  • Increased safety as there is nothing you need to mess with to turn it on or off
  • Instantly within seconds switches power sources

Disadvantages of an automatic transfer switch

  • May occasionally respond to false signals
  • Usually costs more than a manual transfer switch
  • Needs more maintenance than a manual model

Closing Thoughts

A home transfer switch is an important device that can be used to turn off electricity at one source and on at another when needed. Depending on your personal preference, a manual or automatic transfer switch will need to be included in your whole-home backup power system for emergency situations.

We hope this blog post has helped you understand what a transfer switch is and the differences between the two types of switches.Closing LogoClosing LogoClosing Logo



Brian has spent over 30 years as a general contractor, and in that time seen and faced many challenges. He brings all his knowledge of portable generators, battery powered tools, and outdoor equipment to every post he writes through real life experience. Learn more about us.

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