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It happens every hurricane season: a mad dash to the nearest big box store for a portable generator, or for those with more time and resources, an appointment with a residential standby generator provider. Whether you use a portable, gas-powered generator or a permanently installed residential standby generator, a transfer switch is essential. While transfer switches are always installed with permanent standby generators, many using portable generators in emergencies don’t realize what they are and why they are important. Transfer switches make backup power generation convenient and safe.

What Is a Transfer Switch and How Does It Work?

There are two main types of transfer switches: manual transfer switches (MTS) and automatic transfer switches (ATS). The manual variety are used with portable generators and require the operator to manual turn the switch while the automatic switches detect utility power loss and switch the generated power automatically.

Here’s how transfer switches work: the transfer switch box is an intermediary between your generator (plugged to an inlet box) and your main electrical service panel. When utility power is interrupted like in the case of a storm-related outage, the transfer switch is turned to changed from utility (Line) to generator (Gen) mode. The transfer switch box essentially disconnects the utility connection until it either automatically detects it (in which case it will disconnect generator mode) or it is switched manually (users see or get news of power restored on street).

Since the transfer switch connects to your main electrical panel, you are able to use a standby or properly-sized portable generator to power your entire home.

Transfer switch for a generator in Myrtle Beach

Why Are Transfer Switches Important?

There’s a clear convenience factor, especially if you are using a portable generator. Instead of dealing with extension cords and picking and choosing which appliances to plug in, a transfer switch lets you use your generator to power the entire home. One convenience factor is the ability to power hardwired appliances like your heat pump.

But more importantly, transfer switches protect you, home and appliances, and nearby linemen out working to restore utility power. During hurricanes where power outages can last days, it’s not uncommon to hear of neighbors using portable generators to “backfeed” their electrical panels to generate full power. Not only is this practice highly dangerous, but it is also illegal.

A transfer switch prevents high voltages of generated power from moving backward down the utility line. By allowing the switch to fully connect and disconnect from Line and Gen modes, you are saving linemen from a fatal accident. Additionally, transfer switches prevent possible short circuiting from simultaneously running generated and line power to your home or select appliances.

Cooper Electrical Services and Transfer Switches

The Cooper Electrical Services team handles residential generator sales, installation, service and repair. We can sell and install a transfer switch for your portable or standby generator for your convenience and safety. We work closely with the electricians from the Cooper Mechanical Services division to wire transfer switches correctly, guaranteeing work is safe and up to code. If you’d like to learn more about transfer switches for generators, give us a cal today.