How to Select the Best Portable Generator Transfer Switch

Last Updated on July 5, 2022

You will quickly agree that Portable generators are the perfect backup solution in the event of a widespread power outage in your city or home town.

Yes, we all agree!

However, portable generators can’t work without one essential accessory.

This is the generator transfer switch.

A transfer switch is not only safe but also follows the legal building codes.

It is, therefore, a necessary accessory to anyone who has a portable generator. Let us dash and find out precisely what a transfer switch is and what it does.

What Exactly is a Transfer Switch?

A transfer switch is a device that basically allows you to connect your home and electrical appliances to a portable generator without any additional equipment.

Without a transfer switch, you’ll need to connect the equipment manually to the portable generator, which is quite a hassle.

Hence, the basic functionality of the transfer switch is connecting your house grid to a generator power effectively and efficiently.

A transfer switch does this by preventing an overlap when there’s a power outage.

This is why it is considered as perfectly safe.

Using additional equipment other than a transfer switch for powering the critical functions in your home is not recommended at all. Always use a transfer switch for fast and efficient access to power in the event of an outage. This is an essential accessory, especially when using a portable generator.

Regardless, who really needs a transfer switch?

Do I Need a Transfer Switch?

Many people regularly debate on whether they need a transfer switch or not. Even though not all households need to have a transfer switch, having one still gives you a great advantage.

Let’s find out why in a few outlined reasons.

First of all, having a transfer switch in your home is a requirement of the National Electric Code.

It is recommended to use a transfer switch whenever you want to connect an appliance to your portable generator in the household.

Having a transfer switch installed in your household is an adherence to the law. Whilst, not having one installed is a direct code violation especially when one plans to sell a house.

Other than being a legal requirement, installing a transfer switch in your home is the most efficient way of powering your home in the event of a power outage. It is also the safest since most electrical appliances such as furnaces and air conditioning units cannot be connected directly to a portable generator using an extension cord.

Yes, You Need a Transfer Switch!

As a result, transfer switches come in quite handy.

Another disadvantage of using extension cords over transfer switches is that they can back feed power from the utility line which is very dangerous.

This can lead to electrocution or a fire flare-up. Thus, the safest and most reliable way to power your household from a portable generator is by using a transfer switch.

You really need to have a transfer switch properly installed in your home.

Yes, the answer to our question above is actually ‘Yes’, you badly need a transfer switch.

Otherwise you may be prosecuted for code violation or put your household in grave danger of an electrical fault.

What Should You Look for In A Transfer Switch?

There are several aspects that one should look for when deciding which transfer switch to use in his/her home.

The first factor to think about when deciding on which transfer switch to buy is what accessories are in the kit.

Some manufacturers intentionally or unintentionally leave out a few accessories which leads to buyers encountering problems during installation.

Also, to avoid additional unplanned for costs, check to see whether the kit has all items needed for installation of the transfer switch.

If you don’t have an idea of exactly what is needed, contact your electrician for expert advice in order to avoid unpleasant surprises during installation.

How many Amps/ Circuits/Wattage Meter is Best?

When purchasing a transfer switch the most important aspect to consider is the wattage of the generator you own.

Let’s say your generator has a maximum wattage of 8000 watts, it is advisable that you get a transfer switch capable of supporting up to 8000 watts.

In case you don’t have a generator, get a rough estimate of the rated wattage of the generator you intend to buy then purchase the transfer switch. The best thing to do, however, is to buy a generator first then purchase a transfer switch after.

The last aspect one should consider when purchasing a transfer switch is the type. There are 2 types of transfer switches in the market currently: the manual and automatic transfer switches.

Check out the difference between the 2 types of transfer switches and see the one that suits you best.

Manual vs Automatic Transfer Switch – Which Should You Choose?

The main difference between manual and automatic switches lies with their names. Just like their names suggest, manual switches will require someone to turn them on and off on-site.

With automatic switches the generator will power on as soon as there is power outage. Nonetheless, there are a few aspects that differentiate manual switches from automatic switches.

Manual transfer switches are cost-friendly compared to automatic switches.

Most of these cost a fraction of the amount that automatic units go for. It is more reasonable to purchase a manual transfer switch especially if power outage occurs once in a while.

Other than being cost-effective, manual transfer switches are easy to install, meaning you will spend less money paying the electrician.

The only disadvantage of manual transfer switches is that in the event of power outage there’s need of an operator to flip the switch manually.

An automatic transfer switch is mostly used with permanently installed generators. The generator will automatically power on if the automatic transfer switch is installed in the event of a power outage.

Manual Transfer Switch is Best!

That’s the main advantage of the automatic transfer switch since it is hands-free and does not need an operator.

However, an automatic transfer switch has one disadvantage: it is very expensive compared to the manual transfer switch. In fact, a good automatic transfer switch costs more than $1000 which is quite expensive for most buyers.

So, which transfer switch is right for you?

Unless there are constant power outages in your area, the manual transfer switch is the best and most cost-effective option to pick.

The Research

Often, many people ask which transfer switch, either manual or automatic, is the best to purchase.

Automatic transfer switches are less popular and hard to find in the market. Manual transfer switches are widely available and most popular in the market.

When it comes to manual transfer switches, Reliance Controls Corporation produces the best transfer switches.

It is highly recommended by electricians across the US. Below are some of the best manual transfer switches made by Reliance Controls Corporation.

Reliance Controls 31406CRK 30 Amp 6-circuit Pro/Tran Transfer Switch Kit for Generators (7500 Watts)

This is the most popular manual transfer switch on the market currently.

The transfer switch works best for generators with a wattage of up to 7500. Mostly go for NEMA generators with L14-30 or L14-20 power outlets since it has power cords that can fit in either generators.

The kit is also equipped with all accessories needed for installation. There is, therefore, no need to buy additional equipment. This makes installation easier and fast in residential and commercial applications.

The device is equipped with a 10 feet power cord, a PB30 remote power inlet box and a male plug for generator outlets.

This type of transfer switch is ideal for multi-wiring needs. This means it can power all electrical appliances and devices in a building in the event of a power outage.

Its 18-inch conduit whip makes it easier to attach to the load center.

This transfer switch has a warranty of up to 5 years.

Reliance Controls 31410CRK Pro/Tran 10-Circuit 30 Amp Generator Transfer Switch Kit

The 31410CRK Pro/Tran kit comes equipped with a 10-circuit pre-wired switch and a 10-feet L14-30 power cord. There’s a L14-20 male power cord for 20A generator outlets.

Other items included in the kit are a PB30 steel power inlet box and wire nuts. This transfer switch has rugged powder-coated steel cabinet that is non-defeasible and has resettable circuit breakers.

All Pro/Tran Models having the suffix ‘A’ are equipped with flanged inlet to connect the generator in a dry location. The other Pro/Tran models are made to be installed to a power inlet box. Except for the 30508B model.

There is, however, a provision made to include a covered opening so as to allow for a power inlet installation in a dry location.

Also, some models do not have meters hence are equipped with a wattmeter panel. The wattmeter panel provides for an optional power inlet through an opening on its surface.

Generac RXSW200A3 200 AMP Smart Transfer Switch

This is an automatic smart transfer switch made by Generac.

It is the most popular standby generator automatic transfer switch.

It is a 200-Amp 120/240 volt smart transfer switch shielded by the aluminum NEMA/UL type enclosure.

It is made for easy installation by connecting the transfer switch through the utility meter. This transfer switch works with generators with a wattage of up to 48000 watts.

It is designed to last for years, hence durable. This model has multiple power management options and can work with other Generac Smart management modules. It is designed for use by single phase generators using Nexus or Evolution controllers.

This wonderful product comes with a 5-year warranty.

Final Thoughts

Transfer switches are essential to people operating portable generators. It is not just a legal requirement but also the safest method of transferring power from the utility to a portable generator.

Transfer switches work in tandem with portable generators in monitoring utility power. Hence, when utility power returns, transfer switches return the electrical load from the portable generator to the utility with no risk of back feeding power or electrical fault.

Manual transfer switchers are highly recommended over automatic ones since they are cost-effective and easy to install.

Always use a transfer switch in your home for your own safety and the safety of others.

You will never regret it.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Bob Staffreply
September 10, 2022 at 12:55 pm

EZ Generator switch is the only single circuit transfer switch on the market approved with a label for installation. It is also the only manual transfer switch that is compatible with bonded or floating neutral generators or solar systems

Samantha Nicholsreply
January 3, 2023 at 8:01 am

Xantrex recommends that it be used only with its inverters. Seems like the attorneys are covering their you- know- what! A toggle is a toggle. No magic decoder ring is demanded to crack the inner wiring. Works well in my operation with an unnamed 24V 1500W PSW inverter. An added perk was that all three lines were labeled and the 3- leg connectors were formerly present. veritably satisfied and the price was fair too.

Samantha Nicholsreply
February 1, 2023 at 7:26 am

I set the Go Power transfer switch to switch between an inverter and an external power force( Shore or Gennie). I wired one of my outlets( and the battery bowl) to only turn on when using external power to avoid creating a” circle” where my battery/ inverter feeds the bowl. I added a 15 amp/ 250v panel fuse to cover the line feeding my charging socket. It works veritably well.

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