Last Updated: , Created: Tuesday, February 12th, 2002

Transfer switch for emergency power generators.

During the famous ice storm, people went running out and bought every generator available and set them up to power something in the house during the extended black-out. Many of those efforts created great problems for the utility because homeowners were often feeding electricity back into the downed wires, something very dangerous for the line workers trying to reconnect the power lines.

The Electrical Code now forbids connecting a generator directly to any household circuit unless it is done through a special device called a "transfer switch". You can still take your generator and run a power cord into the house and plug a light or even a fridge into it, but you cannot use the household wiring without this safety device.

So one company decided to develop a DIY installed transfer switch (for those provinces where such electrical work is legal for a homeowner to do themselves). In all cases, DIY or professionally installed, this installation does require an electrical permit.

So, what does a transfer switch do?

Depending on the size of the generator you have and the number of lines you want to load onto it, you redirect the wiring for from one to six lines in your house from the circuit breaker box to the transfer box. Now the transfer switch will feed electricity from Hydro to that line, or from the generator to that line, but won't let the two cross over. If you are using the generator and the power comes back on from the utility, you will need to go back down to the transfer switch and switch the source from the generator to the utility. The key is that they can't hurt each other, or anybody else.

The six line model costs about $300, maybe another hundred or two for an electrician to install it. If you have purchased a generator, this is the missing piece to put that generator into service quickly and safely whenever you need it. The product is hard to find in stores because it is not something that you think about until there is a problem.

Click here for information on the LEGALITY OF DIY ELECTRICAL WORK.

Keywords: Security, Electrical, Safety, Emergency, Circuit Breakers, Switches, Generators

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