Automatic vs. Manual Transfer Switches


When you think about emergency power options for your home or business, a backup generator probably comes to mind. This provides electricity independently from the grid when the power goes out.
All wired-in generators require a transfer switch to begin delivering electricity to your lights, appliances and electronics. You have two main transfer switch options: an automatic transfer switch and a manual transfer switch. Which one you choose depends on your electrical demands, your budget and what type of business you operate.

Purpose of a Transfer Switch

The transfer switch is responsible for trading your home or business’s energy supply from the utility company to the backup generator. It isolates the generator from municipal power lines to protect utility repairmen from power surges caused by backfeeding. This essential piece of safety equipment is required with all wired-in backup generator installations in all 50 states.

How Does a Manual Transfer Switch Work?

When the power goes out, everything will go dark if you have a manual transfer switch. You’ll need to grab your flashlight and go out to the generator to start it manually and connect it to the transfer switch. Then you’ll need to switch your home or business over to receive power from the generator. When utility power comes back on, you need to manually switch the power back to the utility company and turn off the generator.

How Does an Automatic Transfer Switch Work?

As the name implies, everything is automatic with this type of transfer switch. The power may go out for a second or two, but the transfer switch senses this and automatically signals your generator to start up. Then the transfer switch connects your home or business to the generator. When utility power comes back on, the transfer switch disconnects the power supply from the generator and shuts the generator back off until the next power outage occurs.

Which Transfer Switch is Right for Me?

The primary advantage of a manual transfer switch is the lower cost to design, fabricate and install it. It’s also smaller in size, faster to fabricate, and easier to install and maintain than an automatic transfer switch.
The extra investment required to install and maintain an automatic transfer switch may be worth it if you live in an area prone to regular power outages. A lack of power interruption is also necessary for some types of businesses, including hospitals and data centers, where losing power could have serious, even life-threatening consequences.

The Importance of Professional Installation

Electricity is dangerous, and any electrical-related installation should be handled by a licensed electrician. The National Electrical Code requires transfer switches to meet certain safety standards, which you can only confidently achieve with professional installation.

Plus, electricians know how to properly size transfer switches to match the power capacity of a backup generator. This is important to prevent the system from overloading when the power generator kicks on, something that could damage the very appliances and electronics you’re hoping to use while utility services are down.

The professionals at Mr. Electric® know how to safely and accurately wire your generator into your home or business’s service panel. We can teach you how to use a manual transfer switch if you choose this option, or we can set up an automatic transfer switch to do all the work for you.

Keep productivity and electricity flowing – install a backup generator today. Contact Mr. Electric to learn more about meeting your emergency power needs. Whether for home or business, our community of fellow home service brands at Neighborly can help ensure you’re back on your feet regardless of the emergency you face. For example, learn more about Rainbow International’s 24/7 response services for fires or floods.



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