The term “transfer switch” refers to a device used to safely transfer power from the electric utility to a generator and then back again during a power outage. There are automatic transfer switches and manual transfer switches.
Automatic transfer switches are permanently wired to a standby generator that will start on its own when the power goes out. These require an extensive electrical install as well as a propane or natural gas install which is why these are the most expensive transfer switches/generators to install.
Manual transfer switches are used with portable generators which require a person to start the generator and plug it in and then flip a switch(s) to transfer power from the utility to the generator power. Manual transfer switch installations vary in complication and price but are usually less than half the cost of Automatic transfer switches, even after the purchase of a quality name brand generator.
Decisions, decisions… Should you go with an automatic standby generator or a portable generator? Ultimately this decision will come down to each customers circumstance; here are some things to consider:
- Capability: Are you able to move, start and plug in a portable generator or is there someone that would be able to do this for you in the event of an extended power outage? Most portable generators have handles and wheel kits, they get moved a lot like a wheelbarrow. Many portable generators come with an electric start, similar to a car, which makes starting quite easy but you must also be able to fill them with gas.
- Responsiveness: If the power goes out, do you need your generator to come on within a minute? Some people with medical conditions do, however most people can wait the 10 to 15 minutes it takes to get a portable generator set up.
- Cost: You can expect an automatic standby generator install to start at between $5,000 – $6,000 and a manual transfer switch, generator and extension cord to start at $2,000 or less.
- Flexibility: Portable generators can be brought with you to provide power while camping or to power tools and lights at a construction site. If you are fortunate enough to still have power during a storm but your friends or loved ones do not, you could lend them your portable generator to keep their essentials going. If you experience a breakdown with a standby generator during a power outage, you’ll need to wait for a certified service technician to come to you which could take days or weeks; the same breakdown with a portable generator gives you the option of bringing it to a service center right away, borrowing a friend or family members generator, or worst case, buying a new one.
If you move, you can take your portable generator and in some cases the transfer switch with you, an automatic standby generator stays with the house which may add value in the sale but probably not as much as you paid.
If you are looking for a turnkey package as well as an affordable alternative to larger more expensive systems, please give us a call at (207) 314-6777.