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How to install a transfer switch for your generator

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A transfer switch is a valuable feature of your generator. Without it, your home generator is nothing more than an expensive lawn ornament. Think of the transfer switch as a tool that enables power from your generator to flow either to or from electrical breakers in your home's main electrical panel. 

Choosing to DIY the installation of a generator transfer switch might be cheaper than hiring an electrician, but it requires some serious electrical knowledge and skill. If you don’t have professional experience as an electrician, we recommend looking into hiring outside help. 

We have created this helpful guide for anyone who wants to install a generator transfer switch for their portable generator.

 

Can you install a generator transfer switch yourself?

Let's address the elephant in the room!

Whether you DIY or call in a professional for the transfer switch install is up to you. You’ll find the difficulty of the installation depends on your skill level. However, installing a generator transfer switch is typically a job for a licensed electrician because it requires knowledge of electrical wiring, electrical systems and the ability to follow instructions. The same applies to dealing with an interlock kit. 

You'll also need to know how to use tools like screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. The installation process can take anywhere from two hours to two days, depending on how much work has been done before you start installing the switch.

If you’ve got the electrical skills and you want to go for it, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You'll need about $100 worth of hardware and tools (see below).
  • You'll need an hour or two (depending on your setup's complexity) to complete the job.

Bear in mind that the process can result in back feed, which can be dangerous and cause damage to your home or property. Hence, if you get to the point of hiring an electrician, we recommend asking them about their qualifications and experience with installing generator transfer switches before you sign on the dotted line.

Do you need a permit to install a generator transfer switch?

A frequently asked question is, "Do I need permission to build a generator transfer switch?" The answer is yes. Most localities require you to obtain permission before making any permanent additions to your property. Some areas have a more involved permission process, but others only require a permit to ensure that the city has a precise record of the amenities and features of your property. 

This is another instance in which you may be able to benefit from the services of a professional electrician. Numerous licensed electricians will provide the necessary permits and obtain your signature on any necessary paperwork. However, not all electricians offer this service. Before presuming that your electrician would manage permits, you should always consult them. If not, your transfer switch installation might not be possible at your initial appointment.

 

How to install a generator transfer switch

If you have no electrical experience, you'll want to hire an electrician to install your generator transfer switch. It’s just smarter to leave jobs related to any electrical service like the main power to the professionals.

The steps below should give you a broad, general idea of what an electrician will do when installing the transfer switch for you — or what you can do if you have the necessary skills and background.

Mount the transfer switch

The electrician will determine where to place the generator on your property and how much power it can generate. They'll have to run extension cords from the standby generator, along with a neutral wire through a conduit to protect it from any moisture that could damage it.

Turn off the power and connect the transfer switch to a breaker

Disconnect the house's main breaker panel and connect the transfer switch's cables to the critical circuit breaker switches on the electrical panel.

Mount the transfer switch’s electrical box to a house wall

Drill a 1.5-inch-diameter hole in the house's outside wall. Attach the transfer switch's electrical box to the home wall precisely over the hole.

Run cables between the components

Next, attach power connectors between the box and the transfer switch. Then attach the extension cords to the transfer switch's electrical outlet at the outdoor box. Screw the receptacle to the box. Returning inside, connect the outlet power cord to the transfer switch.

Note: Remember not to mismatch the 15-amp, 20-amp and 30-amp circuits when running your power lines. 

Test the generator’s power to the house

First, turn on the portable generator to see if your work goes well. Plug the backup generator into the outdoor receptacle while the utility power to the house is still switched off at the main electrical panel.

To transmit power from the power line to the generator, first flip the switches on the transfer switch. Examine whether the generator supplies backup power to the designated circuits.

 

How much does it cost to install a generator transfer switch?

According to HomeAdvisor, a transfer switch installation costs you around $2,000, and the labor alone might account for $500. 

Price of the transfer switch component 

For example, if you have a 5,000-watt generator, you will require a six-circuit transfer switch that costs between $250 and $300. If you have a standby generator with 7,500 watts of power, your electrician will recommend that you purchase a 10-circuit switch that costs between $350 and $400. The typical transfer switch kit includes all the components needed to complete the installation. 

Averages for types of transfer switches

The wattage and kind of transfer switch you choose will impact how much it costs to install. Automatic and manual transfer switches are two options you have to pick from.

  • Manual transfer switches cost less to install. Labor costs are less because your licensed electrician does not have to spend as much time installing a manual transfer switch. However, as you have undoubtedly deduced from the name, you are required to toggle the switches manually if there is a blackout.
  • Automatic transfer switches are more expensive to install. An automatic transfer switch might cost upward of $1,000, and labor expenses will rise because these are more challenging to install. However, an automatic switch installation is more convenient in the long run, automatically changing between utility and generator power during a power outage.

 

Costly electrical component repairs are covered under a Cinch warranty

We advise you to go for quality products and appliances built to last a lifetime. But even the best system can break down, and expensive repairs can be hard to handle when this happens.

That's why at Cinch Home Services, we offer a Built-in Systems plan that covers costs associated with repairing your electrical components from normal wear and tear for up to 10 years after your purchase. While we don’t cover generators, there are a number of electrical components that go into operating your generator that we are here to protect. 

Contact us today about all your needs when it comes to protecting your home. We are more than happy to assist you with any questions you may have about the coverage of your warranty plan or if you are experiencing problems with your electrical system. Get your instant quote now!

 

An electrician can install a generator transfer switch or you can do it yourself. Here is everything you need to learn how to install a transfer switch.