How Does a Generator Transfer Switch Work?

 How does a generator switch work? A generator transfer switch is a sophisticated term for a switch which will signal the generator to start if the power is interrupted. It can be used for your home, your RV as well as for industrial use. 

How does a generator transfer switch work?

First of all, to answer that question we have to begin by asking ourselves what exactly is a generator switch. An automatic generator transfer switch is basically a sophisticated way of saying a switch which will signal the generator to start if the power is interrupted. It can be used for your home, your RV as well as for industrial use. In a nutshell, that’s how a generator transfer switch works.

The purpose of a transfer switch.

The purpose of a transfer switch is to connect your home, your office, or any building to a secondary power source, like a portable generator.

 It is designed to enable the wiring system of the building to accept the full power of a portable generator. You can then go on and run multiple electrical appliances and devices in case or during a power outage. The transfer switch ensures that you can safely use back up power during a power outage without having to worry about back feeding the utility line.

Please note that a transfer switch is required by the NEC (National Electric Code) for any connection of power to a home.

Can I plug a generator directly into my home outlet?

Although it is theoretically possible to do, it is highly suggested to avoid doing this at any cost. You will effectively cause back-feed which could result in electrocutions in some case. You will greater the chances of damaging the generator itself and it could also catch fire. Can’t stress this enough, a transfer switch is the ONLY safe way to effectively power your home in case of a power outage.

In case of an emergency

When an emergency occurs, shutting off the main power source may not come to mind right away. With an automatic switch, the system makes it that you don’t have to worry about that at all.

What does a transfer for generators kit it look like?

Physically, you can see that it looks a little bit like a battery of some sort. This model above is the the Reliance Controls Corporation 6-circuit transfer switch kit for generators (7500 Watts). It’s not the one we personally bought but since it has a 5 star rating on amazon and also has the amazon’s choice badge, we feel confident that this model is is as good if not better as the one switch we use.

You probably guess it, it’s a manual transfer switch. Didn’t want to flood the page with ads but if you want to know what an automatic switch look like, click here.

So do you need an automatic transfer switch for your generator?

It all depends on what you are trying to achieve with it. If what you are looking for is something to kick in when the power goes down, the answer is yes. We strongly suggest to speak with a qualified electrician before making that decision and BEFORE trying to install this yourself.
If, on the other hand, you only want to use your generator to power stuff like your air conditioner for your RV or appliances in your garage, a manual switch will do. Since it also connects directly to the circuit box or your power panel, you will need to speak to the electrician anyway, which bring us to the question:

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

Generally speaking, a good electrician should be able to get the job done within three to four hours. This is assuming everything goes as plan. This is also assuming he doesn’t have to undo the mess you have created by trying to install it yourself. Don’t feel bad, been there done that.

The price may vary depending on what country or state you are in but a decent electrician should charge around $250 to $500 USD for a complete installation. No, it doesn’t cover the transfer switch price. Yeah, I know,  not ideal. Can you put a price on your home safety though? At least now you know.

A little demonstration

Now that you know how an automatic (and manual) switch works, that you know its price and you know you shouldn’t install it yourself, here is small YouTube video to show you how it actually works in a real life situation.

Are you in the market for a new portable generator for your RV?

You might want to look at our TOP 10 Dual Fuel Generators for RVs under $1000! is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon website. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates
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