Did you know that power outages can cost homeowners anywhere from $25 to as much as $25,000? Reasons for these expenses vary from food spoilage to property damage. If these costs sound high, you can just imagine how much businesses lose. Based on the estimates from the US Department of Energy, businesses lose $150 billion each year because of power disturbances.
One of the ideal ways you can protect your property or your business from outages is by using solar generators. However, what many people don’t know is that a generator isn’t the only thing you need to prepare for power outages. One device that is highly recommended as an add-on to your backup generator is a transfer switch. This device will help you safely and efficiently switch a load between two sources. A transfer switch could be manual or automatic; and in this article, we’ll cover everything you have to know about the automatic transfer switch.
Is a transfer switch necessary?
Technically, a transfer switch isn’t needed to operate a generator, particularly portable generators in residential settings. Without this device, you will need to use multiple extension cords to draw power from the generator outside into your home. However, if you’re planning to use hardwired appliances or heavy-duty equipment like an HVAC, a transfer switch is necessary so you can use backup power from your generator during power interruptions. So, to answer the question, we would say that transfer switches are necessary for your safety and ease of use.
In addition, a transfer switch is required in almost all states in the US if you’re using a standby generator that is 5,000W and above. This means to operate backup generators within code, you would need a transfer switch installed.
Now the question is whether you would require a manual or automatic transfer switch. You can check our previous article to read more about manual transfer switches or continue reading to learn about automatic transfer switches.
How does an Automatic Transfer Switch work?
For a quick explanation, an automatic transfer switch (ATS) serves as a link between the standby generator to the circuits in your home or business.
You can think of the transfer switch as the brain of your electrical system. It is an intelligent device that uses dedicated control logic when switching between two different electric loads.
Normally, electricity will flow into your home or business premises from the local grid into your electric panel. When there is a power outage, this “brain” will detect the power interruption and will switch the load to the emergency power source. It does this by turning on the generator and switching to using backup power. When the power is restored, the transfer switch will automatically shut down the generator and will shift back to using electricity from your service provider.
Types of Automatic Transfer Switch Systems
There are various types of automatic transfer switches and choosing the best one will depend on your requirements. To help you better understand what you need, listed below are the different types of ATS:
Open Transition ATS
This type of ATS uses what is called a “break-before-make system". This means that the transfer switch will first break contact with the current power source (e.g. utility grid) before it connects to the new one (e.g. generator). Do expect a quick total power loss that usually lasts only a few seconds. This delay ensures a safe transfer of loads and it helps minimize the risk of power surges.
Out of all the types of automatic transfer switches, the open transition ATS is the most widely used in businesses or homes and is considered highly reliable.
Closed Transition ATS
The closed transition ATS is mostly used in hospitals and other medical centers as it has a system that allows the primary and backup power soure to work together, meaning, there will be no delays in switching power. Because of this, this type of automatic transfer switch is more complex and more costly.
Soft Loading Transfer Switch
This type of automatic transfer switch is much like the closed transition ATS. The difference is that it can dictate the load it handles. For example, if the devices running on backup power require a heavier load of electricity, the switch will adjust the supply based on your needs.
Bypass Isolation ATS
The bypass isolation system is the most complex type of ATS as it has the most capabilities. This ATS has two parallel systems, which allow inspection and even testing or maintenance while it’s in use. This type of ATS is used in industries where it’s critical to have stable electricity loads at all times (e.g. air traffic control stations, intensive care units, etc.).
Automatic Transfer Switch vs Manual Transfer Switch
If you compare the function of the automatic and manual transfer switches, you could say that both work the same. The major difference between the two is that the ATS is self-acting while with the manual transfer switch, a person must be present on-site to operate the generator and flip the switches to change power sources.
Is an automatic transfer switch for you?
Automatic transfer switches are beneficial especially for businesses in terms of power reliability, safety, and a more seamless transition between loads. A huge consideration, however, is that automatic transfer switches are more expensive and complex than manual transfer switches. So, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution, but still have a safe and reliable transfer of electric loads, then a manual transfer switch will do the job.
Transfer Switch Recommendations
If you’re looking for a transfer switch for your home or small business, you can check Nature’s Generator Powerhouse Transfer Kits. These are affordable, up-to-code manual transfer switches that cost from $239.99 to $399.99. With the Powerhouse Transfer Kits, you’ll be able to conveniently transfer the load from Nature’s Generator into your home or business in case of power outages.
You won’t have to worry about using heavy-duty cables or moving big appliances, like your refrigerator, to use backup power. All you need to do is to flip switches to power critical devices connected to your electrical system. You can also use these transfer kits in cabins or RVs.
For an even simpler installation, you can also use a Flush Mount, which could be placed in newly constructed or already existing walls.
If you want to know more about Nature’s Generator Transfer Kits or have questions about our solar generators, you can always reach out to our support team.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Ishna Sablaya, contributed research and content to this blog titled: Automatic Transfer Switch Thank you, Ishna, for your contributions!