How to: install a transfer switch for a generator in your home

First off I had intentions of taking pictures of this process but I got so into it that I spaced and didn’t take any photos.  Anyways here is what you need to get started.

-Transfer Switch (I used a 10 circuit Reliance: http://www.amazon.com/Reliance-Loadside-Generator-Transfer-Switch/dp/B000K2F116/ref=sr_1_sc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1321291882&sr=8-2-spell)

-Wire Strippers

-Wire caps (My transfer switch came with some)

-Screwdriver (flat head most likely)

-Vice grips (probably)

-Possibly some wire clamps

The very first step is to pick the circuits that you want to be able to run off the generator.  In doing so be sure to keep in that mind that your generator will provide two lines of 120v power.  Half of the circuits on your switch will be powered off one line and the other half on the second line.  Ideally you will have both halves of the switch drawing equal power (or at least similar power) otherwise you will be getting dirty power.  Once you have picked the circuits to hook up divide them into the two halves trying to keep power draw equal.  With the reliance switch, each cable coming out of the bottom has a circuit label so you know where the wires are coming from.  Make a chart that links your transfer switch circuit to your load center circuit.  Now you are ready to get started with the physical labor.  Pick a spot close to your load center for the transfer switch.  Ideally you want the bottom of both boxes to line up.  This will make hooking up the wires into the load center easier. Once you found a good spot for it mount it onto the wall.

Quick note: AT this point if you are not comfortable working on a live load center I would highly suggest throwing the main on the house (it is what I did).

Open the load center and use the vice grips and screw driver to pop off a tab for the bundle of wires from the transfer switch.  Hook up the bundle and screw it down.  Now you should have your transfer switch mounted and connected to the load center with lots of wires coming out of the bundle.  Look for the green wire and hook that to the ground bar in the load center.  Also find the white wire and hook that to the neural bar in the load center.  You should be left with only black and red wires that are labeled.

Take the chart you made that maps the transfer switch circuits to the load center circuits.  Find a red and black wire pair and take the black cable and find the circuit you are going to use in the load center.  Take the black wire off the circuit in the load center (with the screw driver) and use a wire cap to tie it together with the black wire from the transfer switch.  Now take the red wire and hook that into the circuit in the load center.

Repeat that last step until all of your circuits are connected.  Now make sure all the circuits on you switch are in the Line position.  Close up the load center and now you are safe to turn the house power back on.

The final step is to hook up the generator line to the transfer switch.  You can either instal the plug directly to the switch – or you can run a line to the exterior of the house (what I did) and just tie it right into the switch.  Here you will need to pop out one of the caps in the switch.  Secure a small 1/2in wire clamp (can get them at lowes or home depot but I couldn’t find a link online – cost about 80 cents each) into the hole and clamp the power line from the side of the house.  Now just use a wire cap to connect each of the four wires to the ones inside the switch.  White to white, green to green, black to black, and red to red.  Its a good idea to tug on each wire after you cap them to make sure they wont come undone.  Once secure I would also suggest putting some electrical tape around the caps as well just in case.  Now you are good to close up test it out!

Go hook up your generator and turn it on.  Move the circuits on the switch to generator and you are now powering those circuits off the generator.  If you really want to make sure it works throw the power to the house and you should still have those circuits on.

Hopefully this has been informative and helpful!

Here is what mine looks like:

You will notice there are actually two load centers here.  My house has one main and a break out panel – so my installation was a little harder.  I put the transfer switch in the middle and since half of my circuits were in each load center I split the bundle into two.  I used this tubing: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100404116/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053 and these caps to connect them http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100404130/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

I used a wire clamp to secure the orange cable in the middle (the line from the side of the house).  Looks good to me!

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899 Responses to How to: install a transfer switch for a generator in your home

  1. Hey dude! Where can I read more resources about this?

  2. I would just google around a bit and look at forums. I tried to be as specific as I could be – did you have any questions about it?

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