Working with electricity is dangerous, especially if you’re not experienced enough to DIY. In the following sections, we’ll cover the basics of how a generator works, and why a properly installed transfer switch is so important.
Efficiency, and especially safety, will be addressed here. There are many important reasons you’ll need a transfer switch, but it isn’t as easy to install it as you’d think. When you realize this, chances are you’ll be convinced that professional installation is probably the best route to go.
How far can a generator be from the transfer switch? Find out and learn more about the different types of transfer switches with our guide.
How Does a Generator Work?
To know how far a transfer switch should be from a generator, you need to know, “How does a generator work?”. Let’s briefly go over this:
Basically, an electric generator is a machine (or device) that gets mechanical energy from another source and converts it into electrical energy. This electrical energy is the output. Their parts include an engine, an alternator, and a high-voltage regulator. They also contain lubrication, exhaust, and cooling systems.
In 1831, a man named Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction. Modern-day generators are based on this. He figured out that a flow of electrical charges could be created inside a magnetic field using the movement of an electrical conductor. The conductor could be a wire, for example, that contains electric charges.
But why do the movements made by the electrical conductor cause the flow of electric charges? Since the 2 ends have different levels of voltage, the electrical charges flow as they are trying to equalize. This is how an electrical current is created.
What Is a Transfer Switch?
So, “What is a transfer switch?” Transfer switches are responsible for a few things when used with a generator.
For one, they assist in limiting the power your generator produces compared to the amount it gets from the utility source. This keeps your electric bill low and helps prevent the power from being redistributed to neighbors, as do some solar panels.
Another benefit of transfer switches is that certain types can sense a power outage. When this happens, it will kick on the generator for you. This is assuming it has enough fuel.
Some types also sense when normal power has returned. Because tests for a set amount of time, it’s prevented from kicking back on during power blinks or surges. This saves you time and money.
Do You Absolutely Need a Transfer Switch?
You might be wondering if transfer switches are essential. The answer is yes if you want to stay safe during a blackout. They’re critical to hooking up your generator to the power system in your home.
Technically, it is possible to use an extension cord to connect your generator to your electrical system, but that could risk back feed. They aren’t designed for this. If you want to power a hardwired appliance using a generator, a safely installed transfer switch is the only way to go.
It’s dangerous to hook your generator up to your circuit breaker while not using a transfer switch. It can involve a fatal amount of power should anything go wrong. Just read up on the safety precautions included with your generator, and you’ll be fine.
According to consumer reports, portable generators 5,000 watts or more need a transfer switch. Stand-by generators already have them built-in.
Types of Transfer Switches
There are many types of transfer switches. To maximize safety and efficiency, pick the right type for your generator. Here are some to consider:
1. Open Transition
The “open” type of transfer switch will break the connection completely before connecting to another circuit. As we mentioned above, any back feeding into your utility service is inefficient. This type of transfer switch prevents that from happening by giving a split-second of complete disconnection during the transfer process.
However, this type of disconnection can cause more wear on your appliances and the system itself. While it’s perfect for emergency use, you’ll want a smoother transition if you live in an area that experiences a lot of blackouts.
2. Closed Transition
The closed transition type will overlap the connections. This helps avoid the blip in power like that experienced with the open transition type. Note that this requires both power sources to be compatible and well synchronized.
3. Soft Loading
This type of transfer switch helps your generator and utility to synchronize. It also assists in minimizing any difference in voltage during the switchover. These voltage differences are also called frequency transients.
The static type uses no moving parts. Instead, powered semi-conductors within it help the switch-over between different circuits and power sources. This non-mechanical system also allows for faster switching.
How Far Can a Generator Be from the Transfer Switch?
Asking, “How far can a generator be from the transfer switch?” is very important. If you’re frivolous about this decision, you could end up overpaying on your utility bills.
The answer isn’t black and white, but there is a standard, which is 60-70 feet between the generator and the transfer switch. This cuts down on generator noise. It also increases efficiency, since electricity weakens over distance.
Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Keep your generator in an open space a maximum of 15 feet from an open window so you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning while it’s running. This is more important than its distance from the transfer switch. If you’re planning on a DIY installation, remember to get the proper tools and supplies.
Generators and Transfer Switches are Happier Together
We’ve covered the answer to, “How far can a generator be from the transfer switch?” and much more. Hopefully, you’re now aware of the safety precautions and efficiency tips around our topic at hand. And always, when in doubt, choose safety over efficiency!
Hanover Supply Co. has 3 convenient locations in North Jersey. These are East Hanover, Randolph, and Chatham. Check out our showroom at the East Hanover location!
Contact us to get started on your project!