Reliance Control Manual Transfer Switch

In hurricane prone Florida, it's only a matter of time until we have a power outage.  Even a summer storm can knock the grid offline for hours.  But to the power company's credit, their power is far more reliable now than in years past.  But Mother Nature doesn't always play fair.  In 2004, we lost power locally for 18 days.  This year, Hurricane Matthew took power out for just one day in our area.  We used our small Yamaha EF2400iS generator to run a 12,000 BTU portable A/C unit, a fridge, lights, TV, microwave, etc.  But the generator couldn't run everything at once.  It would be nice to run a larger generator part of the day, and run much more of the house.  Then at night, switch over to the smaller, quieter, and much more fuel efficient Yamaha.  The loads should be less at night also.

So I broke down and bought a Champion 7500W dual fuel (gas & propane) generator.  It was less expensive than the 2400W Yamaha, purchased in 2006, but you get less.  It's VERY noisy, and thirsty.  The frequency and voltage are speed dependent, unlike the Yamaha that has a built-in inverter.  But most appliances could care less.

Running extension cords to power everything sucks.  Have to leave a door or window cracked to route the cords.  A transfer switch is the way to go, but does cost almost $400, and takes some effort to install.  This is likely our retirement home, and I look at these modifications as an investment.  When I'm an old fart (not quite yet, but close), I want to make these tasks as simple as possible.  This isn't as slick as a whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch, but this costs a fraction, and does most everything.  This setup also has the benefits of not having a single generator as a single point failure, and the generator can be loaded in the truck if the storm is bad enough to require evacuation.


The Old Method:

This was the old way of running appliances during an outage.  A door or window had to be left cracked open to allow extension cords to be routed.

The appliances had to be unplugged from the house, and into the extension cord.

I had multiple 12 gauge extension cords, Y-cables, power strips, etc.

This method works, but I would have to unplug an appliance to move the power cord as I could only split the power so many ways.


The New Method:

The challenge for this particular installation is the house breaker panel is flush mounted.  If it was mounted on top of the drywall, the metal cabinet knockouts would be fully exposed, making the routing of wire easy.

To simplify the installation, I decided to cut a good sized access hole directly under the breaker panel.  Now I had good access to the bottom of the breaker panel cabinet.

The breaker panel cover was then removed.

This house is a stick construction, and the walls are filled with insulation.  It was removed for this section.

I used a scrap pieces of 1/8" aluminum panel as the cover plate.  I wanted to retain the quad electrical outlet under the breaker panel.

I cut a hole to size, and installed the outlet box.

Holes were drilled for the flexible metal conduit to be installed.

The cable bundle from the manual transfer switch was routed up through the bottom of the breaker panel.  The lower orange cable is a 10 gauge cable coming from the generator inlet box.

The other end of the generator feed cable.  I picked this spot as it's almost exactly where the large opening in the drywall is located on the other side of the wall.

The kit didn't include the 10 gauge cable, but did include the power box.

The box is complete.  The box below is a 120VAC 30A outlet for our camper.

240VAC inlet with a neutral and a ground.

Another flexible metal conduit was added to the left of the factory installed one on the right.  This smaller conduit is the 10 gauge wire from the generator input.

The first circuit connected and tested was the 240VAC 4500W water heater.  This transfer switch includes two power meters.  One of each leg of the 120VAC.  Ideally, the loads would be kept balanced on both feed legs of the generator.

19A x 240VAC = 4560W.  Pretty close to the rated 4500W rating.

Since I was into the guts of the breaker panel anyway, I added a whole house surge suppressor.  Its the small grey box on the right side.

The wiring was finished, and the panels secured.  Note the outlet box was once again underneath the breaker panel.  My workbench (on wheels) pushes up against this wall, and these outlets are used for the various tools.

The previous owner decided notepads were too much of a hassle, and doodled all over the garage walls.  A fresh coat of paint will be applied shortly.

Here's the new generator undergoing a break-in, and is also testing the manual transfer switch.  The cable to connect the generator to the inlet box was provided in the transfer switch kit.

This is how I've configured the manual transfer switch for now.  It's fairly easy to modify later.

The wiring is complete.  The original wiring was a mess, and I could only make it look a little neat.  Maybe when I'm retired in a few years, have nothing to do (as if), I'll upgrade the breaker panel, and redo the wiring then.






Last updated 12/02/16    All rights reserved.