I completed my Transfer switch installation this weekend. Not a bad project. But like any other project it ALWAYS takes me longer than I anticipate. I don’t know if I’m just anal and have to do things perfect, or I’m just slow, or maybe a combination of both. I picked up this Reliance Manual Portable generator power transfer kit from Home Depot Friday. $275 for the kit and $25 for a 15 ft. spool of 10-3 wire. The kit includes everything you need to install safely a portable generator to your house circuit breaker. The box comes with a secondary breaker box, wire nuts, outside 30 Amp weather proof L14-30 outlet. A 30 to 20 Amp converter plug. A 30 Amp extension cord that connects your generator to the plug. A DVD that has a great install video and of course plenty of disclaimers. This is a 30 Amp 240 volt, 6 circuit breaker system.
First I have to say, is if you have any sort of basic knowledge if electricity you can do this by yourself. If you don’t, then I would hire an electrician or find a friend that can help/guide you. The video says you can do this in about an hour. Maybe, but for the most part it will take longer. I think I put 5 hours into this.
My house is structural brick and I was fortunate to already have a hole plowed through the brick many years ago and whoever and they never really patched the hole well when they pulled whatever out in the end.. I was also lucky enough to have it next to the main breaker box. So after knocking out the bad patch job, I was feeling pretty cocky. I wasn’t able to take a pic of the hole it is way up out of the way and I had to just feel around to feed the wire through.
The kit box
When I built out the laundry room 4 years ago I just framed around the main breaker box. I didn’t leave much room for expansion. Also we don’t plan on being in this house but for a couple more years and what I did do is leave it in a fairly easy state to remove without tearing everything apart when we do leave. The transfer panel comes prewired with 6 circuits on 2 legs. Each wire is labeled A-F on both the Black and Red wires. A green ground and white common are also included. The instructions say to trim the black and red wires to length. I left them their full length for later removal. The transfer switch also includes to Watt meters for each leg. These are quick look meters to check the actual Wattage draw on each leg. I won’t delve into the step by step process, the video and the instructions are pretty straight forward to understand. What you do need to do beforehand is determine what you want to power when ComEd dumps the grid. The instruction booklet gives some pretty good examples on Wattage requirements of appliances. We picked the furnace, the Refrigerator, the freezer, a kitchen outlet, a outlet in the safe room, an outlet in the front room powering the internet, cable and TV. The last is a outlet in the basement.
The outside plug. This is where the genset plugs into the transfer switch. One thing I noticed after I was finished, was the outlet box blends into the the rest the utility boxes on the outside of the house. Very unassuming. But when the genset is fired up, the incognito will all go away.
Another pic of the weather proof box.
The final step is to test everything. I just ran out of time and the weather was pretty shitty this weekend to stand outside for very long. Next weekend I’ll do the test. Or sooner if the power goes out.
Funny thing, when I finished wiring the transfer switch this morning, I read about 93,000 people were without power in the North East again after a ice storm. I have about $1000 into this project now. Cheap insurance even if I never use it.