One of the best commodities for any household is the addition of a whole house generator. If you live in an area that frequently loses power, then a generator is an outstanding appliance to consider adding. One of the main components of a sound generator system is having a reliable transfer switch.
Electricians will install a transfer switch at their regular hourly rate ($70-$120 per hour), plus the cost of the transfer switch if you don’t provide one. A transfer switch costs $200-$500, and it usually takes around 4 hours to install, so expect to pay close to $1,000 to complete the project.
There are many variables to consider when calculating the cost of your transfer switch installation. There are different qualities of switches, other jobs will take different lengths of time, and electricians charge different amounts per hour. We’ll look at each of these variables and give you a better idea of what to expect with a transfer switch installation.
How Much Does an Electrician Charge to Install a Transfer Switch?
Most electricians charge in the vicinity of $70-$120 per hour, and a transfer switch takes several hours to install. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 on the low end to $2,500 on the high end for labor and material costs.
There are a wide variety of transfer switches available. Different houses require various switches, so you might need a more heavy-duty transfer switch depending on how much of your home you want to power. Different generators also require different kinds of transfer switches, and some of these cost more than others.
Transfer Switch Installation Cost Breakdown
The two most common types of generators are 5,000-watt generators and 7,500-watt generators. A 5,000-watt generator will usually require a 6-circuit transfer switch, which costs anywhere from $200 to $300.
7,500-watt generators can handle up to a 10-circuit switch, which allows you to power more of your house and costs more. You can expect to pay from $300 to $450 for a 10-circuit transfer switch.
The excellent news with transfer switches is that they almost always come in a transfer switch kit, and everything the electrician needs comes with it. Transfer switch kits cut down on any extra material costs that could occur.
How Long Does It Take To Install a Transfer Switch?
A transfer switch will take an average of 4 hours to install by a qualified and skilled electrician. Depending on the installation’s difficulty and any unforeseen problems, the job could take up to a day to complete. A job of this duration is only in extreme circumstances, as transfer switches are relatively simple to install if you know what you’re doing.
If you have an existing generator and you’re simply adding a transfer switch, the amount of time listed above is a safe bet to plan. If, however, you’re adding a whole house generator as well as a transfer switch, the job will take much longer.
We’ll go into more detail about what to expect with hooking up a generator, but your electrician could need several days to install the generator and the transfer switch.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Transfer Switch Installed?
The cost to get a transfer switch installed can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on who does it and what kind of switch they use. If you have the necessary expertise to install it yourself, it will save you labor costs between $200 and $600. However, working with transfer switches is dangerous and technical work, so this is not advisable unless you’re a licensed electrician.
Depending on the size and kind of transfer switch you purchase, the cost could be anywhere from $250 to $500. If you buy the transfer switch yourself, you don’t need to worry about additional markup costs. Just like mechanics, electricians usually charge a 15-25% markup on their products, which can quickly turn your $500 transfer switch into a $600 switch or even more.
Different Types of Transfer Switches
There are a variety of transfer switches available for purchase. You can save money depending on the type of switch that you want or need. Here’s a list of options when it comes to a transfer switch:
6-Circuit Transfer Switches
A 6-circuit transfer switch can power up to 6 circuits in your home and will usually work well with a generator of up to 7,500 watts if you have a smaller home or only want to power essentials during a blackout. Essentials include your heating and cooling system, water heater, water pump, and one or two other appliances or circuits.
10-Circuit Transfer Switches
A 10-circuit transfer switch can handle up to 10 circuits in your house and works well with generators up to 12,500 watts. This type of transfer switch is preferable if you plan to power most or all of your house during a power outage. With a 10-circuit transfer switch and the accompanying generator, you’ll never be in the dark again.
Automatic Transfer Switches
Automatic transfer switches are available in either the 6-circuit or the 10-circuit size and provide a smooth and automatic switch to generator power if the electricity goes out. With this type of transfer switch, you won’t have to worry about manually turning your generator on and switching your power supply back on.
These are what an automatic transfer switch does:
- Detects when the main power source turns off.
- Activates the emergency power source, the generator.
- Transfers the power load over to the generator.
- Senses when the main power is available once again
- Deactivates the generator and switches power back to the main source.
- All of this is done automatically and quickly enough that you might not even notice the power went out.
If you have a fear of the dark and don’t want to stumble around in your basement or garage trying to flip a manual transfer switch, an automatic switch is for you. Automatic transfer switches are also great for older folks who are less mobile and more accident-prone.
Manual Transfer Switches
As the name implies, a manual transfer switch is also available in whatever size you need, but there’s nothing automatic about them. If the power goes out, then you will have to flip the transfer switch manually. You may even have to manually start your generator depending on the type of generator and manual switch that you have.
A manual transfer switch also won’t notice when the main power is again available, and it will be up to you to notice. Manual switches usually cost less than an automatic transfer switch, and they also take less time for an electrician to install. For this reason, manual switches are sometimes preferable and can save you up to $300 on the purchase and installation.
Can You Install a Transfer Switch Yourself?
Technically speaking, you can install a transfer switch yourself as long as you have the skills and expertise necessary. Installing transfer switches is challenging and technical and should only be done by those with professional electrical experience.
Transfer switch installations include working with live terminals, carrying up to 240 watts of electricity. This amount is more than enough to seriously injure or kill someone who comes into contact with it. If you don’t have previous electrical experience or skills, you should not attempt installing a transfer switch yourself.
How to Choose the Right Transfer Switch for Your Situation
Picking the right transfer switch is essential to ensure the proper operation of your generator and electrical system. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when making expensive purchases relating to things that you don’t have the best understanding of. Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a transfer switch to help you make a wise and informed choice.
1. The Amount of Wattage Your Generator Needs
Wattage is the first thing you should consider, and the type of generator you have will make that decision for you. For generators that are 7,500 watts or less, you’ll need a 6-circuit transfer switch. For anything over 7,500 watts, you’ll need a 10-circuit transfer switch.
2. What’s Included With Your Specific Transfer Switch Package
Depending on the transfer kit that you purchase, it might not include everything you need. If you’re unsure what you need, it would be good to have your electrician supply the kit. While you may get a slight upcharge, it could save money if the electrical professional makes multiple trips because he didn’t have everything he needed.
3. The Type of Transfer Switch You Want (Auto or Manual)
Automatic versus manual is probably the biggest debate when it comes to a transfer switch. There’s no doubt that automatic transfer switches are much more convenient and reliable, but they also cost much more. You can easily pay twice as much for an automatic transfer switch installation versus a manual one.
Automatic transfer switches take around 3-5 hours to install, while an electrician can install a manual one in 2 -3 hours. You can also spend twice as much purchasing an automatic switch versus a manual one.
Depending on your electrician’s hourly rate, you could quickly end up paying $1,000 to $1,500 for an automatic transfer switch installation versus $400 to $700 for a manual switch.
If you value convenience and reliability over saving money, then an automatic transfer switch is the way to go. Other instances where automatic switches are preferable are with a non-portable whole house generator or for the elderly.
How Much Does an Electrician Charge to Hook Up a Generator?
The cost to hook up a generator varies greatly but usually costs anywhere from $6,000 to $11,000. This cost includes the cost of the generator itself, the transfer switch and installation, any additional materials needed for the generator, and labor. Here is a list of costs to keep in mind when having an electrician hook up your generator.
- The generator – The cost of the generator itself can be anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the size and brand that you purchase. A whole house generator is more expensive than portable ones, and much more work goes into hooking them up. Portable generators cost in the neighborhood of $300 to $2,000 and are easier to set up.
- Electrical wire and conduit – A whole house generator is stationary and permanently set, similar to a furnace or an air conditioner. You will need to run a permanent electrical wire from the generator to the panel box in your house, and this is usually done by trenching or digging. The wire will run inside a pipe or conduit to ensure that it doesn’t get cut or damaged.
- Gas pipe – A permanent whole house generator will also need a gas line connected to it. This gas line is installed by running a pipe from the gas meter to the generator itself to ensure sufficient gas pressure at all times. Once again, this process might involve digging a trench from the generator to the meter in which the gas line will lie.
- Labor – The total labor that it takes to set up a generator and connect the gas line and electrical wires up can take up to two days, depending on the job’s difficulty.
Do You Need a Whole House Generator?
Whether you need a whole house, portable, or no generator at all is up to you. If you want your house to be business as usual when the power goes out, you need a whole house generator. To power a few electronics and your heat and water systems, a portable generator could be sufficient. If power outages aren’t a concern of yours, then don’t bother with a generator.
Does My Generator Need a Transfer Switch?
If you choose to have a generator of any kind, a transfer switch is a good idea. Transfer switches will ensure a safe and effective transfer of power so that you don’t have to be in the dark for longer than necessary. Transfer switches are safer than running an extension cord from your generator to whatever you want to power.
If you want to power a water heater, furnace, or anything else that’s hardwired, an extension cord will not power these appliances. Extension cords also don’t offer protection against back-feed when electricity reverses course and runs backward. This can be hazardous to electrical workers if they are working on restoring your power.
As you can see, there are many factors and variables to what an electrician will charge to install your transfer switch. The only way to know for certain what it will cost you is to get a quote or even multiple quotes if you’re unhappy with their prices. The cost of the switch itself is also dependent on the size and type that you want, and you can save yourself hundreds of dollars by choosing a manual transfer switch over an automatic one.
No matter who you decide to hire or which transfer switch you choose, plan on spending $500 to $2,000 for your installation, just to be safe. No one likes breaking the budget with surprise expenses. If you expect the unexpected with transfer switches, you won’t be shocked if the cost is higher than planned.
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- Why a Portable Generator Needs a Transfer Switch to Safely Power Your Whole House