Don’t get caught in the dark! When power outages strike, having a reliable backup power plan is crucial for businesses to keep their operations running smoothly. And at the heart of any backup power system is the trusty transfer switch. But with so many options out there, finding the right one can be overwhelming.
Fear not, because in this guide, we’ll shed some light on the ins and outs of transfer switches, including the different types, key components, and essential maintenance tips. Plus, we’ll share some expert advice on how to choose the perfect transfer switch to power up your backup power plan.
What is a transfer switch?
A transfer switch transfers power from the main source to the backup source. While it may seem simple, much more comprises the functioning of a transfer switch. When the primary source of power is unavailable, the backup generator powers up to supply power. A transfer switch redistributes power from the grid to the generator, providing a simple, straightforward transition from the main power source to the backup generator system.
How does a transfer switch function?
Two main types of transfer switches exist, automatic and manual, and each function differently.
An automatic transfer switch (ATS) instantly switches power from the main source to the backup source when needed. They sense an interruption in power and can switch to generator power mode in seconds. The transition is so fast that, in many scenarios, the delay will not interrupt operations. The ATS has many features and options depending on your operational needs.
A manual transfer switch performs similarly to the ATS but requires an operator to physically flip the switch to signal the generator to begin providing power. Portable generators typically have a manual switch, but permanently installed standby generators may have either. Most businesses opt for an ATS to eliminate any downtime. Many industry operations require an ATS because operations are critical and cannot be interrupted.
Components of a transfer switch:
The switching mechanism is the main component of any transfer switch. While transfer switches may vary in ampacity and added features for specific applications, the common components of transfer switch mechanisms include:
- Connection Terminals – connects power sources to transfer switch
- Solenoid Operator – drives the transfer mechanism
- Main shaft contacts – rotate to move contacts in positions to transfer power
- Arcing contact – open and close just before and after main contacts; current flows through it when closed
- Arc chute – plates that draw the arc away from contacts and aid in cooling and dissipation
- Pole cover – protects against accidental contact and prevents inter-pole arcing
With so many components at work in a transfer switch, proper maintenance and regular inspections are required. Arcing causes pitting and erosion, reducing the main and arc contact surface area and causing increased resistance and heating. Replacing contacts when resistance is low will prevent power interruptions and maintain your system’s integrity.
What to consider when choosing a transfer switch
Choosing the right transfer switch for your backup power system is crucial and depends on your power needs. Your business may require backup power for all systems, so evaluating the required power is a vital step, and you likely did this when selecting your generator. You can choose between automatic and manual transfer switches depending on your operational needs.
When selecting a transfer switch, consider additional features that can enhance its functionality and improve your backup power system’s reliability. Load shedding allows you to prioritize critical systems, while surge protection shields against electrical disturbances. Remote monitoring provides real-time updates, integrated controllers enable centralized control, and power quality monitoring monitors electrical parameters.
Remember to check the transfer switch’s rating and certification, including UL1008 certification, and short circuits or WCRs specific to the device type. With the right transfer switch and proper maintenance, you can ensure your critical operations continue to run smoothly, even during power outages.
Transfer switch installation and maintenance
Transfer switch installation and maintenance are essential to providing reliable backup power. Due to the complexity of backup power systems, there are many codes and standards that govern their installation and operation. For example, a three-position switch is required to prevent backfeeding and prevent electrocution. Therefore, installation by trained experts is essential to ensure your system operates when backup power is needed.
In addition to proper installation, regular inspections of transfer switches and all backup power equipment are necessary to guarantee your backup power system will operate properly when the time comes. Maintenance and inspections can help detect any issues before they cause a power outage and ensure that the transfer switch functions correctly.
Transfer switch experience and service
Backup power systems contain many configurations with different specifications and options. A transfer switch is one of the most important for engaging the system when needed. Having a reliable transfer switch appropriate for your needs is imperative to keeping your business up and running when the utility grid isn’t.
At Depco Power Systems, our experts help you set up the best backup power system for your needs, including the best transfer switch to power your system when the time comes. Contact us today to learn more about transfer switches for your backup power plan.