Transfer Switch and Generator Test

Awhile back I wrote about how the power went out here for about fifteen hours and I had to use my generator. The results were poor. I wasn’t able to run my pellet stove and at first it seemed that the refrigerator wasn’t going to work either. Obviously I had some work to do.

One of the things I like about writing for SHTFblog is that there’s some really smart people out there that give good advice in the comments section, so I listened and investigated.  Someone mentioned that it probably wasn’t running at the right hertz in order for the equipment to operate properly. (I can’t remember who made that comment – but thank you! Feel free to speak up and claim credit below.) Our modern day equipment likes a nice steady 120 volts in order to operate properly and when I checked the generator output it was somewhere in the 135 volt area! No wonder my equipment was having problems.

The electrician and I adjusted the throttle on the generator down until it was at 120 volts. I plugged in the pellet stove and voila! It worked like a champ.


Transfer switch. This is the main switch when the power goes out.

He installed the transfer switch, but I didn’t have a chance to test it last weekend. This Saturday I wheeled the generator out to its spot behind the house, plugged in the 30 amp cable to the special outlet, shut off the power to the house from the outside breaker, and started up the gennie. I went down to the transfer switch and started bringing various items up and online. Well pump. Check. Pellet stove and living room lights. Check. Kitchen lights. Check. By the time I was done I had about 80% of the house online.

Big ticket items are out. No stove, oven, or dryer, but I’ve got hot running water, lights and heat, when the power goes out!

I ran the house off the generator for about an hour and aside from the noise it made outside you wouldn’t even know the power was out.  Sweet.  And it wasn’t as noisy as the last time I ran it because it had been throttled down, so I’ll save gas and wear and tear on the generator.


Where the generator runs during a power outage.

Now if the power goes out for a week or more it could get dicey, but it will sure be a lot better than not having any kind of back up at all.

How much did the whole thing cost? I got the generator off Craigslist for around $400. It’s in excellent condition and I feel like I got a really good deal on it. The transfer switch was about $290 and I paid the electrician about $250 to hook it up. (I had one electrician quote me $850!) The 30 amp inlet box was $57. That’s a grand total of just under a $1000.

All I need is one good storm to make it all worthwhile.  My mother in law just bought a propane-based system that will run her whole house.  It’s an excellent system; however, she paid somewhere in the $5,000 range for it; money I just don’t have right now.  I’d like to have something like that someday, but I’m very pleased with the way things worked out during my test on saturday.  My plan is to run the house of the generator once a month so that everything works smoothly.  I hate it when I go to use something and it doesn’t work as expected.

Are you prepared?

30 amp plug. The other end plugs into the house.


 -Jarhead Survivor