What is a Transfer Switch? I bet if you’ve been living for a year in the Philippines, you’ve experienced at least once… nah, I’ll be kind to say at least thrice – of having power shortage or what we would normally call, “brown-out!” So when it happens, you slowly reach out for your handy emergency light to finish whatever it is that you’re doing. But what if you’re cooking using an electric stove when the power got cut? How do you continue? Or when you were watching a really nice movie and the hero was just about to save the day! You were left hanging because of the power outage – what do you do? How do you respond to your kids who desperately need to finish their homework with a strict deadline the next day? Answer: GET YOURSELF A TRANSFER SWITCH!
When we say ‘transfer switch’, we mean transferring power from one source to another. So we can say, from using Meralco power source, we now transfer source to your Genset or Generator. Now, having said this, we can get the logic that you can only make your transfer switch work when you’ve already bought yourself a reliable Genset. In choosing which Genset to buy, you first need to establish what percentage of Meralco power you need or want to work during a power outage. If this is inconvenient for you to compute, then you may just check what loads: wattage and ampere ratings of the appliances you need or want to work. After doing so, then you’re all set for your transfer switch.
Double Throw Switch
Now you may say what about the conventional “Double Throw Switch” that my friendly engineer-technician recommended? Well, aside from it’s unappealing in nature and the need to move the lever up or down; it merely makes up of a barrel bolt that highly risks your (the users’) safety. What do I mean? In light of a transfer switch features, let me help you understand.
A transfer switch is a compact, light weight and very user-friendly mechanical device with a built-in interlocking system that does not allow you to switch on both your Normal power source (MERALCO) and the Emergency line (GENSET). Turning on the Emergency side breaker will automatically switch off the Normal side avoiding any faults on your power source that may cause extensive damage such as fire, explosions and the like to your main panel board. On the other hand, the Emergency side will have to be switched off first before the Normal side can be switched on. This will then be an advantage of the so-called Manual Transfer Switch (MTS). These are available in 2×1 pole, 2×2 pole, 2×3 pole, with models starting from 1A. How about the price you say? As we have already mentioned earlier, your Genset will depend on the loads you want or need to work therefore, the Transfer Switch also depends on the load of the Genset you’re using. So ultimately, the price depends on you. So now, be sure to inform your engineer-technician that you’ll definitely be using a Transfer Switch than a Double Throw one.
Now that you know how to choose your Transfer Switch, how it works and its basics features from the MTS earlier, allow me to inform you of the two other types. Don’t worry, I’ll only brief you into them at least before a sales agent pitches in his or her talk, you are not at their mercy.
Automatic Transfer Switch
An ATS by the name itself is a system that automatically turns on your Emergency Power when Normal Power is out and automatically shuts off your Emergency Power and turns on Normal Power when it comes back in. This type of Transfer Switch highlights convenience and safety for you (the user) as you don’t need to personally turn on or off any power source. And more importantly, like the MTS, it avoids accidentally turning on both power sources.
An ATS is a Circuit Breaker type that is electromechanically operated that does that for you since there is an electromechanical circuitry unlike the normal breaker in your bathroom heater that you have to manually turn on and off. You would just have to fix the loads set on your Generator for emergency purposes.
Contactor Transfer Switch (CTS)
Last but definitely not the least is the Contactor Transfer Switch (CTS). Like the ATS, the CTS’ primary role is to promote safety by automatically turning on and shutting off your Genset in cases of power outages. Its primary feature we can say is convenience. Aside from the above-mentioned, it also allows you to turn on all the loads you want your Genset to give power to. This is because of its current limiter that can detect overloading. So your CTS saves you the hassle of memorizing which breakers are the only ones allowable to turn on, the stress of turning off all breakers and turning them on again once power is back, instead when it senses an overload, the breaker just ‘trips’ or cuts off power. At first, you have to do a trial and error to find out up to how much your Genset can handle. But once you’ve established that, when power is out or comes back, you’ll just have to wait about 3-5 minutes for the delay. This is to protect your breakers from the electric surge when power comes back. So once this has been established… then clap, clap, lights on!
So whether you were cooking a romantic dinner for your spouse, watching a great movie with the family or in desperate cramming mode to finish your homework, when the power gets cut, no worries! You know you have a Transfer Switch doing its work!