Wandering through YouTube, I found what may be the best way to hook up a generator to your house. Its brilliantly simple and safe. Manual transfer switches require wiring inside the electric panel, generator interlocks a bit less wiring. This rig, technically called a meter mounted transfer switch, no wiring.
Instead of messing with your electric panel, this unit sits between your utility meter and the electric panel on the outside of your house. An electrician or your utility company has to install it, but it should only take about 30 minutes to do. And, in most cases, no electrical or building permits. How cool is that?
I have a transfer panel in my basement to hook up my generator to the house, and it isn't the perfect solution. My post about it here. You have to run a wiring harness from the transfer panel into the main panel, choose which circuits to control, splice the wires together, its some work to do it all. This meter mounted transfer switch is much closer to ideal. More info on the unit here.
The meter mounted switch supplies power to the whole panel, and you choose which circuits to run based on the wattage of your generator and the appliances you want to use. The beauty is you can turn on and off breakers at will. With a hard wired transfer panel, you can't change which circuits are powered. My transfer panel only has one 220 volt circuit breaker, so it limits what large appliances you can run. With this unit, you can turn off and on different appliances that draw a large amount of power.
Run your electric dryer, then turn it off and turn on the air conditioner or the well pump. Nice.
The other plus here is many people have a portable generator and plug multiple extension cords into the generator and run them into the house. You can hook up your central AC or well pump with an extension cord. So yes, at this writing, this is the best way to hook up a generator to your house.
Watch this video by Steve Maxwell, its a nice visual of how it works:
I have mixed feelings about these sort of things. It's a great idea but in all reality you don't need an electrician to mount this. It's a plug and play deal. Don't let the little security tag from the utility scare you. Meters are easy to pull and the tags can be purchased from supply houses if your worried about it. I have a whole bag of them with different colors. I've cut those tags on a ton of homes when installing a new air conditioning system. Not a single customer has ever gotten a warning from the utility. The little number on the tag is never recorded so if you can find one of these switches for sale, I say buy it and DIY it. Remember that there is usually live 220 voltage in that meter box, you should exercise caution or call a pro.
Just wandering; if the generator turns itself off when the power comes on again, does it turn on automatically also if the power goes down and there is no-one at home to turn it on?
Depends on the system installed. An on-demand generator will. thx!