A backup generator’s purpose is to provide electricity to a home, business or other facility in the event of an unforeseen power outage. A transfer switch is an often permanent switch that connects to a power box, and in the event of a loss of power from the grid, switches a facility’s power source to the standby generator.
There are two types of transfer switches—automatic and manual. An automatic transfer switch will begin to draw power from the backup generator as soon as power from its primary source is lost, and is typically used in settings like homes or commercial facilities. A manual transfer switch, on the other hand, requires the switch from one power source to another to be made manually, and is more commonly used in non-permanent settings.
A backup generator (also often referred to as a portable generator) typically refers to a non-permanent installation that provides temporary backup power as needed in a variety of situations. In the event of a power outage, these generators must be manually turned on, with power usually running from extension cords directly into appliances in need of power. A standby generator, on the other hand, has an automatic transfer switch—meaning it will detect a power outage from a facility’s main source and begin generating power without intervention. Hence the name—they’re always standing by, ready for use when needed.
Emergency generators are designed with automatic transfer switches—meaning they connect directly to a facility’s circuit board and automatically provide power in the event of loss of power from the grid. These systems are able to detect power outages, and if power is not returned within a few seconds, the generator will be turned on without the need for any human intervention.