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Generator Transfer Switch 101: Tech Made Simple


Generator Transfer Switch 101: Tech Made Simple

With a big storm on the horizon, a backup generator—and its automatic transfer switch—can give you peace of mind. Generator transfer switches monitor utility power, detecting a power outage and telling the standby generator to start or stop.

What Is a Transfer Switch?

A transfer switch is an electrical switch that safely transfers the homes electrical power between utility power and standby power. A manual transfer switch is flicked on and off by an operator while an automatic transfer switch, installed by a licensed electrician or contractor (usually mounted on or inside the house),  automatically detects when utility power has failed. For the convenience of the generator owner, GE includes automatic transfer switches in all their generators so people can stay safely in their home and still receive backup power.

Learn more about transfer switches from the GE Generators FAQ.

Manual Transfer Switch vs. Automatic Transfer Switch

Some transfer switches are manual and operated by throwing a switch. An automatic transfer switch like that on a GE standby generator, will automatically activate when power is lost during a storm, or in an event of damage to your home’s utility power or to electricity providers.

How An Automatic Transfer Switch Works

Automatic transfer switches monitor the voltage provided to the home from the primary power supply. After an automatic transfer switch detects a loss of utility power, it tells the standby generator that it needs to provide backup power. The transfer switch isolates the backup generator from the electric utility as it powers on, providing temporary power and avoiding generator backfeed  into the utility line. A smart automatic transfer switch protects utility workers as they attempt to restore power to prevent them from power lines unexpectedly going live. 

When utility power returns, the generator transfer switch will switch your home or business back to utility power and power down the standby generator.

Why Buy a Transfer Switch Equipped GE Generator?

Automatic transfer switches are part of the Symphony® II Power Management system and allow you to manage and prioritize the use of up to 8 high wattage appliances, cycling power between critical appliances like sump pumps and heaters. By automatically controlling the loads, a smaller size generator can be purchased.

Historically, manufacturers have used load shedding, or overloading the generator for a brief period and then dumping the load. This system is not optimal for air conditioner condensors or other high wattage appliances as it initiates a ‘false start’ if the generator cannot power the AC, then shuts it down. Presumably, the sensitive electronics in the air conditioner are not damaged, but why take the chance?

GE transfer switches equipped with Symphony® II power management won’t allow the appliance to start if there isn’t enough power to do so. The patented controls are the only true smart system on the standby generator market, as they continually monitor available output from the generator to determine if there is enough power to start the appliance.

Home generators must be installed by an authorized generator dealer or licensed electrician and can be set up to provide power to critical circuits or to entire electrical panels to best serve your power needs.

Want to learn more about the smart automatic transfer switches that power GE home generators? Watch this video to find out how the unique and efficient Symphony® II Power Management System works!


To view all home generators outfitted with smart generator transfer switch systems, view the complete line of GE generator models today.

1 Installations must strictly comply with all applicable codes, industry standards, laws, regulations and provided installation manual. Running engines give off carbon monoxide, an odorless colorless, poisonous gas so it is important to keep exhaust has away from any windows, doors, ventilation intakes or crawl spaces. The installation manual contains specific instruction related to generator placement in addition to NFPA 37, including the requirement that carbon monoxide detectors be installed and maintained in your home.