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  • Help with a generator transfer switch question

    Guys,
    I need some help in how to mount a transfer switch for my new 6500watt generator.

    My house breaker box is in the utility room, which has finished walls. The box is flush mounted, in between the studs and flush with the wall surface. There is a small freezer below the box, a cabinet immediatly to the right, a door to the left, and a bunch of wiring coming in from the top and bottom.

    The box is mounted to a stud on the left, with only about 6 inches of clear space from the mounting stud to the one immediatly to its left, which is where the door is mounted. On the right hand side of the box is where the ground lug is installed, no room there to bring in the wires.

    The transfer switch I am considering getting is a 6 switch unit which has a flex conduit about 2 foot long to connect to the breaker box. It is shown as surface mounted next to the breaker box which is also surface mounted, in the advertizing photos. I can obvisly make the flex conduit any length needed.

    I obviously don't have a surface mounted box, and little choice where I can mount my transfer switch. My current thought is to surface mount the transfer switch above the breaker box, and run flex conduit thru a hole in the wall board to connect to one of the few unused holes in the breaker box.

    My question is, is running the conduit thru a hole in the wall board legal from the code perspective? I don't think I could mount the transfer switch as a flush mount due to all the wiring going out of the breaker box. If I could "streach" the wires and run them around the switch box I probably could. Would that mean putting a large junction box above the transfer switch to splice on longer wires for the 8 or 9 wires coming down (3 leads each means 27 splices)?

    I need some help here!!

    Steve

  • #2
    Here are some photos:
    First a general shot:



    Next the top of the box:



    Then the bottom:



    Hope these aren't too big, I forgot to shrink them.

    Steve

    Comment


    • #3
      A few questions on your breaker box.

      Did you install the piggyback breakers or were they there or installed by an electrician?

      I'm not a big fan of the piggyback breakers. You're putting two breakers where there was one, effectively doubling the heat by doubling the circuits AND doing this with smaller components in the thinner breakers. While they are legal, my personal opinion is you are taking unnecessary chances. You have a box that was designed for 20 single pole breakers. To my best count you have 29 breakers in the box. I even counted the double pole (220 volt) breakers as one unit. You have 50% more breakers in the box than it was designed for. More breakers = more heat.

      If I were you I would invest in a new breaker box. I prefer Square D boxes that use QO breakers, not that Homeline crap. For a bit over $120 you can get the larger box with the main breaker and cover. Sometimes you even get a few 15 and 20 amp breakers thrown in free.

      This would give you more room to work, room to expand and safer wiring (again, my opinion).
      Last edited by flutedchamber; 08-29-2011, 08:38 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Don't you have an outside 200A breaker box? These boxes are your main disconnect. There should be nothing in it but a single ganged 200A breaker.

        To answer your question, no, I've never seen a code issue with hard line or flex entering or exiting a wall, Romex yes.

        Chris

        Comment


        • #5
          Where ever you decide to place it, 69 inches is the maximum height of the top breaker/switch allowed by code.

          Chop out the sheet trock... easy to patch. So long as the flex is connected to the panel, code doesn't care if that so-called "transfer switch" is surface mounted or not.

          Look in the bottom of the panel - there are likely knockouts that you can use.

          Most of those "gentran" style transfer switches with Flex have wires already - you just join those inside the panel in series with the wires going to the existing breaker. - 6 wire nuts for 6 circults. Your exisiting grounds and neutral are not touched. Extending the flex requires rewiring the switches - not what was intended and may affect the UL lsiting.
          Last edited by lakeside53; 08-30-2011, 01:29 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I had a similar situation with the piggy-back breakers. I even had two separate boxes due to an addition to the house before I bought it. I had the electrician install one large Square D box to replace both of them and make room for additional breakers for my garage/shop. Only cost a few hundred and it is the best money I ever spent.

            As for the changeover switch, I would mount it to the side of the existing box, not above, and on the adjacent wall. You could run some conduit from the existing box to it. Bug some extensions onto the existing main feed lines to go to it. The wiring from the generator will then have a clear path in that unused wall.

            Probably best to have an electrician do all of it. If you ever had a fire, the insurance company would probably not pay if they discovered you did it yourself.


            Originally posted by flutedchamber
            A few questions on your breaker box.

            Did you install the piggyback breakers or were they there or installed by an electrician?

            I'm not a big fan of the piggyback breakers. You're putting two breakers where there was one, effectively doubling the heat by doubling the circuits AND doing this with smaller components in the thinner breakers. While they are legal, my personal opinion is you are taking unnecessary chances. You have a box that was designed for 20 single pole breakers. To my best count you have 29 breakers in the box. I even counted the double pole (220 volt) breakers as one unit. You have 50% more breakers in the box than it was designed for. More breakers = more heat.

            If I were you I would invest in a new breaker box. I prefer Square D boxes that use QO breakers, not that Homeline crap. For a bit over $120 you can get the larger box with the main breaker and cover. Sometimes you even get a few 15 and 20 amp breakers thrown in free.

            This would give you more room to work, room to expand and safer wiring (again, my opinion).
            Paul A.
            SE Texas

            And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
            You will find that it has discrete steps.

            Comment


            • #7
              If the panel is rated for the "piggy back" breakers, it's fine. Look on the panel sticker (inside the cover). Even if it isn't, they rarely cause problems, but you do need to care to correctly feed "split 240" circuits -typically 3 wire feeds though the house. BTW, as of 2008, these are now not allowed unless the feed breakers have a common trip for both poles.

              Code will not allow the transfer panel to be mounted on the adjacent wall in-line with the existing panel unless it's 30 inches back. You likely have a stud on both sides of the panel -that's a pain to bore though or whatever. Bottom entry looks like your easiest route.
              Last edited by lakeside53; 08-29-2011, 09:15 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think you have a few additional code problems in that box. There seems to be several cables entering the box without any sort of bushing or clamp to protect the cables. There seems to be several holes with multiple cables and no protection.

                I am not sure but I think you probably have a lot more conductors in the box than the box is approved for. It is pretty cramped.

                I also would recommend that you replace the breaker box with a larger one and install the transfer switch at the same time.
                Don Young

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yours looks pretty close to mine, although I don't know how yours is loaded. My piggy-backed breakers only have one or two receptacles on each of them though.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Also looks like a extra service entrance cable set coming in at the top right
                    hooked to nothing. Pull it out and gain some room to bring the transfer
                    leads in.
                    Dave

                    Edit....is that black lead coming up the left side of the box actually hooked to one of the legs of the upper 60 amp breaker or
                    just stuck near it?
                    If that was in my house I'd pull it out and install a new bigger panel.
                    Last edited by Dave P.; 08-29-2011, 10:49 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dave P.
                      Also looks like a extra service entrance cable set coming in at the top right
                      hooked to nothing. Pull it out and gain some room to bring the transfer
                      leads in.
                      Dave
                      Old stove/dryer cable?
                      4357 2773 5150 9120 9135 8645 1007 1190 2133 9120 5942

                      Keep eye on ball.
                      Hashim Khan

                      Everything not impossible is compulsory

                      "There's no pleasing these serpents"......Lewis Carroll

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Time for a new 30 or 42 space panel.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Great response, guys! Appreciate the comments. I'll try and answer some of them:

                          Flutedchamber: "Did you install the piggyback breakers or were they there or installed by an electrician?" The red and green/grey handled ones were installed by the builder, I installed the black ones at the bottom. I appreciate your comment about a new, bigger box.

                          Chris S. "Don't you have an outside 200A breaker box? These boxes are your main disconnect. There should be nothing in it but a single ganged 200A breaker." No, I don't have any other box. The wiring from the meter goes directly to this breaker box.

                          Lakeside53: "Where ever you decide to place it, 69 inches is the maximum height of the top breaker/switch allowed by code." Would this include the new transfer switch, preventing me from putting it above the existing box?

                          "Most of those "gentran" style transfer switches with Flex have wires already - you just join those inside the panel in series with the wires going to the existing breaker. - 6 wire nuts for 6 circults. Your exisiting grounds and neutral are not touched. Extending the flex requires rewiring the switches - not what was intended and may affect the UL lsiting." Indeed, the "gentran" style of transfer switches is what I am looking at. I understand how the switch installes, I was concerned about how to get the flex conduit to the breaker box.

                          Paul Alciatore: "As for the changeover switch, I would mount it to the side of the existing box, not above, and on the adjacent wall. " Do you mean to the other side of the door, or do you think I have enough room to mount it between the door and the breaker box? Remember, I also have the cover not shown in the photo, it extends another 1 1/2" beyond the box. I would have to either run the conduit over the wall, or through the wall then thru the stud to get to the box.

                          "Probably best to have an electrician do all of it. If you ever had a fire, the insurance company would probably not pay if they discovered you did it yourself." I have a licensed electrican I intend to do the work, I haven't talked with him yet tho. "Friend-of-a-friend" type thing.

                          Lakeside53: "Code will not allow the transfer panel to be mounted on the adjacent wall in-line with the existing panel unless it's 30 inches back." What do you mean by the 30 inches back. I don't understand which dimension you are refering to.

                          Don Young: "I think you have a few additional code problems in that box. There seems to be several cables entering the box without any sort of bushing or clamp to protect the cables. There seems to be several holes with multiple cables and no protection.

                          I am not sure but I think you probably have a lot more conductors in the box than the box is approved for. It is pretty cramped.

                          I also would recommend that you replace the breaker box with a larger one and install the transfer switch at the same time." Don, I am more and more incling towards getting a new box. Most of the wiring in the box was installed by the builder, 36 years ago. Lots of the errors were done then. I am guilty of a few, but all of mine have clamps. There is one large old cable deadended in the box from the electric furnace I replaced 33 years ago, I never pulled out the large cable for that. (it comes in from top right, goes across top and ends in middle left) The box may have too many connectors, I don't know. IT IS VERY CRAMPED!

                          Highpower: Your installation is great, wish mine could be that nice!

                          Dave P.: "Also looks like a extra service entrance cable set coming in at the top right
                          hooked to nothing. Pull it out and gain some room to bring the transfer
                          leads in.
                          Dave

                          Edit....is that black lead coming up the left side of the box actually hooked to one of the legs of the upper 60 amp breaker or
                          just stuck near it?
                          If that was in my house I'd pull it out and install a new bigger panel." Dave, There is one large old cable deadended in the box from the electric furnace I replaced 33 years ago, I never pulled out the large cable for that. (it comes in from top right, goes across top and ends in middle left) Thats the one you refered to, and yes I could use that to do the job except its on the wrong side of the box. "The black lead coming up the left side of the box" I am not sure what it does, I'll look tonight after I get home.

                          Thanks for all the comments, I'll be thinking this over and let you ynow how it turns out.

                          Steve
                          Last edited by Steve Steven; 08-30-2011, 12:00 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I would have to say it's time for a larger panel.
                            Around here a homeowner can get an electrical permit to repair, replace, or install new wiring on their residence, so you might check with your state about that possibillity.
                            If you do get a permit to do the work yourself, or hire an electrician - be prepared, when the inspector comes around anything that isn't code in either box will have to be addressed before he'll pass it. (un-clamped wire entries, too small of box, to many circuits in the box, etc.) He may even go so far as requiring some of your existing wiriing to be replaced to meet current codes.

                            Arguing with an inspector is like wrestling a pig in mud, after a while you realize they like it.
                            I cut it twice, and it's still too short!
                            Scott

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Steve -


                              1) By NEC 2008 (and earlier) you can't have a breaker more than 69 inches above the floor so you can't put the transfer switch (which has breakers) above panel. Your local juristiction may have their own rules, and can over ride the NEC, so ask them.

                              2) You need 30 inches clear in front of the panel. As your tranfer switch is surface mounted, placing it on the adjacent wall would interfer with the panel clear zone. Again, local rules can apply.

                              Your existing panel is messy and limited, but fine. Replacing it opens up the "update to code" can of worms. Lengthing wires in a code complient manner isn't trivial, and you will need to. Clean it up - remove all wires not terminated in the panel), put strain relief clamps at the entry/exit points, and put anti-oxide grease on the aluminum wire termination points - including the neutral and ground bar connections.

                              And... unless you really do know what you are doing, talk to a local electrician .
                              Last edited by lakeside53; 08-30-2011, 09:01 PM.

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