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I’m wondering about what’s involved in having some sort of cutout switch installed between my meter and breakers that would allow me to manually disconnect from the grid during an outage and connect to a generator that would then power the whole house. I would have all the work professionally done, but I'd like to be able to discuss it intelligently with the contractor. Can someone point me to some appropriate resources for getting up to speed on the subject (e.g. right ways and wrong ways to implement the cutout, disadvantages of multi-fuel generators, how to size a generator, how to evaluate a generator, etc.)? I'm an electrical engineer, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with electricity, but my expertise is low voltage, DC.
 

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Hi,

I understand your predicament but I'm not sure there is a single resource you can use to find all the information you need. I recommend looking at each issue separately and googling your way to increased understanding. Reading all the posts in this forum is probably a good way to get started too. Then you can ask directed questions about specific issues and hopefully get help.

I installed a transfer switch that powers only the bare essentials in my house. I now regret that. I'll be moving to a whole house install and simply keep power consumption limited by disabling circuits as needed and keeping my family on their toes about turning lights off etc. In such a case all you need is a simple master switch that selects utility vs. generator power being fed into your house. There are manual and automatic variants. Because these involve disabling your utility power to install it's a bit involved but the circuitry is simple.

Good luck,

Sander
 

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Your panel manufacturer may offer an "interlock breaker" as an option. Basically it allows you to use your existing panel as a transfer switch. One advantage is that you can select ANY circuit as you desire.

For generator sizing, consider what loads you NEED to run and then what you WANT to run. While it may be nice to have everything in the house powered the reality is that it may not be practical. Bigger generators burn a lot more fuel than smaller ones. Some of the inverter generators can run for hours on a gallon of fuel.

What fuel options do you have available? Gasoline may not always be available. Natural gas is "usually" available but may not be in some instances. Propane stores very well but you'll need someplace to put a tank.
 
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