A transfer switch is a device that is used to switch back and forth between two different power supplies. Most of the time one source is the utility company (the grid), and the other is for a backup generator in the event utility power fails.
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There are two types of transfer switches you’re likely to run into from time to time. The first is the Manual Transfer Switch (MTS). This is an enclosure with an external handle that can be manually moved from one position to another. This is beneficial to have for individuals who own homes by the coast, or in areas where power outages don’t affect major operations. The next type is the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS). The ATS is more commonly found in industrial and commercial buildings where no matter what, power must remain on. Many hospitals have ATS’s protecting their electrical system so in the event of power failure, critical life safety equipment can continue running. How a transfer switch works is essentially the same, regardless if it is an MTS or ATS. They’re both going to have a set of “common” terminals that the building’s wiring system gets hooked up to. They both also have two different “source” terminals that each power source gets connected to. The way they differ is that an MTS requires manual switching to change sources, where an ATS monitors the utility power and changes sources automatically when a power failure occurs.
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