Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Installing a Generator Transfer Switch, Part 1


Mounting the panel was the easy part... about 45 minutes?

So I woke up one Saturday morning with nothing on my list of activities my wife wanted me to work on for the day.  She wanted to sleep in, so I quietly got out of bed, put on my thermal underwear and worn out Carhart jeans and probably 4 layers of shirts.

It's February and in Northwest Ohio the price of propane is around $4/gallon.  Interpretation, our house is kinda cold right now!

I skipped breakfast and quickly gathered up everything I thought I would need and got started.


As you can see in the pictures (below), there are a few tools I needed to finish this job.  Your needs may vary depending on your circumstances.  Listed in the order I used them:
1) Drywall saw - used to cut the drywall.
2) Carpenters right angle - used to measure and lay things out.  Measure twice, cut once!  It's always nice to have straight cuts as well.
3) Bubble Level - used with the carpenters right angle to make sure the top of  my sub-panel was installed at the same height as the main panel.
4) Pen and pencil - mostly a carpenters pencil

5) Electric drill - not shown.  A hammer drill showed up for later parts of this project, compliments my father.
6) Masonry drill bits - you'll need to make sure you don't use normal drill bits.  They don't do well when drilling into your masonry foundation!
7) Masonry Screws - used to attach (mount) the sub-panel to the foundation.

I took this picture thinking I was ready to complete this job... obviously I forgot a few tools.
A few more of the tools I used.  This spare purple dresser in the basement made a nice place to put my tools while working!


The first thing you are going to have to determine is where you want it to go.  I had a few things factoring into my decision.
1) On one side of my main panel is a corner - I didn't want my sub panel in the corner.
2) I wanted my panel at eye level - I can't put it above or below my main panel (code?)
3) I wanted my panel close to the main panel - I didn't want to run the more expensive 6ga wire very far.
4) There are studs behind the drywall in my basement.  I didn't want it too close to my main panel and I think code might have had a problem with that too!

My basement corner, a fresh palette for installing a sub-panel

What that left me with was the area to the right of my main panel with one empty stud spacing between the panels.  Of course, I had to rip off a lot of drywall to figure all of this out!  

So I got started with the drywall saw.  At first this is more like a nail that has to be pounded into the drywall, but once started it acts like any saw.  Just make sure you are careful, if you cut into a hot wire behind the drywall with that saw, you can get zapped!  It would be prudent to turn off the main breaker to your house (just in case) before you start cutting away!  I took my chances and tried to keep the saw very shallow. 

Cutting a test hole.  This helped me figure out what was in my wall... a plastic vapor barrier and insulation!

I measured the sub-panel and cut away the drywall just past the studs.  I should have cut half way over the stud so I could screw them down - Learn from my mistake! (It will make putting drywall back up easier.)  But whaever the case, the panel fit in the hole I cut in my drywall... I'll call that a superb success and a great way to start of this project!  (If only the rest had gone so smoothly)

Alright, it fits!
So that wasn't too bad... yet.  Next  I'm going to have to consider how to run a wire from the main to the sub-panel... the solution there is to cut out more of the drywall!  But before I do, let's attach the panel to the foundation.

Here's my blank slate hole in the drywall with a poured concrete foundation behind it.

Now mounting the panel to the foundation is going to require some special hardware.  As I mentioned above, you cannot use normal drill bits to drill a hole into your cement (or block) foundation.  Nor can you go out and buy normal screws that will self-tap your foundation (to my knowledge).  Therefore you need to go out and buy a bonefide masonry drill bit and anchoring hardware.  I chose to go with a special screw that will thread into the foundation, shown below.

This is the masonry drill bit and screws I used to mount the panel.

This is my masonry drill bit and masonry screws. 

First things first, like with tapping a hole in metal, you first must drill a pilot hole.  Again, my battery powered drill did the job, but a hammer drill would have been nice.  *A special note on drills and bits - some masonry drill bits were not made to be used with hammer drills.  Don't overlook this when buying a bit.  You could get yourself hurt if you use a hammer drill with a bit that wasn't made to take the pounding, literally. 

I went through at least one battery getting all my holes drilled.
So I don't really have any good pictures of the panel installed worth looking at... forgive me.  But after I got done mounting it, I realized wires had to come in from the top, like the main panel, and I also needed a feed cable from the main panel coming in through the bottom of my sub-panel.  Here's what it looked like after I had cut the rest of the drywall away and wired in my 6/3 (3 wires of 6ga thickness with a ground wire) feed wire into my sub panel. 

Sub-panel mounted with the feed wire already installed.
So up next I'll start talking about wiring this thing up.  Until then, I have some oil to change and a generator sub-panel installation to wrap up!

Have a great weekend!  

No comments:

Post a Comment