Warning re: Transfer Switch/Panel installation

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Old 02-05-08, 11:35 AM
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Warning re: Transfer Switch/Panel installation

For the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about installing a Transfer Switch/Panel for my 5 kW generator so I can run selected circuits like furnace, fridge, freezer, lights etc, through my main panel.
There is a lot of good info about this on this board and I would have no trouble to do a proper installation myself. However, the little guy on my shoulder wouldn't shut up. He kept saying that this is not a DIY project and it could land you in big trouble.
Well, today I went to our municipal customer service office to enquire about the whole deal.
Turns out that the little guy on my shoulder was right.
Installation has to be done by a licensed electrician, who has to apply for a permit from our power co. before he can even start.
The finished installation has to be inspected and approved by an inspector from said power co. Plus a record of this approval is being kept by the power co.
I was told they know there are a lot of unapproved installations out there and to be aware of the consequences of an unapproved installation.
If there is a fire or anything of that nature, the insurance co. WILL INVESTIGATE. If they find some kind of transfer switch install they will check with the power co. if it was approved.
If it was not, I don't think I have to spell out for you what will happen. Any and all claims will be denied.
We all know that insurance companies will try to wiggle out of even legitimate claims. If they find evidence of a non approved installation, you wouldn't have the chance of a snowball in hell to get a payout from them. How much money do you think they are willing to spend to successfully deny a claim which may be worth $300 000 in the event of a total loss.
As I'm getting down from my podium, all I'm saying is that I will go the legal route. If it turns out to be too expensive I'll shelve the whole Transfer Switch deal and run things from the generator with extension cords, which is legal.
I shudder to think of my house being destroyed by fire and not getting one dime in compensation. One might as well cancel the house insurance now - same thing.
Some might say -- you're a *****, they really scared the s**t out of you-- well, so be it.
It's a question of risk assessment and to me it simply isn't worth the risk to loose something you worked so hard for.
As a dedicated DIYer and all around handyman it really hurts me to write this but as Kenny Rodgers says, one has to "know when to hold them and know when to fold them".
In this case I'm folding
 
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Old 02-05-08, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by torpedo203 View Post
Well, today I went to our municipal customer service office to enquire about the whole deal.
Turns out that the little guy on my shoulder was right.
Installation has to be done by a licensed electrician, who has to apply for a permit from our power co. before he can even start.
Just curious, where are you located? Many regions do allow a homeowner to do this type of work (with permits and inspections of course), but you are apparently in one of the places that does not.

I think this kind of law generally encourages people to just do an illegal install rather than pay for a pro plus permits and inspections. In my opinion it's better to give the homeowner a legal and safe option with a thorough inspection rather than to require an electrician.

As I'm getting down from my podium I'm saying is that I will go the legal route.
Glad to hear you're keeping it on the up and up; hope it all turns out well.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
I think this kind of law generally encourages people to just do an illegal install rather than pay for a pro plus permits and inspections. In my opinion it's better to give the homeowner a legal and safe option with a thorough inspection rather than to require an electrician.
I couldn't agree with you more but this seems to be the way things are going more and more.
BTW - I'm in Nova Scotia, Canada, where at least you can dip your feet into the Atlantic Ocean while you're being scr**ed by the authorities
 
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Old 02-05-08, 12:09 PM
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Do you understand what you wrote? That if one were to have a transfer switch / panel installed and entirely up to the latest code but without the local government having blessed it (for a fee) and then that person had a small grease fire on their stove that caused maybe $750 damage the insurance company would NOT honor the claim?

Even though the claim had NOTHING to do with the unpermitted (yet totally "up to snuff") electrical work?

I don't think so. It would be up to the insurance company to PROVE that had the unpermitted electrical work was the cause, or at least a significant factor in the loss from the grease fire.

Certainly the governmental authority that oversees electrical work could indeed fine the homeowner for not kissing the collective butts of the government code enforcement office.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
Do you understand what you wrote? That if one were to have a transfer switch / panel installed and entirely up to the latest code but without the local government having blessed it (for a fee) and then that person had a small grease fire on their stove that caused maybe $750 damage the insurance company would NOT honor the claim?

Even though the claim had NOTHING to do with the unpermitted (yet totally "up to snuff") electrical work?

I don't think so. It would be up to the insurance company to PROVE that had the unpermitted electrical work was the cause, or at least a significant factor in the loss from the grease fire.

Certainly the governmental authority that oversees electrical work could indeed fine the homeowner for not kissing the collective butts of the government code enforcement office.
Furd, I know what you're saying and I would hope that you're right. I'm not that concerned about small claims (my deductible is $ 1000.-). I'm concerned about claims where you lose most if not all of your house/property because of a fire.
The insurance co. have lawyers and investigators on staff whose job it is to ensure that as few claims as possible are paid out. For the sake of saving maybe $ 700.- to $ 800.- by a DIY installation vs. a licensed electrician, I'm not willing to run the risk of having to hire an expensive lawyer to fight the insurance co. and probably losing in the end if the installation wasn't legal, regardless of the cause. I agree that if the fire is not caused by the Transfer Switch then it should not matter in the claim.
However, I wouldn't trust these guys as far as I can throw them and I've dealt with a few of them.
BTW - I wonder if the courts would accept the premise that an installation, even though not inspected and approved by the proper authorities, is OK and legal when done by an unlicensed installer,because it meets all code requirements.
Ouch. the little guy on my shoulder is squaking again
It goes without saying that ignorance of any applicable laws is no excuse.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 12:43 PM
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I don't know what the laws are in Canada, but in general it's an urban myth that an insurance company won't pay for damage caused by unpermitted work. Best to check directly with your insurance agent and not take the word of a bureaucrat.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 03:30 PM
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I have never seen a definite case of the insurance company not paying for something like. It is always urban legend type stories.
They pay for peoples stupidity. If they didn't they would never pay for fire from pots on stove, or people soldering water pipes etc. They do not pay if they can prove arson however.

As for doing your own permitted work, it varies by province in Canada. In Ontario we can apply for permits for our own homes. In Quebec you not can do any type of electrical work on your own home. It must all be done by licensed electricians.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 03:41 PM
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I always have a chuckle when I read posts on this site about various foolish electrical work voiding insurance claims.

When you think about it in the following manner there should be no question about whether it is urban myth.

For them to even be able to think about denying a claim they would have to prove either one of two things:

1. You did it.
2. You had knowledge that it was done

If the insurance investigator is standing there asking you where this duct tape splice game from you'd have to be in the single digit IQ range to tell him "yeah I did that, I 'couldn't' get a junction box in there".

Same thing with not having pulled permits, etc. Unless the materials used can be pinned down with certainty to very recent years and you have lived in your house for ages there's just no way they can blame you for previous owner's mistakes.
 
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Old 02-05-08, 11:22 PM
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Well there is always a plan B. Can't comment on its legality but would probably be safe. For those appliances that plug in run a second set of receptacles that meet in a panel NOT connected to the power grid. The generator would be connected to that panel. You would of course have to go around switching where each item was plugged in. Of course hard wired uses present a trickier problem. I would think a power transfer switch at the hard wired appliance would work to switch it from grid to genny. Since the generator would never be connected to any of the PoCo wiring this might be a usable safe loophole or I could be totally wrong.
 
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