Part 3: The Critical Importance of Automatic Transfer Switch Preventive Maintenance

Part 3: The Critical Importance of Automatic Transfer Switch Preventive Maintenance

In the world of backup power systems, the automatic transfer switch (ATS) is often overlooked when it comes to maintenance. And it’s easy to understand why. After all, the generator itself is the hero of the story, right?


As part of our ongoing effort to inform and educate our clients, Electro-Motion has created a four-part series on one of the most critical parts of your emergency backup power system: the Automatic Transfer Switch.

In Parts 1 & 2, we took an in-depth look at the ATS – what it is, how it works, and the different configurations. In Part 3, we’ll discuss how neglecting ATS preventive maintenance can lead to catastrophic failures that could render your entire emergency power system useless when you need it most.

What does an automatic transfer switch do?

Before delving into the objections, let’s first understand the significance of the automatic transfer switch in an emergency power system.

1. Seamless Transition:

During a power outage, the automatic transfer switch is the linchpin of your emergency power system. It’s responsible for seamlessly transferring power from the main utility source to the backup generator. This automatic switchover ensures that critical systems remain operational, preventing disruptions and potential damages due to power loss. The failure of an ATS could result in a delay in power restoration, leading to downtime, data loss, and even compromised safety.

2. Isolation of Power Sources:

An ATS is designed to isolate the utility power from the generator power. This crucial safety feature prevents backfeeding, which can be dangerous for utility workers attempting to restore power. Without a properly functioning ATS, you run the risk of causing harm to utility workers or damaging your generator system.

3. Protection of Equipment:

Furthermore, the automatic transfer switch protects your generator from damage by ensuring that the system is not overloaded. It manages the transition of power, making sure that your backup generator doesn’t get overwhelmed during the switch from the primary source to the secondary source. Neglecting the maintenance of your ATS can result in irreversible damage to your generator, leading to costly repairs or replacement.

Objections to ATS Preventive Maintenance and Responses

Now that we understand the critical role of the ATS, let’s address the top objections that customers often have regarding the maintenance of their emergency power system.

1. “We can’t be down”

This is the #1 reason customers give us for why they can’t do ATS Maintenance. Customers know that repairing, replacing, or maintaining the ATS can involve shutting down the power. And for many companies, that’s a non-starter.

However, there are a few key ways around this. First, if you currently use a standard ATS switch, consider switching to a Bypass ATS. A Bypass ATS has the ability to isolate itself, so maintenance can be performed safely while power to emergency loads is not cut off. Yes, it can be an expensive up-front cost, but once installed, “being down” is longer a factor when it comes to future ATS maintenance work.

For Standard transfer switches, scheduling maintenance during off-peak hours can further reduce any impact on productivity. Properly planned maintenance can be carried out with minimal disruption to your operations. In fact, Electro-Motion’s “ATSM Lite” is a service that performs ATS maintenance without shutting down the power.

Again, preventative maintenance is critical: it’s better that the ATS never breaks down to begin with. Think of it the same way you would think of other maintenance you normally do: you change your oil, so the engine doesn’t seize up and leave you stranded; and yes, you can’t eat during a visit to the dentist, but you can’t eat without teeth, either.

2. “It costs too much”

One of the most common objections to ATS preventive maintenance is the perceived cost. Customers often believe that maintaining the ATS will be too expensive, particularly when the generator itself seems to be functioning adequately.

However, the cost of neglecting preventive maintenance can far outweigh the investment in keeping your ATS in top condition. If your switch stops functioning, you could see these additional costs:

      • The cost for a new switch. Depending on the specifications of the new switch, this can potentially be thousands of dollars.
      • Generator rental to provide backup power until your new switch is delivered. Again, this could be thousands of dollars depending on how long it takes to obtain the new switch. And don’t forget, there are also the costs of refueling the rental generator.
      • Labor cost to install the new switch
      • Potential loss of business revenue during the down period (we’ve often seen lead times on a new switch extend as far as 90 days).

Preventive maintenance, while involving a certain upfront cost, is significantly cheaper than dealing with a full-blown emergency or equipment failure. Regular maintenance ensures that any potential issues are caught early, reducing the risk of expensive emergency repairs or complete system failure.

Electro-Motion specializes in offering maintenance plans that can be tailored to suit your budget and needs, mitigating the financial burden.

3. “It’s Already Part of My Maintenance Agreement”

Some customers believe that their ATS is a ‘fix and forget’ component of their emergency power system because it’s already part of their maintenance agreement.

Are you sure about that?

We’ve seen many of our competitors define “ATS Maintenance” as a visual inspection of the switch…and that’s all. At Electro-Motion, the visual inspection is included in our regular multi-point generator maintenance checklist. We then provide a comprehensive ATS Maintenance Service in addition to this regular visual inspection.

The ATS is a separate and critical part of the emergency power system. Its maintenance requires specialized attention beyond what might be covered in a standard service agreement. Neglecting the ATS can result in catastrophic failures, rendering your entire backup power system useless when you need it most.

So check your contract to make sure ATS preventative maintenance is included. If it’s not, give us a call at Electro-Motion and let us show you how we can help.

4. “We’re not sure what the generator backs up”

Hey, no judgment here. If you’re not a Facilities Manager or an engineer at your building, then the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” rules the day.

Chances are, the generator powers critical life safety systems, like stair lights, elevators, emergency exit signs, and more. These systems are especially important if a natural disaster knocks out utility power.

That said, there may be critical business systems your EPS maintains when the power goes out: your server room, your freezer. or your medical supply storage. When you understand what the generator is for, ask yourself, “how would it affect my business if the generator didn’t work?”

5. “We can’t take a chance that something will go wrong”

We get it. Maybe you’ve had a poor maintenance experience in the past. Maybe your EPS is so old you don’t know what might happen if someone opens it up. Or maybe you’ve just lived with “out of sight, out of mind” for so long that it’s worth just sticking to that.

But the truth is, if your ATS is regularly serviced, the chances that something will go wrong during preventative maintenance is very, very low. Conversely, if you avoid maintenance altogether, the chances of the ATS crumbling in your hand when you open the panel go up tremendously.

And remember this: you might not want something to go wrong during servicing, but you really don’t want it to go wrong when the utility power goes out, or when the Fire Marshal hits you with a surprise inspection.


The automatic transfer switch is the unsung hero of your emergency power system. Neglecting its preventive maintenance can have severe consequences, leading to downtime, data loss, and compromised safety. By addressing the top objections to ATS maintenance, we can see that the benefits far outweigh the perceived costs, time, and necessity. Regular maintenance of the ATS ensures that it will seamlessly transfer power when needed, protecting your business, your data, and your peace of mind.

In the final part of our series, we’ll take a look at the kind of service your ATS requires, and how to make the right choice when creating a service agreement. In the meantime, if you have any questions, call Electro-Motion at (650) 321-6169, or click here to arrange for a free consultation.

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