I am attempting to gather the supplies needed to setup a secondary panel for a backup generator.

  • The generator itself is a Westinghouse 7500 model that explicitly states that the neutral bonding has to be undone in order to use it with a transfer panel (due to having GFCI outlets in house).
  • I want to set up wiring for 4 gauge wire to cover my bases for future upgrade.
    • It will currently be a 30 amp system (eventually 60 amp).
    • The distance it's going to cover is about 60 feet from the transfer panel to the inlet box.
    • I would rather use thicker wire than thinner wire, better safe than sorry.

The issue I am running into is whether to use 4/4 SOOW cable or 4/3 SOOW cable to do the run. If neither are applicable, which would be best to use that is 4 AWG?

The inlet box itself is a 4 prong, NEMA L14-30p 30 amp since the generator itself is also 4 prong inlet. I have basic knowledge but this is something not to mess around with and will be going with an electrician, I just want to have all items available to reduce the chance of being overcharged (tends to happen in my area even with the pros around here).

This wire will run along a wall from the panel location outside to the back of the house to where the generator will be placed for security and safety.

Any help and insight will be greatly appreciated.

  • What are you using for a transfer panel? Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:01

2 Answers 2


This is permanent wiring, so you need to use cable (or individual wires in conduit), not cordage

The wiring from an inlet box to a transfer switch is permanent building wiring, so cordage such as the SOOW you propose is completely the wrong stuff for the job. Instead, I'd use 6/3 UF cable (good for 55A) if I wanted to future-proof this (the biggest inlet box you can get is only good for 50A anyway); either that, or run a 3/4" PVC or EMT conduit with 8AWG THHNs in it if running UF cable on the surface of the house is not an option for whatever reason.

Picking the right transfer panel will let you avoid farting around with the bond on the generator

While the approach you are taking with unbonding the generator and using a solid neutral transfer panel, such as your Reliance Controls TRC1006C, can work, it means you no longer can use that generator for portable power unless you put the bonding screw or strap back in it. As it turns out, though, there is a way to do this that maintains GFCI compatibility and lets you keep your generator neutral bonded.

The secret? Instead of a normal transfer panel, you need to instead use a switching neutral transfer panel, such as the Reliance XRC1006C. This way, you effectively switch your standby loads between using the neutral-to-ground bond in the main panel when on utility power and the neutral-to-ground bond in the generator when on generator power, instead of having to remove the generator's bond in order to avoid putting two neutral-to-ground bonds in parallel. (Paralleled bonds can lead to wayward neutral current flowing on the equipment grounding system, which is quite problematic for shockingly obvious reasons.)

This also makes it possible to borrow or rent a generator if you need to, instead of being hog-tied to the one you have. This is helpful if your generator breaks down and finds itself in the shop when you need it the most, for instance.

  • Ty for the help, im a stickler for safety and an over abundance of it is my friend. I am thinking now of using the 6/3 UF cable with the 3/4" PVC conduit for extra protection. All the wire will be run outside on brick as close to the eaves as i can get it. so everything can be fished out in the open and setup in sections to make it easier.
    – Dom
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:18
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    @Dom you need to do one or the other. 6/3 UF is well over an inch wide. If you wanted to put 6/3 UF inside conduit, you'd need 2" conduit, no joke. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:20
  • 1
    Yeah -- if you want to use conduit, you'll need to use individual THHN wires inside it instead of a single preassembled cable Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:30
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    If you're planning on purchasing the supplies and having the electrician install them for you, @Dom, I don't think UF & conduit is "safe". It'll frustrate the heck out of the electrician that you're making him pull cable through conduit, because that is hard work! Getting that cable pulled will make him tired and cranky and irritated with you and tempt him to take shortcuts elsewhere. Give him individual THHN wires to pull and make his life easier - he'll thank you, and it'll probably save you $ on the copper purchase, anyway.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:17
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    UF in conduit is not safer than THWN in conduit. THWN in conduit is arguably "safer" than UF. If you want "crazy levels of safe" (with price to match) use RMC (rigid metallic conduit) rather than Schedule 80 PVC. But don't put UF in it...
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:50

GFCI is no-go with some transfer switches

There are some very terrible, very expensive transfer switches which have a row of switches, 6, 8 or 10 of them, and individual fuses or mini-breakers near each one. Those allow you to switch individual circuits from utility to gen (a "cute" feature but not worth paying $400 for, considering how junky the rest of the unit is). The 1970s called, and wants that design back. Those will not play at all with GFCI anything, and I can't believe it's legal to sell today.

However, another type of transfer switch looks exactly like a "subpanel". We typically advise you to build this out of parts, e.g. a 30-space Siemens/Murray main-lug panel e.g. SN3048L1125, their simple ECSBPK01 interlock (which is $25), and two common breakers. That will allow you to switch 26 circuits between utility and generator. All those circuits will be able to use GFCI/AFCI. If you want more circuits just use a bigger panel.

You mentioned a Reliance TRC1006CP9 in comments; that is the second kind and that will work with GFCI/AFCI. That particular model appears to be disappearing and I see some very good prices on close-outs.

Don't ever buy gear "for the electrician to use"

As far as the cable to buy, I get you are trying to "save money" by making the electrician use your stuff that you bought at Home Depot, which you believe is cheaper. However electricians do not like that, for very good reason: Usually, people buy the wrong stuff. SOOW cable is completely the wrong stuff for an in-wall installation, and if it was custom cut, into the trash it goes. Well, it can be turned into a nice generator extension cord.

SOOW is cordage which is flexible cords use for temporary connections. You know what cords are, you deal with cords every day. Cordage is only allowed for those applications, and cannot be attached or built permanently into a building.

In-building wiring is completely different, It is illegal to use it in the manner you would use cordage. It is only for attaching or building into a building. Which particular type depends on where your cable is going and how you plan to upgrade it in the future.

Don't confuse "gold-plated" with "copper".

One of the big mistakes here is to get Midas Fever and think that somehow copper is a better conductor than aluminum. Aluminum had some problems in a 1960s experiment putting them in small branch circuits... but for a big feeder in the 60A realm, it's the right stuff. Copper is just throwing money into a hole.

What's worse is when I see people spend lavishly on copper feeder, then chintz out on something that really matters, like panel size or use of conduit where it would help.

Cable has the advantage that it can run without conduit. It needs physical protection in certain areas where it'd be vulnerable to damage, e.g. the exterior of buildings, underground run stub-ups, or along garage walls.

Conduit is a good way to run wires. You use individual wires called THWN or XHHW, and use exactly the wires you need. #6 or smaller neutral wires must be white or gray. A ground wire is needed if the conduit is not metal.

However cable inside conduit is very awkward. That combination was never meant to work, and since the cable tends to be flat-shaped (especially UF), it takes absolutely huge conduit. #6/3 UF cable is 1.35" wide and requires 2" conduit (clearances would be too close for 1-1/2" conduit).

You can switch methods halfway down a run, but if there's a cable to wires (THWN/XHHW) transition, that must be in a junction box.

Conduit + THHN/XHHW wires allows higher ampacity from the same size of wire. For instance your goal of honest 60A requires:

  • Conduit: #4 Al (rated for 65A) or #6 Cu (same)
  • Cable: #2 Al (rated for 75A) #4 Cu (rated for 70A)

The disadvantage goes away at 100A. If your target was 100A you'd use #1 Al or #3 Cu in either cable or conduit. Given that your plan was #4 Cu anyway, it's silly not to take the "mini-bump" to #3 and get access to a full 100A. Except do it in aluminum with #1.

#3 Cu barely fits in 1" conduit. #1 Al barely fits in 1-1/4" conduit. If the idea of taking the mini-bump to 100A seems stupid to you, 1" conduit will do fine, or even 3/4" if you stay at #6 Cu.

Cheap: Cable the whole way, selecting cable appropriate for indoor/outdoorness.

Plastic-plated: 1" PVC Conduit the entire length and THHN or XHHW wires inside.

Silver-plated: 1-1/4" EMT conduit the entire length, going to PVC underground as EMT isn't allowed there.

Gold-plated: 1-1/4" Rigid conduit the entire length.

  • The panel i have is a full on manual panel that can handle up to 60 amps for up to 20 circuits.it is a pre-wired model.
    – Dom
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:30
  • @Dom -- what make and model is the panel you have? Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 4:30
  • Just MHO but I think those pre-wired transfer switches are a waste. They really mess up a main panel with lots more wires and connections. They don't free up any breaker space and they are really expensive for what you get. I strongly prefer installing a generator feed breaker with a code compliant generator interlock in the main panel, or moving the desired circuits to a sub-panel with a gen-interlock (which would free up breaker space in the main panel). Use a proper power "inlet" if a portable generator or hard wire if permanently installed. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:40
  • One more comment. I'm not a licensed electrician but know my stuff. Having just wired my sons new house, several times he bought stuff that was incorrect or at least undesirable, frustrating time wasting. I think the OP is setting himself up for a disaster. If I were making my living as an electrician, I wouldn't take that job. You have to wonder who would! Can't the OP just get a few bids with specifics and make a decision? Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:44
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    @ThreePhaseEel the panel is a Reliance Prewired Generator Transfer Panel — 12 Circuits up to 20 max, 60 Amps, 125/250 Volts, 15,000 Watts, Model# TRC1006CP9.
    – Dom
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:28

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