Using generators

Generator photo.jpeg

Selecting a generator

Energy Safe Victoria provides the following advice for households who are without power and using generators:

Generators have a limited capacity and come in different sizes. The most common are:

1000 Watts: This is small in capacity and can run a small amount of equipment such as: – Computers, mobile phone chargers, a small bar fridge and camping style LED lights. It is not suitable to run a small kettle or toaster.

2000 Watts: This is mid-range in capacity and can run a standard domestic type fridge, microwave or a kettle. It may be unable to run all three at the same time.

5000 or 8000 Watts: This is large in capacity and can run the same equipment as above and have additional capacity for equipment such as a second fridge or freezer, an oil filled heater and a kettle or toaster. Generators are built to a specific standard this can be easily identified as the generator will be identified with a Regulatory Compliance Mark. Look for this mark if you are buying one.

Permanently installed stationary generators

Permanently installed stationary generators are best suited for providing backup power to the home.

Only a licensed electrician is able to connect a permanent generator to electrical installations.

To prevent the generator from overloading, it is important to consider the generator’s rating (wattage). The total rating of appliances operating at the same time must be less than the rating of the generator.

Using a generator

Portable generators should be used with care as they pose safety risks including electrocution, fire risks or asphyxiation when not used correctly. Please follow this safety advice to manage the risks associated with the use of portable generators in power outage events:

  • Portable generators should never be used indoors or in enclosed areas. They emit carbon monoxide that you cannot see or smell, and may cause carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation very quickly.
  • Keep the generator:
    • out of dry grass to prevent the exhaust from igniting the grass
    • dry and stored on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure
    • away from rain or wet conditions.
  • Make sure your hands are thoroughly dried before touching the generator.
  • Only use heavy-duty outdoor rated extension cords that are in good condition and rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • Never modify an extension cord to plug into household wiring.
  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall socket or connecting to the switchboard, as this may result in back-feed that can risk the safety of utility workers and neighbours i.e. those connected to the same local network.
  • Ensure fuel is stored in proper safety containers and away from ignition sources (e.g. natural gas water heater). Turn it off and allow the generator to cool down before refuelling.

Refuelling a generator

Ensure that the generator is off and cool before refuelling. Petrol spilled on hot engine parts can ignite.

Store petrol outside the home in a locked shed or other protected area.

Do not store any fuel near a fuel-burning appliance (such as a natural gas water heater in a garage).

Using appliances connected to a generator

If you are returning to a property that has been significantly damaged by fires or strong winds, it is important to first check wiring and other electrical installations before connecting and turning on any appliances.

Additionally, you should:

  • plug appliances directly into the generator via a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord
  • use short extension leads that are in good condition and plugs that have all three prongs
  • fully unwind extension leads from reels or drums.

Do not try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This can ‘back feed’ along the powerlines, and is extremely dangerous to you and your neighbours.

Carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention

Following these tips is very important to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never use a gas-fuelled range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or caravan.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer or fuel-powered engine inside a basement, garage or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented.
  • Keep vents and flues free from debris, especially if winds are high, as flying debris can block ventilation openings.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer or fuel-powered engine outside an open window, door or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space such as a garage.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak, get to fresh air immediately and seek immediate medical advice.