Generator safety and use

A generator provides you with power during emergencies, but using it safely requires care and some planning. Read the generator manufacturer's instructions and follow these helpful tips:

General tips | Portable generators | What will a small generator run? | Getting ready for the Wet Season | Getting started | Get the most from your generator | After the Wet Season

General tips

  • Don't trust your senses, even your nose, to protect you from carbon monoxide; this deadly gas is invisible and has no smell. When you buy a generator also buy a battery operated carbon monoxide alarm. It works like a smoke alarm, sounding an alert if carbon monoxide levels become dangerous.
  • Be a good neighbour. If the power is out, your neighbours are probably sleeping with their windows open so try to place it where it will cause the least amount of intrusion.

Portable generators

  • Don't plug a generator directly into your home's wiring. Power from a generator connected to a home's wiring will 'back feed' into powerlines, which could severely injure or kill a neighbour or a repair crew working to restore your service.
  • Appliances can be plugged directly into the generator, but always read the manufacturer's instructions carefully first.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations on how to ground the generator.
  • As petrol and diesel powered generators produce deadly carbon monoxide fumes, always run portable generators outside the house - never inside or in a garage. Keep generators well away from open windows - including your neighbours' - so deadly exhaust fumes do not come into the home.
  • Use a heavy duty extension cord rated for outdoor use to keep the generator safely outdoors, where it belongs.

What will a small generator run?

  • Each generator has a rated wattage, which provides a limit on the appliances you can safely power.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for its proper use and capacity and don't try to connect lots of appliances at once.
  • Rotate the use of larger items. This will allow you to use a smaller generator which costs less and is easier to move when you need to.
  • Overloading the generator can damage your appliances when they are connected.

Getting ready for the wet season

Before the wet season remove your generator from storage, drain the fuel from the tank and dispose of it properly. Check the fuel line for cracks and replace it if necessary. Refill the tank with fresh fuel and run the generator. Plug in some appliances, ie a light, hair dryer, etc to make sure the generator is working properly.

If you have any trouble with the generator during this test, take it to a repairer so that it can be checked to ensure it's in good running order and ready when you need it.

Getting started

  • Never refuel a hot generator or one that is running. Hot engine parts or exhaust can ignite fuel.
  • Turn off all connected appliances before you start your generator.
  • Turn connected appliances on one at a time, never go over the generator's rated wattage.

Get the most from your generator

  • Save fuel and money by using appliances only when you need to. If no appliances are running, switch the generator off.
  • If you're just running a few lights, using other sources may cost less than running the generator.
  • Refrigerators may only need to run a few hours a day to preserve your food.
  • Don't leave a running generator unattended. Turn it off at night and when you're away from home.

After the wet season

When the wet season is over, store your generator properly and carefully so it will be ready to go next season when you need it.