Generator safety and use

A generator can help restore life to normal during emergencies, but its safe use requires care and planning.

The following tips - and a careful reading of the generator's manufacturer's instructions - can help you:

General tips

  • Don't trust your senses for protection from carbon monoxide; this deadly gas is invisible and odourless. 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 locate it where it will cause the least disturbance to everyone.

Portable generators

  • Don't plug a generator directly in to your home's wiring. Power from a generator connected to a home's wiring will 'back feed' into power lines, potentially severely injuring or killing a neighbour or a repair crew working to restore service.
  • Appliances can be plugged directly into the generator, but always read the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
  • Use a heavy duty extension cord rated for outdoor use to keep the generator safely outdoors.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for earthing 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 does not enter the home.

What will a small generator run?

  • Each generator has a rated wattage, which provides a limit on the appliances it will safely power.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper use and capacity and don't try to connect lots of appliances at once.
  • Rotate the use of larger items. This allows the use of a smaller generator which costs less to buy and is easier to move.
  • Overloading the generator can result in damage to appliances it is powering.

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. Inspect the fuel line for cracks and replace 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 put in good running order and ready for when you need it.

Getting started

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

Get the most from your generator

  • Save fuel and money by using appliances only as needed. If no appliances are running, shut 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 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, properly store your generator so it will be ready to go next season when you need it.