Generator safety & use

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

The following tips - and a careful reading and understanding of the generator's instructions - can help avoid dangerous situations and assist you in ensuring the safe operation of your generator.

Download and keep handy our Electrical safety generator guide (PDF 514.1 kb).

General tips

  • Don't trust your senses to protect you from the carbon monoxide produced by running the generator. This deadly gas is invisible and odourless. When buying a generator, also buy a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm. This works like a smoke alarm and will sound an alert if carbon monoxide levels become dangerous
  • Be a good neighbour. A running generator can be loud so try to locate it where it will cause least disturbance to everyone
  • Ergon Energy is making a plea to customers not to modify and plug generators directly into power points in their home or into any part of the Ergon Energy network. Plugging a generator into a power point will send electricity through the switchboard and into Ergon Energy powerlines - either on the ground or poles. That poses a significant safety risk to Ergon Energy staff working on powerlines or neighbours cleaning up around fallen powerlines.

Portable generators

  • Don't plug a generator directly into a home's wiring.  Power from a generator connected to a home's wiring will 'back feed' into powerlines, potentially causing a safety hazard for you, your family, neighbours, and Ergon Energy workers, and causing possible damage to your generator when mains power is restored
  • 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
  • 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.

If you want to energise your household wiring

  • Have a licensed electrical contractor install an isolating switch to provide a safe and permanent connection from your generator to your household wiring. This will prevent your generator from back feeding powerlines, avoiding a safety hazard to you, your family, neighbours, and Ergon Energy workers, and preventing possible damage to your generator when mains power is restored.

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 storm season

Before storm 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 or a hair dryer, to make sure the generator is working properly.

If you have any trouble with the generator during this test, take it to be repaired so it is 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. Always turn the generator off and allow it to cool down before refuelling
  • Turn off all connected appliances before starting your generator
  • Turn on connected appliances 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 when 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 need to run for only a few hours per day to preserve food
  • Don't leave a running generator unattended
  • Turn the generator off at night and when you're away from home.

After storm season

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