We've all seen those big industrial generators making a lot of noise on big building sites. They look like big complicated machines that have no place in the average garage, but what a lot of people don't realise is that domestic versions are pretty handy pieces of kit for anybody who gets up to home DIY projects, or who needs to be able to keep the power on during a blackout. Many might be surprised to find out that much smaller, domestic scale generators exist that are designed for home use. They're not all for powering huge construction operations.

How Do Generators Work?

Basically, they are just small internal combustion engines. Notice how your car's engine—via the alternator—generates the electricity required to power your lights, navigation and CD player? A generator works on the same principle, only the electrical power's output takes the form of 240V outlets that you can plug your various tools and appliances into. Most small generators work on a diesel fuel system, but others can be powered by natural gas such as propane.

Just like your home's regular power supply, they do have their limitations, so it is important that your electric generator is suitable for your needs. Drawing too much energy from it at once will overload the power circuit, just like what can happen if you have too many energy thirsty appliances running off your home's grid. So, due care should be taken to ensure that the generator you require is capable of delivering the electrical energy that you require.

What Would I Need a Generator for?

Small diesel home generators are the safest and cheapest way to produce electrical energy during unforeseen power outages. Many home businesses simply cannot afford any outages, so backup power is a must. They are also ideal for those undertaking any kind of home DIY project. The average home's power grid is not designed to handle the draw that may be required for multiple heavy-duty electrical items, so building an extension or a big landscaping project may require a generator to handle these additional loads.

How to Safely Use an Electrical Generator

  1. As mentioned above, the first step is to make sure that the generator is rated correctly for its intended use. An underpowered generator will not only struggle to deliver the power that you need, it also risks damaging the equipment that you want to plug into it.
  2. If your generator is for backup power then use a transfer switch. The transfer switch connects to the generator via a heavy-duty cable called a 'Genset cord'. As the name suggests, this piece of equipment detects when there is insufficient power available at the source, and so will automatically switch to the alternative source—in this case, from your utility power to the generator power. They also act as safety devices because they stop the backflow of power back into the grid. Conversely, they stop utility power flowing into your house while the generator is being used as the power source. In both cases, the transfer switch prevents potential fires that could otherwise be caused in such situations.
  3. Always make sure you use heavy-duty power cords. You don't necessarily need a transfer switch to run a home generator, instead, you can plug your tools and appliances into it directly. It is likely, though, that you will be using some long cable runs to reach everything that needs plugging in. These cords should be heavy-duty and of a thick enough wire gauge to handle the electric current flowing through them. Make sure you read the cord's package to find out what load the cable is rated for, and also make sure they are suitable for outdoor use.
    It's also important not to coil any excess cable, as this will turn it into an electromagnetic induction loop. In some cases, the cable can get so hot that it will actually melt. Instead, the excess cable should run in a figure-8 pattern which will prevent it from overheating and turning into a magnetic field.
  4. When powering a load with a generator, it is important to stick to the correct sequence of operation. Fire up the generator, and plug the cords into it. Then plug the loads into the other end of the extension cords. Do the opposite when it's time to disconnect the loads and power down the generator.
  5. Just generally be a bit careful because, at the end of the day, even modern generators are still basically just combustion engines. This means they get hot, so be careful working around them, and don't store fuel too close to them. Additionally, only fill up the fuel tank when the generator engine is cold.
    They also have exhaust systems so do not situate a generator in an enclosed space, especially if there is anybody in that space doing work.

Home generators may not be necessary for all homes. A few candles may be perfectly sufficient in some homes when the power goes down for an hour. But for those who can't afford to have the power cut out, it is absolutely worth looking into a generator for backup power. So check out Kubota Perth construction equipment and power equipment on our website, give us a call (08 9302 2006) or email (boyaequip@boyaequip.com.au), or pop in to our store for a chat with our friendly staff.