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Power blackouts - Using alternative fuel and electricity generation safely

Page contents: Power generators | Purchasing a generator | Using a portable generator safely | To avoid electrocution | Refuelling a generator | Using appliances connected to a generator | Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning | Further information | Download document

When power outages occur, usually as a result of severe weather events, people sometimes use alternative sources of fuel or electricity generation for cooking, lighting, heating, or power.

Portable generators can allow some normal activities to continue, however it is important to use them with extreme caution.

Petrol or diesel powered generators can produce carbon monoxide gas so must only be operated in a well ventilated outdoor area away from open windows and vents.

Carbon monoxide is invisible and you cannot smell it. If it builds up in the home, garage, caravan it can cause sudden illness, loss of consciousness and death. Think about your pets as well as your family.

Do not use appliances designed for outdoor use inside a home, basement, garage, caravan or tent, or even outside near an open window. Appliances such as power generators, grills, camp stoves, or other petrol, LP gas, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should only be used as specified by the manufacturer.

Power generators

Although they are very useful, if not used safely portable generators can lead to:

Householders must follow the directions supplied with the generator to ensure safe operation.

Purchasing a generator

Permanently installed stationary generators are best suited for providing backup power to the home; only a licensed electrician must 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 portable generator safely

Opening doors and windows will not prevent carbon monoxide building up in the home.

It is a good idea to install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms to alert you when carbon monoxide levels pose a health risk. Test the battery frequently and replace when needed.

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To avoid electrocution

Refuelling a generator

Using appliances connected to a generator

If 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:

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

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

For further information

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 Power blackouts - using alternative fuel and electricity generation safely