Do's and don'ts of running generators

Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe when using generators.

Generator do's

  • Keep the generator outside. Never use it indoors.
  • Install a battery operated carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Keep the generator dry. Do not use in rain or wet conditions or touch it with wet hands. Protect from moisture by operating on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension lead that is rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially an earthing pin.

Generator don'ts

  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as backfeeding. This is extremely dangerous and is an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbours served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
  • If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, get a licensed electrician to do it in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules) and Energex or Ergon Energy requirements.
  • Avoid creating a fire hazard. Store fuel for your generator in properly labelled non-glass safety containers. Store out of the home and away from fuel-burning appliances such as natural gas water heater in the garage.
  • Before refuelling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Fuel spilt on hot engine parts could ignite.


Backfeeding can happen when a generator is connected to your home wiring system without disconnecting from the Energex or Ergon Energy electrical system. The most common way this occurs is by directly connecting a generator to your electrical switchboard or to a circuit in your home.

Feeding power back into the electrical system during an outage will energise the transformer serving your house. This is an electrocution hazard for Energex or Ergon Energy line crews and for your neighbours. If power is restored while your generator is backfeeding, it may severely damage the generator.

Avoid backfeeding by always keeping generator power and Energex or Ergon Energy electrical system isolated from each other.

Portable generators

Usually connected directly to an appliance or piece of equipment through its plug and supply cord. There is no path back to the electrical switchboard. Changeover switches are available to safely connect portable generators to building electrical systems.

Permanent generators

Isolated from the electrical system with a changeover switch installed between the generator and the electrical panel. The changeover switch allows power to feed from only one source at a time. A licensed electrician must install a changeover switch.