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Portable generators

A portable generator is handy when camping or for small power tools, televisions or other appliances when no electricity supply is available.

Portable generators must be used with caution. Read the safety alert about charging batteries with small portable generators.

Portable unit supplying selected electrical equipment

Use a good quality extension cord from the generator directly to the appliance you want to use.

Portable generators may be connected to fixed wiring. This must be carried out by a licensed electrical contractor. Get a licensed electrical contractor to check that the wiring and safety switch are compatible with your portable generator.

Know which appliances can be safely powered by the portable generator as appliances have different power needs.

Are there power need priorities to consider? During a power outage, sufficient light for the safety of your family may be most important.

If power is out for several hours, you may want to empty your refrigerator or freezer to prevent food spoiling.

You may not need to continually power all the appliances. Freezers can retain their chill for hours if not disturbed.

Information that should be supplied

Australian Standard AS 2790:1989 Electricity generating sets –Transportable (Up to 25 kW) has the following information that should be supplied when you buy a portable generator:

  • Intended usage or dominant load:
    • leisure, sports, camping: lights, cooking appliances, refrigeration
    • light industrial: portable tools
    • domestic household: mains-failure back-up
    • industrial, construction and building trades: tools
    • marine applications
    • special requirements like high ambient temperature, high altitude, or both
  • if the set is to drive electric motors like refrigerators, grinders, pumps, fans, air conditioners
  • intended operating periods:
    • number of hours per day, week, or month, as appropriate
    • maximum usage on one occasion in hours
    • expected usage before engine overhaul, in years.

A lengthy period before overhaul may involve considerable additional cost.

  • Fuel used:
    • grade of petrol, petrol-oil mixture for 2-stroke or diesel.
  • Voltage, frequency, phases:
    • 240V 50Hz, single-phase.
  • Output required, in watts or kilowatts and load power factor:
    • Add up the marked load of each item you intend to use simultaneously. Make allowance for motor-operated appliances like airconditioners, refrigerators and freezers which can take two to 10 times the rated load when starting up.
    • Consider a larger output if you need reduced variations in voltage and frequency due to load changes if you use sensitive electronic equipment.
  • If 15 A plug-sockets to AS 3112 are to be provided.
  • If a lower noise level is required.
  • If manual setting of voltage or closer automatic control of voltage is required.
  • If a voltmeter or ammeter is required.
  • If a better voltage waveform is required.
  • If the generator short-circuit withstand is required to be checked by test and the generator voltage at which such a test is to be carried out.
  • If a special lifting arrangement like single-point lifting, is required.
  • Any special protection of the ignition system or engine intake from moisture.
  • Any special protection against fungus growth in the tropics, salty coastal air or corrosion in industrial environments.
  • If a larger capacity fuel tank is required.
  • Any special protection of electrical equipment against ingress of objects, dust or water.
  • If routine testing of noise, vibration or fuel consumption is required.
Last updated
12 September 2019

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