FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


What size generator do I need?

The size of generator will depend on the total load of the equipment that you want to run on the generator at the same time. The following questions and answers will hopefully help you to work out what size generator set you will need. If the generator is to be used for back up only, then we recommend you select only essential services to run off the generator – such as security systems, refrigerators, freezers, essential lights, TV’s and computers. This will provide a more cost effective investment by utilising the smallest generator necessary.


How do I find out the kilowatts or kVA that I need?

Normally the appliance or equipment will have a kilowatt rating on an attached label or in the owners manual. You may also use the following document to help you determine what size generator you require.


How do I convert Watts (W) to Volt Amperes (VA) or VA to W?

(1kW = 1000W and 1kVA = 1000VA)

As a rule of “thumb” use the 0.8 power factor figure:

To convert Watts to VA, divide the Watts by 0.8. e.g. 1000 watts is equivalent to 1250 VA (or 1.25kVA).

To convert VA to watts, multiple VA by 0.8. e.g. 1000 VA equals 800 watts (or 0.8kW).


What is the difference between running watts and starting watts?

Running watts are the continuous watts needed to keep items running. Starting watts, are extra watts needed for two to three seconds to start motor-driven products like a refrigerator or circular saw. It is very important to note that when selecting a generator size the starting currents of the loads must be considered and allowed for. Motors can take up to six times their full load running current while starting and, if not factored into the generator size, will stall the generator.


What is the difference between rated and maximum watts?

A generator’s rated wattage is the amount of power that is safe to be used continuously, while maximum wattage is the power which can be used for short periods of time (such as a motor starting). You may find an overload rating on some nameplates such as” 110% overload for 1hour in 12 hours”, but this normally applies to large generator sets.


What does an Automatic Transfer Switch do?

An automatic transfer switch (ATS) transfers load power from the main power supply (Energex/Origin or similar) to your emergency back up generator supply when the mains power fails. An ATS controller senses the power interruption on the mains line and signals the backup generator to start. As soon as reliable generator power is available it is switched via the ATS to the load and the mains power is isolated. When the mains power is restored to normal, the ATS transfers load power back to the mains and shuts the generator down. All the above actions are carried out completely automatically and do not require any intervension by an operator. Automatic Transfer Switches require the use of an electric start generator and cannot be installed with a manual or recoil start generator, although transfer switches are available in manual form which are suitable for these manually started machines.


Does a generator need maintenance?

Yes, for example: the engine oil and filter will need to be changed periodically. Refer to the owners manual for complete schedule requirements. We also recommend that portable generators only used occassionally and that go for long periods without use are run every 6 – 8 weeks. This prevents some of the more common problems occuring. If the generators are to be stored for longer periods then there are a few things that should be done prior to storing, such as draining the carburettor. Refer to the owners manual for more information.


I know inverter generators run quieter than conventional models. What other advantages are there?

Conventional generators operate at full speed regardless of what they’re powering. Inverter generators have the ability to vary engine speed according to the load demand and are therefore normally quieter. By adapting to the load, inverter generators use less engine power, allowing these units to consume less fuel. They also produce a more efficient, cleaner energy output due to their construction using three phase windings and an inverter. The cleaner power is great for using sensitive electronic equipment and also convenient for many other applications.

Inverter generators are also built with electronic components that can handle a high heat load. This allows operation under an overload condition of up to 120% of the rated output for up to 20 seconds before the output is cut off, making inverter generators ideal for powering equipment with demanding starting loads like air conditioners.


What safety tips do you have?

Do not operate your portable generator inside the home or caravan etc. It must be located in a well ventilated area with air flow sufficient for cooling the engine and exhausting carbon monoxide fumes.

Cover your portable generator and protect it from the elements to prevent electrical shorting and rusting. Make sure that nothing comes in contact with the exhaust system and that the exhaust is kept clear.

Do not overload your portable generator. It must have a maximum wattage rating greater than your anticipated requirement.

Never put fuel in your portable generator while it is running or the exhaust is still hot. The heat from the exhaust may ignite the fumes from the fuel.

Never store petrol inside your home or in an area where open flame is present, such as a water heater or other appliance with a pilot light or gas burner.

Do not run your generator in sandy or dusty areas without placing it on a suitable ground cover or plinth. Sand or dust can be sucked into the intake slots and cause serious problems and expensive repairs.

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