How Do I Know if My Generator is Overloaded?

Your generator is designed to be used as an emergency backup or portable source of electricity for short, irregular use. Whether you’re weathering a bad storm or camping in the great outdoors, you want to make sure that your generator isn’t being overworked so it can continue providing reliable electricity. You should know the recommended output for your generator (and if you don’t it should be listed on the generator itself or in your owner’s manual), but it’s harder to anticipate exactly what each item plugged in will pull from your generator. So how do you know if your generator is overloaded?

Telltale Signs of Generator Overload

Your generator will usually give you some warning of overload (although it’s more mechanical than benevolent in nature). If your generator starts exhibiting any of the signs below, immediately do what you can to reduce power demand on the generator by unplugging items and/or shutting your generator down completely. When your generator is overloaded, it might typically:

  • Drastically reduce power output: Flickering or weakened lights, intermittently stopping and starting appliances or items, and an audible reduction in operation from your generator are all signs of reduced power and possible overload.
  • Overheat: If your generator’s fans are running nonstop, if you feel unusually high heat coming from the generator, or the generator becomes unusually loud, it could be overheating – which can lead to rising power and damage to items plugged in!
  • Kick soot out of the exhaust: If you notice visible soot in the exhaust of your generator, it means your generator is having to work overtime and is probably overloaded.
  • EXPLODE: While it’s unlikely that an early-caught overload could lead to an explosion, you might notice smoke, sparks, or even fire from a critically-overloaded generator.

What Can Happen if Your Generator is Overloaded?

You should immediately reduce the load of your generator – or even completely shut it off – if you notice that the generator is overloaded. If you don’t catch potential overload early and rectify the situation, your generator could:

  • Drastically reduce its life expectancy
  • Damage other equipment
  • Damage wiring and circuits in other electrical systems
  • Literally explode

An overloaded generator can be highly dangerous. Squeezing out extra amps or testing the limits of your generator isn’t worth the risk to your home, business, or family. If you notice an overloaded generator, shut the engine off immediately, remove any flammable materials or gases from the area, and fix the problem as soon as possible.

How to Manage Your Generator Usage

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! You can prevent generator overload by properly managing your generator usage. Make note of the items, equipment, or appliances you want to power with your generator and plan ahead for which ones you will plug in if you experience an emergency. Take note of each item’s power demand and budget the power against the manufacturer’s recommendation for maximum power output. 

Prioritize items, equipment, and appliances that could be damaged or cause a loss during an extended power outage – like freezers and refrigerators that contain food. Don’t forget to prioritize emergency equipment – like a small allowance for a cell phone charger the family can share to keep devices powered up in case of further emergency.

Even if your power usage is below the maximum power output of your generator, check the generator regularly to ensure that it is operating appropriately. At any sign of overload, shut the generator down and reduce the load. Let your generator cool off and restart it with the reduced load to ensure the problem is solved.

Get Help from the Generator Pros

If you notice that your generator cannot safely produce enough power to get your family through an emergency – or the annual camping trip – call Northside Power! We can help you audit your emergency energy needs and recommend the best solution for you and your family or business. Our power pros are ready to help you select the right power generation solution and professionally install power systems to meet your needs. Call us today for a free power assessment and consultation!