Avoid costly repairs and downtime by learning how to fix an overloaded generator. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process and ensure safe and efficient operation.
Generators are an essential tool for many homeowners and businesses during power outages. However, an overloaded generator can quickly turn a helpful device into a frustrating problem.
Suppose your generator is rated at 2000W, and you are either drawing 90% of the capacity or trying to exceed the 2000W. That is called generator overloading. In simple words, exceeding the load limit mentioned in the user manual.
Overloading your generator can cause it to fail, and even worse, it can lead to a dangerous situation for you and those around you. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to fix an overloaded generator and prevent future overloads.
In this article, we will discuss some essential tips and tricks to fix an overloaded generator and keep your power flowing smoothly during an outage. So, if you’re dealing with an overloaded generator or want to avoid it, keep reading!
What are The Signs of an Overloaded Generator?
- Tripped Circuit Breaker – If your generator’s circuit breaker keeps tripping, it’s a clear sign that your generator is overloaded. The circuit breaker trips when it detects an excess of electricity flowing through the system.
- Dimming Lights – When the generator is overloaded, you may notice that the lights in your home or business dim or flicker. This is a result of the generator struggling to provide enough power to all of the connected devices.
- Burning Smell – An overloaded generator can produce a burning pungent kind of smell, which is a sign of overheating. This smell can indicate that the generator is working too hard and may need to be shut off to prevent internal damage to AVR or the motor itself.
- Slow Running – If the generator is running slower than usual, it may be struggling to provide enough power to all of the connected devices. It is also a sign of a previously overloaded generator.
- Generator Stalls – An overloaded generator can stall and shut off completely. This is a safety feature that prevents the generator from overheating and causing damage.
- Voltage Fluctuations – It is a no-brainer that an overloaded machine will experience intense power surges. Along with the flickering lights, you may notice severe voltage fluctuations.
What are The Causes of Overloaded Generators?
A portable generator can experience overloading when you draw more than it can handle. It happened to me once.
When I was camping alone in the mountains of Banff National Park, Alberta had only my Westinghouse iGen2500 with me as a backup power source.
I needed an extra bit of power to run a few appliances and I ended up overloading my inverter generator. It got through the day but its AVR malfunctioned.
There are several reasons why this can happen. Here are some common causes of an overloaded generator:
1. Too Many Appliances:
Connecting too many appliances or devices to your generator can cause it to become overloaded. It isn’t a wise practice. You will end up damaging the AVR or any other component.
Each device requires a specific amount of power, and if the total amount of power required exceeds the generator’s capacity, it will become overloaded.
2. Power Surges:
Power surges can occur when an appliance or device requires a sudden surge of power to start up.
If multiple devices experience a power surge at the same time, it can overload the generator.
3. Sizing Issues:
If the generator is not properly sized for the load it’s intended to support, it can become overloaded. It’s essential to choose a generator with enough capacity to support the devices you need to power.
4. Faulty Wiring or Short Circuit:
Faulty wiring can cause the generator to become overloaded. Wiring that’s too small or damaged can’t handle the amount of power required, which can cause the generator to overload.
A short circuit is one of the major reasons for overloading as well.
5. Old Generator:
As generators age, they may not be able to handle the same load as they once did. If you’re using an older generator, it may be time to upgrade to a newer inverter generator with more capacity.
What Are The Effects of an Overloaded Generator?
Following are some of the common effects of an overloaded generator.
1. Reduced Lifespan :
Overloading a generator causes it to work harder than it’s designed to, which can lead to increased wear and tear on the engine, alternator, and other components. Over time, this can cause damage and lead to a shorter lifespan for the generator.
2. Damage to Connected Devices:
When a generator is overloaded, the voltage output can fluctuate and cause power surges that can damage the devices connected to it. This is especially true for sensitive electronics like computers, which may be permanently damaged by an electrical surge.
Overloading a generator can cause it to work harder than it’s designed to, leading to overheating. This can cause damage to the generator itself and may also pose a fire hazard.
4. Tripping Breaker:
The circuit breaker of the generator is designed to trip when the generator is overloaded, which will cut off the power supply. While this can prevent damage to the generator and connected devices, it can also be inconvenient if the power is needed for important tasks. You can read this article about generator transfer switches and circuit breakers.
5. Decreased Efficiency:
When a generator is overloaded, it’s not operating at its peak efficiency. This means that it will consume more fuel to produce the same amount of power, leading to increased operating costs over time.
Recommended Guide: How to Reduce Generator Fuel Consumption.
6. Safety Hazards:
Overloading a generator can create several electrical hazards, including fires, electric shock, and electrocution. These hazards can be potentially life-threatening and should be taken seriously. It’s important to always use a generator safely and within its rated capacity to avoid these hazards. Never use the generator inside the garage as well.
8 Ways to Fix an Overloaded Generator
An overloaded generator can occur when the electrical load connected to the generator exceeds its capacity. The result can be a tripped circuit breaker, damage to the generator or appliances, or even a fire. Therefore, it is essential to understand how to fix an overloaded generator.
Step 1: Restart The Generator:
The first thing you want to do it to restart the generator. 60% of the time, the problem solves by itself.
Step 2: Determine The Reason Behind Overloading:
The first step in fixing an overloaded generator is to determine the cause of the overload. I have mentioned many causes above.
Some of them are mighty low oil, faulty AVR, short circuit, or old generator.
If the overload is due to too many appliances or equipment connected to the generator, then you need to reduce the load by disconnecting some devices.
On the other hand, if the overload is due to a faulty appliance or equipment, then you need to disconnect the malfunctioning device.
If you are going to troubleshoot AVR, check the generator rope as well. Maybe it is broken or torn.
Step 3: Reset the Circuit Breaker:
If the overload caused the circuit breaker to trip, the next step is to reset the circuit breaker or install a new one which is a wiser option.
First, turn off all the devices connected to the generator. Locate the circuit breaker on the generator and reset it by switching it off and on.
Once the breaker is reset, turn on the devices one by one to determine the device that caused the overload. Disconnect the device and try to restart the generator.
Step 4: Adjust the Load:
If you determine that the overload is due to too many devices connected to the generator, you need to adjust the load.
The best way to avoid an overload is to calculate the total wattage of the devices you plan to connect to the generator before connecting them.
This way, you can avoid overloading the generator by ensuring that the total wattage of the connected devices does not exceed the generator’s capacity.
Step 5: Replace the Generator:
If you frequently experience an overload, it may be time to upgrade to a larger generator. It might not be satisfying your power requirement.
A larger generator can handle a higher electrical load and provide you with more backup power during an outage.
So instead of beating down on the old machine, purchase a new one for GOD sake!
Step 6: Replace Faulty Appliances:
Faulty appliances or equipment can cause an overload even when the total electrical load is within the generator’s capacity.
Replace any faulty appliances to prevent overloading the generator. Make sure to conduct routine inspections on all devices that will be connected to the generator.
Step 7: Regular Maintenance:
Regular maintenance can help ensure that the generator is running efficiently and can handle the electrical load without overloading.
Check the oil levels, air filters, and fuel lines regularly, and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Regular maintenance will ensure the generator is in good condition and can handle any electrical loads you may need in the future
Step 8: Contact a Professional:
If you have tried all the above steps, and your generator still experiences an overload, it may be time to contact a professional.
A professional mechanic can diagnose the issue and provide you with a solution. Do not attempt to fix the problem yourself as it may lead to further damage or injury.
Below is the video to reset the overloaded generator instantly.
How Can I Prevent A Generator From Overloading? – Pro Tips
In conclusion, fixing an overloaded generator requires a systematic approach that involves determining the cause of the overload, resetting the circuit breaker, adjusting the load, upgrading the generator, or contacting a professional.
Remember to always prioritize safety when handling electrical equipment and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Reset a Generator?
To reset a generator, turn off the engine and any connected loads. Allow the generator to cool down for a few minutes before turning off the fuel valve. Then, turn off the ignition switch and the circuit breaker.
After a few minutes, turn on the fuel valve, switch on the ignition, and reset the circuit breaker. Finally, start the engine and connect the loads.
Can You Damage a Generator By Overloading It?
Overloading a generator can cause serious damage to the generator’s engine, alternator, and other electrical components. It can also lead to overheating, electrical fires, and other safety hazards.
To prevent damage, always use the generator within its rated capacity and avoid overloading it.
What Happens If You Overload a Gas Generator?
Overloading a gas generator can cause several problems, including overheating, tripping circuit breakers, and damaging the generator’s electrical components.
It can also cause the engine to stall or shut down, leading to power outages. In severe cases, overloading can cause the generator to catch fire, posing a serious safety hazard.
How do I know if I am Overloading My Generator?
Signs of an overloaded generator include tripped circuit breakers, flickering or dimming lights, and unusual noises or vibrations.
You may also notice that the generator is struggling to power all the appliances or equipment connected to it.
Can I prevent Overloading By Adding a Power Strip or Extension Cord?
No, adding a power strip or extension cord will not prevent overloading and may actually increase the risk of overheating and electrical fires.
Power strips and extension cords are not designed to handle the high wattage and current produced by generators and can become a safety hazard.
What Are The Consequences of Overloading a Generator?
Overloading a generator can cause damage to the generator’s engine, alternator, and other electrical components.
It can also lead to overheating, tripped circuit breakers, and other safety hazards. In addition, overloading can cause the generator to shut down or stall, leading to power outages.
What Should I Do If My Generator Is Overloaded?
If you suspect that your generator is overloaded, turn off all appliances and equipment connected to it and let it cool down for at least 15 minutes.
Then, remove some of the loads and gradually reconnect them, starting with the essential appliances and equipment first.