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Articles Generators Informational Topics

What Happens If You Overload A Generator: Answer And Process

The generator is your best friend during unexpected power outages. But when not handled properly, it can become your worst enemy, causing hazardous events.

All machines have their precise wattage capacity. Generators have it too.

If they’re operated outside their wattage capacity, it’s overloaded. The result is blowing up the machine or catching up fire.

When not used properly, generators provide considerable risks, and if you are using a generator in your home, you might want to be a bit more careful.

Although, many generators have overload protection. So, those generators would work fine if they were overloaded. 

What Happens If You Overload A Generator

What happens if your generator overloads?

But if a generator with no overload protection is overloaded, it can cause short-circuit, tripping of electricity, power outages, and blasting of the generator.

Is this dangerous, and how should you prepare? recommended to buy a generator with such features if you 


What Happens If You Overload A Generator?

Using generators for convenience seems an easy thing.

But if proper maintenance and work aren’t done for the generator and overload while using heavy, more energy-consuming devices leads to drastic problems.

Here we have mentioned the causes and situations that can occur if a generator is overloaded.

So let us have a look at them one by one and get to know about precautions to avoid this situation.

What Causes Overloading Or Overload Of The Generator?

Overloading means putting an excessive load on your machine.  Every machine is designed to run at a constant speed in a specific wattage range.  So does the generator.

Overloading is caused by running too many appliances simultaneously, which takes a toll on your generator’s engine. Since running requires additional power, this could damage your generator and connected devices.

The power capacity is mentioned on the nameplate and in the user’s manual of the generator.

Running a machine with 100kW on a normal generator without overload protection will likely have serious consequences.

Is the Overloading Of The Generator Dangerous?

Overloaded generators will lead to many hazardous effects for you.

For instance, in some cases, it can cause problems like a power outage or permanent blowing up of your electrical system.

However, the damage caused by overloading a machine depends on the nature of the load and the type of appliance connected.

So, it is important to monitor the devices connected to your generator.

There should be measures to prevent any exceed in the maximum output voltage. Or problems might occur.

So one might think about what consequences you should expect when you overload any machinery like a generator.

It might trigger problems such as short circuits, circuit breakouts, overheating, intermittent power, failures, and permanent engine damage.

Furthermore, with people around, this might have more consequences of catching fire, accumulating fumes in the house, and complete damage to the electricity system of the house.

Some generators are equipped with circuit breakers to protect the engine from overloading.

When it happens, the circuit breaker will cut off the electric supply from the generator and any connected appliances to defend it.

It is recommended to buy a generator with such features if you plan to have one for your home.

Signs Of Generator Overload

Overload affects both power output and supply.

The problem with overloading is that it may cause serious damage to your generator and appliances.

The generator may run after being overloaded, but after some time, the engine starts to damage.

After it’s damaged permanently, you will need to repair it.

So, What Happens If You Overload A Generator? Let us find out.

Tripping Breaker:

The very basic and first sign of overloading a generator or a modern generator is breaker tripping. Most generators coming these days are equipped with circuit breakers that will trip to prevent any damage to the unit in case of overloading or overheating. There may be more than one reason for breaker tripping and if you see your generator circuit breaker pop out, your first attempt at troubleshooting should be to check out the load applied to the generator. You can do so by calculating the wattage of your connected devices with the generator.


Knowing if your generator is overloading is obvious, so watch out for the temperature rise if you have connected high-voltage appliances.

Overheating is the basic symptom of overloading. Putting any extra load or wattage to your generator beyond its running wattage will cause excessive heat production that is not fended off by the cooling fans of the generator. If you feel your generator overheating, you should immediately look for the temperature rise and ensures that you have not connected high-voltage appliances.

Modern generators have overload protection, so they would work fine even if overloaded as extra load will not be considered or the breaker will trip to stop the power supply.

Unstable Power Output:

The problem with overloading is that it may cause serious damage to your appliances and electricity system.

Overloading in the generator will intermittently cause power outputs. This will damage your devices and put them on fire.

Power Shut Off:

This system is controlled by circuit breakers with electronic tripping devices that will detect any exceed in wattage capacity and cause a circuit break.

This feature is known as overload protection, which is usually equipped in modern generators.

Eventually, it will cut off electricity from the generator and all the connected appliances. 

After 15 to 30 minutes, your generator will start, and in the meantime, you must remove all the high-voltage devices.

  1. Soot In Exhaust:

If you have added extra load to your generator and then its running wattage then you will see that the exhaust coming out from your generator exhaust pipe will have an increased amount of soot in it. This may be due to overheating as the cooling system will be busy removing extra heat and exhaust conditions will be overlooked.

The primary reason for this soot is poor filtering or there may be a clog in the exhaust pipe. You should not confuse the dark smoke of the exhaust with soot as carbon particles in the generator exhaust will make it dark but the leftover soot represents the underlying defect in the generator that may potentially be due to overloading.

Generator Overload Troubleshooting Method

There are multiple LED indicators mounted on the generator display to inform the user about the condition of the power supply and generator functioning overall. The green light is symbolic of normal functioning and power supply to the appliances while the Red LED light indicates the power supply has been cut off (due to breaker tripping) while the generator’s engine is running. In some generators, there is an additional indicator light that will momentarily blink to indicate overload. This light may be ON if too much surge is supplied to a heavy-duty appliance.

But if the surge persists or the overloading condition occurs the generator will go into overloading mode and if you have overloading protection then your circuit breaker will be tripped. Under this condition, you can follow the given troubleshooting steps to recover the power supply.

  • Power of the electric supply.
  • Power OFF the generator engine.
  • Remove all electrical appliances connected to a generator.
  • Remove all the devices connected directly to the generator (batteries etc.).
  • Check out the exhaust pipe or cooling inlet to find any blockage or clogging.
  • Similarly, check the control unit for any possible blockages.
  • Remove any clogging or blockage, if found.
  • Restart the engine.
  • Power ON the generator.
  • Flip circuit breakers.
  • Connect electrical appliances under the rated wattage.

Note: Don’t overload again

Tips To Avoid Overloading The Generator

Now that you have experienced overloading once, you would be aware of the hassle to have power supplied again to your appliances under outages. To avoid this hassle, it is wiser to prevent overloading than to repeat the troubleshooting steps or encounter any damage to the electrical appliance or the generator itself. You can ensure the safety of both your generator and the appliances connected to it by following some very simple safety tips as given below.

  • Do not add too many appliances to your generator.
  • Always check the wattage of your connected appliances and ensure that the total wattage is under the rated wattage of your generator.
  • Match the generator load and power demand using the Start and Stop controls to have a stable power supply.
  • Use surge protectors or spike protection strips to regulate voltage drops and spikes for preventing any possible damage to your connected devices.
  • Try to buy a generator slightly higher than your wattage requirement or your power needs.
  • When calculating the wattage using the surge wattage to ensure the normal start of the device.
  • Buy a generator with overloading protection. If possible go with a unit that has multiple protective layers such as:
    • Overloading protection
    • Over current protection
    • High voltage protection
    • Low voltage protection
    • Overheating protection

There are more than 10 protective or safety layers added in modern generators and you should try to buy the one with maximum safety measures. But if not affordable you should at least try to go with the above five safety features as a mandatory requirement.

How To Fix An Overloaded Generator – Quick Solution To Overloading:

It’s fairly typical to overload the generator with additional appliances.

It is written in bold letters, but still, there are cases of generators blowing up or catching fire due to overloading.

If you want to protect your generator from overloading, it’s best to choose your machine wisely.

Make sure you know how your appliance or generator needs to be used.

To determine the wattage capacity of your generator and to establish a list of your top electrical needs, it is critical to study the manual.

I recommend you buy a modern generator with overload protection so they work fine if they are overloaded and you can be stress-free of this problem.

Also, consider buying the right generator first even if it costs you more than a shabby one.

It is better to spend money once on a quality product than on repairs and maintenance every day.

1.   What does overload mean on a generator?

The generator can power a certain amount of load that is under the specified wattage for instance the 2000 watts rated wattage. Any extra load or wattage added to the generator will be considered an overload and will cause several problems to the generator and power supply. So, simply the overload means exceeding the running wattage of the generator by adding too many electrical appliances.

2.   What happens if you overload a generator?

Overloading a generator will start the problems with the inception of breaker tripping as the overloading protection. If your circuit breaker is not tripped then the overload will lead to overheating and power dropping. You will experience an unstable power supply and if the situation persists then the generator unit will be dead in a while.

3.   What happens if you overload a gas generator?

When a gas generator is overloaded the preliminary problem that you will face will be damage to your electrical appliances which will likely be caused by the intermittent power supply following the power surges and voltage spikes that are detrimental to the appliances. Then you will see the internal damage to the generator unit that will burn out due to excessive heat and will be dead ultimately.

4.   What happens if you overload a portable generator?

Portable generators are equipped with the latest technologies and are thus far smarter and safer than the conventional generators produced decades ago. If you overload a portable generator the circuit breaker will pop out and the power supply will be blocked preventing any damage to the connected electrical appliances or the generator itself. In some very unfortunate cases when the circuit breaker is malfunctioning then a portable generator will face overheating problems or die after severe overloading.


Now you know what happens when you overload a generator. As I said before, the overloading of a generator, in general, is hazardous for your generator and the people living in the vicinity where the generator is operating. To prevent this, always read the user’s manual regarding the wattage capacity and range. You can also buy a modern generator equipped with overloading protection.

See More:

How Long Should I Run My Generator For Maintenance
How To Make A 30 Amp Generator Extension Cord

Video Help:

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About the author

Anthony Miller

Hello Guys! I am Anthony Miller, a high dynamo, communicative author, and editor of the Renewable Cop, always providing amazing, engaging, informative, unique, highly researched, and verified content based on all sorts of generators. Read more.

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