Since moving to Mirboo North almost 10 years ago, one extremely annoying thing that happens around six times a year, every year, is the power being disconnected for ‘essential maintenance’ of lines. I have never been able to find out why this is required to be done so often, even after contacting AUSNET the electricity suppliers. You’d think that after 10 years things would have been fixed such they didn’t need constant attention. The power is always off from around 8:00am until around 5:00pm, with a reprieve arriving sometimes at 3:00pm. It’s incredibly frustrating because other areas of the town usually don’t have their electricity disrupted at the same time as they seem to be on a different line. We happen to be the unlucky ones so that when the power needs to be turned off along the Strzelecki Highway, we have the power turned off as well, even though we’re well away from the highway.
So for some time I’ve been considering getting a generator and connecting it to our home so that when the power goes off, all that needs to be done is to start the generator, throw the manual transfer switch and continue as before. With the major storms that hit in Jun 2021 throughout East Gippsland and losing power for a number of days, but not weeks as some suffered, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a generator. I wanted one that was able to run the entire home, and so ordered a 5.8KVA diesel generator. Notwithstanding the regular power outages that I mentioned, we also suffer from unplanned blackouts or brownouts due to lesser storms throughout the year. It’s one reason all of our electronic gear is connected to uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), as the brownouts have damaged some of our more sensitive equipment like one of our portable fridges, which now only runs on 12V. The joys of living in the bush, but still a 1000% better than living in Melbourne.
There was also another reason why I wanted a generator connected to the house. With the current push by our state government to go entirely renewable, solar and wind, we will without doubt start suffering far more power outages than we have to date. The state government is not only forcing the phasing out of coal fired power (Yallourn in 2028 and Loy Yang in 2047, if not earlier for both), but also natural gas by 2030. The latter will force all new developments to be powered solely by electricity, as is already the case in some councils in Melbourne. That means no gas cooking, no gas hot water and whatever else you may run on gas (I have not heard what’s to happen with bottled gas). So when our already ‘unreliable’ energy starts being hit by increasing demand that it can’t cope with, both summer and winter, blackouts will become the norm. And with smart meters installed throughout Victoria, it now becomes an easy task for the electricity suppliers to simply go about switching off power as they see fit, or as ordered by the government.
The first order of the day on receiving the generator was to give it a test run and, after a minor hiccup with the fuel line supplying the diesel from the tank to the injector pump, the generator started up perfectly. It’s an electric key start generator and you can get an automatic start option on power failure, but I’m kind of old school and want to check the generator before starting it and watch it to make sure everything is running OK before connecting it to the house. The second order of the day was to contact our local electrician and get the generator connected to the switch box with a manual transfer switch that allowed either mains or generator power to supply the house. This is really important as there are people apparently attempting dodgy setups that will inevitably end in tears if not worse (especially to those working on what they thought were not live wires). Why anyone would want to circumvent proper installation beggars belief, but apparently some don’t care.
The litmus test was how things would go when the manual transfer switch was thrown and whether everything worked. Thankfully everything worked fine and nothing appeared out of the normal. Connecting the generator to the power inlet to supply the house is no different to connecting a caravan to an external power supply at a caravan park, the plug is much the same. What I now needed was not just a concrete platform for the generator to rest on, but an enclosure to provide extra sound deadening and protect the generator from the elements. Rather than stuffing around and building an enclosure from raw materials, I just bought a garden shed from Amazon and lined it with sound deadening material. I also extended the exhaust up through the roof, as you couldn’t run the generator with the exhaust enclosed. This now made the generator very quiet indeed (silent it was not on its own). As well, it now made things look much better than a bare generator with a covering tarp. And yes, I intentionally set the roof the other way to ensure that rainwater flowed away from the wall and the veranda was added to stop rain from splashing dirt onto the shed.
Some may consider this an overreaction to recent weather events, but this is a long-term investment to protect us from known power outages, the often unexpected power outages and potentially the inevitable power outages that arise as we transition away from reliable coal power to these fabulous ‘free’ energy sources. And, I might add, once increasing numbers of electric vehicles start hitting the roads, we may well start to experience electricity droughts as the demand for electricity swamps the ability to provide. I also know that many other residents are installing backup generators in our township, so clearly I’m not alone when it comes to doubting the promised renewable energy nirvana that some see ahead of us. We’ll see what happens down the track, but I have a suspicion that the generator will be a worthwhile investment. And for once I must have jagged it as both the generator, shed and installation were at far lower prices than the links now show.