Electrical EquipmentElectricity 101General Interest

Effective Generator Maintenance Tips

It’s important to be aware of some basic generator maintenance tips.

A generator is a great device to own as it can really help out in the event of a power outage. However, it’s easy to forget you own one until you actually need it. Skimping on maintenance could be an unfortunate oversight that can result in electrical failures when you need it to. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these maintenance tips and put them into practice on a regular basis.

Generator Maintenance Tips: Pay Attention to Wattage

generator maintenanceOne of the most important generator maintenance tips is to make sure that it is running at the proper wattage. Every generator lists two capacity ratings. One is ‘rated’ or ‘continuous’ watts. This refers to the maximum power it will put out on an extended basis and that’s the rating you should be paying attention before purchasing.

The other capacity rating is the ‘maximum’ or ‘starting’ rating which refers to how much extra power the generator can put out for a few seconds when it starts up. It can not run at this temperature for long hours as it will get severely damaged.

Stock Up on Oil and Filters

When your generator really needs to run, it will go through engine oil quickly. It is a good idea to stock up on oil and filters so you are prepared in the event of a long power outage. The first oil change will typically be necessary after 25 hours. Old oil will need to be dumped and replaced with new oil every 50 to 60 hours. You should have enough oil and filters to last for a few days through a power outage.

Cool Down Before Refilling

Generator fuel tanks are located on the top of the engine. This allows gravity to work while the tank feeds the gas into the carburetor. Unfortunately, that can prove dangerous if gas is spilled when refueling a hot generator. Gas on a hot engine can easily cause fire.

It generally takes about 15 minutes for the generator to cool down. Being without power for this amount of time may be an inconvenience, but avoiding disaster makes it worth the wait. When filling, it’s a good idea to strap on an LED head lamp so you can see what you’re doing and avoid spillage. Also, pour slowly and avoid filling the tank to the brim.

Avoid Running Out of Gas

Another important generator maintenance tip is to make sure you have an adequate amount of gas. Some models, especially those that are poorly made using mediocre parts, get easily damaged if they run out of gas. This is because they keep putting out power, even if they no longer have gas to make them run. This will cause the electrical load in your house to drain the magnetic field from the generator coils. Thus, when restarting, you will find it is unable to generate power. This problem can be fixed by a repair shop by reenergizing the coils. Sadly, taking your generator to a repair shop may not be a viable option during a power outage.

Avoid Using Old Fuel

It is not a good idea to run a generator on old fuel as it can lead to starting problems. Although these can be reduced by adding fuel stabilizer to the gas to minimize breakdown, varnish and gum build-up, there is no guarantee they will be eliminated.

It’s a good idea to empty the fuel tank and carburetor once storm season has passed. If your carburetor has a drain, wait for the engine to cool before draining. If there is no drain, empty the tank and run the generator until it’s out of gas. Make sure to use fresh, stabilized gas. Empty the tank with a hand pump before running the carburetor dry. Then reload with fresh gas the next time you run the generator.

Avoid Backfeeding

Backfeeding occurs when electrical energy flows in the reverse direction from its normal flow. One example is when electrical power is injected in the local power grid from a source other than a utility company. On the other hand, this method of obtaining power is extremely dangerous and  causes  death each year. If you really want to avoid running extension cords around your house, purchase a transfer switch and then have it professionally installed. This can be expensive, but it’s the only safe alternative to backfeeding.

Store Gasoline Safely

One of the most important generator maintenance tips is to store gasoline safety. Local residential fire codes often limit the amount of gasoline you can store at your residence. In order to cut down on refills, many people buy one large gas can to store their gasoline. However, they don’t anticipate the fact that they will never be able to pour the gasoline from such a large container without spilling some. It is a better idea to buy two 5-gallon cans with a trigger control valve as it reduces the chance of spillage.

Store Your Generator Safely

Perhaps the only worse thing than finding out your generator is not working when you most need it is finding out it’s not there at all. Generators are expensive and useful items and it’s not uncommon for them to get stolen. The best way to safely store it is to dig a hole, and sink a grounding rod and eye bolt in concrete. Encase the whole thing in 4 inch ABS or PVC drainpipe with a screw-on cleanout fitting. Spray paint the lid green so it camouflages with your lawn.

Use a Heavy Duty Cord

Make sure to invest in heavy extension cords so that you can put some distance between yourself and your noisy generator. If this is the case, use 12 gauge cords and don’t run them more than 100 ft. out. A lighter cord and longer distance will result in a voltage drop that can cause appliance motor burnout.

These are some important generator maintenance tips you may want to follow. Generators are extremely useful in a power outage, but the last thing you need is for them not to be working when you need them most. Additionally, dangerous situations can also occur when these are being used, especially during a raging storm. Be secured when using your generator to help you get the most out of your purchase.

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