An emergency generator is a great option to have when the power goes out. It can keep the lights on, vital equipment operating, and the fridge running. It can even be a lifesaver, especially in remote areas where it may take days to restore power.
Here are some tips to help ensure it’s ready when you need it.
Have Plenty of Fuel and Accessories on Hand
Most emergency generators are gasoline powered, so the first thing you need is…gas. An empty can won’t do you much good. But there are some other things you’ll want to have, especially in extended use.
Generators put a lot of wear and tear on engine oil. You’ll probably need to change it after the first 25 hours and every 50-60 hours thereafter. Keep enough oil and filters around to last at least a few days along with the tools you’ll need and a way to dispose of the used oil.
A word to the wise: some generators can be damaged by running out of gas. They continue generating power as they come to a stop, and if there’s anything drawing current from them, the generator coils can demagnetize, rendering them useless and racking up a repair bill to have them remagnetized. Always remove any electrical load before shutting the generator down.
Keep Fuel Fresh and the Generator Clean
Stale fuel causes more starting problems than anything else. Fuel stabilizers can help, but don’t last indefinitely. At the end of storm season or for any prolonged period of disuse, empty the fuel tank and run the carburetor dry, following manufacturer’s instructions. Refill with fresh gas when next season arrives. It ensures easy staring and keeps the fuel system from gumming up. If it’s going to be used over a long period of time, start it and run for about 15-20 minutes every few months per your manufacturer’s instructions. Good advice for lawnmowers, too.
Size Your Generator Properly
Generators have two power ratings: one for sustained load, and one for peak load. The sustained load is how much stuff it will run in continuous operation. It’s the one you want to pay attention to. The peak or “starting” load simply tells how much power it can supply in short bursts to start things like refrigerator or furnace motors, not how much it can output over long periods. Pushing a generator beyond its “continuous” or “operating” load for more than a few seconds can cause it to burn out—figuratively and literally.
Keep Your Generator Safe and Secure – and Friendly
Needless to say (we hope), never run a gasoline-powered generator indoors or in an attached garage or porch. It puts out deadly carbon monoxide fumes just like a car.
Of course placing a generator outdoors has its own risks. First, you can get shocked if it’s not properly grounded, so sink a grounding rod and connect it to the generator.
Second, you can wake up cold one morning and find it gone. You can solve both issues by combining your ground with theft-prevention. It can be as simple as multiple ground anchors with hardened steel chains and heavy-duty padlocks, or as elaborate as a concrete slab with safety and security measures built in. You can even build an enclosure for it to keep the weather away.
When placing a generator outdoors, consider both you and your neighbors. They don’t want to listen to its racket any more than you do. And only use heavy-duty extension cords of 100 feet or less.
Extra Safety Tips
Store and Use Gasoline Safely
Fire codes usually restrict the amount of gasoline that can be stored in a house or attached garage—typically 10 gallons or less. While that may be enough to run the generator quite a while, it won’t do much good if it’s on the floor or has evaporated.
Instead of one big can that can weigh 60 or more pounds, store your fuel in smaller high-quality 5-gallon or smaller steel cans with easy-to-use trigger spouts to eliminate spills and over-filling.
Generator fuel tanks are always above the engine, so spilling onto a hot motor can be disastrous. Let the engine cool down for 15 minutes before refilling and don’t overfill. And keep a wearable LED headlamp handy in case you need to fuel up in the dark.
NEVER Back-feed Power
Trying to feed household circuits by running generator power into outlets is a recipe for disaster. Plus it’s illegal. Back-feeding power causes fires, shocks, and kills people every year, including family, neighbors, and electrical workers. You could even be charged with a crime.
The generator has multiple outlets for a reason. Run heavy-duty extension cords to different locations or have a licensed electrician install a transfer switch to safely feed power to your house.
By following these tips, you can be confident that your gas-powered generator will be safe and ready the next time you need it.
If you have any problems or concerns about your generator or other electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. Learn more about the benefits of having a backup generator for your home here!