Like many other pieces of emergency equipment, we don’t think about maintaining a portable back-up generator until the need for it arises. It’s like with emergency flashlights that we constantly forget to change the batteries in – except that a generator has the ability to power your entire house. As winter storms approach, with possible heavy icing and winds that can topple trees and power lines, now is the time to insure that your portable generator is ready to keep you warm and illuminated in the case of a power outage.
Make sure your generator fuel is fresh and stable
As something that doesn’t get much in the way of usage, the fuel in a generator is often forgotten about. If you think you’ll be stowing your generator for months without running it, make sure to empty the fuel tank and keep fuel on hand. An alternative to draining it is to add some fuel stabilizer to the existing fuel and run the generator, allowing the stabilizer to circulate. Either way, make sure to fill up some fuel cans if a storm is on the way so that you can keep the generator going through the power outage. Also make sure to store them safely, because unsafe storage can be much worse than not having power.
Change your generator oil, and keep extra on hand
In a generator, the oil is just as important as the fuel. The oil keeps the parts moving smoothly, which is very important for a piece of machinery that may need to be run for hours or even days at a time. Make sure the oil is clean and viscous, with little to no sediment. Also make sure to keep a few extra quarts on hand, as some generators will automatically shut off if they detect low oil. This is great in terms of saving the engine, but will cause the loss of power when it may be needed.
Check replaceable parts
Just like any other small engine, the spark plugs, fuel and air filters, and carburetor all need to be kept clear of build-up and in good working order. Keeping extra spark plugs around is a good idea, in case they would stop sparking in an emergency. The filters should be looked at seasonally, while the carburetor should be cleaned only when necessary, as it can require a thorough tear-down for cleaning. Also, keep some extra o-rings and repair parts around just in case you would need to make a quick repair to the generator.
Remember to use your generator safely and make sure that there is proper ventilation. Generators should always be run in an area independent of the main living space to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, as there are cases every year of carbon monoxide poisoning and fatalities from running generators in enclosed spaces. Be safe, and keep the power on.