The Humming Sound of Winter

A winter power outage is no picnic – especially during a sub-zero arctic blackout. A standby generator is a great insurance policy against spending the night in a crowded hotel or, worse yet, a relative’s house. A generator is a handy item for many purposes. If you were one of the lucky ones as I was you were without power after the storm hit the Northeast beginning of February. So the purpose of my generator at that moment is providing power for my home. Lucky we have a natural gas generator hooked up to our house so with our 6 month old we are able to continue life as “normal” as you can with power. However as my husband would say your generator does need regular maintenance checks, to ensure that when you do actually need it, it will function as required. Here are some maintenance checks you should do to make sure your generator will work when you need it the most.

  1. Service the generator twice yearly.
    1. Even if you’re not using the generator, it needs to be serviced. Select dates that fall outside possible severe weather such as heat spells, cold snaps, windy and stormy periods, etc. Service your generators in the spring and fall times to keep it on a regular schedule. If you keep pushing off the maintenance, chances are your generator will not work when the time comes. (As this just happened to a friend of ours that hadn’t maintenance their generator for a year and stopped working due to having too much oil and old oil with that.) An average service takes about an hour to complete, depending on what you find.
    2. Keep a maintenance book on the dates you had it serviced
  2. Check overall condition of the generator
    1. Look for corroded elements, loose wires, stuck buttons, etc. Check for any loose connections and frayed wiring. Make sure the area around the generator is clean, and if the generator has sucked in any dirt or leaves make sure to clean out the area. Debris getting into an alternator is the #1 way of destroying a perfectly good generator!
  3. Check the distilled water in the battery; top up if needed
    1. Also check the battery’s voltage. It is generally best to replace your battery every 2-3 years.
  4. Change the lubricant oil and filters (super, by-pass, etc.)
    1. Following the manufacturer’s instructions. This doesn’t need to be done each 6 months; rather this is an annual task whether or not the generator has been operated. Record the yearly change in the record book so that you are reminded each time when it is due. Make sure that the oil level is adequate and top up if needed. Air cooled machines should have their oil replaced every 30-40 hours of run time. Liquid cooled machines should have their oil replaced every 100 hours of run time. MAKE SURE TO USE SYNTHETIC OIL IN AIR COOLED MACHINES!.
  5. Clean the spark plugs.
    1. For the dollar fifty price tag of a spark plug, it is generally best to just replace the spark plugs annually.
  6. Check the bolts.
    1. Note that bolts on the generator will tend to loosen after reasonable usage; this is usual wear and tear caused by the vibrations. Check the gasket head and piston for solid condition; replace if worn or cracked.
  7. Check the Fuel
    1. Gasoline that is simply sitting in the generator loses its effectiveness after half a year when not used. You have several alternatives here:
      1. Bleed the fuel and replace it; dispose of properly
      2. Keep regularly used fuel for general farm/household use in fuel suitable containers and top up when needed
      3. Add fuel stabilizer available from gas stations or hardware stores; follow manufacturer’s instructions
      4. If you are using a generator as a home standby solution, you should really consider a natural gas or liquid propane generator. These generators do not have any fuel maintenance, other than to make sure your LP tank has fuel in it!

Lastly, I want to leave you with the following:

  • Always test a generator in a well-ventilated area! Exhaust fumes that build up contain carbon monoxide, which is colorless and odorless and can kill you.
  • Do not operate a generator in damp conditions unless you have no alternative; even then, try to cover it with anything possible.
  • A permanently installed home generator system is best for areas where there are constantly damp conditions – the enclosures are much more suitable for the environment, and it is much safer!

So I leave you with warm thoughts of summer and hoping you all stay warm!!

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