If you’ve spent money on a portable gasoline generator the last thing you want is trouble starting it when a storm hits. Consumer Reports says there are simple steps to keep it up and running.
First, always have enough fuel. You’ll need more than just what the generator’s tank can hold. Figure on 12 to 20 gallons per day to keep it running year-round.
Add a fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel fresh. If your gas is old, your generator might be difficult to start, it won’t run properly, or it might not run at all. This also eliminates the need to drain your tank when you’re done using your generator.
To save fuel, run it for several hours to get your essentials running and then turn it off to save your fuel.
Next, pay attention to the oil. Many portable generators automatically shut off if the engine oil gets too low. So, check the oil before you even start your generator to avoid disruptions in your power or worse, damaging your generator. If the oil is low, add only enough to bring the level to the “full” mark.
If you want to go the extra mile check the filters. Change paper air filter if visibly dirty. For foam filters, clean in soapy water, let dry, and re-oil according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many generators have a filter cup at the fuel tank opening. If it’s dirty, tap out any solid bits and wipe with a clean rag.
Consumer Reports says your generator needs exercise. Once a month start it up and let it run for 20 minutes. This burns off moisture, lubricates the engine and recharges the battery.
And finally, always avoid carbon monoxide exposure. Never run your generator indoors -- not even in your garage or a doorway. Consumer Reports says to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, some generators feature a built-in sensor that triggers an automatic shutoff if CO gas builds up to dangerous levels in an enclosed space. And, some portable models are now deigned to emit less CO in the first place.
For safety, Consumer Reports recommends the following when operating a portable generator at home:
- Always place the generator at least 20 feet from your house.
- Make sure in advance that you have a generator power cord that’s long enough to reach.
- Direct the exhaust away from any occupied space so that carbon monoxide isn’t blown toward living spaces.