If you recently purchased a standby or portable generator for your home or business, congratulations! You have taken the first step to ensuring that you are never left without power in the event of an emergency.
Now that you have a backup power option, you should know the maintenance required to ensure your home and/or business is protected. Maintenance is very important in order to make sure your generator runs efficiently and reliably. The first maintenance step is to ensure that your generator is properly charged. This article will teach you how often you should charge your generator, and some other regular maintenance tips you should follow to keep it running smoothly.
Standby or Portable Generator with an Electric Start
Many portable generators in the market have an electric start, meaning they have a 12-volt battery that provides the initial fuel to get the generator running when the power goes out. In fact, almost all standby generators (aka, the permanent kinds, which turn on automatically when there is a power outage) have an electric start. These batteries must be fully charged to get the generator running. The good news is that they typically recharge themselves automatically while the generator is turned on. The less good news is that the battery can become drained if you go a long time without using your standby or portable generator, in which case you will have to recharge using an external power source.
So how often should you restart your generator to make sure the electric start works properly? You should definitely consult the manufacturer of your particular model for guidance. As a rule of thumb, however, you should aim to restart a standby generator at least every three months and let it run for twenty minutes.
If you have a portable generator, note that it will not always have an electric start. If it does, you can charge the battery by plugging it into a trickle charger until it is fully charged. Always make sure to charge the battery fully before storing your portable generator. You should turn on your portable generator at least once every thirty days and let it run for a few minutes; this will keep everything well-lubricated and running smoothly.
How Often Do You Need to Change the Fuel in Your Generator?
Generators typically run on gasoline, natural gas, diesel, or propane (there are also some newer, solar energy models in the market). How long you can go without adding fuel depends on how powerful your generator is. A standard 5,000-watt generator will usually use up about eighteen gallons of gas every twenty-four hours, depending on how many appliances you have running. A portable generator typically runs on gasoline and is less powerful than a permanent standby generator, meaning you need to change the fuel more often. Whereas a standby generator usually ranges from 5,000 to 20,000 watts, a portable generator usually provides between 3,000 and 8,500 watts of power. Note that some portable generators can run on propane or natural gas lines. It is also important to buy a model with a visible fuel gauge, so you know exactly how much fuel you have left when there is a power outage. Since portable generators have a lower wattage than standby models, you may need to keep extra fuel stored away. Make sure you follow proper safety precautions in storing it!
Other Maintenance Tips for Your Standby or Portable Generator
Beyond keeping your generator charged, you should also make sure to change the oil regularly. A small-engine portable generator will usually need an initial oil change after the first thirty hours of use. After that initial change, you should change the oil after 100 hours of use. Make sure you are using the right kind of oil for the type of generator you own; it should be listed in the manufacturer guidelines.
If you are storing your portable generator for a month or longer, make sure to empty out the fuel tank before you store it away. Add a quality gas stabilizer to the fuel in the tank, run the generator for fifteen minutes, let the engine cool, and then run it again until it runs out of fuel and turns off.
Make sure your air filter and spark plugs are clean. Generally, you should switch them out seasonally or after 200 hours of use.
These are the basics for proper generator charging and maintenance. Make sure to follow any additional instructions from your manufacturer!