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Is Your Standby Generator Ready for Winter?

Snow and ice storms that result in electricity loss are often par for the course of the winter season. Is your generator up to the task? Far from a stow-and-go appliance, generators should be properly maintained and carefully inspected prior to use during a winter outage.

Like You, Your Generator Has a Hard Time Getting Going in Cold Weather

Though modern engines have improved considerably in recent decades, engines still don’t start easily when it’s cold - and your generator is no exception. Oil is thicker in colder environments, and fuel doesn’t burn as efficiently, making it more difficult to get your generator up-and-running when you need it most. Luckily, with just a bit of regular, pre-season maintenance and attention, you can make sure your generator won’t leave you out-cold and in-the-dark during wintry weather extremes.

Tips for Getting Your Generator Winter Ready:
  1. If this is Your Maiden Voyage, Get Help.
    Retail chain/hardware store operators are encouraging homeowners who purchase a generator to "find an electrician" for safety – whether connecting a standby or portable system.
  2. Do Your Homework.
    Familiarize yourself with the ins-and-outs of generator operation before an outage, including how you will find your way to (and setup) the generator safely in the dark. A practice run is also recommended so you can see exactly what your generator will be able to power during an emergency.
  3. Calculate Fuel Needs Carefully.
    During an emergency, fuel may be in short supply – and hard to access. You’ll need more than a small container to get you by. It takes 12-20 gallons/day for 24/7 operation. Your generator’s wattage guide can help you more closely determine fuel needs. Be certain to add fuel stabilizer to any fuel that will sit unused over 30 days. Follow stabilizer instructions carefully. Old, stale gas won’t run and could damage your generator. Properly stored with stabilizer, however, fuel will stay fresh up to 1-year. Bonus: When used in the generator, fuel stabilizer also eliminates the need to drain the tank when you’re done.
  4. Check (and Change) the Oil on Your Generator Regularly.
    Oil is essential to the efficiency and lifespan of your generator. Check oil levels whenever you add fuel, adding enough to maintain oil to the ‘FULL mark (but no more). Change the oil after the first 5 hours of initial use, and every 1,000 hours thereafter, checking manufacturer instructions carefully for the exact type of oil your generator requires. Be sure to keep a few extra quarts on hand for emergencies.
  5. Inspect Your Generator Regularly. 
    Change serviceable parts such as the air filter, fuel filter and spark plug as recommended in manufacturer’s instructions, staying on top of necessary maintenance for performance and safety. Throughout the winter season, run your generator at least once monthly, for around 20 minutes, to burn off moisture, lubricate parts, and recharge the battery. This simple maintenance will ensure it’s up-to-the-task when you need it.
  6. Don’t Skip the Transfer Switch.
    It’s the holidays. Keep your neighbors and electrical workers safe with a transfer switch. A simple, manual transfer switch on portable generators isolates generator power from outside utility lines. This keeps your generator and home wiring/appliances from becoming overloaded, as well as prevents power backfeeding that can lead to fatal shocks to utility line and others down the grid. It also eliminates the need for multiple extension cords.
  7. Plan for Smart, Safe Operation.
    Decide ahead where you’ll locate the generator for use. Though you can and should store it under cover, NEVER run a generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, porch, or shed. A fan or open door/window is not enough to protect you against deadly levels of colorless, odorless carbon monoxide which can quickly buildup and linger. Operate your generator outside only, far from doors, windows, vents and openings where CO could penetrate occupied spaces.

Are you ready for the worries of winter weather? Set yourself up for safety and success with the help of Mr. Electric today.

Need a service professional? Visit GetNeighborly.com to find the solution to your home repair needs. 

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.