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Self Sufficient: The Beginner's Generator Maintenance Guide

Honda EG4000 portable generator

The Beginner's Generator Maintenance Guide

Learn the do's and don'ts of owning a generator

Want to learn to do generator maintenance on your own, so you don't have to pay someone else to do it?

Learning generator maintenance is a great way to be more self-sufficient and save money. Maintaining your generator is important, so you can ensure you always have a power supply when you need it. However, you don't need to shell out for maintenance - you can easily learn to do it yourself.

We've put together this complete guide to DIY generator maintenance to make the job easier for you. Keep reading to learn what you need to know!

Why Buy a Generator?

If you haven't yet invested in a generator of your own, you might be wondering if they're worth it.

Every year, storms leave many people without power. In fact, power outages in the U.S. are actually becoming more common. Both short-term and long-term outages can cause plenty of problems for your household. In these cases, you'll need a power supply that's not linked to the grid.

Some people might use solar or wind power, which isn't linked to the grid. However, storms can still damage these systems and leave you without power for days or even weeks, until they can be repaired.

Generators, however, can be safely stored in a shed or the garage. If they break, it's easy to get the tools to fix them, and you can do it on your own with just a little knowledge. Generators are also one of the most inexpensive types of backup power.

To keep your home heated, your fridge cool, and your lights on no matter what, you'll need to have a generator on hand. And in order to make sure it keeps working properly, you'll need to know a little bit about generator maintenance.

Choosing a Generator

Generator maintenance is much easier when you choose the right generator for your needs. A high-quality generator will keep running for decades if you maintain it right, while a poorly made one will quickly break down in spite of your efforts.

Look at your monthly electric bills to decide how much power you're likely to need in the case of an outage. Then, choose a quality generator that will provide enough power for your home.

It's a good idea to look for a model with a warranty, so if something goes wrong that you can't fix on your own, you can get it repaired for free. It's also a good idea to get an inexpensive, small backup generator, just in case the main one fails. That way, you can keep important things powered while you work to repair the main generator.

Keeping Your Generator Safe

An important part of generator maintenance is keeping it safe from potential damage - and keeping it out of situations where it could become dangerous to use.

For example, never put your generator somewhere it could get wet. Water can damage a generator, and put you at risk of electrocution.

You'll also need to be sure to use it only in areas that have ventilation, otherwise, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

When you store your generator, you might keep in in the garage, but make sure to place it in a ventilated area before you start running it. For large generators, it's a good idea to have a specific enclosure so it can run while staying protected from the elements.

Make sure to also invest in a power cord that can reach from your generator to your home's power system.

Which Cable to Buy?

The cable you use to connect the generator to your home affects the amount of strain your generator's motor is under. With a light cable, the generator runs with increased resistance, with a heavy cable there's less resistance. Less resistance equals less heat, in the cable and the generator, and that equals a longer life for your generator.

Keep in mind that generators are loud, so you might want a long cable to keep it away from the house.

Generator Maintenance

In addition to running and storing the generator properly, there are some other best practices for generator maintenance.

1. Keep Extra Filters and Oil Handy

Make sure you have the right amount of oil and filters to keep you powered even if the power outage is long. Generators can't run for too long before they need an oil change. In fact, a new generator might only be able to run for 25 hours before you need to change the oil.

After the first change, you can change the oil after about 50 or 60 hours of run time. Make sure you have what you'll need to change the oil after a big storm when you might not be able to get to the store right away.

2. Run it Regularly

When you have a car, it's important to drive it periodically to keep the engine running smoothly. The same goes for a generator. Even if you're not using it often, you should still turn it on so the engine stays lubricated and ready to go.

Run it every three months for about half an hour each time, and you'll be good to go. Some generators have electric starters, occasional starting and running of the generator will keep your battery charged and ready to go when needed.

3. Gas Up

You should never run a generator until it's completely out of gas. Store some extra gas so you can fuel up even through a long power outage.

When the gas tank goes empty, not only does the generator quit giving power, but it also might stop working for good. Top off the fuel tank as often as possible, and have gas on hand before any big storm.

You should also avoid filling up with stale fuel. It's a good idea to empty the fuel tank occasionally by hand and refill with fresh fuel after the storm season ends.

Need Generator Maintenance Equipment?

With just a little bit of knowledge and a few tools, you'll keep your generator running for years to come.

We've got the tools you need - check out accessories like fuel tanks here.