Generator Maintenance and Storage
Dos and Don’ts of Generators
In terms of safety, the most basic rule is never to run generators indoors. Let’s repeat: never run generators indoors. They must be placed outside and away from structures to prevent carbon monoxide from penetrating indoors, even on a construction site. Carbon monoxide can become deadly very quickly.
Good maintenance and safety practices for generators include using fresh fuel, checking the oil regularly, cleaning after use, and reading your owner’s manual. It is ok to plug tools and equipment directly into the generator, but do not plug frayed extension cords into it and never plug a generator into a wall socket. It can cause electrocution. The only way to connect a generator to home power is through a double pole, double throw switch, which should be configured by a certified electrician. Ensure proper grounding by attaching a ground wire to the generator.
Do not add gasoline to the generator while it is running. It should be shut off and cool before refilling. Avoid running generators in bad weather like rain or snow. You could face electrocution operating the generator with wet hands. If you need to operate the unit in inclement weather, place it under an overhang or some type of shelter (again, not indoors).
When the generator is running, keep flammable materials away from it. Generators can really heat up, so it is also important to let them cool down before touching the muffler or other engine parts. Let it cool down before storing indoors. Since it is fueled by gasoline, never smoke nearby or use near an open flame. When refueling, ensure the engine is cooled down.
Proper Generator Maintenance
To extend your generator’s life and usefulness, perform regular inspections and keep on top of maintenance. Always consult your owner’s manual, but a good rule of thumb is to change the oil every 100 hours of use. However, if your jobsite is dusty or the generator gets a lot of use, it may be necessary to check and change the oil more often. It’s a good practice to do a quick check on the oil level before each start up. If that is not feasible, be sure to check it regularly. And just like your car, check the oil filter to see if it needs replacing.
Speaking of filters, the air filter should also get a once over. While air filters keep small particles out of the engine, they can get clogged over time. A dirty air filter forces the generator to work harder and use more fuel. Keeping it clean and free of debris protects your investment. Air filters will also need to be switched out annually.
When possible, use fresh gasoline. Ensure all the guards, shield, and other safety mechanisms are in good working order. It is a good idea to start and let the generator run at least monthly when it is not being used every day.
Treat your generator motor like any motor and inspect the spark plugs, hoses, the rotor and stator, battery, and alternator annually. Carbon can build up on spark plugs. Dirty spark plugs can be cleaned with a wire brush or plug cleaner. It’s not a bad idea to check the plug gap once they’re clean (check your manual for gap specs). When the build-up is too much, replace with new spark plugs. Be sure to have the generator switched off and cooled down before conducting any maintenance or cleaning.
Prepare for Storage
You may use your generator on a regular basis, but when it comes time to put it away for a while, storing it properly is a good habit. Drain the generator of fuel if you plan on storing it for six months or more. You can also add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Fuel stabilizers prevent the fuel from deteriorating and help keep gas fresh and effective for up to several years of storage.
Elevating the generator in storage will keep it off the floor and away from pests. When it is time to put it away, be sure to clean it properly and put a cover over it if it came with one. Even if your generator never gets a day off, it should still be stored safely at the end of the shift. Keep it out of the elements, cover it, and clean it regularly. Proper maintenance will prolong its life and usefulness around the jobsite.