It’s reassuring to have a portable generator in your homestead before SHTF and the lights go out unexpectedly. But did you know that you need to do periodic checks on your generator to make sure it runs fine when you need it? (h/t to ModernSurvivalBlog.com.)
Reasons to run your generator before SHTF
As preppers know, it’s not enough to have a portable generator among your preps. Before SHTF, you need to get your generator out of your survival cache and start it up.
To maintain your generator, you must run it for several minutes every now and then. This ensures that:
- You keep the internal parts of the generator lubricated with oil.
- You keep the battery charged (if your generator runs on a battery).
- The generator’s carburetor isn’t gummed up.
- The generator is put under load to verify its output.
- You can verify that the generator works before you really need it.
How often and how long should you run your generator?
You need to run your generator every three months or so. Ideally, you should run it at least once a month. If you’re very busy and don’t have time to run it regularly, you should at least try to check it several times a year instead of just leaving it in storage.
When you’re ready to check your portable generator, let it run for at least 20 minutes. This should be long enough for it to reach operating temperature.
Once you’re done running your generator, shut off the fuel line first and let it run dry until the generator stalls. This consumes the fuel in the carburetor so it doesn’t sit there, which can gum up your generator. (Related: Alternative energy sources to consider when SHTF.)
Generator safety tips
When checking your generator, follow the tips below to avoid minor mishaps in your homestead.
General safety tips
- Check the oil level before you start it. If you run the generator when it’s low on oil, you can destroy the device. While some generators have an auto-shutoff feature, older models might not.
- Check the generator’s outlets for power while it’s running by plugging in an appliance.
- Shut off the fuel first to run the carburetor dry of gas.
Tips for preventing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning
- Don’t use generators indoors, in your home, garage, basements, crawl space, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
- Keep generators away from doors, windows and vents.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and review specifications and operating instructions.
- Install battery-operated or plug-in with battery backup CO alarms in your home, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Test the CO alarms regularly and replace their batteries as needed.
Tips for preventing electrical hazards
- Dry your hands before touching any part of the generator.
- Keep the generator dry and operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. You can also keep it under a tarp to keep it dry.
- Check the entire extension cord for any cuts or tears. Before plugging in your generator, check if the plug has all three prongs, particularly the grounding pin.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Buy cords with a 12-gauge wire rating and avoid 16-gauge extension cords.
- Avoid backfeeding or plugging a generator into a wall outlet. This may create an electrocution risk for utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer if the main circuit breaker to your house is left on.
- Check your generator’s specifications and limitations and don’t overload it beyond its rating. Remember that the power requirements of several appliances can quickly add up.
Tips for preventing fire hazards
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off then let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot generator parts may ignite.
- Store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled and purpose-built gasoline containers.
- Keep fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.
Before SHTF, run your portable generator regularly so it works properly when you need it most.