Generator Maintenance Tips

Tip 1: Don’t get burned by wattage ratings

Generator Maintenance Tips

Watts are not all equal

Ignore the higher rating and select a generator based on its “rated,” “running” or “continuous” watts.

Every generator lists two capacity ratings. The first is “rated” or “continuous” watts. That’s the maximum power the generator will put out on an extended basis. And it’s the only rating you should rely on when buying a generator. The higher “maximum” or “starting” rating refers to how much extra power the generator can put out for a few seconds when an electric motor—like the one in your fridge or furnace—starts up. If you buy a generator based on the higher rating and think you can run it at that level, think again. It will work for a little while. But by the end of the day, your new generator will be a molten mass of yard art, and you’ll be out shopping for a replacement.

Tip 2: Stock up on oil and filters

Generator Maintenance Tips

Keep your generator humming

Pumping out watts is hard on engine oil, and oil-change intervals are short. Store up enough oil and filters to get you through a long power outage.

Most new generators need their first oil change after just 25 hours. Beyond that, you’ll have to dump the old stuff and refill every 50 or 60 hours. So you need to store up enough oil and factory filters to last a few days (at least!). Running around town searching for the right oil and filter is the last thing you want to be doing right after a big storm.

Tip 3: Chill out before you refill

Generator Maintenance Tips

A headlight helps for tank filling

After the engine cools, strap on an LED head lamp so you can actually see what you’re doing. Pour slowly and avoid filling the tank to the brim.

Generator fuel tanks are always on top of the engine so they can “gravity-feed” gas to the carburetor. But that setup can quickly turn into a disaster if you spill gas when refueling a hot generator. Think about it—spilled gas on a hot engine, and you’re standing there holding a gas can. Talk about an inferno! It’s no wonder generators (and owners) go up in flames every year from that mistake. You can survive without power for a measly 15 minutes, so let the engine cool before you pour. Spilling is especially likely if you refill at night without a flashlight.

Tip 4: Running out of gas can cost you

Some generators, especially low-cost models, can be damaged by running out of gas. They keep putting out power while coming to a stop, and the electrical load in your house drains the magnetic field from the generator coils. When you restart, the generator will run fine, but it won’t generate power. You’ll have to haul it into a repair shop, where you’ll pay about $40 to reenergize the generator coils. So keep the tank filled and always remove the electrical load before you shut down.

Tip 5: Old fuel is your worst enemy

Generator Maintenance Tips

Out with the old

Empty the tank with a hand pump before running the carburetor dry. Reload with fresh gas next time you run the generator.

Stale fuel is the No. 1 cause of generator starting problems. Manufacturers advise adding fuel stabilizer to the gas to minimize fuel breakdown, varnish and gum buildup. But it’s no guarantee against problems. Repair shops recommend emptying the fuel tank and the carburetor once you’re past storm season. If your carburetor has a drain, wait for the engine to cool before draining. If not, empty the tank and then run the generator until it’s out of gas. Always use fresh, stabilized gas in your generator.

Tip 6: Backfeeding kills

Generator Maintenance Tips

Don’t backfeed! It’s just plain dangerous

Forget about using a double-ended cord to run power backward into a receptacle. Instead, run separate extension cords or install a transfer switch.

The Internet is full of articles explaining how to “backfeed” power into your home’s wiring system with a “dual male-ended” extension cord. Some of our Field Editors have even admitted trying it (we’ll reprimand them). But backfeeding is illegal—and for good reason. It can (and does) kill family members, neighbors and power company linemen every year. In other words, it’s a terrible idea. If you really want to avoid running extension cords around your house, pony up for a transfer switch ($300). Then pay an electrician about $1,000 to install it. That’s the only safe alternative to multiple extension cords. Period.

Tip 7: Store gasoline safely

Generator Maintenance Tips

A better gas can means less spillage

The trigger valve on this gas can gives you total control over the fill. There’s a separate refill opening so you never have to remove the spout.

Most local residential fire codes limit how much gasoline you can store in your home or attached garage (usually 10 gallons or less). So you may be tempted to buy one large gas can to cut down on refill runs. Don’t. There’s no way you can pour 60 lbs. of gas without spilling. Plus, most generator tanks don’t hold that much, so you increase your chances of overfilling. Instead, buy two high-quality 5-gallon cans. While you’re at it, consider spending more for a high-quality steel gas can with a trigger control valve (Justrite No. 7250130; through our affiliation with amazon.com).

Tip 8: Lock it down

Generator Maintenance Tips

Stop crooks and prevent shocks

Protect yourself from accidental electrocution by connecting the generator to a grounding rod. Then secure the unit to the eyebolt with a hardened steel chain and heavy-duty padlock.

The only thing worse than the rumbling sound of an engine outside your bedroom window is the sound of silence after someone steals your expensive generator. Combine security and electrical safety by digging a hole and sinking a grounding rod and an eye bolt in concrete. Encase the whole thing in 4-in. ABS or PVC drainpipe, with a screw-on cleanout fitting. Spray-paint the lid green so it blends in with your lawn. If you don’t want to sink a permanent concrete pier, at least screw in ground anchors (four anchors; No. WI652775; from globalindustrial.com) to secure the chain.

Tip 9: Use a heavy-duty cord

Generator Maintenance Tips

Long cords let you get some sleep

Invest in some long extension cords to put some distance between you and the noisy generator. But don’t exceed 100 ft. between the generator and appliances.

Generators are loud, so most people park them as far away from the house as possible. (Be considerate of your neighbors, though.) That’s OK as long as you use heavy-duty 12-gauge cords and limit the run to 100 ft. Lighter cords or longer runs mean more voltage drop. And decreased voltage can cause premature appliance motor burnout.

More information available on our site:

  • Storms do more than cause power outages. Search for “disasters” and check out our prevention tips.
  • Small-engine frustration? Search for “start up tips” and get running.
  • Survive any weather in a reinforced room. Search for “storm shelter.”

Real World Advice From Our Field Editors

Exercise your generator
“I start my generator up every three months as recommended by the manufacturer and let it run for about 20 minutes to charge the battery for my electric starter.”
Larry Meacham

Build a generator garage
“For a portable generator, we poured a small concrete pad and basically built a doghouse over the unit that is hinged to the pad. It worked better than a blue tarp.”
Al Cecil

A door for cords
“Most people run extension cords into the house through an open window or door. But our fireplace has a small cleanout door on the outside, so I run extension cords through it.”
Charles Crocker

Unplug the freezer
“Freezers and fridges are power hogs. But you can disconnect them from your generator and free up power for other stuff. First, turn the temperature settings way down. When they reach the lower temperature, unplug them and don’t open their doors unless you have to. They’ll act like coolers and stay cold for a long time. Freezers usually will keep food frozen about 24 hours. During that time, the generator is free to power tools or your big-screen TV.”
Rick Granger

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Posthole digger
  • Sledgehammer

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 4-in. plastic pipe with cleanout fitting and screw lid
  • 5-gallon gas cans, 2
  • Chain and lock
  • Concrete, 2 sacks
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • Ground wire connector
  • Grounding rod
  • Heavy-duty 12 gauge cords
  • Large eyebolt
  • Oil
  • Oil filters

 

https://www.familyhandyman.com/smart-homeowner/generator-maintenance-tips/view-all/

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Top 7 Generator Maintenance Tips

By Dorit Sasson

A generator can last for decades but it needs proper maintenance. Just like it’s important to eat healthy and exercise, a generator also needs maintenance to prevent it from breaking down. The better the maintenance, the longer your generator will function without the need for extensive repairs, which can translate into serious cash from purchasing expensive parts or even replacing the whole unit. Read on for seven top maintenance tips to ensure that your electrical generator is safe and ready to go when the power runs out.

Purchase a warranty or backup generator

This may seem pretty self-explanatory, but investing in a warranty might be the best thing to protect yourself when power runs out as generators aren’t cheap. Get to know the coverage; it might be full or partial. Investing in a back-up generator can also help control your home insurance costs as well.

Invest in a cover or an enclosure

Electricity is susceptible to water and the slightest rainfall might damage a part that might cost a pretty penny. Depending on whether your generator is a standby model or portable, you’ll want to invest in either a cover or an enclosure. Another suggestion is to build a generator garage similar to that of a doghouse for a portable generator.

Prevent motor burn-out

Use heavy-duty cords for less voltage use which can also prevent premature burn-out. Lighter cords increase the voltage. And since generators are noisy, you might be better off investing in a longer cord for uninterrupted sleep.

Power up your generator every three months

Manufacturers recommend running generators every three months for about 30 minutes to charge the battery for the electric starter. The last thing you’ll want is to discover that your electric starter isn’t working in time of need.

Fill up your tank

Avoid damaging your generator by keeping your tank filled with gas. When a generator runs out of gas, they stop power while the electrical load in your home will suck the magnetic field from the generator itself.

Keep oil and filters plentiful

The last thing you want to be doing is shopping for a new oil or filter during a long power outage, so keep a supply of oil and filters.


Do your homework

You don’t want to purchase a generator that will exceed the maximum capacity that your generator is able to put out. Be sure to read the ratings before buying a generator — there’s the higher “maximum” or “starting” rating or the “rated” or “continuous” watts. If you buy a generator for the higher power level, it will only work for a short time and at that level. But at the end of the day, that generator won’t extend its running capacity, and off you’ll be — running to find a new generator.

As you can see, a generator can be a lifesaver in times of prolonged periods of power outages. And when you take care of your generator, it gives you and your family the right peace of mind.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dorit-sasson/top-7-generator-maintenance-tips_b_9292748.html

Energy Savings at Home

Maintenance Checklist

Maintain your equipment to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. Keep your cooling and heating system at peak performance by having a contractor do annual pre-season check-ups. Contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it’s best to check the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around the time changes in the spring and fall.

A typical maintenance check-up should include the following.

  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.

Cooling Specific

  • Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent.

Heating Specific

  • Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.

Actions To Do Yourself

  • Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_maintenance

Learn About LED Lighting

The Basics of LED Lighting

Bulb

What are LEDs and how do they work?

LED stands for light emitting diode. LED lighting products produce light approximately 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs. How do they work? An electrical current passes through a microchip, which illuminates the tiny light sources we call LEDs and the result is visible light. To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink.

Lifetime of LED Lighting Products

The useful life of LED lighting products is defined differently than that of other light sources, such as incandescent or compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). LEDs typically do not “burn out” or fail. Instead, they experience ‘lumen depreciation’, wherein the brightness of the LED dims slowly over time. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED “lifetime” is established on a prediction of when the light output decreases by 30 percent.

How are LEDs Used in Lighting

LEDs are incorporated into bulbs and fixtures for general lighting applications. Small in size, LEDs provide unique design opportunities. Some LED bulb solutions may physically resemble familiar light bulbs and better match the appearance of traditional light bulbs. Some LED light fixtures may have LEDs built in as a permanent light source. There are also hybrid approaches where a non-traditional “bulb” or replaceable light source format is used and specially designed for a unique fixture. LEDs offer a tremendous opportunity for innovation in lighting form factors and fit a wider breadth of applications than traditional lighting technologies.

LEDs and Heat

LEDs use heat sinks to absorb the heat produced by the LED and dissipate it into the surrounding environment. This keeps LEDs from overheating and burning out. Thermal management is generally the single most important factor in the successful performance of an LED over its lifetime. The higher the temperature at which the LEDs are operated, the more quickly the light will degrade, and the shorter the useful life will be.

LED products use a variety of unique heat sink designs and configurations to manage heat. Today, advancements in materials have allowed manufacturers to design LED bulbs that match the shapes and sizes of traditional incandescent bulbs. Regardless of the heat sink design, all LED products that have earned the ENERGY STAR have been tested to ensure that they properly manage the heat so that the light output is properly maintained through the end of its rated life.

How is LED lighting different than other light sources, such as incandescent and Compact Fluorescent (CFL)?

Light bulbsLED lighting differs from incandescent and fluorescent in several ways. When designed well, LED lighting is more efficient, versatile, and lasts longer.

LEDs are “directional” light sources, which means they emit light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent and CFL, which emit light and heat in all directions. That means LEDs are able to use light and energy more efficiently in a multitude of applications. However, it also means that sophisticated engineering is needed to produce an LED light bulb that shines light in every direction.

Common LED colors include amber, red, green, and blue. To produce white light, different color LEDs are combined or covered with a phosphor material that converts the color of the light to a familiar “white” light used in homes. Phosphor is a yellowish material that covers some LEDs. Colored LEDs are widely used as signal lights and indicator lights, like the power button on a computer.

In a CFL, an electric current flows between electrodes at each end of a tube containing gases. This reaction produces ultraviolet (UV) light and heat. The UV light is transformed into visible light when it strikes a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb. Learn more about CFLs.

Incandescent bulbs produce light using electricity to heat a metal filament until it becomes “white” hot or is said to incandesce. As a result, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat.

Comparison

Why should I choose ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting products?

There are more lighting options available today than ever before. Despite that, ENERGY STAR is still the simple choice to save on your utility bills.

LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR are subject to very specific requirements designed to replicate the experience you are used to with a standard bulb—so they can be used for a wide variety of applications. As the graphic on the right demonstrates, a general purpose LED bulb that does not qualify for the ENERGY STAR may not distribute light everywhere and could prove to be a disappointment if used in a table lamp.

ENERGY STAR means high quality and performance, particularly in the following areas:

  • Color Quality
    • 5 different requirements for color to ensure quality up front and over time
  • Light Output
    • Light output minimums to ensure you get enough light
    • Light distribution requirements to ensure the light goes where you need it
    • Guidelines for equivalency claims to take the guess-work out of replacement
  • Peace of mind
    • Verified compliance with more than 20 requirements to address performance and labeling
    • Long-term testing to back up lifetime claims
    • Testing to stress the products in operating environments similar to how you will use the product in your home
    • 3-year minimum warranty requirement

And as with all ENERGY STAR products, certified LED bulbs are subject to random testing every year to ensure they continue to meet the ENERGY STAR requirements.

For more information on how to select an ENERGY STAR certified bulb for each application in your home, view the ENERGY STAR Light Bulb Purchasing Guide (PDF, 1.49 MB) or use the interactive online Choose a Light tool.

How Does a Generator Create Electricity? How Generators Work

Generators are useful appliances that supply electrical power during a power outage and prevent discontinuity of daily activities or disruption of business operations. Generators are available in different electrical and physical configurations for use in different applications. In the following sections, we will look at how a generator functions, the main components of a generator, and how a generator operates as a secondary source of electrical power in residential and industrial applications.

How does a generator work?
An electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy obtained from an external source into electrical energy as the output.

It is important to understand that a generator does not actually ‘create’ electrical energy. Instead, it uses the mechanical energy supplied to it to force the movement of electric charges present in the wire of its windings through an external electric circuit. This flow of electric charges constitutes the output electric current supplied by the generator. This mechanism can be understood by considering the generator to be analogous to a water pump, which causes the flow of water but does not actually ‘create’ the water flowing through it.

The modern-day generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831-32. Faraday discovered that the above flow of electric charges could be induced by moving an electrical conductor, such as a wire that contains electric charges, in a magnetic field. This movement creates a voltage difference between the two ends of the wire or electrical conductor, which in turn causes the electric charges to flow, thus generating electric current.

http://www.dieselserviceandsupply.com/How_Generators_Work.aspx

How to Do Home Electrical Repairs

Your home’s plumbing and electrical systems may seem as different as any two things could be. But there are significant parallels. Water enters your home through a pipe under pressure, and, when you turn on a tap, the water flows at a certain rate (gallons per minute). Electricity enters your home through wires, also under pressure (called voltage, measured in volts). When you turn on an electrical device, the electricity flows at a certain rate (current, measured in amperes, or amps).

electricity
A replacement receptacle must match the one you are removing. If you have the grounded type, you must buy a receptacle that has a ground terminal screw and slots for three-prong grounded plugs.

Unlike water, which is used as it comes from the tap, electricity is meant to do work: It is converted from energy to power, measured in watts. Since household electrical consumption is relatively high, the unit of measure most often used is the kilowatt, which is equal to 1,000 watts. The total amount of electrical energy you use in any period is measured in terms of kilowatt-hours (kwh).

The instrument that records how much electricity you use is called an electric meter. This meter tells the power company how much electricity they need to charge you for. There are two types of electric meters in general use. One type displays a row of small dials on its face with individual indicators. Each meter dial registers the kilowatt-hours of electrical energy. For example, if you leave a 100-watt bulb burning for 10 hours, the meter will register 1 kilowatt-hour (10×100 = 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kwh). Each dial registers a certain number of kilowatt-hours of electrical energy. From right to left on most meter faces, the far right is the one that counts individual kilowatt-hours from 1 to 10; the next one counts the electricity from 10 to 100 kilowatt-hours; the third dial counts up to 1,000; the fourth counts up to 10,000; and the dial at the extreme left counts kilowatt-hours up to 100,000. If the arrow on a dial is between two numbers, the lower number should always be read.

The second type of electric meter performs the same function, but, instead of having individual dials, it has numerals in slots on the meter face, much like an odometer in a car. This meter is read from left to right, and the numbers indicate total electrical consumption. Some meters also use a multiplying factor — the number that appears must be multiplied by ten, for instance, for a true figure in kilowatt-hours. Once you know how to read your meter, you can verify the charges on your electric bill and become a better watchdog of electrical energy consumption in your home.

Three main lines (older houses may have two) are responsible for supplying 110-120/220-240 volts AC (alternating current) to your home. The exact voltage varies depending on several external factors. This three-wire system provides you with 110-120-volt power for lighting, receptacles, and small appliances as well as 220-240-volt power for air conditioning, an electric range, a clothes dryer, a water heater, and, in some homes, electric heating.

Electricity enters your home through the power company’s service equipment, which is simply a disconnect device mounted in an approved enclosure. It’s used to disconnect the service from the interior wiring system. Usually called a main fuse, main breaker, main disconnect, or often just “the main,” this disconnect might be a set of pull-out fuses, a circuit breaker, or a large switch.

Although main disconnects can be mounted outdoors in a weatherproof box, they are nearly always inside the house in a large enclosure that also contains the fuses or circuit breakers, which handle the distribution of power throughout the building. This is called a main entrance panel, a main box, or an entrance box. The three wires from the meter enter this box. Two of them — the heavily insulated black and red lines — are attached to the tops of a parallel pair of exposed heavy copper bars, called buses, at the center of the box. These two lines are the “live,” or “hot,” wires. The third wire, generally bare, is the “neutral.” It is attached to a separate grounding bar, or bus, that is a silver-color strip in the main box. In most homes this ground bus is actually connected to the ground — the earth — by a heavy solid copper wire clamped to a cold water pipe or to an underground bar or plate.

The Many Benefits of Maintenance

At first glance, maintaining the health of an electrical power system may seem simple — even boring — to some. After a new system has been installed and commissioned, it may operate seamlessly for years with no routine maintenance. Improvements in component design and quality are two reasons why electrical systems today operate at higher levels of reliability and availability. This has led some owners to take a “sit and wait” approach, doing nothing until there’s some type of component or equipment failure. Even then, they may simply tell the contractor to replace the failed components or pieces of equipment and quickly get them back up and running. But seasoned electrical professionals know the value that preventive and scheduled maintenance activities can bring to the table.

One area that has really captured the attention of owners of late — and proved the worth of a solid maintenance program — is emergency and standby generator maintenance. The regularity of widespread devastating weather events, coupled with our ever-growing reliance on communications and electronic data needs, has brought renewed focus on generator maintenance programs. Faulty maintenance procedures or simple neglect can render these important systems useless. More times than not, the reasons these systems fail to start or run are basic in nature. Old or contaminated fuel can quickly clog a fuel filter. Starting batteries may fail to operate because they were not charged properly or left unchecked. Even something as simple as leaving a start switch in the wrong mode of operation can delay the availability of these powerful generation systems. For a really good review of the key activities that should be included in a standby diesel generator maintenance program, turn to page 8 and read what one manufacturer’s operations specialist has to say on the topic.

Another area of maintenance that has grown in popularity in recent years is thermal imaging. The cost of infrared imaging equipment has dropped considerably over the past few years. One result of this development is the broader use of these devices for non-electrical type activities. Those individuals working in the energy efficiency field are relying on these pieces of equipment to perform building diagnostic checks and complete energy audits. IR cameras can identify hot and cold zones in buildings, pinpoint leaky window and door locations, verify the integrity of insulation systems, and locate moisture problems.

In the electrical arena, we’ve known the benefits this type of technology offers for many years. As part of an overall maintenance program, these devices can yield early warning signs of pending electrical failures. They can help identify problems with electrical connection points and check the operation of equipment. Incorporated into a broader maintenance program, they can help you reduce unplanned outages and prevent damage to key equipment. But using these devices around energized electrical equipment requires the user to adhere to strict safety guidelines. The user must also be well trained in how to properly orient the camera, aim the device, and capture true images to judge the severity of the problem. For a snapshot review of some of the key issues being discussed in the thermal imaging field, check out our cover story starting on page 18, “The Language of Heat.”

When implemented properly, a preventive maintenance program can yield a number of benefits. Yes, these types of programs can be costly and a challenge to manage, but in the long-run their benefits should far outweigh these factors.

http://www.ecmweb.com/blog/many-benefits-maintenance