If you’ve already purchased a generator, you know how essential they can be if the power goes out during a winter storm. Without electricity, you’d either have to try to figure out how to make do, or else you’d need to try to make your way to a friend or to a relative who has working electricity. Both of these options can be dangerous or even outright impossible depending on current conditions. This is likely why you got a generator in the first place.
Unfortunately, generators don’t last forever. At some point, you’re going to have to purchase a new generator to replace the one that you have now. It doesn’t matter whether you bought the cheapest generator that would work or the most expensive one that you could afford – all of them will need to be replaced at some point, just like any other appliance.
But telling when you need to replace your generator isn’t always easy. If you’ve been following proper generator maintenance practices, you are unlikely to need a new generator just yet. Regardless, you should still keep the following things in mind so that you know when you should be getting a new generator:
The older anything is, the more likely it is to fail. Ultimately, the age of a generator isn’t necessarily determined by its physical age but by how many hours it gets used every year. The average standby generator has been designed to last for 10,000 to 30,000 hours of use.
If you frequently lose power and have to use your generator, you will need to replace your generator sooner than someone who only runs their generator once or twice a year. For light-duty use, expect a properly maintained generator to last about thirty years.
Too many repairs
Aside from preventative maintenance to ensure that the generator is functioning correctly, you should not have to repair your generator more than perhaps once or twice a year.
If you find that your generator is breaking down almost every time that you use it, then it’s time to get a new one. If your generator is still only a few years old, check to see whether or not it’s still under any sort of warranty.
Problems starting up
A brand-new generator should start up quickly when needed. If you have a system where the generator is supposed to come on automatically when the power goes out, you shouldn’t have to go out and fiddle with the generator to get it to start unless it has somehow run out of fuel. Once or twice could simply be something that can be repaired. More than that, especially within the same year, and you should start looking for a replacement.
Excessive fuel usage
Your generator’s manual should provide information on expected fuel consumption. If your generator hasn’t been properly maintained or if it’s starting to wear out due to age, this fuel usage will start to rise. Some parts may be able to be repaired or replaced, but the whole generator will eventually need to be swapped for a new one.
Variable power output
Obviously, one of the reasons why you got a generator is so that you can have steady power. If you are using the same appliances and devices that you always have and yet the power flickers or you experience brownouts while using the generator. It may simply need to have a part replaced, but this is still a sign that your generator may be nearing the end of its life.
Now is the best time to make sure that you have a working generator for the winter season. Aside from changing oil or air filters as specified in your user manual, please don’t try to service a generator yourself. Call a professional to safely give it a look.
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As with any piece of equipment that provides power to other tools, the only time one seems to notice a generator is when it’s not working. Generators get thrown around, beaten, and abused, yet they’re always expected to work with one pull. Even though they’re built for abuse, generators won’t last without some regular maintenance. Here are 10 basic tips to keep your generator energized for each job:
1. DON’T BE FOILED BY OIL
Check the oil before each use. If it’s a new generator, change the oil after the first 20 hours of use to remove assembly lube and metallic particles created during the break-in period. Otherwise, change the oil every 100 hours or sooner if operating in dirty conditions.
2. DON’T RIDE DIRTY
Dirty fuel is a result of improper storage or refilling tanks in dusty conditions. To prevent this problem, store fuel in an OSHA-approved receptacle and keep out of high-traffic areas. Also, don’t refill in windy conditions where dust is more prevalent.
3. CLEAR THE AIR
Check the condition of the air filter daily and clean when necessary. Regardless of how dirty it is, clean the filter every 100 hours and change it monthly.
4. KEEP IT CLEAN
Cleaning the engine removes potentially harmful dirt and gives the operator a chance to spot service concerns. Never use a pressure washer as it could cause more harm than good. Instead, use an air supply to blow off any dust and a clean rag with degreaser to wipe off excess dirt and grease.
5. ON THE LOOKOUT FOR LEAKS
Once the equipment is clean and dry, check for any or oil leakage. If a leak is spotted, tighten the parts causing the leak or replace them immediately.
6. HANG TIGHT
Cleaning the engine will also help reveal any obvious damage and loose parts. Take time to tighten loose parts that could vibrate and potentially harm nearby components.
7. DON’T LOSE THAT SPARK
Inspect the spark plugs every 100 hours for damage, oil residue, and excessive carbon buildup. If residue or carbon buildup is found, clean with a wire brush or spark plug cleaner. Immediately replace any plugs that have cracked porcelain.
8. AVOID STRAINER STRAIN
Clean and inspect the fuel strainer located in the fill port of the fuel tank every month. If there is sediment in the fuel strainer, clean and return, or replace if torn.
9. ANNUAL INSPECTION
On an annual basis, take the time to conduct a general inspection of the generator looking for any dirty, broken, or misaligned parts. Furthermore, check the fuel hose each year and replace if there are cracks present.
10. STORE IT PROPERLY
If the generator won’t be used for more than 30 days and the user does not plan to use it for an extended period of time, take special steps to protect the engine. First, conduct all suggested daily maintenance items. Then, remove the battery, clean the posts, and ensure it’s fully charged. Next, drain the fuel from the fuel tank and carburetor float chamber. To prevent corrosion in the cylinder bore, remove the spark plug and inject a few drops of oil through the plug hole. Gently pull the recoil starter knob two or three times before the spark plug is placed back in the plug hole. Additionally, pull the recoil starter knob until resistance is felt and leave in that position. End the process with a final cleaning, ensuring that all cooling air slots and openings are unobstructed. Place a protective cover around the generator and store it in a dry place.
Exercise the generator every 2 months if gas or oil is present in the engine. If the generator will be stored for longer periods, drain the oil and gas from the carburetor, put oil in the cylinder and pull until resistance is felt.
About The Author:
Dale Gabrielse is in sales and marketing at Subaru Industrial Power Products. For more information about generators, visit www.subarupower.com.
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).
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.