Generator maintenance is a year-round task

Published 8:57 am Sunday, November 4, 2012

By Lucy Parker

The Daily News

Families in Washington Parish, perhaps, got some use out of their generator this hurricane season when Isaac blew through in August. With the season coming to an official end on Nov. 30, however, now is the time to ensure it is being properly maintained so it will be ready for next year or any winter storms.

Bogalusa Fire Department Asst. Chief Steven Moses advises generator owners to run the machine every month.

“Once a month go outside, crank it up and let it run for an hour, that way you keep everything lubricated on the inside of your generator,” he said.

Similar advice was offered by Franklinton Fire Department Chief Chad Manning, who said a generator should be cranked once a month to ensure it is operating properly and that the gas is run through the tank.

“You have to refresh it every so often or it will get bad and it will clog up your whole carbonator system on your generators,” he said.

Many people, Manning said, use a gasoline additive, which will help resolve some of the issues that can arise from storing a generator for an extended period of time.

“But to ensure that the thing runs properly, it’s always good to run it once a month,” he said.

Now is a good time to check the generator manufacturer’s recommendations to be sure that regular maintenance schedules on things like oil, air filter and spark plug changes are being followed, Manning added.

A generator can be put to use even after hurricane season. The parish has seen ice storms around the months of January and February that have caused tree limbs to freeze and then fall on power lines, knocking out electricity, Manning said.

“Those are instances where you would pull your generator back out and use it at your house,” he said.

If a generator is not properly taken care of, though, it will likely let its owner down when it is needed most, Manning said.

“When you need it to crank in the worst way, it won’t crank,” he said. “That will be the absolute worst thing for a generator to do: not crank when you need it to.”

If a person discovers his or her generator is not working after a hurricane threat arrives, it could be too late to get it repaired, Moses said.

“You’d have to get your carbonator cleaned and so forth,” he said. “The mechanics will be overwhelmed with repairing generators, and you might not get the opportunity to get yours fixed when you actually need it.”

Moses said he thinks a majority of parish households now have generators, having been motivated to obtain one by Hurricane Katrina. A generator, he said, is a good thing to have because it can prevent food spoilage if the power goes out.

Furthermore, Manning he has noticed that many people have “whole-house generators,” where they hire a contractor to come in to install the generator and automatic switching devices.

“So when your power goes off, your generator will automatically crank, and when the power comes back on, it senses that and then it will kill your generator,” he said. “If people can afford those kind of things, those are nice to have.”

Both fire department officials also wished to share some general safety tips regarding generators.

When using a generator, it should not be overloaded by too many appliances, and the extension cords used must be rated for the amount of amps the devices are pulling, Manning said.

“In other words, if you plug a freezer into a generator, you probably cannot plug another freezer — two freezers — into a generator unless it’s rated properly, or you will overheat your cords,” he said.

Moses said generators should only be operated outside, in a well-ventilated area, and away from open windows. The fumes from a generator, he said, can create the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It’s like any other thing with a muffler on it: It does create carbon monoxide,” Manning added. “And if it’s not in a ventilated area, you will be doing danger to the people around it.”