Alternative Energy

Buying, Using, and Maintaining a Generator



One of the scariest scenarios a household can face these days is going without electricity.  Unfortunately, it is a very realistic scenario.  As we approach winter, you can bet that ice and snow storms will bring down power lines and leave millions of people without power for a few days to a few weeks.  In fact, power outages in the US have been doubling every four years.  Our power grid just cannot handle the amount of power we use on a daily basis.  This year we can expect hundreds of short term power outages. This is why it is so important to make informed decisions when buying, using, and maintaining a generator.

Disaster Prep: Buying, Using, and Maintaining a Generator

However, we have had some very real examples of long term grid damage this year.  Currently the island of Puerto Rico is 93% dark because of the damage done by hurricanes.  Much of Houston and Miami dealt with longer power outages as well. It will likely be four to six months before power is fully restored in all of these areas with Puerto Rico taking the longest.  In addition, earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, and EMP blasts can all leave our grid damaged long term.  Sadly, the trend has been that many of these disasters are happening more frequently.

Why Get a Generator

There are several power supply options that do not rely upon the grid.  You can always rely upon wind or solar power.  However, in storms these systems are likely to be damaged.  In addition, finding supplies to fix these systems after a storm can be very difficult.  A generator can be kept protected in a garage or other shelter and is relatively easy to maintain or fix.  These are also inexpensive compared to many options.  If you want to keep your lights on, keep your home heated, and keep your appliances working, a generator is a great option.

Buying, Using, and Maintaining a Generator

Buying a Generator

Once you make the decision to buy a generator for survival, there are some points to keep in mind.  A quality generator can last for decades with proper maintenance.  However, you must remember that it could be years before you are ever forced to use it.  In most cases it is easiest to use grid based power until the grid goes down.  Do your research a be selective on the generator you need.  Go through your electric bill and determine how much power you would need in a survival scenario.  Then be sure you select a generator that will put out the correct amount of power for your household.

In addition, you probably will want a backup plan for your generator depending on your personal scenario.  If you plan to use the generator on a regular basis before having grid issues, you may want to buy a generator with a warranty.  This will ensure you can get your generator repaired at no cost if it starts to have issues.  Of course, a warranty is worthless in the middle of a disaster.  In this case, a smaller and cheaper backup generator might be a good idea.  This would be used just to power the most important elements in your household until you can repair the primary generator.

Protect your Generator

Generators and water do not mix.  In addition, they do need ventilation so carbon monoxide does not build up in the area.  You can keep portable generators in a garage or buy a cover for them.  You will just need to pull the generator into a ventilated area before firing it up.  However, if you get a larger generator you are best to provide an enclosure. This can look something like a dog house or shed as long as there is plenty of ventilation.  You will also need to have a power cord long enough to reach from your generator to your power system for your home.  The drier you keep your generator, the longer it will last and the safer you will be.

Get the Proper Cords

The cords that you run from your generator to your home will determine how much strain is put on the motor.  Lighter cords increase the voltage while heavier cords are ideal for less voltage which prevents motor burn-out.  In addition, pay attention to the location of your generator and the length of cords you will need. Generators are noisy, so you may need to move yours to the other end of the house or further away from the house.


As with cars or motorcycles, you are best to fire up your generator periodically to keep everything lubricated and working properly.  With generators, the suggestion is to run it for about 30 minutes every three months.  In addition to keeping the motor running properly, this charges the electric starter.  If your electric starter dies, it would need to be repaired before using the generator again.  You would not want to be surprised by an issue like this.

One of the worst things you can do with a generator is to run the gas tank empty.  When this happens, the generator stops supplying power.  In addition, the electrical load of the house draws the magnetic field from the generator itself.  If this happens, it is game over.  Keep your fuel tank filled to the top as much as you can.  Of course, this means keeping a good supply of fresh fuel in your garage so you are prepared for longer power outages.  You also want to keep oil and filters stocked up in your garage.  Any items related to generators will be the first off of the shelves in a major power outage.  You cannot expect to run to the store for these items.

Buying, Using, and Maintaining a Generator

Up Next: Hurricane Harvey Safety Tips: Before, During and After the Storm

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  2. Dio Marsaille

    September 25, 2018 at 11:38 PM

    Thank you for mentioning that the use of heavier chords is necessary if the person wants to reduce the voltage and prevent motor burnout. I should have considered this a long time ago since that is the reason why the generator needs repairs. I will call a professional to check it out and get it fixed. Then I will be sure to get a heavier chord for our future use.

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