Frequently Asked Questions

Contents

Portable Generator FAQ

Portable Generator FAQ

Shopping and Purchase

  • How important are the size and weight of the portable generator?

Smaller and lighter devices are easier to move to the required location from the area where they are stored. This can be quite an advantage in case of an unexpected power outing. At the same time, factors such as engine, tank capacity, wattage and run time are the most important ones that you need to focus on. If a model meets your requirements based on these factors, but it is not particularly small and light, you should not hesitate to get it. You can obtain a wheel kit for easier portability.

  • Should I opt for a portable generator with an electric start?

The electric start eliminates the need to pull a cord in order to get the engine running. You simply need to push a button and the device will begin producing electric power. Often, the electric start is considered to be more reliable compared to the pull-cord start, especially in cold weather conditions. However, in modern generators, the cord start has become quite dependable in any weather. The electric start may also fail when its battery is not charged. Still, this is quite rare. You can opt for a model which comes with both types of starts.

  • How do rated wattage and surge wattage differ?

The surge wattage is produced for a short period of time. It is the peak wattage which the portable generator can produce. It is reached when the unit is stared. The rated wattage is the continuous operating wattage. It is the measure which you need to focus on when selecting a generator. You have to ensure that it will power all of the appliances in your home which you cannot go without. It is best to define your requirements precisely before you go shopping for such a device.

  • Is the wheel kit an important feature to have?

Some portable generators have a wheel kit included in the package while others do not. The kit makes the devices perfectly portable. In case of a power outage, you can easily take the device outside and start it. You will not have to use much effort for this.

The kit will save you time and effort in critical situations. It is extremely useful for larger and heavier devices. It is also highly recommended for people who do not have a high level of physical strength and fitness. Generally, the kit’s components are easy to install.

  • Is a portable generator which can also run on propane more reliable?

Propane is generally cleaner to run compared to gasoline. Usually, it can increase the device’s run time. In some cases, it can double the run time. Another benefit of using such a device is that spare propane is more easily found in the typical home compared to gasoline. You can connect the device to the propane bottle for the barbeque, for instance. The problem with propane is that it cannot start the engine when the temperature gets too low. Still, in this situation, you can have the engine start on gasoline and then switch to propane.

  • How loud are portable generators?

These devices produce a considerable amount of noise. Each model gets a noise rating. It is measured in decibels with A weighting at a distance of seven meters away from the device. Most models have a noise rating from 55 to 85 dBA. The ones with noise rating below 75 dBA are considered to be fairly quiet compared to their counterparts. Generally, the lower the decibels are the better. Still, the most important thing for a generator is to be an effective and reliable performer. To reduce the noise, you can keep the device further away from the house.

  • Do I need to get a transfer switch along with the portable generator?

The transfer switch is not a mandatory appliance to use with a generator. However, it can be extremely useful. It works to connect the machine to the circuit box of your house so that it provides direct supply of electricity. The switch works to protect both your appliances and the machine from damage which can be caused when the grid power comes back. It eliminates the need to lay and use special cables as well. At the same time, the switch requires additional investment which you have to provide for. It may cost more than the generator.

Setup and Use

  • How much gasoline should I stock on?

It is best to store enough gasoline for running the portable generator for 24 hours given that roads can be closed and gas stations may be out of power too. You need to calculate how much this amount it. On average, the necessary fuel amount is 16 gallons. If the device can run on propane as well, you should consider stocking on as many bottles as are needed for running the device for one day and one night. The average number of 20-pound bottles needed is 6. Again, it is important to use calculations for determining the precise amount.

  • How long can I store gasoline for?

It has been found that fuel begins to deteriorate within approximately one month. In order to preserve its properties, you should add a stabilizer to it right from the start. The stabilizer will neutralize the damaging effect that ethanol has on the components which are responsible for combustion. If you have any extra fuel left after a power outage, you can use it for your car, as long as it is appropriate for this. Generally, you should ensure that you get all storm alerts so that you can prepare appropriately.

  • Where should I set the portable generator?

The device must be set outdoors when it will be used. You need to position it away from doors and windows so that the exhaust fumes do not get inside the house. This is extremely important since the produced carbon monoxide gas can cause serious poisoning.

One mistake which you must avoid is placing the device inside the garage with the garage door open. This could also lead to an accident. You also need to ensure that the device will be protected from moisture, rain and snow. It is best if it is set in a dry enclosure with effective air circulation.

  • How do I run a generator which has not been used for a long time?

You need to check all the parts of the device to confirm that they are in good condition. You should pay special attention to the carburetor. You need to clean it to ensure that the machine will operate smoothly. You should change the fuel. The same applies to the spark plug as well. Check the level of the oil with the specially designed dipstick. Add more, if required. Remember to take the generator out in the open before you start it. This is a crucial safety measure.

  • How do I choose the right cord for my portable generator?

You must use a cord which is designed for external use. The models with gauge of 12, 14 and 16 are usually the most suitable options. It is important for the cord’s length not to exceed 100 feet. A longer length may cause issues with the electric current. Generally, a shorter cord will make the supply of electricity more reliable, but the device must not be too close to the house because of the exhaust fumes.

When selecting a cord, you have to follow the instructions of the generator’s manufacturer precisely. You should also consult a professional electrician just to be on the safe side.

  • Where should the outdoor cable go through to reach the appliances?

Leaving doors and windows ajar to let cables run through them is standard practice. However, this can be impractical in bad weather. You would not want to leave a door or window ajar during a rain storm or a snow storm. Using a cat door is one reliable alternative. If you have a fireplace, you should check to see if it has a special small door for cleaning at the back. It can also be used for getting the cord inside the house without affecting the indoor environment much.

  • Which home appliances can I power with my portable generator?

This depends on the wattage of the device and of the appliances. You have to ensure that the total wattage of the appliances, which are powered with the use of the device, does not exceed its maximum wattage. Otherwise, the circuit breaker of the generator will stop it automatically. It is always best to do the math in advance. Figure out which appliances you would want to use during a power cut and ensure that they can all be powered by the device. It is a good idea to make a list.

  • Do I need to use a power line conditioner for powering my computer?

The job of the conditioner is to deliver electric power with voltage of the right level in order to ensure the safe running of sensitive equipment. Given this, it can be super helpful in case of a power outage when you have to use your portable generator. You can expect a conditioner of good quality to do its job well and to ensure the proper and safe operation of your computer. Alternatively, you can use UPS backup for powering sensitive electronic devices in case of a power cut.

  • Can I power my washing machine and dryer?

This depends on the wattage of the portable generator which you have and on the wattage of these devices. However, these are appliances with very high wattage. That is why most portable models do not have the capacity to power them. It may be possible to power one, however. In general, during power outages, you should focus on keeping only the most important appliances powered, especially given the fact that any given homeowner can keep a limited amount of fuel. While preserving food fresh is important, washing and drying can be left for later.

Storage and Maintenance

  • Should I use fuel stabilizer?

This is highly recommended. It is best if you add fuel stabilizer to both the tank of your portable generator and to the containers which you will keep the extra fuel in. The stabilizer works to preserve the properties of gasoline by preventing its degeneration, which is traditionally caused by the ethanol found in it. In order for this beneficial product to work properly, it must be added to the fuel as soon as it is poured into the engine’s tank and the containers. You must follow the instructions for this precisely.

  • How do I know that there is enough oil?

You need to perform a simple check for this. There is a dipstick which you need to insert in the designated place. You will see where the oil mark is after you pull it out. There are indicators on the dipstick to help you figure out when to add extra oil. If the mark is below the “full” indicator, you should add oil until this level is reached. If you do not have the time to take proper measurements, you can pout oil until it starts dripping out. Still, the first option is preferred.

  • What is the best place for keeping my generator?

The place should be perfectly dry and well ventilated. It must not be hot. The device must be kept away from combustible materials. You can use the garage or basement of your house as long as they meet these requirements. A garden shed which is fully protected from moisture and has good air flow can also be a good choice. Another option is to build a special enclosure on a concrete platform for the device which will be suitable for both storing it and operating it.

  • Why do I need to operate my generator regularly?

This is done to keep the device in good condition and for preventing its components by getting adversely affected by the fuel and oil inside. It is important for you to provide this kind of maintenance in order to ensure that the device will operate properly when you need it. It will also help you to safeguard your investment. You should check how frequently to run the engine in your owner’s manual. The general recommendation is for this to be done once every month. It is important to stick to a precise schedule.

  • What type of oil does my generator need?

You have to check what the manufacturer of the device’s engine recommends first. In general, when the temperature is above 40 degrees F, the most recommended oil is 30-weight detergent product. When the temperature drops below this level, it should consider using 10W-30 which will keep the engine running properly when it is cold outside. It is essential for you to pick a product which is of high quality and comes from a reputable brand. Keep a precise schedule for changing the oil based on the instructions which are provided in your owner’s manual.

  • When does engine draining have to be done?

You should do it after every use of the portable power generator. This is important for safety. If there is gasoline left in the engine, even the smallest spark can cause a big fire and serious property damage. That is why you should make the draining of the engine part of your operation routine rather than part of the maintenance routine. Safety must always be a trop priority. Additionally, you must remember to keep the device in a place which has perfect ventilation and does not contain any combustible materials.

  • Which portable generator parts require replacement?

The list includes the fuel filter, air filter, carburetor and spark plug. These parts must be checked on a regular basis following the schedule recommended by the device’s manufacturer. If you notice any signs of serious wear and tear or damage, you must replace the respective part or parts immediately. It is a good idea to keep replacement fuel filters and air filters at hand as they are the ones which require more frequent replacement. For the replacement of the carburetor or the spark plug, you may consider using a professional service.

Issues and Troubleshooting

  • Why isn’t my generator starting with propane?

This problem can occur in models which can use both gasoline and propane. Usually, it comes up when the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The most effective way to resolve it is to start running the device on gasoline first. Then, you can switch on propane. Modern models give you this option. In order to do everything correctly and safely, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use strictly. You should have no issues with the switching especially if your machine is well maintained.

  • What should I do if water gets inside my generator?

When water gets into contact with electricity, there is a serious safety risk. It can also damage the engine and other components of the device. If you can power the device off without jeopardizing your safety , you should go for this option. The owner’s manual must give you precise instructions on how to do this. If there is any risk, you should leave the device running and contact the customer support service or a qualified technician for advice on what to do. You must always place your safety first.

  • Why does not the engine start?

This problem can have a number of causes. Most often, the spark plug is damaged or malfunctioning and has to be replaced. It is also possible for the issue to be due to fuel line damage. The carburetor could be blocked or damaged. There may be compression issues.

The problem may come from the starter itself. The battery of an electric start can get drained out. A pull-cord start can be difficult to use when it is cold. It is best for the device to be checked by a professional technician who will diagnose the problem and provide resolution.

  • Why did my generator strop working all of a sudden?

If the device has been running effectively without any signs of trouble and stops all of a sudden, a circuit breaker must have kicked in. The machine shuts down because of overload which can damage its internal components. In this situation, you need to reset the circuit breakers of the device and power fewer appliances with it. This should help to eliminate the issue. If the problem is not resolved, then there may be something wrong with the device itself. You should have a professional technician inspect it and provide repair.

  • What causes fuel to leak from the vent tube?

The problem may be due to improper setting of the shut-off valve. The valve has to be closed when the engine is not in use. The problem can also occur when the fuel float in the carburetor remains in open position. This usually happens when the carburetor is affected by gumming. Gumming, on the other hand, is a direct result of using fuel which has begun to degrade. Careful inspection of both the shut-off valve and the carburetor has to be provided so that the most appropriate solution to the problem can be found and implemented.

  • Why does my generator make smoke?

The major cause of this problem is a blown head gasket. When this happens, pressure gets built up in the crank case and this forces the oil to get absorbed into the air filter. This naturally results in the release of smoke from the device. In such cases, the device may also stop working completely. You should not wait for this to happen and shut off the device in order to lower the risk of damage. You have to have the machine repaired straight away so that you will be able to use it effectively and safely again.

  • How do I get replacement parts?

These are typically available directly from the manufacturer of the portable generator or from their dealers. If you call a technician to provide repair or replacement as part of regular maintenance, you can expect the professional to bring spare parts. It is important to note that in many cases the engine is made by a different manufacturer. If this is the case with your device, you should be able to find spare parts for the engine system from the engine’s manufacturer or from an official dealer.

 

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