Tip 6: Keep enough motor oil and filters on hand to get you through an extended outage
Most new generators need their first oil change after just 25 hours. After that, you'll have to dump the old stuff and refill every 50 or 60 hours. During extended outages, you can easily run your generator long enough to need an oil change. Don't count on finding the right oil filter for your particular generator after a major storm. Instead, buy extra filters and oil before the storm hits.
Tip 7: Limit cord length to prevent appliance damage
Generators are loud, so most users park them as far away from the house as possible. That's OK as long as you use a heavy-duty, 12-gauge, outdoor-rated extension cord. But even a 12-gauge cord has its limits. Never exceed a total length of 100 ft. from the generator to the appliance. The voltage drop on longer runs can cause premature appliance motor and compressor burnout.
Tip 8: Prevent theft
The only thing worse than the rumbling sound of a gasoline 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 hook in cement. Encase the whole thing in 4-in. ABS or PVC drainpipe, with a screw-on cleanout fitting. Then chain and lock your generator to the anchor. If you don't want to sink a permanent concrete pier, at least screw in ground anchors to secure the chain. Ground anchors are available in the hardware department at home centers.
Tip 9: Running out of gas can cost you
Some low-cost generators with economy voltage regulators will keep putting out power as the generator runs out of gas. As the generator comes to a stop, the electrical load in your house can drain the residual magnetic "field" from the generator coils. Sure, it'll start up once you refill it, but it won't generate power. You'll have to haul it into a repair shop and pay a pro to rezap the "field." That will cost you about $40. But good luck getting it serviced in the aftermath of a big storm. Instead, turn off the electrical load and shut down the generator before it runs out of fuel. Let it cool. Then refill it, restart it and connect the load.
Tip 10: Bad fuel can stop you in your tracks
Stale fuel is the No. 1 cause of starting problems on all gas-powered small engines. Every generator manufacturer recommends adding fuel stabilizer to the gas to minimize fuel breakdown and varnish and gum buildup. But they stressed that it's still no guarantee against future problems. So, many of the manufacturers and most repair shops recommend emptying the fuel tank and running the carburetor dry (run the engine until it stalls) once you're past the storm season. If your unit has a carburetor drain petcock, wait for the engine to cool and drain it manually. Dump the gas in your vehicle or take it to a recycling center. Always use fresh stabilized gas in your generator.