Maintenance and Upkeep for Home Standby Generators

Written By: Norwall PowerSystems

A home with all the lights on during a power outage.

Just like a car, regular maintenance keeps your home standby generator running smoothly and reliably for a long time. Most people would not drive their car 12,000 miles without an oil change. Car manufacturers call for a shorter maintenance cycle. At 60 miles per hour, driving that far adds up to about 200 hours.

Take care of your car and it is not inconceivable that it will provide years of service over 200,000 or even 300,000 miles.

Propane and Natural Gas Home Generators are not much different. Change the oil and filter, the air filter and spark plugs on time and your generator may just outlast your new car. The generator controller keeps track of the hours the generator is operational, including the exercise periods which vary by manufacturer. Check your owner’s manual for exact maintenance periods and perform the scheduled maintenance on time.

Portable vs Standby Generator for Backup Power

Develop a Preventative Maintenance Plan

An Open Standby Generator Ready for MaintenanceSome homeowners like to do it themselves. They check the oil on every tank fill-up. When the oil is dirty or the schedule calls for it, they change the oil and filter, and probably the air filters too. If you are confident enough to change the oil, oil and air filters, and spark plugs on your car, go ahead and do it on your standby generator. Keep records of when you did it and how many hours were on the machine at each change.

Instead of servicing your home backup generator by the number of miles driven, base maintenance on the run time since the last maintenance. Your generator controller can probably tell you when to perform maintenance. If you are not the do-it-yourself type, you can forward those alerts to your authorized service dealer and have them schedule the maintenance. Remote monitoring helps make maintenance more manageable with alerts and notifications.

On time maintenance keeps your standby generator ready for the next power outage.

Manufacturers usually recommend maintenance by an authorized service dealer. They do it right, there’s no disposal of oil for you to worry about, and it gets done on time. Some require specific maintenance by an authorized service dealer or they might void your warranty. Read your warranty statement and owner’s manual thoroughly.

How it Works – The Components of a Standby Generator

Monthly Upkeep

Maintenance Supplies - Oil, oil filter, spark plugs, air filger.Even if you choose to have an authorized service dealer maintain your standby generator, there are some tasks that you as a homeowner should perform, just as you would for your car or central air conditioning. Standby generators require similar maintenance. Check the oil and air filter, keep the unit clean. The small things can add up to big things when an outage strikes. Easy to do upkeep ensures reliable generator operation.

Every month, or every twenty-fours of run time, do a visual inspection that includes:

  • Fuel lines – In good shape and not loose or leaking.
  • Check coolant level on liquid cooled machines – top off if low
  • Check oil level – top off it low
  • Battery - free of corrosion and the battery cables are not loose.
  • Air filter check – replace if dirty.
  • Water problems – sprinklers, downspouts, gutters, sump pumps.
  • Enclosure check – nests, dirt, debris, corrosion.

Fuel lines are subject to vibration. Although unusual, vibration can loosen the fittings. Check for loose fittings, oil leaks, or fuel leaks. If you suspect natural gas or propane is leaking from your generator fuel line, call your authorized service dealer immediately.

Check the oil when the standby generator has not run for at least ten minutes to allow the oil to drain back into the oil pan for a more accurate reading of the oil level. If the oil is low, add small amounts to bring it back up to the correct level. Don’t overfill. Compare the oil to new oil. If it appears dirty, schedule a change even if the maintenance schedule does not call for it.

Note: Most manufacturers require the first oil change much sooner than the regular maintenance schedule—twenty-four hours, for example.

Maintain the area around the generator. Do not allow leaves or grass clippings to accumulate. Clean the louvers and air intakes. Don’t forget winter maintenance— keep the area around your standby generator clear of snow.

Buyer Guide – What Size Standby Generator?

Semi-Annual Upkeep

A standby generator in winter with snow and ice cleared awayCheck the general state of your home standby generator for anything that looks out of place. As we work outdoors and around the house, sometimes we fail to notice the pile of leaves or that the landscaper left the sump pump hose pointed right at the generator. We should always be on the lookout for these issues. We can do better by making it a part of our routine every month or every six months.

Your controller can tell you when the battery nears the end of its life and give you other information including the charge state. All batteries have an expected lifespan. Plan ahead and install a new battery rather than leave an old one to suddenly fail just when you need the generator most. Take note of the expected lifespan, the date of purchase, and record the expected end-of-life date in your maintenance records. Replace the battery at or near the end of its life.

Review the maintenance schedule and compare it to your maintenance records. Was everything performed on time? What about your maintenance supplies? Always keep two or three maintenance kits on hand to use during extended outages. In addition to the maintenance kits, a few extra quarts of oil on the shelf comes in handy when it is time to top off the oil.

Environmental conditions can affect your maintenance schedule. In fact, operating in hot, dusty conditions can halve the time between scheduled oil and filter changes. Climates with extremely cold winters may require a lighter weight oil for standby generator use in winter.

Based on average use and with proper, regular maintenance, your standby generator should provide twenty to thirty years of service.

Power Calculator – What Size Generator Do You Need?

Updated March 13, 2018


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