How to Prepare Your Generator During the Fall

Children raking and playing in leaves in the front yard of a house.

It is that time of year again for apple picking, flannel shirts, pumpkin lattes… and preparing your standby generator for the fall! The air is getting that crisp chill in the mornings and as the night falls. Autumn is upon us, and winter won’t be far behind. If you have a standby generator for your home or business, now is the time to make sure it’s working properly before the freezing temperatures set in. You’ll want to clean up the area around your generator and prime the machine now, rather than deal with an icy, cold mess in a few months. And if there is an electrical outage, you want the peace of mind knowing your backup power unit is ready to jump in and save the day. Follow these autumn maintenance tips to ensure your generator is ready to power on if and when you need it.

Basic Maintenance Tips

Standby generators may seem like complicated pieces of machinery, and while they require a professional for installation and more technical services, there are some simple maintenance jobs a home or business owner can do on their own. Remember – always make sure your generator is switched off before you perform any service to the unit. If you are unsure of how to perform any of the below jobs, contact a licensed professional for assistance.

Clear the Area of Leaves and Debris

The colorful leaves of autumn are certainly beautiful, but when they fall from the trees and gather around your generator, they can clog the air vents and inhibit your generator’s performance. Remove any leaves, sticks, or other debris to allow for proper air flow and prevent overheating. Clearing the area also makes it easier to access your generator should you need further maintenance later in the season.

Perform a Visual Inspection

After the area has been cleared, perform a visual inspection of the generator. Keep an eye out for any signs of visible damage or advanced wear, such as dents, rust, loose components, or noticeable leaks. You’ll also want to make sure the vents are clear to allow for a good exchange of air. Lastly, be on the lookout for any signs of a rodent infestation in the unit. They might seem fairly harmless but rodents can cause thousands of dollars of damage to a generator by chewing wires and making nests in the unit. If you spot anything concerning, call a generator specialist to come out and take a look.

Check the Fuel Supply

You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a power outage only to find that your generator is low on fuel. Whether your unit runs on propane, natural gas, or diesel, there should be a gauge you can check on the fuel supply to make sure your unit is ready to power on when needed. While you’re checking the fuel level, you should also do a visual inspection of the fuel source to identify any leaks, corrosion, or loose connections. Again, if you notice something that you’re unsure about, call a professional for a further inspection.

Change the Oil and Filter

Generators have an engine to power them, much like your car does. Like your car’s engine, it’s important to check the oil level of your generator regularly to keep it running properly. Warning: Never check or add oil to the generator while the engine is running or hot. If you aren’t sure how old the oil is, it’s best to drain it and refill with fresh oil. Your owner’s manual will have detailed information on checking and changing the oil, including the type of oil, amount needed, and type of oil filter. You can also find online guides for specific models. 

Check the Battery

Standby generators require a battery to start, again, very similar to your car’s engine. First, check that the battery terminals are clean, free from corrosion, and secure. Next, using a multimeter, check that the battery is holding a charge that is 90% or more of the manufacturer’s listed rating. This value can be found in your owner’s manual. If you find a reading below this range, you should consider replacing the battery soon. A reading of 80% or less indicates the battery needs to be replaced now. Most batteries will need to be replaced every 2-3 years. A generator specialist can help you test and/or replace a battery if you are unsure of how to do it yourself or lack the equipment.

Give It Some Exercise

Exercising your generator means to run it without a load for a short period of time. This allows the unit to reach a working temperature and keeps the internal parts lubricated, which can help prevent premature wear and failure. Turn your generator on and allow it to run for about 30 minutes. Ideally, this should be done monthly to keep your generator in tip top shape. Contact a professional if you notice the generator is having difficulty starting, making unusual noise, leaking, or producing excessive smoke during the test.

Test Your Commercial Generator with a Load Bank

If you have a backup generator for your business, it’s especially important to test your unit with a load bank. A load bank is a piece of equipment that simulates an electrical load, or the energy consumption used by devices connected to the power source, in order to test the generator’s performance and ability to handle the demand. A load bank test is critically important for commercial and emergency generators, where the power demand is especially high. Load banks are specialized pieces of equipment, so you may need to call a generator specialist to perform this test.

Differences in Maintaining Commercial and Residential Generators

While they both perform similar functions, commercial and residential generators have some key differences. For one, a commercial generator is responsible for supplying a higher power output than a residential unit. This demand requires larger units with more complex components. Commercial generators are also subject to different legal and electrical requirements than residential generators. These requirements are set not only to ensure proper performance, but also to prevent any interruptions to life-critical devices, such as emergency lighting or medical equipment. With these differences in mind, it’s often best to schedule a maintenance visit for your commercial unit from a professional generator specialist. They will ensure your backup power source is up to code and ready to keep your business running during an outage.

Proactive Maintenance Helps Keep Your Generator Ready for When You Need It

For homes and businesses alike, backup generators offer peace of mind in fair weather and can provide necessary power in less favorable conditions. Inspecting and maintaining your generator now is the best way to make sure you’re prepared for the cold and stormy months ahead. These simple steps will help you identify any issues that need to be addressed and ensure your unit is ready to provide power when you need it. If you encounter any service job that you are uncomfortable taking on yourself, or if you find there is a larger problem at hand, call a licensed generator specialist for help. When the cold weather arrives, you’ll be glad you did. 

Trust Tower Generator for Residential & Commercial Generator Service

For nearly 30 years, businesses and homeowners have relied on the experts at Tower Generator for all their backup and emergency power needs. From brand new installations to routine service, Tower Generator handles 100% of the project 100% of the time. Our factory trained technicians are ready to take on any challenge at a moment’s notice. For service you can trust, day or night, you can count on Tower Generator. Contact us today to schedule a service appointment or to discuss installing a new backup power system for your home or business.