About those generators – Tips and tactics to keep it running through the night!

by M.D. Creekmore on December 18, 2013 · 41 comments

by David B from Survival Puck - Compact  Emergency Survival Kits

Honda-GeneratorSo was writing a piece about different fuel for generators and heating the pros and cons and such. And wouldn’t you know it the power goes out. This is not a rare occurrence at my place, today is windy with sub-freezing temperatures but I’m ready. With no internet I couldn’t do the research I needed, I hiked out to the main road and sure enough a falling tree had taken down some power lines along with a power pole so I figured I’m in for about 10 hours with no power. After making sure my place was rigged for the power outage I switched to a lap top that had a charged battery and wrote this piece. None of the three generators I own are running.

I have changed my approach to using generators over the years. 20 years ago I would have sprung into action, deploying the whole house generator. In about 5 minutes my wife could be watching TV with the furnace running and the refrigerator humming. Part of this was because it was just fun to see the benefits of the time, money and effort I had put into preparing for a power outage. These low level situations are wonderful practice and you learn from each one. Maintaining a power life style in a post power world might work for the short term, but not as a long term strategy. Since then my efforts have been to set my place up not to use electricity if it can be avoided. It comes down to want vs need.

Take today’s power outage, the thermometer read 17 degrees this morning, at some point the pipes are going to start freezing if I don’t keep some heat in the house. I’ve got a propane fired heater that takes no electricity that will handle this issue, I don’t need a generator. If not for that stove I would have to run the furnace occasionally and would need the generator. I’m on a community well so I currently have no running water but there are a couple 5 gallon jugs in the mud room for short term and much more elsewhere.  I have a generator specifically for the well but won’t hook it up and run it unless this outage goes until tomorrow morning. The neighbors know this as well. I will run the well 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night so folks can do dishes take showers and such.

I have enough fuel to do this for a week or two but would switch to maybe 15 minutes a day, just long enough for everyone to refill water containers if it looked like a real long term crisis. As long as we don’t open the refrigerator a bunch of times I won’t need to power that up for several hours. In a long term situation with this weather I would just empty the refrigerator and freezer into coolers and leave them outside. If it was warmer I would power the refrigerator sparingly and begin eating everything in the refrigerator followed by the freezer, once empty it would become a food cabinet.

While I still have a whole house generator, several years ago much to my wife’s consternation I bought a little 1000 watt suitcase style generator. This has turned out to be very handy and versatile. My wife has no problem starting it when I not around, its surprisingly quiet and number one in my book, it sips the gas. When it gets dark tonight I’ll set it on the back porch run a cord into the house and power up my refrigerator , charge the lap top and phones, maybe hang a couple florescent work  lights in the kitchen and living room while we make dinner. It’s just a matter of having enough extension cords and a power strip or two. Although cords running every which way in your house might be unsightly this is a valid strategy that anyone can do with a minimum of skill. If you have the funds a trip to the hardware store followed by a trip to the gas station can have you covered in an hour.

Other than firing up the whole house generator a couple times a year to make sure all systems are a go I have only used it once over the last two years. That was after 5 days of no power and my wife needed to do some laundry and as a bonus run the dish washer. It’s nice to know I have it, although in the big picture its importance has diminished considerably.

Me and generators go back a long way, my first was a Korean war era 2500 watt two stroke. I got it for next to nothing and proceeded to monkey with it till she ran and made electricity. That thing could run in a ditch half full of mud.  My next was a basic 5000 watt Coleman with a big fuel tank. She has served me well and still powers the community well when called upon; she is one loud girl who likes to run hard and not much else. I fixed up an old no name for my Dad which he ran for many years. I built my own load tester so I could dial generators in.  My real education on generators came from fixing them when I had an RV repair business. I’ve learned a few things, what follows are just my opinions so please take it as such

Small portable suitcase type units are in the 500 to 2000 watt range enough to run lights a TV some smaller hand tools, charge the batteries in an RV nothing too tough, units closer to the 2000 watt might run a microwave which is a very good thing and some roof top AC units on an RV. In my opinion don’t even bother with anything less than 1000 watts unless you just want to charge a phone, run a computer , lights or some other light loads, a 1000 watt generator can fire up most of the newer energy efficient refrigerators but an old refer will probably choke it.

These are incredibly handy ,easy to start machines just don’t ask them to do too much heavy lifting.  Mid-sized units are in the 3500 to 6000 watt range these can all be started by hand to a point, more on this this later. These mid-sized units can power a typical house as long as you limit what you are running. If you have an electric furnace or water heater they are too small, maybe one or two burners on an electric stove or a micro wave. Once you get above the 6000 watt range you pretty much need an electric start and that means a battery which is another whole subject.

Beware of the generator ratings there is a lot of subterfuge going on here. You can be looking at two generators side by side that both are labeled as 5000 watts one is considerably less expensive than the other. What they don’t tell you is one is rated for 5000 watts surge the other is 5000 watts continuous. This means the 5000 watt surge generator can supply 5000 watts for a few seconds to handle the extra power needed to start a refrigerator compressor or furnace blower.

This generator might only be good for 3500 watts continuously. Were as a 5000 Watt continuous duty rated generator might handle 7500 watts surge, read the fine print. There is a simple way to cut thru this, look at the horsepower of the engine, as a good rule of thumb figure 500 watts of reliable power from each horse power. So a generator with 5 horse power is good for about 2500 watts continuously. An 8 horse power generator is good for 4000 watts and so on. This simple rule should keep you out of trouble.

Not all generators are created equal, you need decide how much you are going to rely on it and of course what you can afford. If your goal to make it a day or two every couple years a cheap unit is fine but if you are going to build a plan around a generator better step up to the plate. The engines you find in value units are typically good for a limited number of hours, while a more expensive unit might run indefinitely as long as regular maintenance is done. The main difference you have to understand is the engine design.

The good old L head engine has been around forever.  It’s still found on your value brand generators. Remember the old Ford flathead V-8? This is an L head engine.  There will be L head engines working after you and I are long gone. They are the simplest engine to manufacture and tear down and fix. In an apocalyptic scenario I would prefer working on an L head. I once did a de-carbon on an L-head generator in the open during a snow storm, of course it still didn’t run worth a crap once I got it back together  but I did it. So what’s the problem with L head engine generators? Nothing as long as you run them hard, without getting too technical the problem is there is a lot of surface area in the combustion chamber where the magic happens.

This means if the old L head is not working hard and hot, carbon tends build up on the head, valves and piston. This is not good and I’ll leave it at that. For this reason an L-head engine is great for some tasks but powering a generator is down on the list. A generator needs to loaf along only powering a light load maybe for hours but still be able to start that refrigerator of furnace blower. The poor old L head just can’t hang loafing along. It just doesn’t get hot enough to get to its sweet spot and dies a slow carbon choked death. So if you are running an L-head engine make her work, run a space heater your refrigerator get your place warm and your refer cold then shut her down, but don’t ask her to wait for you to give her an load to carry, she don’t like it.

The overhead valve engine solves this issue as well as being more efficient. If it’s in your budget go for the overhead valve engine. Usually you will see OHV spelled out on the engine somewhere, these are much better engines and manufactures tend to tout this. All modern cars have overhead valve engines, they are significantly more complex but worth every penny in terms of reliably and versatility. OHV engines can loaf along for hours without near the carbon built up as L heads. That said they still need some serious exercise occasionally as we all do.

By far and away the biggest killer of generators is bad gas. Gasoline has a limited shelf life. We never have to confront this limited life with our cars as we fill up every week or two and that’s that. By my estimation gas is good for about 6 months before it starts getting sour. When it does it has a smell to it I wish I could describe. Gas treated with preserving additives help for at least a year maybe 18 months but that is pushing it. A tightly sealed gas can in a cool place helps. Fuel stored above about 70 degrades much more quickly.  Problem is particularly on the units with big fuel tanks is once you fill it up there is no simple way to empty it. A typical scenario is the lights go out but you have your stuff together and run you generator for a few hours. Crisis passes you did well and the generator, still half full of gas gets tucked in a corner.

One year later another situation arises and your generator will not start….bad gas. To add insult to injury that nasty old gas has gummed up your delicate carburetor and fresh gas may or may not solve this problem. Most generators have a fuel shut off valve, at the very least when you’re ready to put it to bed fire it up, shut off the fuel valve and let it run till it dies. Contrary to popular belief you are not running the carburetor dry you are just getting some of the gas out to the point where the carburetor can’t supply the right air fuel mix and the engine dies. Some units have a way to unscrew the carburetor float bowl and dump all the fuel but that’s getting rare. Best thing is to always treat your fuel with a stabilizing additive so the fuel left in the carburetor is treated and hope for the best.

Getting the fuel out of the tank is another subject, I always put a valve it the fuel line so I can drain the tank. As a rule I don’t leave gas in my generators, they are dry until I need them then I use the freshest gas I have. As a side note I only buy premium gas for my mowers, weed eaters, chainsaws and generators, by experience it seems to last a couple months longer than regular gas, can’t prove it though. I always have gas that’s getting long in the tooth by the start of winter. I just wait until one of my rigs is about half full and dump the old gas in there so it mixes with newer gas. Never seems to hurt anything then I fill up all my cans with fresh treated premium gas.

Starting generators

Several things need to come together to get a generator going. We are going to assume you have good fuel and the physical strength. One thing is to fire your unit up on an 80 degree day after a couple pulls. Getting it to light at 20 degrees is another subject. Easy on the choke, set the choke and give it a few purposeful pulls. You need to pull hard and fast. If the engine coughs a bit switch to half choke and give it a good pull. Once it fires let it run on half choke a bit and take the choke off.  If it started on full choke let it run a few seconds and go to half choke. Don’t be afraid of running the choke between half and full to get keep it running. If it doesn’t cough on full choke go to half choke and repeat. The key here is don’t pull on the poor beast forever on full choke If it doesn’t fire.

After five or six good pulls on full choke you are probably flooding the engine. So take the choke completely off and pull hard a few times. It may cough a bit which is a great sign. Go to half choke and give her the business. If all else fails you have a couple options. My fall back plan is starter fluid you buy in a spray can at any auto parts store. You need to get it into the carburetor intake which means removing the air filter cover which usually requires no to basic tools. Shoot the starting fluid right into the carburetor for a second or two, it vaporizes fast so try starting it a quick as you can after spraying it. Once started put the air filter cover back on immediately.  All generator manufacturers discourage you from using starting fluid, voids the warranty they say, I’m just telling you what works for me.

Last ditch effort is to pull the spark plug and heat electrode with a propane torch until it glows bright yellow for a few seconds let it cool a bit put it back in and start over with less choke this time. This is a trick you won’t find in the books but it works. Let the generator warm up for a minute or two before you connect it to anything and when it’s time to shut it down disconnect it and let it run a bit to cool down. Another little trick is to shut the fuel valve off rather than killing it with the switch. If seen more than one float valve stick and over flow gas out of the carburetor vent, lost a full tank of gas one time because of this. By turning off the fuel valve the carburetor cannot over flow.

Something you never want to do.

Never ever play with the throttle to speed up the engine or to get it to run better when you have it powering anything. On most generators the voltage is a function of the engine speed. So revving the throttle might take the voltage from the normal 120 volts to 200 volts in a hurry and many electric gadgets take a real offence to this and decide to quit working.

PS: The power came on 12 hours later

Please visit David’s site at Survival Puck for Compact  Emergency Survival Kits

41 comments

Ronald December 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

Good article David B. I have a question would gas be ok ln my Honda genny if its treated with PRI gas treatment? I also have 3 gennys a 2000 and a 900, but the Honda is 6500 with 200 gal. in storage. I have run vehicles with gas up to 6 years after treatment, but I wonder about gennys?

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I have always used Stabil but if you are getting 6 years out of PRI maybe I should switch. I’m guessing here but modern vehicle’s have much more advanced fuel delivery and control systems then you average generator. I am going to assume therefore they will tolerate marginal gas more readily then a generator.

OhioPrepper December 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Dave,
I’ve always had better results with PRI-G over Stabil .

riverrider December 18, 2013 at 10:25 am

great write up! i would add that at least one person should be awake while the genny is running, for safety of both the genny and the people. carbon dioxide is a sneeky snake.

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Thanks
Hope I didn’t make it sound like I run a genny inside, my porch is open.
I don’t have that problem as I cant sleep if a generator is running!

worrisome December 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

Good article!

George December 18, 2013 at 11:24 am

Don’t have a big generator yet and I may never get one. I did get a steal on a Honda 2000 inverter genny at an estate sale. I do have a 1500 watt inverter and a couple of deep cycle marine batteries that I can hook up to run lights , tv , the fridge and freezer as needed. I think for me the best plan is to get a small solar array and if needed just use the generator to charge the batteries. That will save on fuel, and not let every one in the world know I have a generator.
I think the main points are to have other ways to heat your home and just realize that without the power grid you don’t NEED to run your whole house unless you can just afford to or want to.

livinglife December 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm

the biggest problem is theft. We used to have these stolen from remote cell towers all the time. have a plan to lock them in place or deterrents.

Uncle Sam had us dig holes deeper than they were and sand bag up to make a sound ‘chimney’ . worked pretty well.

Mike December 18, 2013 at 1:20 pm

LOL… I laugh at the theft statement because I went to the local Murdoch’s the other day where they had a whole isle of generators and all of them were chained together using 1/2 inch thick chain links down both sides of the isles and both shelves.
Those are big items to conceal if someone tried to shoplift one. Maybe they just didn’t want people taking them off the shelf to look at them, or possibly break because they were not aware how heavy they are and drop one.
The cheapest one was $700, the most expensive was almost $5,000.

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Hear you on the theft, If a guy was less then upstanding it would be easy to just cruise an area listening and come back later. The sound chimney is a good idea.
One nice thing about the suitcase type they usually have a fuel vent shut off and you can bring them inside when not in use without the wife bitching about gas small.

Donna in MN December 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for the detailed information. I use my truck for a small generator with its camper gagets. The problem I had 2 summers ago with our blow down and power outage for a week was getting gas. I let my truck go down to nearly empty when it happened, and all my gas containers were empty. Never again!

Encourager December 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I bet you learned from that experience, Donna. It only takes one time, right? We all need those ‘learning times’ occasionally to keep us sharp.

Fixit December 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Good basic generator article . Noted you didn’t get into changing over to propane which would do away with gas worries . Also the difference in a generator that’s setup to run at 1800 rpm verses the more common 3600 rpm units.

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Great point propane is a great fuel for generators,
Probably should have talked about the 1800 vs 3600 rpm ( 2 pole vs 4 pole) but was afraid it was too long already.

Becky December 19, 2013 at 11:57 am

Fixit
Dh and I have a propane generator, and would never go back to a gas unit. It runs quieter, you get longer running time on the propane versus the gas units. Maintaining the units are easier, check and clean the spark plug, changing the oil when due. Make sure all connections are sealed(soapy water test), check the propane amounts every month if you use it for power.
We are looking at a new household unit that runs on propane, they cost a little bit more, but I do not have to turn it on every month to check the systems. It will do it for you. Still under consideration as we can not go without power due to dh health issues.

OhioPrepper December 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Dave,
Well written and informative article. You bring up some very good points on mitigating the need for full time electricity in a short term outage, or even a long term one. Using the Genset sparingly and doing all of the “electric” things like pumping water, charging batteries, taking showers and doing laundry, during a few hours period works well, and is the strategy we also use. Typically we keep at least 6 5-gallon buckets full of “flush” water, and generally have enough potable water to get us through most of the outages we’ve incurred. During the 1978 blizzard (before the DD and I were married), she suffered a 10 day outage; but, in the last 30 years, our longest outage has only been about 8-10 hours, with the short glitches being much more common. We ride these out with UPS units on the computer, entertainment center, and telephone system. For longer term outages we have a water BOB and some food grade barrels. There is also a creek out back for additional flush and gardening water if need be.
My oldest Genset is a WW II Mil surplus Olin 3500 watt two cylinders. Its water cooled with an open, unsealed radiator, and in testing years ago, didn’t even groan when we drew nearly 5000 watts from it. They don’t make the new ones like that. Like you, we have others in the 800 to 3500 (4500 peak) range.
I am a big proponent of propane for all of our home fuel requirements and we keep several thousand gallons on hand and on line. Propane has numerous advantages.
If you purchase in bulk, especially in the off season (i.e., summer fill) it is substantially less expensive than gasoline. For example, the last two summers we paid $1.019 and $1.179 per gallon respectively, while gasoline was in the $3.00-4.00 range. Gasoline does have slightly more energy per gall than propane (124,340 BTU/Gallon vs. Propane @ 91,410 BTU/ Gallon); however, the difference is only 38% while the price was about 350% higher.
Propane also has essentially infinite storage life, as long as the container is leak free.
Finally, you need not choose one fuel over the other for a Genset, since you can convert back and forth rather easily with conversion kits from places like http://uscarb.com. Although I’ve not yet made the conversion, it’s on the list when the free cash becomes available, and I have friends who have used it successfully. It also gets excellent online reviews.

rjarena December 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I used to lock up my power equipment too, mostly to stop someone from bring it up to the register without having a knowledgeable person checking it out(make sure some key part did not walk) and to go over basic use, maintenance, care,etc. The gas issue is very important, all gas is not equal, and some of the gas sold in the winter has so much cr@p in it that it can damage your small engines, so check your manual, you may need to use the appropriate additive.

PGCPrepper December 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for the informative article and for taking the time during your “blackout.”

I’m with Mr/Mrs. Fixit. (If it’s Mr. I would change my alias to Mr. Fixit), I’m interested in a propane fed generator. Probably best not to write on it with no experience and I respect that. Maybe others can contribute. It seems so logical due to the whole concern about the longevity of gasoline.

As an aside, who came up with the word gasoline and why do we we say we have gas when we eat, say, my mother-in-law’s cooking instead of we have gasoline?

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Thank you
Propane is a great fuel for generators just more complicated.
I think about gasoline will being easier to scavenge from vehicles. Also the bigger propane generators require a liquid feed which is a specialized tank as apposed to the gas feed you get out of a BBQ tank.

Swabbie Robbie December 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Thanks for the article. Living in the country, we have outages fairly frequently. They usually only last about 6 hours, but occasionally they go on for a few days.

I had a transfer box put on our power pole by an electrician in 1998. I just switch to the generator from the power line when it the power goes out and don’t have to worry about power going back down the line.

This system runs the whole place, but we turn off anything we don’t need, and would not uses the oven while on the generator.

Bad gas is the main problem I have had with the generator not starting. The one we have now has an electric start but the battery is a puny lawn tractor battery and I often have to carry a type 27 marine battery over to jump start it all.

Right now the generator lives in the kitchen since it has been so bitter cold and it does not want to start until warmed up.

I try to keep about fifty gallons of gas that I rotate into the cars to keep it fresh enough.

Lulu December 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Excellent overview for generators, and yes to comments above — especially pay attention to carbon monoxide. Sometimes old gasoline can be restored by mixing with fresh gas. Try a small amount before filling the tank… propane stores great and burns clean, but be aware of pressure drops in very cold weather. Honda makes an EU3000i “Handi” generator that is rated for 3000 watts and only weighs about 80 lbs. It sips fuel and is amazingly quiet. About $2200 at campingworld.com (free shipping!) but easily worth it. You get what you pay for. Make sure you invest in heavy duty extension cords, rated 10 or 12 gauge to carry the power.

OhioPrepper December 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Lulu,
Very good point on the extension cords. Even when powering something that doesn’t draw a lot of power, it you need to add length between the Genset and the load, the large gauge cords will give better performance and less voltage drop.

Novice December 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I decided to forgo the generator and go with a 2000W power inverter that plugs directly into the car battery. Since I keep my cars maintained for driving anyway I can count on them starting when I need it. I can’t run the whole house on it but I can take turns running the sump pump, refrigerator, furnace, or any other essentials. I had to use it during hurricane Sandy for about 20 hours. I didn’t notice I had a problem until I went into the basement and saw standing water. With hours of continuous use I kept the water level just below the sump crock. It eventually burned out the regulator in my car’s alternator. It wasn’t a big deal to change (and it was in warranty since I just replaced it). The car still ran fine, it just quit charging for about 10 minutes at a time. I’m glad I had that little emergency to prove my system.

OhioPrepper December 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Novice,
A 2000 watt inverter will draw nearly 200 amps at full load. If you’re going to rely on this system, you may want to consider replacing the alternator on your vehicle with a heavy duty one. That should eliminate the regulator burn out and provide you with a more reliable source of power.

Bobbo December 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Good article…..TYVM Dave…..I’m pretty well set genny wise, but not too wise about genny’s…..have not had to use due to power loss, so I may be in for a ‘shock’ or 3 due to inexperience. I sold an old Dayon 5k w/a big Briggs, wish I had not….now have a 10k & 2k Honda, so I’m good for now, but need to do some dry runs for the experience….TYVM for ‘enlightening’ my regarding my ‘short’comings!

Rick December 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm

WHAT BRAND IS A GOOD 1000 WATT GEN

Pineslayer December 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Rick, I have a 1000w Honda, it is the EU1000i ?
Very, very good unit. They can be linked together to increase output when needed. Say, if your friend has one. They also have 12V charging ports. I found mine on CL for $500 in near new shape.

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I’m with Pineslayer hard to beat the Hondas.

mom of three December 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

With carbon monoxide, make sure you buy a dectector and place it low as carbon monoxide, does not rise like smoke does. Check your smoke dectectors and replace them if it’s been more then ten years since putting them in . My hubby is an electrician, and they recommend getting new ones every 10 years we just replaced two in the front of the house they were 13 years old. Next year we will replace three of them as they are coming up on 10 years, since our remodel. Also if you buy a generator, that has to be put in by an electrician, do it in the spring/ summer when the generators, are not so much in demand.

Harry December 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Great Article David B!

I am a lurker here but have realized the need for prepping for about 14 years. I have owned a generator for that same period of time. I worked for Bellsouth Corporation when I bought a Generac 5500 KW OHVI 11hp generator (surge to 6875) because of the risk of winter ice storms where I lived. (At the time I bought Generac because that is what Bellsouth bought and I knew dependability was everything.) Onan is also a preferred brand, but they tend to cater to large industrial customers. It was not unusual to see weather related outages to telephone service due to ice storms in the area. Large Central Offices NEVER go down to lack of power because they are backed up by huge onsite diesel generators. These are tested monthly on a schedule to make sure they will perform when needed. (If you buy, you should do the same.) After participating in a couple of storm breaks to restore service to customers, I decided it was worth the money to be prepared. I never used the generator in Kentucky but when I moved to Florida at retirement, I took it with me. When 4 hurricanes hit Florida in 2004 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Atlantic_hurricane_season) I was ready. I had taken a job that required travel with a company that provided 911 service across the country and was gone during the week; but my wife was able to provide power to our home while I was absent with the generator we brought with us. When we were without power during that year we never were uncomfortable. I never heard but 1 other generator running in the subdivision we lived in and was so thankful we had a generator. We have a 1450 sq ft house and were able to run everything including the A/C. The one compromise we made was kicking the breaker off on the hot water heater when we used the electric stove. I highly recommend a generator but I would go with a whole house propane or natural gas unit if I were purchasing now. They have become much cheaper than when I bought in 2000. There are many things to consider when operating a generator but the most important consideration you can possibly make is SAFETY! If you are not sure how to hook one up to your house SAFELY, don’t! Ask an electrician or someone knowledgeable because you can electrocute a lineman, (Electric or Telephone) if you back-feed your generator output back to the transmission lines. I still have the same Generac and test it the 1st of each month. I run it for 5 minutes and shut it down. It has never failed me.

Everett R Littlefield December 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Be very careful of how much starting fluid you squirt in the carb.! It is best to find the inlet to the filter and just spray a light mist AT that opening! It works best if you have a mate that can do the squirting whilst you pull the rope.

If you give it more than ONE, one second burst, you stand the very real chance of getting a hole punched in the top of the piston or breaking the connecting rod! A little thing called pre-ignition or detonation. It happens because the ether is much more volatile than vaporized gasoline, and when that spark plug fires, it tries to drive that piston back down before it has had chance to get to the top of its stroke . ERGO bad stuff happening ’cause something had to give. You may get away with it a time or two, but you are putting un-engineered for stresses on the piston and con rod.

Long time reader, minimum poster

Dave Bailie December 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Sound advice, the manufacturers sure don’t like it. That said its been known to save the day.

Western_Reservist December 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Good point about using “ether” or starting fluid too much.

You get a pre-detonation–and you’ll REALLY know it!

Hujonwi December 19, 2013 at 3:46 am

Yes you do… and WD-40 works just as well…

Mark December 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I have a yamaha triple fuel genny. Gasoline, propane or natural gas. As long as our local gas company keeps pumping, I’d rather use up their inventory than mine.

medic mom December 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I just received mine yesterday and we’re excited to check it out. With a large propane tank we could have power for quite a while and with a diesel truck we’re ready with a backup. I’m still interested in the solar generators but there is so much hype and BS I may just try something homemade.

Greygrandpa December 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

In the 1960′s Bell Labs did a study of generator reliability. They sent out to the Bell Telephone companies to set their generators to run ONE(1) hour per week, UNDER LOAD. They considered to loading to be so important that where necessary the built artificial loads (big resistor banks) on the sides of the buildings. Less than one hour did not get the oil to a high enough temperature to evaporate the moisture in the oil.
Propane generators are fine but must be supplied with adequate vapor. If you can find an old Onan catalog, there is a section in the back on sizing propane tanks based on generator size and expected outside temperature. If you can find an 1800rpm generator, Grab it.

Survival Pro December 22, 2013 at 7:36 am

Awesome tips. I generally don’t want to skip on quality material when it comes to dangerous equipment like this. Also, I empty the tank with a hand pump before running the carburetor dry and reload it with a fresh gas.

Survival Guru December 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm

We don’t have a typical generator persay, but we do own a large welder which acts as a generator. During extreme, cold conditions when we knew that power would be out, we’ve backed the truck up and run the generator overnight. It totally saved us. I think that a generator of any kind is a powerful investment.

But I do want to get a generator as a stand-by. Your article gave a lot of useful information that I can put to use – thank you!

seriousone72 December 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm

If i might add my 2 cents: Something to consider on which type of fuel to use in your generator. Use E-free fuel. E-free is NON ethanol. I have been using e-free for years in my 13 horse power Honda pressure washer. Why? Because ethanol gas when it sits “Attracts moisture”, and besides that, it (the e-gas) eats the soft rubber (think prime bulbs on your weed eaters) parts, and gums up the carb. I’ve left that honda for a year and a half(partially filled with e-free gas) and 3 pulls later, she lives again. I hope that helps.

dwhite December 26, 2013 at 7:12 am

Very important advice to avoid ethanol fuel in all your small engines.

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