Like any other engine-powered machine, standby generators require regular maintenance. For example, just like your car needs an oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles, most standby generators need one every year. As a whole home generator owner, it is important to service & take care of your investment to ensure that it is working properly when you need it most and to extend the lifespan of your equipment. Although we always recommend calling a licensed & factory trained electrician or generator technician to maintain your system, we also believe that every homeowner should know what goes into servicing your own equipment.
The first step required in assessing the condition of your whole home generator is to visually inspect your equipment. The “green light” on your Generac or Kohler generator should be on, and should not be a “red light”. A green light lets you know that there are no major faults or errors with the equipment. Make sure that there is no overgrowth of vegetation around the unit, and allow for a clear working radius within the vicinity of the equipment.
The first step in maintaining your whole home generator is to change out the air filter once a year. If you have ever replaced the air filter in your home’s HVAC system, or in your vehicle, then you know how dirty they can get. The air filter is a crucial part of any generator. It protects the engine from dirt and larger particles that could otherwise get into combustion chambers and cause premature wearing of materials. That is why you should always try your best to keep your air filter clean and properly maintained.
Just like your car’s engine, a generator also has spark plugs that assist with engine ignition. This is the piece of equipment that ignites the fuel in your generator – whether it be diesel, gasoline, or natural gas powered. Many whole home generators have one or two spark plugs, but that may vary depending on the make, model, and size of the unit. After a year of use, your spark plugs can get pretty nasty. Take out the old spark plugs and compare them to the new ones. The difference is pretty dramatic.
The next step is to perform a good visual inspection on the inside of the unit. Look for any signs of concern, and ensure the generator housing is dry, clean, and that hoses and wiring are in tact and in good condition. This is by far the easiest step for a home owner to perform, and should be done regularly to identify any issues before they become major problems.
An often overlooked step is to physically clean your generator. Use a cloth with a non-flammable degreaser to wipe dust and debris from the exterior of your generator. A soft bristled brush (toothbrush/paintbrush) works to remove dust and fuel residue from around openings. You may use an air compressor to blow dust and debris from the housing.
Starting & running your whole home generator is a crucial step of the service. Running the generator for about 5 minutes allows the oil to heat up so that it can be drained & changed for fresh oil. Running the system for a short period of time also allows you to judge the condition of the generator based on how it starts & runs.
You wouldn’t drive a car for 10,000 miles or let it sit for a year without changing the oil, and the same goes for your standby generator. Once the generator’s engine has warmed up for at least 5 minutes, then it’s time to begin draining the old oil from the motor. Be sure to use an approved oil storage container during this part, and ensure that you are disposing of this used oil properly.
After changing the generator’s oil, you should then proceed with changing out the oil filter. If the oil filter is not changed periodically, the filter can become severely clogged, reducing the volume of oil passing through the filter and into your engine. Most generators need oil changes every 50 hours of use on average, but it is dependent on make & model, and you should always check your owner’s manual to be sure.
After you have replaced the oil filter & drained the old oil from the engine, it’s time to add new oil. Most whole home generators take a 5W-30 Synthetic oil, but again – always consult with your owner’s manual to ensure that you are using the correct oil type.
After new oil is added to the engine, it should be started so that the oil can circulate throughout the system. After it runs for a minute, turn the generator back off, and then check the oil dip stick to ensure that enough oil has been re-introduced into the engine and properly circulated.
Transfer switches, both automatic and manual, provide you fast access to power for critical functions in the event of an outage. Without the aid of a transfer switch, you have to manually connect your generator to the equipment you wish to power. Visually inspect the transfer switch box to ensure that there is no visible damage, debris, or exposed wiring within the transfer switch.
Generators are complex pieces of machinery that require both mechanical & electrical knowledge & capabilities. While a generator can be serviced yourself, it is always recommended to hire a licensed, bonded, & insured company that is factory authorized to work on your system. Depending on your warranty, you may be required to have a service completed by an authorized dealer. Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric is a Kohler dealer & experienced Generac service company. Our licensed & factory trained electricians service all of Northwest Arkansas, SW Missouri & the Fort Smith River Valley, and we are ready to service or install your whole home generator. Call us today at 479-751-0195 & inquire about our whole home generator service agreements!