Consumer Reports recently published a test and review of several popular gas generators, after a reader survey revealed some big potential issues with some products in the category. One of the magazine’s core findings might seem alarming to some people; “14 percent of readers who owned generators reported problems getting them started during a power outage.” Companies like Yamaha, Honda, Troy-Bilt, Generac, Coleman, PowerMate, and even diesel powerhouse Cummins all make great generators that are reliable and long-lasting, and that can provide plenty of power in an emergency, but they only work as well as their maintenance allows. Generators require regular care and maintenance, and as Consumer Reports’ survey showed, at least 14% of generator owners don’t do the maintenance that’s necessary to keep a backup generator for home in working condition.
When someone buys a generator for emergency power, they need to know that their emergency power will be there when they call on it. The fact is that most backup generators for home require gasoline, and gasoline has a shelf life. When gas ages, it jellies, which means that the gas-powered generator you might be relying on to keep your family warm can’t do its job. In warmer climates a power outage can be an inconvenience, but in colder regions, not having power in the winter can actually be dangerous. Depending on the age of a home, it may not have any insulation in the walls or ceiling at all. Many double-brick “Century Homes” like those found in the Midwest and up and down the east coast of North America have two layers of brick, a tiny airspace, and some lathe and plaster as the only insulation against the winter’s chill. In the old days, when an oil-powered furnace was heating a hot-water radiator system that put out 150,000 BTUs of heat, this lack of insulation wasn’t a problem. Unfortunately, it means that today, the temperature in an older home can dip into the freezing zone in as little at 24 hours in extreme cold weather when the modern forced air gas, or gas boiler furnace isn’t working. For babies or elderly people, or anyone with a compromised state of health, this can be dangerous, or even deadly.
In Toronto, Canada, where CarGenerator™ is based, the municipal government often issues frequent extreme cold weather warning and alerts in the coldest months, even going so far as to open up additional emergency shelters. In a power outage, people seeking refuge from the cold quickly overwhelm the limited resources available.
If you have a gas-powered generator, make sure that you maintain it, flush out its tank and lines, store your gas separately, and make sure you cycle any stored gas regularly. Alternatively, you can store your generator ‘dry’ with a misting of oil in the carburetor, only adding gas when you need it. This means taking an extra step, and fighting to find an open gas station in a power outage, but it’s much better than having a useless gas generator when you need it the most.
The other alternative, of course, is to purchase a CarGenerator™ so that you always have power when you need it. Either way, if you live in an extreme climate, make sure that you’re prepared for the next power outage by planning ahead.