Generator maintenance

Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
By: www.prod.cmgdefault.com

Every week, consumers take their portable generators to local stores hoping for good news.

They swear they’ve been performing the recommended monthly maintenance on the machines so loud, but so valued when the power goes out following a storm. But the tell-tale thick brown sludge in the generator’s carburetor gives them away.

It’s OK, say local generator store owners. There’s no need to lie — especially now that we’re in the height of the hurricane season.

The important thing, they add, is to bring in that unused generator to be serviced before a storm is on the way.

For fees typically ranging from $65 to $125 — depending on the amount of work to be done — local generator “specialists” say they can get that neglected piece of equipment back on track.

“I get a couple of generators a week that come in for maintenance,” says Justin Suggs, general manager at Stuart Lawn & Garden. “They won’t start. People have left gas in them, or they are not doing the monthly run on the engine.”

His standard generator maintenance advice: Once a month, put a half gallon of gas in your generator and run it for at least a half-hour. A month later, do the same thing.

Even a generator that’s out of gas still has vapors that create a blockage in the carburetor, says Suggs, whose also owns and operates Suggs Lawn Equipment in Royal Palm Beach.

There are easily hundreds of portable generators idled in garages and storage sheds that haven’t seen the light of day since Wilma left town four years ago. What’s more, the current recession has moved generator maintenance to the back-burner for many owners.

Still, in one week last month, customers dropped off five generators to be brought up to snuff at Blast Off Equipment Inc. in West Palm Beach, co-owner Felix Finnegan Jr. says.

He said that’s a sign that despite the recession, the storm season is making folks recognize the need for maintenance.

“People have … left gas in them and gummed up their carburetors,” Finnegan says, which can lead to a generator mechanic having to remove the fuel completely and dry out the system with an air compressor.

One area of generator sales that has jumped during the recession is “whole house” or stand-by generators.
Jon Andio, co-owner of 1 Stop Generator Shop in Palm Beach Gardens, said since people can’t sell their homes, they figure they might as well install a generator.

He says while the store sells portable generators, sales of stand-by units — which start at $8,000 — are up 65-70 percent over 2008 and make up the bulk of his business.

But, he warns that the stand-by generators, which operate automatically and start instantly in the case of a power outage, also require maintenance.

“The big ones are car engines,” he says, “And just like a car mechanic tells you to change your oil, you should change the generator’s oil every six months.”

Power station
Generator neglect is common, say mechanics. But there are some basic maintenance tips to avoid a bill that could easily top $100.

  • Always empty fuel from a generator when it is not in use.
  • Put in a half-gallon of fresh gas and run it once a month.
  • Plug in a lamp, drill, or a small appliance to make sure the generator works.
  • If it has an electric start, keep the battery charged.
  • Cover it when not in use to keep out dirt and dust.
  • For specifics, refer to your generator’s manual.Helpful Web sites:
  • Find the right generator for you
  • Honda generators
  • Consumer Reports (Search for “generators”)
  • Running the basics
    Generator size: 5,000 watts
    Price: $1,000 (average)
    What it will run:

  • Refrigerator (1,200 watts)
  • Electric fry pan (1,500 watts)
  • Microwave (1,000 watts)
  • Three lamps (180 watts)
  • Computer and monitor (1,000 watts)
  • Television (300 watts)
  • Neglect vs. proper care
    Cost of generator: $1,000
    Cost of proper do-it-yourself maintenance: a half gallon of gas ($1.50) for 12 months = $18
    Cost of neglect: A dead generator that takes $65-$125 in service. And if it requires parts …
  • New carburetor: $100 (plus labor)
  • New battery: $60.
  • New oil and air filters: $50.
    - Susan Salisbury
  • Related

    Storm prep checklist for outside the home

    Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
    By: www.prod.cmgdefault.com

    
            Storm prep checklist for outside the home
    Get Ahead of the Storm - 5 Severe Weather Hacks

    WHEN THE STORM THREATENS:

    Refill special medications.

    Get cash (ATMs may not work for days after). Don’t charge credit cards to the limit; you might need extra cash after the storm.

    Get supplies. Follow instructions in this guide for food and water.

    Don’t fill gasoline cans until right before the storm; they are a fire hazard.

    Fill vehicle fuel tank. Gas stations could run out and some will not have power to run pumps. Check your car’s battery, water, oil. Make sure you have a spare tire and buy aerosol kits that fix and inflate flats.

    Check fire extinguishers.

    If you own a boat, make necessary preparations.

    Prepare your pool. Don’t drain it.

    If you own a plane, have it flown out or secured.

    WHEN THE STORM IS APPROACHING:

    Get shutters, storm panels or plywood in place on windows. If you haven’t installed sockets, attach with wood screws; they’re better than nails and do less damage.

    Don’t tape windows; tape can create daggers of glass and in the heat can later bake onto panes.

    Remove swings and tarps from swing sets. Tie down anything you can’t bring in. Check for loose rain gutters, moldings.

    Move grills, patio furniture and potted plants into your house or garage.

    If you do any last-minute pruning, take clippings inside so they don’t become hazards in the wind.

    Disconnect and remove satellite dish or antenna from your roof.

    Check your mailbox. If it’s loose, secure or remove it.

    Remove roof turbines and cap holes with screw-on caps. Unsecured turbines can fly off and create a large hole for rain to pour through.

    Prepare patio screening. It usually is built to sustain tropical-force winds, but with higher winds, it can separate from the frame. Officials recommend you remove a 6-foot panel on each side to let wind pass through. Pull out the tubing that holds screening in frame to remove screen.

    Secure and brace external doors, especially the garage door and double doors.

    Move vehicles out of flood-prone areas and into garages if possible. If not, park cars away from trees and close to homes or buildings.

    Don’t turn off your natural gas at the main meter. Only emergency or utility people should do that.

    Shutters and window coverings

    Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
    By: www.prod.cmgdefault.com

    Shutters and window coverings

    Shutters require regular maintenance

    Do a trial run now to make sure your shutter system is functioning properly.

    If you have removable panels, get them out to see if any are missing or bent.

    Make sure you have enough mounting fasteners. If not, hardware stores often carry extras. Make sure mounting tracks are clean and debris-free.

    Apply some light machine oil to lubricate parts and deter rust.

    Permanently applied shutter systems, such as roll-up, Bahama or accordion shutters should be serviced yearly (twice yearly, if you live on the beach) by a professional, especially if the system is motorized. If rollers are accessible, they can be sprayed with aerosol “white grease,” according to Bill Feeley, president of the International
    Hurricane Protection Association. All motors should be professionally serviced.

    Owners of newly built homes with shutter systems should make sure their builder demonstrates how to use the system and that all parts are provided before moving in. Missing or wrong-sized components are common, according to Feeley. “The homeowner assumes they fit and then when the storm is bearing down, they find out they don’t,” he said.

    — Barbara Marshall

    Contact numbers

    International Hurricane Protection Association: (844)516-4472, www.inthpa.com

    American Shutter Systems Association: 800-432-2204, www.amshutter.org

     

    Least expensive option: Plywood

    Shutter orders and backlogs rise near the height of storm season. So the time to choose your coverings, if you haven’t already, is now. The least expensive option is plywood.

    Plywood does not meet Florida Building Code specifications unless it’s installed according to code.

    To ensure code compliance, you’ll need a permit from your local building department.

    However, if a storm is close and survival is the goal, follow instructions in the accompanying graphic for correct installation.

    What’s the best roof?

    Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
    By: www.prod.cmgdefault.com

    Age and improper installation caused most roof failures in the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.

    Which kinds survived?
  • Metal roofs had the fewest problems, followed by tiles applied with concrete or foam adhesive.
  • Nailed-on tiles didn’t fare as well.
  • Shingle roofs came off in the thousands.

    When was your roof installed? Roofs installed after the mid-1990s, when building codes began to change statewide after Hurricane Andrew, survived better than those installed earlier.

    Shingle roofs

    How old is your shingle roof? Shingles become brittle and lose adhesion in the Florida sun after about 12 years even if they were properly installed. Has your shingle roof been re-roofed on top of old shingles? If so, beware. Large segments of those newer layers flew off in the high winds.

    Tile roofs

    How was your roof tile applied? Tiles applied with only concrete or foam adhesive fared better than nailed-on or screwed-on tiles, which can begin leaking after seven to 10 years. As with shingles, age affects performance.

    Flat roofs

    How many layers or ‘plys’ make up your flat roof? A three- or four-ply interlining (under the roof coating) is generally better than two. Expect a multi-layered flat roof to last 15 to 18 years.

    Metal roofs

    Is your metal roof properly attached? Metal roofs are the most expensive but also proved to be the most hurricane-resistant.

    If the roofers used the correct attachment method, either screws or clips, the wind will have a difficult time getting underneath metal roof panels.

    Sealants

    Do roof sealants and coatings help protect roofs from high winds? “I don’t recommend them,” says Joe Byrne, a roofing industry consultant and owner of Byrne Roofing in West Palm Beach, who says sealants can make shingles more brittle, affecting adhesion.

    Where to verify a roofer’s valid license:
  • State licenses: www.myflorida.com
  • Palm Beach County: (561) 233-5525, www.pbcgov.com/pzb
  • Martin County: (772) 288-5482
  • St. Lucie County: (772) 462-1672 or (772) 462-1673
  • Okeechobee: (863) 763-5548
  • Price-gouging hot line: (866) 966-7226
  • Report unlicensed contractors at (866) 532-1440
    — Barbara Marshall
  • Interactive: Home inspection tips

    Updated: Sunday, May 10, 2015
    By: www.prod.cmgdefault.com