Is your home generator ready?

Published 2:47 pm Monday, July 1, 2013

August and September are historically the months of highest frequency of hurricanes in South Louisiana. Are you prepared? Besides the usual check list items like water, batteries, canned food, etc, don’t forget to check your gas powered home generator so you’ll be ready if a hurricane affects your area and power fails.  
Last July, well before Hurricane Isaac made shore in Plaquemines Parish last August, I took my garden tiller out of storage to till a few rows in my vegetable garden to get ready to plant my fall crop. When I pulled the recoil to start it, the tiller rope broke. I brought the machine to a gentleman in LaPlace who repairs all types of small engines to install a new recoil rope for me. I was shocked to see nearly 20 home generators in his yard awaiting repairs. When I asked him the reason, he was quick to reply “people used their home generators last time we lost power and ran ethanol gasoline in them. Upon storage, ethanol gasoline deteriorates and turns into a ‘jelly,’ which plugs the carburetor, and it will not start.” Each engine had to have its carburetor disassembled and cleaned. The average cost is about $100 or more, depending if any other damage is found.  
I would like to help readers to be prepared for power outages if they have a gasoline powered home generator by describing my procedure to assure my generator will start when I will need it. Years ago, I purchased six 5-gallon plastic gasoline containers. In early August, I begin filling a few at a time with ethanol-free gasoline, to which I add a fuel stabilizer called Sta-Bil (the red dyed one), which is sold at Home Depot, Wal-Mart and some parts stores. I shop for price and target to complete filling my six containers no later than mid August. After I use my generator last and before I prepare it for storage, I always empty the remaining gas in the fuel tank, change the oil in the engine, install a new spark plug and apply a tag listing the storage date and the oil change and spark plug change date. That way, I know it will be ready for use on short notice next time power fails. Next time I need it, I merely fill the generator’s fuel tank with ethanol-free gas and pull the cord, and it fires up the first crank.                                                                    
Most 5,500 – 6,500 Kw home generators will operate about 12 hours on a 5-gallon tank of fuel, depending on how much load the generator is powering. So, with 30 gallons of ethanol-free gasoline ready, I can operate for about three days before I will need to re-fill my fuel containers. If, by that time, ethanol-free fuel stations are not back in operation, but ethanol stations are, go ahead and use ethanol gasoline (10 percent ethanol MAX – under no circumstances should gasoline with greater than 10 percent ethanol be used as it will damage the engine and the manufacturer will not honor the warranty). However, when power is restored and you are able to purchase ethanol-free gasoline again, I strongly recommend that you empty your generator’s fuel tank of ethanol gas and add at least 1-2 gallons of ethanol-free gas and run your generator with “real” gas until it stops. That way, you will have flushed your engine lines, carburetor and internals of ethanol gas. Next, change the engine oil and install a new spark plug so your generator will be ready and reliably start the next time you may need to use it again.  
Ethanol gasoline runs fine in most automobiles, but, marine engines and small engines, especially lawn and garden tools or any small engine that sits in storage a long period of time will often not start next time it is needed. The shelf life of ethanol gasoline is only about 60 days, after which time it begins to oxidize and deteriorate. Very small engines like weed eaters and blowers are especially sensitive to ethanol gas. It is recommended that these types of small engines always be filled with fresh gas, preferably ethanol-free gas. After use, any remaining fuel in the engine’s tank should be emptied. Mr. Ladner has preached to me the importance of using only fresh fuel in these small engines that it’s become a habit for me. And, since I’ve begun doing that, I’ve never had any further problems with these small engines. Ethanol-free gasoline has a shelf life of a year or more. However, I still use the red Sta-Bil in my hurricane fuel containers to be safe. That way, if we do not experience a hurricane and I don’t need to use my “hurricane fuel” stockpile, I put it into my yard and garden tool smaller containers or in my boat or car or truck tank.  
Pete Landry is a retired chemist who worked for more than 32 years in the oil and petrochemical industry. He began researching ethanol gasoline more than six years ago and has since developed a website to inform readers about the issues with ethanol gasoline. The website’s name is  
Contact Landry at