Landry: Take steps to keep your home generators running

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

South Louisiana, historically, experiences its highest frequency of hurricane impact in August and September. Are you prepared?

Besides the usual checklist items like water, batteries and canned food, don’t forget to check your gas-powered home generator so you’ll be ready if the power fails.
In July 2012, well before Hurricane Isaac made shore in Plaquemines Parish that 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 recoil rope broke.

I brought the machine to a gentleman at Ladners Lawnmower Repair in LaPlace who repairs all types of small engines to install a new recoil rope. I was shocked to see nearly 40 home generators 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 like material that plugs the carburetor and it will not start.”

Each engine had to have its carburetor disassembled and cleaned. The average cost is $100 or more.

My procedure to assure my generator starts when I need it is simple.

Years ago, I purchased six five-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).

I shop for price and target to complete filling my six containers no later than mid August.

After I use my generator last (with non-ethanol gas) and before I prepare it for storage, I 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.

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 gasoline-powered home generators will operate about 12 hours on a five-gallon tank of fuel, depending on how much load the generator is powering.

Some sensitive electronic devices like TVs and cell phone chargers could be damaged by small generators, as they do not have a built in line filter. Power surge protection devices with line filters can also be purchased. Large natural gas powered whole home generators have surge protectors and line filters built in.

So, with 30 gallons of ethanol-free gasoline ready, I can operate for about three days before I need to re-fill my fuel containers.

If, by that time, ethanol-free fuel stations are not in operation, but ethanol stations are, use ethanol gasoline (10 percent ethanol MAX). Under no circumstances should gasoline with greater than 10 percent ethanol be used.

However, when power is restored and you are able to purchase ethanol-free gasoline again, I STRONGLY recommend you empty your generator’s fuel tank of ethanol gas, add at least a gallon of ethanol-free gas and run your generator with “real gas” until it stops.

This will flush your engine’s fuel lines, carburetor and internals of ethanol gas. Next, change the engine oil and install a spark plug so your generator will be ready the next time you need to use it.

Always check your engine’s oil after you shut it down for each refueling.

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 most often not start next time it is needed. The shelf life of ethanol gasoline is about 90 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 these types of small engines be filled with fresh, ethanol-free gas. After use, any remaining fuel in the engine’s tank should be emptied.

Ethanol-free gasoline has a shelf life of a year or more. However, I 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.

Alton “Pete” Landry is a retired chemist who worked for over 30 years in the oil and petrochemical industry. He began researching ethanol gasoline eight years ago and developed Contact him at