Standby generators can be a huge help any time the power goes out, and they can be especially useful during the winter. Should the power ever go out, the generator will ensure that you can still heat your home and power all your important appliances and devices.
One of the biggest benefits of a standby generator is that it will work automatically. As soon as the automatic transfer switch detects that the power is out, it will immediately signal the generator to run, and your home will again have power within a few seconds.
Nonetheless, you must take the time to ensure your generator is ready for winter and protect it from the snow, cold, and ice. If not, there is a good chance that it might not run whenever you need it. Here is everything you need to know to get your generator ready for the cold and to keep it protected all winter long.
Keep the Generator Clear of Snow
One of the most important things you can do for your generator is to make sure that it is never covered in snow and ice. Any snow on the generator can block the air intake and the vents. The intake works by allowing the generator to constantly draw in air, which helps to cool the unit and prevent it from overheating. If the intake is covered in snow, the generator will often overheat in just a few minutes and then automatically shut down leaving you again without power.
Standby generators should never be installed underneath a roof or overhang. This could trap the exhaust fumes and create a major risk of carbon monoxide poisoning should you ever need to go near the generator when it’s running. This means that your only option is to continually clear off the generator every time it snows. During heavy snows, you may need to clear the unit off a few times a day, and it is always a good idea to make sure it is clear before heading to bed in case the power goes out suddenly overnight.
You also need to clear a path around the sides of the generator. It is always best to have at least a foot or two of clearance all around the unit to ensure it works properly and in case any emergency maintenance or repairs are needed. We would also recommend shoveling a path from the generator to your sidewalk or house so that you don’t need to trudge through deep snow every time you need to clear the unit off.
Have Your Generator Professionally Maintained Before Winter
One of the best and easiest ways to ensure your generator is ready to handle the cold and snow is to have it professionally inspected and maintained sometime during the fall. Standby generators should always be maintained by a licensed electrician at least once a year, and fall is always the best time for this so that you can make sure it is ready for the winter.
Get an Oil Change
Standby generators should always have their oil changed every two years or 2,000 hours. If your generator is new and you haven’t had the oil changed yet, you may want to consider getting it done before the weather gets too cold. New generators always use 10w30 or SAE 30 when first installed as this weight is best when first breaking the generator in. The only issue is that these heavier oils only work in warmer temperatures and should generally never be used in freezing conditions as they will become too thick and fail to lubricate properly.
For this reason, we recommend changing the oil and switching over to a synthetic 5w30 oil instead. This lighter-weight oil will stay thinner and flow much better in cold temperatures to help protect the generator from damage and keep everything properly lubricated. This is another reason why fall is the best time to have your generator maintained as it enables you to have the oil changed at the same time.
Consider Installing a Cold Weather Kit
You may also want to consider having a cold weather kit installed on the generator when you have it inspected and maintained. These kits are designed specifically to ensure that standby generators continue to work properly during the winter and prevent any potential issues caused by freezing temperatures. Most manufacturers recommend that you never run a standby generator in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit without having a cold weather kit.
These kits include both a crankcase heater and a thermostatic battery warmer. The crankcase heater works to keep the oil from becoming too thick in cold temperatures so that it will always still flow and lubricate properly.
The purpose of the thermostatic battery warmer should be obvious. Batteries tend to have lots more issues in cold weather and will often start to lose their charge. Therefore, you will often experience more issues with your car’s battery going dead during the winter, and the same thing could happen to the battery in your generator if it was allowed to stay too cold. If the battery dies, your generator won’t be able to start and the thermostatic warmer should help to prevent this.
Exercise Your Generator Weekly
All generators need regular “exercise” to continue working correctly. Exercising means that the generator turns on and runs for around 20 to 30 minutes, and most units are programmable so that you can set the specific day and time when you want it to run. Most manufacturers recommend exercising your generator weekly, but some say it is only necessary to do it once a month. We would always recommend running the generator weekly throughout the winter so that you can ensure everything is working properly. Exercising the generator also gets the oil flowing to make sure everything stays fully lubricated.
You should always program the generator to exercise at a time when you know for sure that you will be home. This way you can monitor it to make sure that it is running properly. Pay attention to any alarms or error codes, unusual noises, leaks, and any other signs that may indicate a problem. You’ll also want to make sure that the oil pressure and engine temperature are within the normal range.
If you don’t want to have to stand out in the cold to monitor the generator when it’s exercising, you may want to have a remote monitoring system installed. These systems connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network to enable you to program and monitor the generator from your smartphone or tablet. You can instantly check when the generator last exercised and see important information like temperature and oil pressure. Should any issues occur when the unit is exercising, you will also instantly get an alert to notify you of the problems so you can have the generator inspected.
At Davis & Green, we specialize in a full range of generator services including installation, repair, and maintenance. Our team also installs and services EV charging stations, ceiling fans, and electrical panels, and we specialize in rewiring, electrical inspections, and all electrical repairs as well. Furthermore, we offer a range of heating, cooling, and plumbing services for residents throughout the Richmond area. Give us a call today to schedule a time to have your generator maintained or if you need any of our other services.