Letter: Generator Tips

Good morning, Hugh,

I thought I might pass along a tip or two about generators. I have several, the most used being one of a pair of Honda EU2000i, which does constant duty as an “unlimited length extension cord” around the property. The other is a much less portable 6500 watt unit, which lives in “hurry up and wait” mode in case power fails and the well pump is needed. I’ve got a homemade kit to couple the 2000s together to double the output, if I find I need some more “portable watts” for a power tool.

The second EU2000 is left oil-filled with the fuel tank empty, and it’s run quarterly; the 6500 watt unit is in the same condition but run monthly. (The two 2000s are swapped semi-annually to equalize wear.) To run them without putting fuel in the tanks, which will eventually go stale, I use a 3-quart metal gas tank salvaged from a dilapidated and soon-to-be-scrapped riding mower sitting behind my local dealer’s building; inspection proved the interior was not rusty, so a few minutes with a screwdriver and $5 got me the tank, complete with shutoff valve.

An old microphone stand, which cost $2 from the thrift store, and a modified coat hanger holds the gas tank for gravity feed, and several feet of fuel line connects its valve to the fuel inlet on the generator carburetor. I run it for 10-15 minutes under load. (Always test-run your generators under load to confirm that not only does the engine work okay but it actually puts out juice; a small electric heater works well.) After this 10-15 minute test, I shut off the tank valve and let the generator run out of fuel. When it cools, I’ll remove the temporary fuel line, replace the carb-to-tank fuel line, and open the drain valve in the bottom of the carb bowl to ensure no gas is left to turn into gum, and the chore is done. This way there is no fuel in the tank to go sour, the inline fuel filter stays clean, it’s always tested with fresh gasoline, and the carb is left dry to prevent gum formation.

A microphone stand isn’t very stable, so to prevent tipping either drive a piece of 1/2″ rod into the ground and slide the hollow stand shaft over it, or fasten two pieces of 1/2″ plywood (about 16″ square seems to work well) to a couple of 2X3 scraps. Drill a 1 1/4” – 1 1/2″ hole in the center of one plywood panel and cut a corresponding width notch from the edge to the hole. Slide the stand base between the panels into the slot and it’s much less likely to tip over.