You’ve made sure to store your flashlights without batteries inserted and keep your matches sealed and dry—but what else do you need to check off your emergency preparedness list? If dealing with weather-based blackouts or power outages for any reason is a concern, a portable generator should be a critical part of your survival and safety plans.
Generators are tough machines that can function for many years, but to preserve your investment, they require proper maintenance and caretaking. This involves storing them in a safe cool dry and ventilated location, such as a garage or shed, to avoid damage.
A generator that comes through in emergencies and outages is one that’s been stored and maintained properly. To that end, let’s look at the basics of how to store a generator after use.
Where Is the Best Place to Store Your Generator?
Your generator needs to be housed in a cool, dry, and ventilated location when not in use. When it’s not helping protect you, you need to protect your generator from:
- Rust and corrosion due to moisture
- Damage from debris, dust, and dirt buildup
- Engine failure or damage from precipitation, high winds, and other weather conditions
- Engine, diesel fuel, and fumes damage from the sun and high heat conditions
- Theft and mischief
You also need to safeguard your family and others from potential dangers such as:
- Toxic fume buildup from fuel-based generators and stored generator fuel
- Accidents and damage (human or generator) related to children’s access
Long-Term Storage Options for Generators
Can you keep a generator in your basement, spare room, or anywhere else in your house? The short answer is no. Even if the gas tank is emptied, a fuel-based generator can emit trace chemicals, odors, and toxic fumes into your living environment.
Instead, consider storing your generator in a safe storage location, such as:
- Garage – If it has the necessary clean and ventilated space, a garage (ideally separated from the house) can be a handy storage option. Temperature control and easy access to the house are additional benefits to storing your generator in a garage.
- Outdoor Shed – A sturdy storage shed or a basic, ventilated wooden shelter or enclosure can be a storage option since it’s safely located further away from the house. However, temperature control can be an issue. That’s because storing generators in high heat or extreme cold temperatures can damage your generator. As such, consider your climate and consult your owner’s manual to determine if adding an insulated cover would be enough protection for shed storage.
- Generator housing – Durable canopies, sheds, boxes, shelters, and covers specifically sold to house generators are widely available in various materials and designs. Some are designed with enough ventilation to remain in place while the generator is used, which can be a bonus, especially for short-term storage periods. You’ll also want to ensure you purchase the right size and type for your model, either by referring to specific makes and models approved in the product literature or with careful reference to storage housing needs in your owner’s manual.
But even if your generator is properly stored, you can also protect it further with a generator cover.
Short-Term Generator Storage
While the safety and protective considerations above are critical, there’s also the issue of access. If you’re staring down a hurricane, you don’t want to tramp a quarter-mile through the hilly or wooded property and drag your generator up near the house in gale winds and rain.
If you have preparation time between an emergency warning and a power outage, you may want to move your generator from its long-term storage and position it to be ready for use while still keeping it under a generator canopy or tarp.
How to Prepare Your Generator for Storage
If you know you’ll be using your generator within a week or two, you can skip these steps. But if you’re ready to pack it away until the next unplanned emergency or next year’s rain or snow season, cleaning, inspection, and maintenance are key steps in storing a generator.
For each step, start by reading your generator manual for what your specific make and model needs. Ideally, the frequency of cleaning and maintenance for your generator can be done in tandem with when you choose to use and store it.
Step #1: Clean Your Generator for Storage
Your owner’s manual will likely cover some standard touchpoints around internal and external generator cleaning. These include:
- Check for and remove debris or dirt buildup
- Wipe down the carburetor, cooling air slots, engine controls, muffler, and springs
- Clean any oil or fuel on surfaces
Leaving dirt, oil, or gas on surfaces can result in corrosion to seals and switches while your generator is stored, and it may increase the likelihood of fumes and flammability in the storage location.
Step #2: Inspect Your Generator
Before storing it, get in the habit of inspecting various features and parts with the guidance of your owner’s manual. While you’re cleaning the unit, pay attention to any oil or fuel leaks. Then, look for wear and tear or damage to:
- Hoses and cords
- Wheels and handles
- Controls and switches
- Fuel tank
- Spark arrestor
Deterioration or damage to some of these generator parts can worsen during storage, so if you see anything concerning, schedule a visit with a repair technician.
Step #3: Do Maintenance Before Storage
Review what’s covered in an annual tune-up per your owner’s manual to see if it’s a DIY project for you. If not, you can find a professional technician through a small engine or lawn mower repair shop.
Annual maintenance steps that you may want to perform before storing your generator include:
- Replacing the air filter
- Replacing the spark plug
- Replacing the generator oil
Generators are dependable machines that will serve you for many years but keeping up with annual maintenance will help ensure their longevity and functionality.
Is It Better to Store a Generator With or Without Gas?
For long-term storage, you’ll want to empty your generator of fuel, if possible. For short (or medium) storage periods, whether you empty the tank depends on:
- The use of fuel stabilizers
- The type of fuel
- How much fuel is left in the tank
- Your access to secure disposal methods
- Climate and storage conditions
Once again, your owner’s manual can provide guidance, but let’s address three general concerns you may encounter.
#1 What Is the Danger of Storing Gas in a Generator?
There are multiple phases to gas “going bad.” Three key aspects to keep in mind are:
- Gas degrades over time – The volatile elements of gasoline evaporate over time. Particularly influenced by air exposure, this evaporation leaves the remaining gas less able to vaporize and ignite. If gas is left in an engine versus a secured gas can, it is more exposed to air and can degrade faster and lead to decreased performance.
- Phase separation makes gas useless – Gas goes through a process called phase separation when the ethanol separates and sinks to the bottom. Once this occurs, it’s no longer safe to use, and it cannot be fixed with a fuel stabilizer. Ethanol once separated is hydrophilic, which means that the separated ethanol can pull water from the air into the generator and damage the internal components.
- The remaining sludge causes engine damage – Once the gas is engaged in the process of evaporation and phase separation, you’re left with a thickened mix of ingredients. This sludge results in varnish and gum deposits that may clog carburetors’ and fuel injectors’ small passages. The longer contaminated gas remains in the engine, the more damage it will cause.
#2 How Long Can You Store Gas in a Generator?
Gasoline does not have a long shelf life, but there isn’t a clearcut answer to exactly how long it takes to lose its power. It depends on:
- Amount of exposure to air
- Climate, particularly moisture in the air
- Storage conditions (metal gas cans are more secure than plastic)
- Fuel mix and quality
Generally, however, your generator can lose function or become contaminated if you’ve stored gas in the generator anywhere from 30 days to a full year.
However, rather than relying on a strict calendar guideline, it’s best to store your generator in a clean, dry, and cool storage area and understand the warning signs of poor fuel quality. If you can see evidence of oxidation, deposits, varnishes, or gum formation, you need to safely dispose of your fuel rather than try to use it, as this could potentially ruin your engine.
#3 How Can You Make Gas Last Longer?
The use of fuel stabilizers is common with generators. These function by delaying phase separation, which in turn:
- Lengthens the time you can store gas in the generator
- Prevents rust in the gas tank
- Prevents clogs in the engine
Again, differing environmental and storage conditions mean that there isn’t a guaranteed clock on how long your gas will remain stable. Most stabilizers claim they can protect gas between eight to 12 months.
To confirm you’re buying a safe stabilizer, check with the Environmental Protection Agency’s online list of registered gasoline additives that are approved for this use.
Ready to Invest in a Generator? Choose DuroMax Power Equipment
A generator should always be stored in a dry, cool, and ventilated location that’s situated far from your living environment. It should also be reliable. For that, look to DuroMax.
We offer dual fuel inverter generators, which are more fuel-efficient than standard portable generators. Plus, they’re compatible with both propane and gasoline. That means you’ll need less fuel overall and can avoid storing shelf-unstable gasoline for long periods without risking your access to emergency power.
Our portable inverter generators are also more compact and easier to store, clean, and maintain in comparison to conventional generators. That’s because, at DuroMax, we’re committed to providing you with quality and durability—whenever and wherever you need it.