Fuel is the lifeblood of any generator, so you should always keep some on-hand. But like any volatile substance you should exercise great caution. These five tips will make sure you are always safe and ready to fire up your generator.
1. Don’t store fuel in your generator
It seems natural to keep fuel in the machine it’s intended for. After all, we store fuel in car tanks all the time. Surely the same can be said for fuel in a generator?
Maybe, but only if you operate a generator like an automobile. A typical car will run daily or at the very least weekly. But it is not immune to long standing times. Over a certain period the fuel starts to separate: this not only makes it less effective, but forms more solids that can gunk up your car’s sensitive components.
Ditto for a generator: in fact, the most common reason to service any fuel-based machine is to remove the waste petrol and diesel create. Don’t leave fuel in your generator for long terms: ask your generator salesperson for advice on the best duration and instructions on how to flush out old fuel.
2. Calculate how much fuel you will use
Fuel is volatile and dangerous, not to mention expensive. There are several reasons why you don’t want to have more fuel than you need, but suffice to say that too much is a waste of space and money.
But how much is enough? This is unfortunately something you will need to calculate. You would buy a generator on a certain power spec – in other words, you would work out how much power you need and get a suitable generator.
Now, ask yourself how often in a day you will need that power. For example, if you run equipment during the workday, that means operating from 9 to 5: eight hours. Consult the generator manufacturer or reseller to determine the fuel consumption rate. This will indicate how much fuel you need for operation and standby.
3. Use additives to stabilise the fuel
Diesel lasts longer than petrol, but both will eventually start to degrade. Those scenes in a movie where someone taps on an old car and syphons the fuel are mostly nonsense: fuel can start to degrade after as little as a few months. This not only makes it less effective for use, but can create excessive flammable gas and as such is very dangerous.
Additives are the cure for this ailment. With the right additive a fuel can sit in storage for much longer without risking damage to your equipment when you finally use it. There are several additives that stabilise fuel: consult an expert over the type, amount and duration of fuel to find the best additive. But if you store small quantities, a general purpose additive is fine. Just be sure you select for petrol or diesel accordingly.
4. Keep fuel away from your home
Fuel is dangerous – as dangerous as the gas in a propane tank. We tend to be very careful around gas bottles, yet somewhat more blasé with liquid fuels. Yet petrol and diesel are no less lethal. All you need is a spark and it can ignite the whole batch.
When you think of this, would you keep fuel in your house? Anything from a natural disaster to a faulty electrical cable could ignite the fuel – particularly fuel vapours, which are the main culprits for ignition.
As such you must store fuel in a well-ventilated space away from your main building. Also make sure you use proper containers. Fuel can seep through most plastics and its gas pressure can shatter glass. Only use approved metal or plastic containers.
5. Rotate your fuel
Fuel is not a long-term investment. If you bought hundreds of litres in the hope that you are set for the next few years, brace yourself for a nasty surprise. Even with additives, most fuel won’t last beyond a year. Maybe a bit longer, but only with expert intervention.
Degraded fuel is not good for your generator: it will gunk up the parts and leave deposits that can damage the equipment. For this reason your fuel should be replaced frequently. In other words: rotate your fuel supply.
The easiest rotation technique is to use the fuel in a vehicle every few months, then replace it with new fuel. Don’t over-stock and use your fuel regularly.