One night it happens…the storm of the decade hits and your power is out.
Your water is gone within a couple flushes, your freezer is going to start thawing out, and the food in your fridge will start spoiling shortly.
But no worries…remember that generator you bought a few years ago? That’ll light your house up again, right?
Maybe. Or maybe not. There’s a good likelihood that your fuel has gone bad (if you even have any stored).
So here are some key tips to make sure your fuel is in top-notch condition when you need it.
First, The Generator Stuff
#1. You’ll need an appropriately sized generator. It all depends on what you are needing to do with it, but many folks find 6-8kW to be sufficient to run the basic necessities like water pump, fridge, freezer, a few lights, etc. If you are wanting to power bigger things like an electric water heater or HVAC system, then you’ll need a much larger generator.
#2. You’ll need an approved way to connect the generator to your home without electrocuting anyone (including the power company linemen). That means a transfer switch that has been installed by a licensed electrician (unless it is a model that wires into your existing breaker box—in which case you could do it if you are handy with electrical wiring).
So you have both of those squared away? That brings us to the biggie—#3.
The Big One - Fuel
Question 3A - do you have any fuel?
Question 3B - do you have enough fuel?
But Question 3C is what gets so many people—is your fuel still fresh? In other words, has it gone bad?
You see, both gasoline and Diesel fuel can go bad in an amazingly short period of time if the conditions are right and if you have not stabilized it.
I consider fuel to be the number one issue that causes problems when people want to run their backup generator.
How To Keep Your Fuel Fresh
It all starts with where you bought the fuel. Is there a lot of turnover at that gas station? If not, your fuel could have been sitting there for some time before you bought it. And if the gas station didn’t set up their tanks properly, it’s possible that there could be water or other contaminants in the fuel.
Next, I STRONGLY suggest using ONLY non-ethanol gas for any small engine. There are numerous issues with this, but the only one I’ll mention here is that ethanol absorbs water and is going to make your fuel inherently less stable. Many gas stations are starting to carry non-ethanol premium gas, so check around and you’ll likely find some. Yes, it’s spendy, but most small engines don’t use a lot of fuel and it will be well worth the cost when you get reliable performance.
Next is your storage tank. Generally, I’ve found larger tanks to store fuel better than smaller ones. Just think of heating a pot of water on the stove. The smaller your pot is, the quicker it heats up. Likewise, there is more temperature fluctuation in smaller tanks. And it’s more likely that you’ll leave a small tank out in the element. On the other side, larger tanks are harder to deal with.
If you find that a smaller tank (such as a 5-gallon fuel can) is more convenient for your situation, then I would suggest storing it in a dry covered area. If possible, it would be great if this location doesn’t have a lot of temperature fluctuation either, but that may be unavoidable in a place like a garage. And I recommend plastic rather than metal containers. There is less potential for condensation to gather on the inside of a plastic tank.
And with that in mind, KEEP THE TANK DRY! I can’t stress that enough. Water is an enemy of good fuel. If your generator is a Diesel, I recommend installing a water block (water separator) on the input fuel line. This will help to keep any condensation out and your engine on.
Finally, we come to my secret weapon for fresh fuel…
Since gasoline and Diesel are so unstable, you MUST add a stabilizer to it unless you will be using it up within a week or two. Yes, I know you may have done it for a few months without stabilizer in the past. But that doesn't mean you can count on it happening again. You need to be able to count on your fuel and using a good fuel stabilizer is a big step in that direction. But be aware that all fuel stabilizers are not created equal.
By far, my favorite fuel stabilizer is PRI-G (for gasoline) or PRI-D (for Diesel). This stuff was made for massive fuel tanks at shipping docks, where thousands of gallons of fuel are at stake. I have been using it for almost 20 years and have experienced remarkable results—firsthand.
For instance, years ago we stored a couple drums of gasoline in a hot and humid location (not a good idea!) and 6 years later it ran just fine in a car. That was with only the initial treatment. Pretty amazing! The president of the company states that those kinds of results aren’t unusual. He says “On average, one dosage will keep fuel fresh for about five years – sometimes much longer. We have had some fuels in storage as long as 12 years – and they are still refinery fresh. “ However I do recommend that you follow their recommendation of re-treating the fuel every 18 months.
I almost always add PRI-G to any container of gas that I fill up. The only thing I don’t use it for on a regular basis is in the car since we plow through that very quickly. But I even run it in the car occasionally to clean things out (I can tell a noticeable difference sometimes).
Since it is so concentrated, one 32 oz container of PRI-G or PRI-D will treat over 500 gallons. So I consider it a really good value. I’m told that if you keep it out of the sunlight, both PRI concentrates should last 10 years or more.
The Cheap Stuff
Please save yourself time, money, and wasted fuel. Don't get the (not so) cheap stuff like "Sta-bil" that is commonly found at hardware stores. That stuff doesn't hold a candle to PRI. Just try storing fuel for a couple years with Sta-bil or one of its fellows! Even 1 year is probably pushing it.
What you and I need is industrial strength fuel stabilizer that just plain works. And that's what I've found PRI-G and PRI-D to be after nearly two decades of use.
How To Use Fuel Stabilizer
The ideal time to stabilize fuel is when adding it to your tank. When I fill up a 5 gallon can, I try and remember to add the appropriate amount of PRI-G to the tank before filling it up with non-ethanol gas. In a 5 gallon container, that works out to less than 1/2 of an ounce. There’s a handy measuring contraption built into the bottle.
If you are adding the stabilizer to a small tank that is already filled with fuel, you could roll or shake the container around to mix the stabilizer in. But if you are adding stabilizer to a large tank that cannot be early moved around, your best bet for mixing it is by inserting a short length of clean garden hose down to the bottom of the tank and then blowing into the hose for several minutes (or use an air compressor to do it). The action of the bubbles rising to the top will help to mix it in.
Where To Get It
We don’t carry PRI-G or PRI-D anymore, but you can find it on Amazon for a reasonable price (and it'll help support our blog without costing you a penny):
Pri-D (for Diesel or kerosene)