Hurricane Ian offers important reminder how to care for, use a generator

When Hurricane Ian hits Florida, thousands will likely be left without power. Before a storm heads toward Texas, now is the time to make sure storm-plans are ready to go, if they're needed. 

A lot of people have turned to generators in recent years. From portable units, to whole-home automatic systems, they've become affordable for a lot of people.

RELATED: Hurricane Ian could make landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast as a dangerous major hurricane near Tampa Bay

Calvin Gorriaran experienced it, first hand. We met him after the Big Freeze in 2021 when he said his generator really saved the day, "We had power for 48 hours, straight, from the generator."

That reliability doesn't just happen, without some basic and necessary maintenance. Before the power goes out, there are critical steps to keep the machinery in good working order, like running it periodically, and giving it attention, after heavy use, much like you would a lawn mower. 

"If we're out of power for two weeks, that 'lawn mower' just ran for a whole season; that's your generator," says generator specialist Rich Gillette for John Moore Services, "You have to change the oil, change the spark plug, make sure the gas is fresh."


Depending on the kind of system, the work is just beginning when the generator is needed. Whole-home generators are designed to operate automatically, while portable generators are suitable for smaller loads like refrigerators, fans and small appliances. They'll also need some attention, along the way. First, ensure there's a ready-supply of fresh gasoline, as most units will run through a full tank, under a heavy load, in six to seven hours. And, critically, make sure the unit is used outside, and at least five feet away from any opening into the home. 

"That means a window or door that opens, a soffit vent, a dryer vent, a fresh air vent for the fire place, the garage door," warns Gillette. "We don't want any carbon monoxide to accidentally escape and enter the home."


Maintenance, for your generator is the primary step in ownership. Oil changes, new filters, and fresh spark plugs are all things you can do yourself, or spend a few hundred dollars to have it done professionally. 

Without the work, the machine will be a useless hunk of metal, when you need it most. Or it can save the day with the right attention.