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Spending $1,000 or even $10,000 on a generator is justifiable for homeowners who regularly experience power outages. It doesn't make sense, however, to let a generator sit for months at a time and then expect it to start right up when backup power is needed. Nevertheless, many people fail to perform routine generator maintenance such as running the unit once-per-month, emptying it of fuel when not in use, and changing the oil every six months. If you're guilty of this, or if your generator isn't working correctly in spite of proper maintenance, be sure to have it serviced before storm season hits your area.
Common Generator Problems
One of the most common generator problems is that the unit simply won't start. A generator that isn't run regularly or doesn't have the gas drained during periods of inactivity can develop a gummed-up carburetor. Removing the fuel and drying out the system with an air compressor might solve the problem, or the carburetor may need to be replaced altogether, along with the oil and air filters. Other reasons why a generator won't start include:
- Battery failure or bad battery connections
- Low coolant, oil, or fuel (possibly due to a leak)
- Dirty or bad spark plugs
- The generator is overloaded
- The engine choke needs to be repositioned
- The on/off switch is set to "off"
Some of the issues described above can be addressed by a do-it-yourselfer with basic mechanic skills. Other problems, however, such as a generator that won't deliver power (or wont' deliver enough power), could be caused by a bad stator, a bad rotor, or another electrical problem. Inadequate power can also be related to an engine/generator connection problem or burned out fuses. If the generator is a stand-by unit that's connected to the home's natural gas or propane line, the issue might lie with the fuel tank and should be handled by your utility provider.
Keep in mind that generators have many moving parts, and a given problem can have several possible causes. A larger generator, moreover, is more complicated, making diagnosing a problem more difficult and repairing it more expensive. Depending on what's wrong, your best bet may be to hire an electrician, call the utility company, or bring the generator to a dealer or a small engine repair shop. To determine the correct course of action, speak with at least three local professionals.
Generator Repair Average Costs
- A generator repair can cost anywhere from $60 to $600, although the average cost is $200 to $400.
- Reviving a generator that doesn't start due to neglect might cost $65 to $130. Having a new battery installed or new oil and air filters installed costs $50 to $60; a new carburetor costs around $120 installed.
- Hiring a generator technician costs $60 to $75 per hour; an electrician costs $40 to $100.
- Many generator parts cost $50 or less; others cost $100 to $300 or even $500 to $1,000 and up. When evaluating whether a repair is worth the money, keep in mind that a new portable generator costs $400 to $1,000, while a stationary generator costs roughly $5,000 to $10,000.