Check your generator ahead of hurricane season
HOUSTON The last time we had a big hurricane was when Ike rolled through town. A lot of people went out and bought generators, and they probably have not used them since, and that's bad news if the power goes out again. They were the electric life line for hundreds of powerless homes during Hurricane Ike. After the electricity was restored, most folks parked the generator in the garage and have not given it much thought. If you have not started your generator in the last few months, you may be in for a nasty surprise when you need it. "It's been sitting and he's getting ready to use it, and it would not start," said generator repairman Kevin Habegger of Southwest Mower. Habegger says the generator on his workbench is typical of many in the Houston area; it's been unused for more than a year and will not start. "It is usually the same problem on these generators we see year after year is the gas start to turn bad in the carburetors," Habegger said. Gas that has been sitting in a generator carburetor decomposes and leaves a build up on the small jets that provide gas to the engine. Once clogged, the gas flow stops and your generator will not start. "It is a common problem. Carburetor cleaning is probably the number one repair on generators. It is the most common thing that goes out on it," Habegger said. Because so many generators will need to be fixed if the power goes out, it is important to get the machines ready now while repair shops still have parts. "Whenever a storm comes up, there is a run on it, and everybody comes in, and it's a mad house trying to find some of them," said Elvis Bolivar of University Lawnmower. Bolivar speaks from experience. Before Hurricane Ike hit, his shop was swamped with generators that needed repairs. "Within a few days before and a few days after, I got about 100, 150 generators in just a couple of days, and the wait becomes unbearable after that," Bolivar said. So if you have a generator that has been sitting unused for longer than six months, it'll probably cost you from $50 to $100 to get it fixed. New 5,000-watt generators will run you around $600. That's big enough to operate a window AC unit and a few appliances as well. Smaller generators run about $500, but won't operate an AC unit.