Farm Generators: make sure plan b doesn’t break down

In a press release on March 21st, 2021 the US Census Bureau deemed “National Agriculture Week” the 21st-27th & National Agriculture Day on the 23rd. We are celebrating farmers by posting loss prevention blogs all week.

Electric Generators are machines that are back-ups for a regular power source. A generator is constructed with a mechanical input shaft that is usually rotated by a fuel-powered engine shaft. Operating the engine/generator set at a fixed speed converts the engine power into electrical power for use on the farm. The ability to produce local electricity is invaluable during utility power outages or for providing power to remote farm work locations that do not have utility power. Depending on the consequences resulting from an unexpected utility power loss, farm generators of proper size and capacity can backup entire farm electrical loads or selectively backup only the critical process loads.

The generator can be damaged while in storage

Prevent water and corrosion damage by storing the generator in a watertight shed or barn or install a waterproof frame and cover over the generator. Stop physical damage by storing the generator in a shed or barn location that is separated by physical walls and doors from other farm equipment. Rodent damage to the generator wiring and hoses can be stopped by repairing all access holes, misaligned doors, broken windows, or floor openings that could allow rodent access.

The generator isn’t protected from inclement weather while in use

Rain or snow damage when the generator is in use can be stopped by erecting a portable, open-sided, tent or frame and tarp protective cover over the equipment. Prevent overheating of the engine and generator from intense sunlight by operating the equipment in a tree-shaded area if available or under a frame and tarp cover. Stop airflow blockages to the cooling system from snow or leaves by using snow fencing and performing frequent inspections while in operation.

The overcurrent protection on the generator is modified or bypassed

Prevent fire or shock hazards and maintain original design specifications by replacing defective electrical components with parts from the original equipment manufacturer. Thwart “improvised” emergency repairs to the generator by maintaining a supply of critical spare parts and fuses. Maintain the original safety feature functions by replacing defective safety switches rather than “jumping-out” or “bypassing” these safety controls.

If the fuel system isn’t maintained while in use or in long-term storage

Stop carburetor fouling by using the recommended fuel stabilizers or drain the fuel while in storage per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Make sure to avoid unexpected fire hazard or engine shutdown by replacing flexible fuel lines when showing cracks, or splits into the lines. Prevent engine stalling problems by keeping water and dirt away from the refueling process and using a mesh screened funnel when refueling.

Engine oil, coolant, hoses, spark plugs, and filters aren’t maintained

Keep the air-cooled fins clean and the coolant at the proper dipstick level so the engine doesn’t overheat. Prevent major engine damage and seizing by keeping the oil level at the proper mark and of the proper oil specifications. If equipped, oil filters should be changed based on the OEM defined service duties and the number of run hours.

Other tips to consider:

  • Prevent unexpected engine shutdown and loss of electrical service by replacing age-cracked or worn/contaminated ignition wires.
  • Keep fresh fuel in generator fuel tanks and use a fuel stabilizer where recommended.
  • Make sure starting batteries are maintained with proper distilled water level and clean terminals.
  • Generators should be test-run under load to verify they are in working order.
  • Test transfer switches on permanent generator installations to verify proper operation.

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© 2021 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.


  • HSB’s TOGA® lube oil analysis program is a proven way to identify precursors to engine failure like engine coolant leakage and accelerated metal wear. Sampling engine lube oil is quick and normally does not require disassembly.

  • Thank you for writing this article! I think it’s very helpful not only to people who run farms & agricultural equipment – which is run on a time-sensitive process making sudden power outages a potential catastrophe – but it can also be used by home owners, like the ones we service, who have their own generators for the occasional outage from storms & other unforeseen circumstances. Making sure this equipment is working is key to making sure it won’t fail you when you need it!

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