Backup Generator Troubleshooting: Tips For A Non-Starting Generator

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Standby backup generators have become vital in our increasingly technology-reliant world. They step in to supply power during disruptions to the main grid, whether caused by inclement weather, technical malfunctions, or necessary maintenance. The significance of these systems in maintaining critical services and operations when power outages occur is immeasurable.

Discovering that your standby generator is non-functional precisely when you need it most can be a source of anxiety. This article will help you navigate the complexities of backup generator troubleshooting. It will equip you with the knowledge to address typical problems that might hinder your generator’s startup. Following this guide will give you valuable insights and practical advice, ensuring that your generator remains a reliable power source during any outage.

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Grasping Standby Backup Generators

Crucial Attributes of Power Generators

Renowned for their durability and advanced engineering, standby backup generators provide considerable power output and can use various fuel types like natural gas, propane, or diesel. A key aspect of these generators is their automatic transfer switches. These switches are designed to identify any power interruptions and quickly reinstate electricity.

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Contrasting Standby and Portable Generators

Standby generators, permanently installed outdoors and integrated into a property’s electrical system, automatically activate during power disruptions, unlike manual portable models. Their higher power output enables them to support entire residential or commercial properties, surpassing the limited capacity of portable generators.

Essential Maintenance for Whole-House Standby Generators

Consistent maintenance is key to a standby generator’s reliability, involving regular checks and timely component replacements. A dedicated maintenance routine ensures readiness for power failures and extends the generator’s life, solidifying its reliability during electrical outages.

Professional installation of a standby generator is essential for optimal setup, minimizing future issues, and maximizing efficiency. Regular servicing by trained technicians maintains its long-term functionality, ensures smooth operation in critical times, and complies with warranty conditions.

Typical Causes of Standby Backup Generators Failing to Start

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When performing backup generator troubleshooting, you will come to understand that some whole-house generator issues are caused by:

  • Fuel Supply Issues: Includes obstructed fuel lines, contaminated fuel, and low fuel levels. Regular inspections and maintenance of the fuel system are essential for reliable generator operation.
  • Electrical System Problems: Encompasses issues like depleted batteries, faulty wiring, defective alternators, or improper connections. Routine checks of electrical components help in early problem identification and resolution.
  • Controller and ATS Malfunctions: Involves failures in the automatic transfer switch or controller, preventing generator activation during power outages. Correct ATS function and accurate controller settings are crucial.
  • Engine Problems: Consists of air intake issues, coolant or lubrication system faults, and degraded parts like spark plugs and filters. Regular engine inspections are necessary to prevent and fix these problems.
  • Sensor and Safety Feature Issues: Covers problems with overly sensitive or miscalibrated sensors, leading to false alarms or safety shutdowns. Consistent testing and recalibration are important for maintaining generator reliability.
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Guidelines for Addressing Issues with Standby Backup Generators

Even if you are able to perform basic backup generator troubleshooting, it’s imperative to understand that attempting to repair a generator without proper training can be hazardous and potentially lead to severe consequences. The most advisable action for non-professionals is to document any problems observed with the standby generator. This information can be invaluable to a technician upon their arrival. Some of the procedures that a qualified professional might undertake include:

Conducting a Preliminary Assessment

  • Examine the overall state of the generator.
  • Look for any apparent damage or blockages.

Evaluating the Fuel System

propane tank gauge
  • Confirm that there’s a sufficient supply of fuel.
  • Tackle issues related to fuel quality and potential contamination.

Assessing the Battery System

  • Perform a thorough check and, if needed, replace the generator’s battery.
  • Ensure that battery connections are clean and properly secured.

Inspecting the Electrical Components

  • Review and reset any tripped circuit breakers and blown fuses.
  • Investigate wiring connections and identify any electrical malfunctions.

Controller and Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) Analysis

  • Inspect and resolve any complications with the generator’s control system.
  • Conduct tests to ensure the ATS is functioning correctly.
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Engine System Evaluation

  • Investigate and address any issues within the engine’s components.
  • Verify that the engine is adequately lubricated and cooled.

Sensor and Safety Feature Troubleshooting

  • Identify and rectify any faulty sensors.
  • Examine and correct any safety features that could impede startup.

Seeking Expert Assistance from a Certified Generator Technician

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Sometimes, despite our best troubleshooting attempts, issues with standby generators persist. Recognizing the need to consult a certified generator technician is essential in these situations. These experts possess the necessary skills and experience to pinpoint and resolve problems accurately.

Moreover, there are occasions where contacting the generator manufacturer or dealer for specialized support is the most prudent step. Knowing when to enlist the help of these professionals is vital in saving time and averting additional issues.

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Common Queries from Homeowners About Backup Generators

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  • How often should I test my backup generator? – Test your backup generator monthly to ensure reliability and readiness for emergencies, following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • What is the expected lifespan of a residential backup generator? – A well-maintained residential backup generator typically lasts 20-30 years, depending on usage and regular servicing.
  • How can I ensure my generator works during an outage? – Ensure your generator’s reliability by performing consistent maintenance, monthly testing, maintaining fuel supply, and keeping it in a clean environment. Schedule yearly professional inspections.
  • Can I do any checks on my generator between professional services? – Perform visual checks for wear or damage, keep the generator area clear, and monitor for oil or coolant leaks, as guided by the owner’s manual.
  • What steps should I take if my generator doesn’t start during an outage? – Check the generator’s fuel supply and circuit breakers first. If problems continue, promptly contact a technician for diagnosis and repair.


This article has identified several critical factors causing startup failures in standby generators, including fuel, battery, engine, and automatic transfer switch issues. We have also provided some backup generator troubleshooting tips for you to use. Professional installation and regular maintenance are vital for optimal performance and safety. It’s recommended to consult certified technicians for reliable solutions and expert care for your generator.

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Call Lawes Company For Your Standby Generator Requirements

At Lawes Company, we specialize in delivering top-tier generator services, encompassing everything from meticulous maintenance to urgent repairs and replacements. Our commitment begins the moment you choose your generator and extends through its entire lifespan, ensuring your power needs are seamlessly met year after year. Our team comprises highly skilled service contractors, each armed with extensive training, experience, and the latest tools necessary to expertly install, repair, and maintain your generator.

Don’t let power disruptions disrupt your peace of mind. Reach out to Lawes Company for expert advice on generator installations and to secure professional maintenance services. With our support, you can trust in a consistent and reliable power supply for your home, regardless of the season or situation. Click here to explore our service area and start your journey to uninterrupted power today.

Contact us now at (732) 741-6300 to find out more!

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