Inverter Generators: Lifespan and Maintenance Tips

Inverter Generators: Lifespan and Maintenance Tips

Using Gentrax as a starting point, our customers can expect the generator engines to work for up to 3,000 hours (at average).

But let us dig a bit deeper into generator longevity. And we think you will be pleasantly surprised at how long a well-maintained portable generator can keep on going.



How long does a generator last?

If we use this question as a basis, you can expect the usual portable camping generators to last between 1,000 to 2,000 hours. Inverter generator manufacturers such as Gentrax also provide full support or warranty for portable inverter generators up to 1,000 hours run time. Now these companies are obviously not going to do this unless they expect their products to last longer, with proper maintenance. You can, therefore, expect a properly maintained generator to last you longer than 1,000 hours. Even twice as long, if you really take care of it.

Let us go deeper and calculate a typical usage example for a generator, based on an average standby use. So let us take for example a generator that is regularly used for a self test, meaning it is often run at low RPM for a short period of time. Let us say that this generator is used as a test run every week, for a year.

So – that is eleven hours per year during a weekly test, add to that four power outages of twenty hours (for every four), that amounts to 91 hours of operation every year year. Now let us assume that the engine is expected to last for at least 3,000 hours, that portable generator should be good for 33 years.

Surely, any portable generator that lasts up to 30 years will make any customer happy. Our team here considers that to be an excellent life expectancy. Look at it this way: nobody expects to use a car for that amount of time. You can expect your generator to outlive the lawnmower, pool equipment, and most appliances in the home. With proper maintenance and care, it can even last longer. 

To make sure that your portable generator lasts that long, it is vital important to choose a reliable manufacturer. A reputation for quality build and durability should mean a longer lifetime. Even though these portable generators cost more, the extended lifetime is worth the extra money. Regular maintenance is also important if you expect your generator to last longer. Only use high quality fuel and oil; and protect it against dust buildup and damp.

You will most likely replace your generator before it reaches the end of its useful life. Changes in the technology, like brushless and yes - inverter generators, already make older models less desirable. Regulation changes, like those for emission and noise levels, may force you to replace your generator sooner. Clean power alternatives, like battery backup systems for residential use, are becoming more affordable. These may soon be a viable alternative to gas-powered generators.


Typical Maintenance Problems

So far, we have focused entirely on engine life because the engine endures the most of the mechanical stress. Generally, the alternator and other electrical components outlast the engine. These components may fail, but replacing electrical components is usually part of general maintenance. A generator cannot be considered redundant when all it needs is replacement service parts.

The main enemy of electrical components is a buildup of dust and condensation. This can cause insulation on the field windings to deteriorate, resulting in a short circuit. Excessive moisture promotes rust formation and pitting. Connections become corroded and do not make proper contact. All these issues are preventable with proper maintenance and storage.

A generator will last longer if you examine and clean critical components as part of your monthly and yearly maintenance. Preventative maintenance requires more than just changing the oil. It includes removing water from your fuel tank and replacing filters throughout your generator.

Following manufacturer’s maintenance and storage recommendations will prolong the life of your generator. Generators also last longer when the power demand is not too excessive in relation to its rated load. Using a generator at maximum capacity for long periods, especially in hot weather, will increase wear and the generator would not last as long as it should.

Portable generators vs Stand-by generators: A close look

Stationary standby generators, used as a backup for commercial and many residential applications, normally use diesel and natural gas to power their engines. These generators are usually professionally installed and maintained, ensuring that they always operate under ideal conditions. Automatic controls regularly start the generator. This keeps the engine “exercised” and well-lubricated, thereby increasing their lifespan.

Large diesel generators that run at 1,800 RPM, often last 2 to 3 times longer than gas engines that run at 3600 RPM. Inverter generators are the exception, capable of running at variable engine speed, depending on the load.  Therefore, bigger diesel units can drive four-pole generators running at slow engine speeds.

Diesel fuel is also a good top-end lubricant that lubricates valve stems and the sleeve at the top end. The low speed, and improved lubrication in the top end cylinder, ensures less wear and tear on diesel engines. It is for these reasons that the lifespan of diesel generators are longer than gas generators.

The portable generator is aimed at a different market and is usually powered by gasoline and propane. Portable generators are a lot smaller than the permanent installations and are designed to be light, easily transported, and convenient to use wherever you need power. Because a diesel engine is heavy and noisy, it is not very popular for portable generators.

Portable generators usually operate in less than ideal conditions; open spaces where they are exposed to dust and moisture. All these factors have a negative impact on the life expectancy of the portable generator.

Most generators use splash lubrication, which makes the engine cheaper, but is not ideal. A generator engine with pressurized lubrication, using an oil pump like a car engine, will last longer. This causes the oil to circulate immediately after starting the engine.

Since a cold engine experiences the greatest deterioration, improving oil circulation during starting up will prolong engine life. Pressurized lubrication is one of the main reasons why Gentrax claim their engines last longer, but the truth is they are not the only generator manufacturers to do this.



Storing your generator – a few tips

All generator storage guidelines in user manuals will instruct you, among other procedures, to store the generator in a cool dry place. This is because dust and damp are the main enemies of electronic components. Storing the generator in a cool dry place helps prevent rust.

You would be hard pressed to find a generator owner’s manual that does not contain a section on storing the generator. Therefore, we encourage you to read the manual and follow the instructions. The guidelines are all quite similar:


Drain all the fuel from the system and lubricate the internals of the engine.

Keep everything dry and dust free.

Regularly charge the battery or use a smart charger that will maintain the battery charge.

Interesting advice, not mentioned in most manuals, is an additional step when pouring oil into the spark plug opening to lubricate the engine. They instruct you to pull the recoil starter a few times before you replace the spark plug.

That piece of information is in all manuals, but some also recommend that you then pull the cord slowly, after replacing the spark plug, until you feel the compression in the cylinder. This ensures the intake and exhaust valves are closed, properly sealing the engine and protecting it against corrosion.


How to properly look after your inverter generator


The secret to a long-lasting inverter generator is consistent maintenance that aligns with the recommendations in the manufacturer’s user’s manual. From general maintenance tips and guidelines to a helpful schedule for common procedures, the manual will serve as the best point of reference for commercial and personal users who wish to keep their inverter generator running efficiently for many years to come


Safety Disclaimer: Think before you do anything

Inverter generators are not just a safety risk while in operation. In fact, conducting maintenance exposes users to many of the same risks that would be faced while the equipment is running.

Before getting started with regularly scheduled maintenance, make sure that the equipment has had time to cool down. Users should work only in a well ventilated or outdoor environment, using a solid and level surface that guard against fuel spills or equipment balance issues.

Ensure that the engine is off and those spark plugs or other wires are disconnected, since this will prevent unwanted ignition that might cause very serious injury.


Maintenance is key to your generator’s longevity

Inverter generator maintenance keeps the equipment running at peak efficiency, which means that it uses fuel more sparingly and works for a longer period of time.

Regular maintenance also ensures that the inverter generator runs more quietly than it would if key parts are neglected, which can be a significant boost especially if the inverter generator needs to run overnight or for multiple consecutive days.

The best way to ensure a high level of efficiency and a low level of noise is to simply follow the guidelines mentioned in the operator manual’s maintenance schedule. This schedule recommends certain types of maintenance based on the number of hours the generator has been in use, and is a great reference that will keep everything running smoothly until the generator is retired or replaced with another model.


Key things about your generator maintenance


Engine Oil Change 

We recommend checking the oil levels each time the inverter generator is used, with an oil change required after the first twenty hours of use and every six months after that.

Oil is checked and changed by removing the oil/service/air filter access panel and unscrewing the oil filler cap, you can then check the oil dipstick to see the oil level.

To change the oil screw the oil discharge pipe into the oil reservoir and tighten. Tilt you inverter generator forward and pour the oil into a suitable container.


Air Filter

 The air filter should also be checked prior to each inverter generator use. Equipment owners should clean the filter after 50 hours of use or every 3 months, whichever comes first.

Cleaning can be performed with warm water and a mild detergent, like dish detergent or other typical soaps. Wash and then let dry thoroughly, dip the foam filter in clean engine oil and squeeze out all excess if there is too much oil left on the foam filter the inverter generator will "smoke". If the air filter shows signs of damage, it should be replaced with a new one instead.


Spark Plug

Spark plug adjustments should take place every 100 hours, or after six months of use. The spark plug requires full replacement once per year, or after 200 hours.

As with the air filter, a spark plug that shows signs of significant damage should be removed and replaced with a brand new spark plug that fits the inverter generator, as this will ensure continued operation at the highest levels of efficiency.


Final thoughts

And there you have it. We hope that this long entry has answered your question about how long your portable generator can last, as well as provided you with tips on properly maintaining your generator. If you are buying an inverter generator for the first time, do not hesitate to give us a call and one of our friendly experts can help. Cheers!