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You Don't Know Where You Are Going Until You Know Where You Have Been.

My Generator Page and
What I Learned As Florence Came Through

Back in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit Charlotte NC on September 22, my wife asked me the night before if I thought I should tie down or move the garbage cans.  I said no, we always have hurricanes on the coast and it means we have good sailing breeze here in Charlotte.  I was wrong, in fact I think I located the garbage cans, but I do not remember where they were.  Below is a photo of what we used to sail in the late 60’s through the 90’s.

y 1200 charleston


I have had my generator which is a NorthStar 5500 for over 10 years.  Years ago we had it hooked to the electrical boxes that are out the back door.  I keep the generator in the garage which is close and roll it out when in use.  It is not a good idea to run it in a garage or any other closed space because the carbon monoxide get in through the small spaces in doors and windows.

We used the generator one time when we were in New York City around the first of the year.  We had a severe ice storm and the electricity was out for much of Charlotte.  We were watching the evening news in New York, and the TV showed a family from Charlotte hunkered down in front of a roaring fire.  It was our next door neighbors.  That was quite a shock.

When we got home I was able to get the generator running, and we kept the frozen  stuff safe.

I suppose we might have used the generator on one or two other times, but it is still a pain to hook up because I always have other stuff loaded on it.  I also have to refresh myself as to how to start it.

So now let me tell you what I learned before and during Hurricane Florence.
I did not maintain my generator properly because I knew there were a few times I could not get it started.  Fortunately the power was off for a short period of time.

A long time prior to Florence, I  had it serviced by a company that came and loaded it on a pickup truck and hauled it away and then came back to deliver it.  Then when I checked it out several months later I turned on the gas valve and saw gasoline flowing out from the fittings where the gas line goes from the fuel tank to the carborator.  It leaked badly and I was stuck.  What had happened I found out is that the ethenal in regular gasoine ate up the rubber gaskets.

I had the repair people come again haul it away to be fixed.  The problem is that all of this was about 3 days before Florence paid us a visit.  Luck was with me because the company owner was at the beach and arriving back in Charlotte the next day.  Not only did he get back on time, but came and picked the generator up but got it back one day before Florence.  Our power did go off and the generator ran for about 7 hours until the electricity came back on.  It turns out that a large limb fell out of a tree on Maryland Avenue and took the power out.

I felt pretty comfortable with that and as the big Snow Storm of December came was predicted to bring up to 12 inches of snow to Charlotte, I felt I was prepared.  Days before I rolled out the generator, opened the gas valve, turned the start stop switch to on and yanked the cord.  Nothing happened.  I pulled about six times and realized it should have started on the first pull.  Having been in the tree business for a long time I knew a good bit about power saws and did some thinking about what to do next.


The first thing I did was google How to start a North Star 5500 Generator.  I did not learn much from there, but did find a guy who said how to cold start.

Basically he said start with good clean non-ethenal gas. open the valve that goes from the fuel tank to the carborator.  Put the half  choke on, pull twice then go to the full choke and pull again... it did not.   He said if that did not work then spray just a little carb cleaner and starter fluid into the carb.   You will have to take the cover off the carborator to do this.  I did so and one pull and away it went.  I did that two or three times and it started on one pull.   I also had non leaded gas in the tank that was three months old and it still worked.

A little more coming ......   a step I left out.

But I do feel that I have the steps down pat and will get an easy start in the future.  After we get through the winter months, I will drane the tank and use that gas in my car.  I will keep one gas can around to get it started and plan to buy more gas as needed. 

Update here Thursday 2020 2-6.  A big storm with potential tornadoes arrived in Charlotte and as usual I had trouble starting my generator.

The first part below is copied from the main page on 2020 2-10

As it turns out I just got my computer working, and along comes the big storm. We had No power for four days, the basement was flooded because I had to change the in-line gas filter in my Generator.  By the time I got the new in-line filter installed, the basement was flooded up to about 2 plus inches.  It took a few hours for the sump pump to get the water out, but it was still seeping in quickly and filling the sump. I had things under control I thought and decided that I would check the pump later in the evening.  Of course, since the generator was running it was not an issue.  We ate at home, mostly to keep an eye on the pump that had been doing a little surging, but then settled down.  Fortunately, I unplugged our computers from the wall as well as router and modem and in the end they were ok.  There was still some rain to come, but the worse was over.  I decided that I would get up around midnight or later and check the sump because I knew that seepage of water was a standard by product of a lot of rain.  My wife and I both have had some sleepless nights because of normal disruptions that happen to all of us and she thought that since there was only some misting and the heavy rain was gone, I should not waste my time, wake her up, or disturb Gus our dog.

I woke up about 12:30 and after some thought decided I would not check the sump.  So guess what?? The basement had about four inches of water in it in the morning and that snuffed out the pilot light on the gas water heater.  That extra water also caused a lot of things cardboard boxes that were standing in 3 inches off the floor collapsed and tumble all the stuff on top of the boxes into the water... Big mess.  We did not get the water heater started until Sunday afternoon.  I should have stuck to my better instincts.  The downstairs lights were running on the generator so we were safe and comfortable.  My wife wanted to wash her hair, but that was not a safety issue.

What I learned:  Prepare for a potential storm.  Climate change has affected us all in that there is more water in the atmosphere.  That water has to come down at some point which is why we are seeing more flooding around the world.  My thoughts on Climate Change here a little later.


follow up after snow storm of 12-10-2018

  10-8   Today as I enter this new information is December 10, 2018.  We were prepared this time and I started my genrator about four times on Friday and Saturday in preparation for a bad winter storm.  We escaped the bullet.  We had sleet on Saturday about two inches deep.  Across the street I heard a generator up the street and later found the power was out for two hours.  Northwest of us and toward Greensboro and Raleigh, had record snow falls... some were 12 to 15 inches and in Roanoke in western Virgina had 18 inches.



 Charlotte, NC 28205
Phone: 704.618-621