Alex. Bonnie. Colin. Danielle. Earl. As of today, those are the names of the Atlantic tropical storms this hurricane season. But there will be more to come, according to an updated hurricane forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which predicts that the Atlantic hurricane season will be the strongest since 2012. Now that you’ve been warned, it’s a good time to check the generator you have or consider buying one if you live in a coastal or other storm-prone region.

NOAA's earlier hurricane forecast this year predicted a near normal hurricane season, but weaker trade winds over the central tropical Atlantic and a stronger west African monsoon have changed that outlook. The agency's revised hurricane forecast now says that there's a 70 percent chance of 12 to 17 named storms, with five to eight of those becoming hurricanes. Of those, two to four could develop into major hurricanes. The next Atlantic storm that develops will be named Fiona.

Of course, it doesn’t take a hurricane or a tornado to knock out power. Power outages can also occur during a heat wave, as many people across the country learned this week. So take advantage of any break in the weather to examine your generator—especially since repair shops will be too busy to help you once the next storm hits.

Portable Generators
With a gasoline-powered portable generator, the onus is on you to regularly put it through its paces and keep it supplied with fresh fuel, oil, and whatever else the owner's manual specifies. So if you haven’t been firing yours up monthly, do it now. If the generator has an electric start, charge the battery the start the generator. To test the whole system, use your transfer switch to put a load on the generator.

And if your portable generator won’t start? If you left old fuel sitting in the machine without at least occasional starting it, you might need a carburetor rebuild, which requires professional service. Going forward, add stabilizer to gasoline before fueling up. When a storm is approaching, stock up on gasoline. A gas-powered generator uses about a gallon an hour. Store gas only in ANSI-approved containers in a cool, well-ventilated place.

Stationary Generators
Checking a stationary generator, which is installed on a fixed site on your property, is less of a concern because most perform periodic routine self-diagnosis and display alerts when service is needed. Still, you typically need to check the display for messages. A few generators in our tests can be used with add-on products that can e-mail or text you and a servicing dealer if service is needed.

Keep Your Property Safe

You can follow tropical storm forecasts on the website of the National Hurricane Center. When a storm is approaching, NOAA recommends that you secure your property beforehand.

  • Keep the trees around your home trimmed to prevent damage from broken branches.
  • Bring outdoor furniture and other loose items inside so they don’t become airborne.
  • Make sure your windows and doors close securely, especially your garage door, which is the most vulnerable.
  • When a storm is imminent, put your car in the garage or move it to another secure location.

Need a Generator?
If you decide to buy a new generator or replace an old one, check the results of our generator tests of more than three dozen portable and stationary models. To avoid damaging your appliances or electronics, take the time to install a transfer switch for a portable generator. Some municipalities require a permit to install a stationary generator, so factor the time that process can take into your planning.