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Guide to storing gasoline for generators

MIAMI  (CBS4) - Now that the storm has passed, and your lights are still on, chances are you are one of the lucky South Floridians with a generator. That means you're likely to be wondering, "What do I do with all of this gas?" If you waited in long lines to get it, the first thought is to keep it on hand for the next storm, but experts say that may not be the best choice for safety, and for the good of your generator.

Like many products, gasoline has a short shelf life. Its not something most people think about, because most gasoline goes from production to your car's tank within a matter of weeks, but fuel experts say after a few months, the components in gasoline can break down. Using gasoline which has destabilized may cause your generator not to start when needed, and could actually damage your expensive investment.

  • If the container or gas tank will not be used right away, will be exposed to direct sunlight, or will be stored at temperatures above 80° F much of the time, add a fuel stabilizer/additive such as "Sta-Bil" to the gasoline when you first buy it, prior to storage. That product or similar additives are available at auto parts stores.

Many manufacturers of engines used in generators put restrictions on the amount of time gasoline should be stored before use in engines.

  • Gasoline keeps longer if it is stored in a cool place and the container is kept almost 95 percent full. However, leave some headroom for gasoline to expand if it warms up in storage.
  • Do NOT store gasoline in your house. Limited quantities may be kept in your garage in stored in proper containers, but large quantities stored in a garage can be an extreme danger,

Even proper treatment of stored gasoline does not eliminate the risk of fire, especially if you store larger amounts of fuel.

The National Petroleum Council points out that most areas have local codes restricting how much gasoline a homeowner can store.

  • You should check the code for your municipality
  • Most codes limit homeowners to no more than 25 gallons of gasoline
  • The largest container should be of no more then 5 gallons each.

Fire officials say small amounts of gasoline for lawn mowers and yard tools, in the proper containers, can safely be kept in most garages when stored properly. However, with many people bringing home 4 or more 5-gallon containers of gasoline to feed their generator, the level of risk increases dramatically.

The National Agriculture Safety Database offers a number of tips for gasoline:

  • The best way to store gasoline is in a well ventilated area separate from the house.
  • The location should have no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present.
  • The location should be protected from the heat of the summer sun to keep evaporation to a minimum.
  • Do not store gasoline in the utility room. The furnace, water heater, clothes dryer or any of several other items could ignite fumes which may leak from the can and travel considerable distances.
  • If you do not have a suitable storage area, consider building a cabinet outside your house for storage or purchasing a commercially available flammable liquid storage cabinet, available from safety equipment suppliers.
  • Once a month check for leaks from fuel tanks, engines, or storage containers (UL-listed plastic containers will not rust).

In urban areas, it may be difficult for many South Florida homeowners to meet the requirements for safe storage. Fire officials say the best course is to use the generator gasoline in your car after the storm passes, and get more fuel when the storm threatens.

But the experts say if you choose to store gasoline, you need to realize it is one of the most dangerous substances you will have at your home, and balance the risk of having a highly explosive chemical on your property versus the reward of not having to refill the tanks when a storm threatens

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