With summer season here, your standby/emergency generator should be maintained properly and special attention should be paid to the following areas:
Batteries are the single most common cause of generator failure. This is primarily caused by three factors:
- Battery deterioration: As batteries age, the acid inside will coat the lead plates with sulfate resulting in the battery being unable to generate enough amps to crank the engine. This process can also lead to shorts if the lead debris from deterioration makes contact between plates at the bottom of the cell. Ensuring that the tops of the batteries are clean and free of oil residue and dirt will help prevent shorts between the poles of the battery, which can lead to faster battery cell deterioration.
- Battery charger failure: Battery chargers commonly fail due to a breaker being open or tripped, generally caused by improper maintenance procedures. Always double check to make sure the battery charger breaker has been turned back on after completion of routine or scheduled maintenance. Once initially installed, battery chargers are relatively maintenance free and should only be checked for calibration purposes during the life of your generator.
- Poor/loose battery connections: Battery cable connections should always be securely tightened, cleaned and free of debris. Any buildup of corrosion or debris can lead to shorted connections during cranking cycle, discharge of battery and deterioration of battery cables/wiring. Make sure battery saver is applied to batteries to prevent corrosion at each service.
All of these conditions can be prevented by proper maintenance of the generator and it’s batteries by qualified technicians to ensure that the equipment is properly serviced and maintained and that the batteries and cabling are replaced every 2-3 years per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Cooling systems, especially in summer heat, should be a focus to ensure that when your generator is called upon to operate it functions properly. While the name “antifreeze” leads some to believe that it only serves to prevent the engine from freezing in cold winter months, it serves the dual purpose of keeping the engine cool during operating temperatures, which can exceed 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper coolant system maintenance includes the following:
- Coolant levels: Maintaining the proper coolant level is the bare minimum to ensure your equipment can withstand summer heat. Low coolant levels are “shut down” faults on generators. This means if the generator senses a coolant level below the acceptable tolerances, the generator controller will prevent the engine from starting, even during an outage. This is because low coolant levels can lead to air pockets in the cooling system, which leads to improper cooling, overheating, and can also cause premature failure of engine components such as seals and water pumps.
- Coolant mixture: Always make sure when filling your coolant to use either a 50/50 premix coolant, or coolant concentrate mixed to a 50/50 ratio with deionized water. Using deionized water is essential when mixing coolant as regular tap water can lead to hard-water buildup in the engine, called scale, which can restrict the flow of coolant and clog the radiator.
- Coolant condition and protection: Proper generator maintenance procedures include checking the coolant for freeze point levels and for carboxylate levels on a pass/fail basis. Antifreeze should be field tested on a routine basis and if necessary changed every 2-3 years or if the coolant becomes discolored, contains sediment or loses its protective properties.
- Block heaters: Block heaters have a misleading name in that most people assume they are only needed in the cooler winter months. In actuality, block heaters are essential year round in ensuring that your equipment will start and come to speed in a timely manner by assisting your generator to reach combustion faster.
- Cooling system/block heater hoses: Over time, cooling system and block heater hoses deteriorate due to high operating temperatures. The most common points of failure on hoses are near the hose clamps or crimping points, which can be found by inspecting for cracks or deterioration around these critical points. Both coolant and block heater hoses should be replaced every 3-5 years to prevent failure and ensure proper operation.
Keeping your generator operational and ready to carry your critical building load during a power outage is the sole concern for the Clifford Power Systems Service Department. Let Clifford Power Systems provide you with a maintenance program to suit your needs and we can help maximize your generator uptime, decrease the probability of failures and provide you with the 24/7/365 support of our on-call staff to respond to any emergency scenario that may arise. At Clifford Power Systems, we pride ourselves in having the best trained and industry certified professionals to assist you with all your generator needs.
For more information on generator maintenance, see Selecting the Right Generator Maintenance Plan.