Throughout the year, inclement weather threatens the stability of power grids across the country. Every time an outage occurs, countless power outages threaten an organizations data, employee safety and customer loyalty.
With hurricane season behind us, it’s time to focus on winter storms. Ensuring reliable generator operation throughout the winter months requires routine maintenance. This is especially important given the extreme low temperatures in which the generator will be required to operate. Maintenance can be performed by your own trained technicians or as part of a maintenance contract.
If yours is a diesel-fueled generator — and unless you’ve experienced power outages so frequent and severe as to consume an entire tank of fuel — the beginning of the new year is an excellent time to perform fuel maintenance. Diesel fuel tends to degrade over time, and will require filtering and polishing to eliminate moisture and contaminants that, if introduced to the engine, could at a minimum reduce performance but run a real risk of causing engine damage. Diesel fuel maintenance is especially important in the winter, when water in the fuel can freeze inside fuel lines and prevent the generator from starting.
Inspecting Spark Plugs
While gaseous-fueled generators have the benefit of operating on a fuel that is largely unaffected by extreme temperatures, one thing that can impede successful gaseous-fueled generator operation is bad spark plugs. Pitted and fouled spark plugs could cause the engine to misfire repeatedly or fail to start entirely. To avoid increased exhaust emissions and improve the generator’s ability to start in the cold, the spark plugs should inspected — and changed, if necessary — at least once each winter season.
The Engine’s Electrical System
Generators can only produce power if they receive power — in the form of DC voltage coming from the starting batteries. Dead batteries mean a dead generator set. In cold weather, batteries run the risk of losing their charge. They should be inspected for damage, and a load tester can help determine if the battery is having difficulty maintaining a charge. Make sure battery fluid levels are properly maintained, and ensure that cables are securely fastened to the terminals and that both are clean.
Changing Engine Coolant
Coolant prevents the development of rust deposits, keeps the generator’s water pump well-lubricated and helps remove contaminants from the gen-set’s system. Maintaining engine coolant keeps the generator prepared for harsh winter weather and helps ensure its long-term performance. The coolant supply should be flushed and changed at least once per year or after every 100 hours of operation — whichever comes first.
Inspecting and Changing Filters
During warmer months, dust, dirt and debris can invade your generator. Luckily, oil and air filters are designed to serve as the engine’s first line of defense against these harmful contaminants. The generator’s oil filter — or filters — should be changed at least once per year to keep debris out of the engine and prevent potential damage. The beginning of the new year is an excellent time to change the oil and filter.
Load Bank Testing
While a generator may start flawlessly, there’s no way of knowing if it’s actually producing the power it should unless it is periodically connected to a load bank. Load banks allow the generator to run under load in a simulated outage situation. They test the generator to see if it will perform as intended during a real power outage. Load bank testing should be performed annually, and once again, the winter season is an excellent time to get that annual testing out of the way.
Contact South Shore Generator for more information on industrial generators and routine maintenance.