When generators used for standby or continuous power will be operated at 32°F (0°C) or below – especially for extended periods of time – operators must take precautions to ensure the generator will start reliably, get to the desired load quickly, and continue to run without incident and unnecessary stress and wear on the engine. Like most equipment, standby generators need to be properly maintained to ensure they will operate correctly when a power outage occurs, and they called upon to carry the electrical load. Cold weather can make it especially challenging for generators to start and perform if the equipment is not properly maintained. Here are some generator maintenance tips to prepare your generator for winter and help ensure your equipment is ready to run when you need it.
Check Batteries & Battery Charger
Batteries are the single most common cause of failure of a generator to start and operate properly in the event of an outage or exercise cycle. These failures are commonly caused by the following:
Battery deterioration: As batteries age, the acid inside will coat the lead plates with sulfate resulting in restricting the battery’s ability to generate enough amps to crank the engine. This same process can lead to shorts if the lead debris from deterioration makes contact between plates at the bottom of the cell.
Battery charger failure: Battery charges commonly fail due to a simple breaker being open or tripped. Always double check to make sure the battery charger breaker has been turned back on after completion of routine or scheduled maintenance.
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 the cranking cycle, discharge of battery, and deterioration of battery cables/wiring.
Check Block Heater & Jacket Water Heaters
During cold weather, block heaters are working hard to keep the engine warm and this is the most common time for failures. Block heater failure leads to generator alarms for low coolant temp and/or over crank if the engine fails to start within the defined parameters. One of the best methods to ensure an engine on a generator set starts easily and quickly is to keep the engine warm. The most common way this is done in our area is by the use of engine block heater or jacket water heaters.
Block heaters, which are installed on the coolant circuit, keep the engine’s coolant warm enough that the unit is able to start immediately and attain/maintain the required engine load. They are generally powered by an external power source rather than the generator engine itself.
Check The Fuel
Make sure the fuel in your tank is treated with anti-gel and anti-microbial additives. Many fuel providers treat their diesel fuel, but you should verify and also make sure your tank is full!