Like most equipment, automatic 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.
- 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 three factors:
- 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, generally due to 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.
- 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. Make sure battery saver is applied to batteries to prevent corrosion at each service.
Block Heaters/Jacket Water Heaters:
- 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 block heaters or jacket water heaters.
- There are three types of block heaters: radiator hose, freeze plug, and tank style heaters. These heaters serve to reduce engine wear caused during the ignition cycles, saving fuel, reducing emissions, and avoiding water condensation in the oil sump/oil pan.
- 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.
- Proper maintenance procedures can help reduce and/or prevent generator startup failures and will help ensure your generator will start when needed.
Contact Clifford Power to have an expert generator service technician help you get your generator prepared for the season!
For more information about maintaining generator system reliability, see The Key to Standby Generator System Reliability
For summer generator maintenance tips, see Generator Maintenance Tips for Summer and Warm Weather.