For some companies, uninterrupted electricity is critical to their ability to serve their customers. Even more so now for organizations like water plants, data centers, hospitals, greenhouses and any facility producing personal protective equipment (PPE’s) due to the pandemic.
At Gage, we offer backup generators and power systems that protect these business operations that are vital to our daily lives. We have five practical maintenance tips for the performance of these essential power systems – these tips are to be done in addition to any regularly scheduled maintenance or upkeep.
Regular Engine Exercise
Start your engine once a month and let it run for a minimum of 30 minutes loaded to no less than one-third of the nameplate rating. This is helpful for using the fuel before it deteriorates, preventing oxidation of electrical contacts and for keeping the engine parts lubricated. Since unburned fuel tends to accumulate in the exhaust system, avoid periods of no-load operation. Consider conducting a test with your facility’s load by simulating a power outage, or alternatively use a load bank during testing.
Fuel Levels and Quality
First, to ensure you have enough fuel to operate as needed, check the main and day tank fuel levels. Tighten clamps as needed and check for leaks, cracks or loose connections. As the fuel level within the day tank drops, the day tank float switch ensures the day tank is getting fueled from the main tank. Check to be sure this is working properly. If needed, drain any water or sediments from the fuel system. Diesel fuel is at risk of contamination when stored; exercising the generator set regularly is how you can prevent this risk. You can also consider fuel polishing and tank cleaning if necessary to ensure fuel quality has not degraded significantly.
Sufficiently Charged Batteries
One of the most common causes of power system failure is weak or undercharged starting batteries. Make sure the terminal connections are tight and clear of corrosion. You can clean corrosion at the terminals with a solution of water and baking soda. Finally, check the specific gravity and the electrolyte level. Charge the battery if the specific battery reading is below 1.215. If the electrolyte levels are low, fill the battery cells with distilled water. Replace the battery every three years.
Transfer Equipment Inspection
Generally, there is limited maintenance required on transfer switch equipment. First, the control switches need to be in the proper (AUTOMATIC) position and all indication lamps should be in proper working order. Circuit breakers and fuses should be free of corrosion or dirt. Be sure to test the transfer switches at least once a month especially if your facility is required to be NFPA 110 compliant.
Visual Inspections Conducted Daily
Taking a regular walk around your power system on a daily basis will help in preventing issues that could lead to property damage, personal injury or loss of life. This is a guide on what to check at a minimum:
- Check that coolant and oil levels are satisfactory
- Check for leakages, loose or broken parts or debris
- Check the engine coolant heater operation. The jacket water heaters may not be working properly if the engine block is not warm to the touch. This would make the engine starting a challenge.
- Make sure nothing is stored on top or around the generator. The area around the generator needs to stay clear.
- The automatic transfer switches and generator switch need to stay locked.