Standby power generators

Don’t get caught in the dark, make sure your backup power is hurricane ready

Is your facility prepared for a natural disaster? Can you rest assured the power will stay on? May 7th through the 13th is Hurricane Preparedness Week. The start of hurricane season is around the corner and it’s important that your facility is prepared should one make landfall near your location. These suggestions are not just for hurricanes, but also for tornadoes and other naturally occurring disasters that have the potential to knock out your prime power source.

Backup power sources

The first thing you want to do is make sure that you have a backup generator for your facility. Having the proper equipment in place and ensuring it’s functioning and regularly serviced will mitigate any risks associated with prime power failure. If you don’t have a backup generator in place, reach out to your local generator distributor to have one sized accordingly. Hurricanes or large storms don’t typically wipe out infrastructure, but they can cause widespread power outages for significant periods of time. Tornadoes on the other hand can wipe out the infrastructure and create major delays for getting prime power working again. Having power when a natural disaster occurs is not just for comfort but critical needs as well. Note: Tier 4 generators are not required for backup power sources, but they are required for prime power sources.

Long-term preparedness

The facility manager needs to make sure the backup generator is getting regularly serviced according to the manufacturer and distributor’s recommendations. Having the generator serviced regularly will deter many of the potential problems that can occur, particularly when a disaster is imminent. These are the components a technician will inspect during a routine generator service:

  • Belts are inspected for wear and tear
  • Cooling system is inspected for proper coolant levels
  • Block heater is checked for ideal operation
  • Engine oil levels are checked and maintained
  • Fuel system is inspected for leaks and cracks
  • Batteries are checked for loose connections, corrosion and general condition
  • Gauges and control panels are inspected for warning lights and broken gauges
  • Battery charger is looked over for proper operation

Annual and semi-annual services are much more detailed. These services include regular preventative maintenance of systems throughout the generator. Semi-annual services include inspection and maintenance to:

  • Cooling system
  • Fuel system
  • Air induction and exhaust
  • Lube oil system
  • Starting system
  • Engine monitors, safety controls and control panel
  • Generator / gas engines
  • Automatic transfer switch

Annual services include (if applicable):

  • Change oil and filters
  • Change fuel filters
  • Maintain water separator
  • Scheduled oil sampling
  • Lubricate fan pulley
  • Grease generator bearings
  • Take coolant sample

It’s also recommended that generators go through annual load bank testing if the unit does not run at 50 percent or greater load at least one hour monthly. Load bank testing will eliminate wet stacking by burning off un-burnt fuel, oil and carbon in the cylinders and exhaust system. It also will exercise and test the unit’s fuel and cooling systems and evaporate moisture from inside the generator and engine.

Additionally, regularly test and make sure the transfer switch is functioning properly. Depending on your facility, have a plan in place to deploy mobile generators to job sites. Those mobile generators should follow the same service schedules as the backup generator.

Imminent danger preparedness

A phone call to the service provider should be the first step. They will walk the facility manager through the steps that need to be taken. This will include firing up the generator and checking for any fault codes. Whether it’s a diesel or natural gas generator, make sure it’s full of fuel or the gas line is working properly. Additional checks to the transfer switch will ensure the backup power will kick in the moment primary power goes down.

With hurricane season starting June 1, it’s important your facility is prepared should a disaster occur in your area. Hurricanes are just a small portion of the potential disasters that can knock out the power. Ensure the lights stay on and all systems are working properly with a backup generator that has been properly serviced and maintained.