Performing first time, every time

Mar 6, 2012 | UPS & Standby Power

There are a number of factors that can cause generator failure. However, there are also some simple checks that can be made to improve reliability. shentongroup explain

All standby generators should have an annual service contract which includes a guaranteed rapid response in the event of an emergency. However, as the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’ and by undertaking some simple checks the end user can go a long way to ensuring that when required, your standby generator will perform ‘first time, every time’.

Starting battery

One of the most common causes of generator failure is a faulty or discharged battery. The battery is the only source of power to start the generator in an emergency and, therefore, should be treated with care and respect. When the mains supply is healthy, the battery is kept fully charged by its dedicated charger. Therfore, check that the charger is working via the indicators/meters on the generator control panel.

Confirm the battery terminals are tight and in good condition. Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries are primarily used in today’s modern generators, which means they do not need topping up. Some older sets may still have the older style open vented battery, which needs regular inspection and topping up with distilled water. The level should be checked and topped-up if required.

Batteries are surprisingly fragile, despite their robust appearance, and should be treated with care. The battery needs to be kept clean and needs to be wiped with a soft dry cloth to remove any dirt/grease, especially from the top. This will help prevent self discharge. Handled roughly, the battery’s case can be easily cracked and damaged allowing the electrolyte to escape. This will not only shorten the battery’s life but also, in extreme cases, lead to external short circuits which could become a possible fire hazard.

Emergency stop button

An external emergency stop button (‘the red mushroom’), is fitted to all generators. These can get pushed by accident and, as the name implies, they will either stop the generator, if it is running, or prevent it starting. The control panel needs to be checked to see if any alarms or indicators show that the button has been pushed and, if necessary, the panel and the button will need to be reset.

Fuel contamination

Another common problem that can cause starting and/or continuous running problems is fuel contamination. This can take a number of forms but the most common is water ingress in the fuel system. The fuel system needs to be inspected along with any external bulk storage tanks for likely access points, and particular attention needs to be paid to any laying water, exposed pipe work, gauges etc.

Diesel fuel that lays dormant for long periods in a storage tank can be contaminated by water and become infected by a form of bacteria. Over time, this can create a ‘sludge’ that settles at the bottom of the tank. This can block or restrict fuel pipes and prevent the generator starting. Only specialist contractors are able to undertake the removal and ‘re-optimising’ of the contaminated fuel.

Exhaust rain cap

Water can collect inside the engine through a faulty exhaust rain cap, this will cause irreparable damage to an engine – check that it opens and closes freely without obstruction.

Regular testing

Carrying out regular starting and testing of the set will help identify potential problems before they become serious. A remote monitoring and diagnosis system, such as shentongroup’s Hawkeye, will monitor and start the set every week to check its operation (including the fuel levels and the emergency stop button) and report the results back to a central control HQ.

Service and maintenance contracts ensure peace of mind and are able to respond quickly in the event of a generator failure. However, by undertaking these basic checks, the chances of generator failure become minimal.

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