Generators and standby systems are necessary pieces of equipment for most businesses. Weather and utility company failures can cause power outages in any season, so being prepared means having a backup plan for your power needs. It might sound like wordplay, but realistically you need a backup plan for your backup plan. What we mean is that you need a generator maintenance plan to ensure that your system is ready to help you when you need it.
Some companies prefer to forego purchasing a sound maintenance plan and choose to handle this necessary activity internally. Their argument is that if a company has staff on hand who already know how to work with engines, they can save money by performing maintenance themselves. Most often this happens with facilities that purchase diesel fueled generators or standby systems as some companies have mechanics on hand with experience fixing and maintaining these types of engines. While we will not tell you that it is impossible for someone with little to no generator experience to perform these duties, bear in mind that your mechanics likely have other duties; if your team is caught up fixing a fleet of vehicles, generator maintenance can easily end up on the back burner. After all, no one will notice until the power goes out.
Basic Maintenance Necessities
- Lubrication- Your system’s engine needs to be lubricated just like your car’s engine does. If the internal pieces cannot function , your unit will not work correctly. Debris can build up on engine parts from use and from being outside in the elements. Proper lubrication is a must.
- Belts and hoses- Belts and hoses keep your engine moving and fuel pumping. Time and the heat and humidity that your generator will be exposed to in Florida can take a toll on these necessary parts. We recommend quarterly maintenance to inspect these vital pieces. A loose or weakened belt can break, and even a tiny disruption in a fuel line can cause your unit work improperly.
- Exercise- All engines need a little work out from time to time. They should be started and allowed to run in order to help stop build-up on interior parts. Many people do not consider this important practice and learn how necessary it is when their standby system does not come through for them in an emergency.
- Load banking- This vital maintenance practice ensures that the exhaust system is functional. When your unit runs at less than a full load, which is very common, pieces of debris and unspent fuel can become lodged in the exhaust system. This causes your unit to be unable to properly cool and can cause major problems. Once a year your system should be run at full force. When you do this, unspent fuel is burned off and removed from your system. Keep in mind that if you are maintaining your system internally that this process takes several hours and may interfere with your staff’s other duties. Additionally load banking is only part of exhaust system maintenance; the entire exhaust system should be checked for leaks and worn pipes to make sure your system is in shape.
- Oil and filter replacement- This must be done at regular intervals, depending upon number of hours that your system has operated. Each unit will be a little different, but regardless the oil and oil filter must be changed just like the ones in your car. The engine in your generator will suffer just like the one in your car if this is not done.
In reality these points of maintenance are just the tip of the iceberg. Other things must be done and the entire unit must be inspected to ensure that it is in working order. If you feel that your internal staff can handle such a task, then doing it yourself might not be bad option for you. Keep in mind that it takes time and that standby systems’ engines are not exactly the same as the engine in a vehicle or a piece of heavy machinery. If your maintenance technicians don’t not know what they are looking for, they can easily miss some basic yet important issues that need to be addressed in order to keep your unit running. The city of Lake Wales made a specific effort to budget for their generators and standby systems to be maintained. The same foresight is needed for larger areas such as Miami and Tampa as well.