ACF Standby Systems Blog

Category archive: Maintenance

Who Should Maintain your Generator?

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.

Sources:

Cummins Power

City of Lake Wales

This Old House

What’s In a Service Call?

Pretty much everything that you own will need some kind of periodic maintenance. This is especially true for tools that have engines. Engines have moving parts and operate using fuel and multiple types of lubricants and filters. These factors combine to make great tools, but without maintenance, these moving parts can deteriorate and cause the engine to work more slowly.

In a state like Florida, where we experience heavy rain and wind on a regular basis, power can go out at any time. Maintenance is the best way to make sure that your generator is ready to handle your facility’s voltage requirements. Some experts even provide service plans that dictate what needs to be done service-wise, based upon how many hours your generator has run. We recommend that you plan on having a comprehensive service plan that is administered by professionals. Yes, it costs a little extra, but realistically it is part of the peace of mind that having a standby system provides.

At ACF Standby Systems, we offer comprehensive service plans to make sure that your generator is in proper working order when your business needs it. We strive to work with our customers’ needs and budgets. We have some recommended service plans but would be happy to put together a service plan that meets both your budget and the requirements of your specific equipment.

Some of the services we provide include:

  • Visually and manually inspecting your generator to ensure that there are no leaks, cracks or shortages of fuel or lubricants.
  • Testing important portions of the generator such as the cooling system, block heater, turbo charger and other areas, to ensure that they are in proper working order.
  • Verifying that functional parts like belts, hoses and spark plugs are intact and ready to perform.
  • Communicating with your staff to make sure that they know what to look for and how to handle basic maintenance issues, so that your generator can stay in working order. We also provide a full report of our inspection, what we did and any recommendations we have for your system every time we come out.
  • If you opt for a major inspection, we clean and replace functional parts (spark plugs, oil filters, etc.). We can also take fuel and oil samples to be tested to ensure your system is ready to operate.

A service call is a way to ensure that your generator is ready to back up your business. Our service plans include more than we talked about here, but we just wanted to give you an idea of what we can do for you. Our plans can be tapered to your needs and we will work with you to put together a plan that gives you what your generator needs. Our technicians are certified and experienced, so having us service your equipment means that it will always work.

When to Replace Your Generator

Having a generator on hand gives you piece of mind. Whether the generator is there to power your home or business in the event of an emergency, it is always a good idea to ensure that your equipment will be ready in the event that you need it. Generators most often come into play at crucial times when power is needed but not available from your traditional utility provider. Eventually, like all equipment, generators will need to be replaced. Repair and maintenance can only go so far and at some point it will be necessary to acquire a new generator. Here are some factors to consider about your current generator to help decide whether you should be in the market for repair or a new generator all together.

· Age and Usage- Every generator is different in output capacity, fuel requirements and life span; however there are some rules of thumb. Diesel powered generators tend to have the longest life span. It is estimated that a diesel powered generator can operate between 12,000 and 30,000 hours before any initial maintenance needs to be performed. In comparison most gasoline powered versions will need first maintenance after 6,000 to10,000 hours of use. This alone tells us that a gasoline powered unit will need to be replaced sooner than a diesel unit. While some large industrial unites can last for decades, the smaller household units will not. This is an important factor to consider when purchasing a generator. Generally speaking, the older your generator and the more it is used, the sooner you should be looking for a new one.

· Maintenance- Like all equipment, generators will need maintenance to continue working properly. One of the biggest signs that it is time to find a new generator is increased maintenance. If you find yourself having to fix, or have someone else fix, your generator more and more often, it is probably time to consider a new unit. The costs associated with regular repairs and the risk of not having a working unit when you need it will ultimately outweigh the price of new equipment. Older units that require a lot of maintenance are often less efficient and cannot provide the same amount of power as they once could.

· Increased Capacity Needs- Maybe you recently moved your business to a larger facility with higher kilowatt needs. Perhaps your business just put in a new computer network that requires more juice to run correctly. As time passes and we acquire new electrically powered equipment, our kilowatt needs may increase. If you do not acquire a new generator that is capable of powering your new equipment, you will be at a loss when the power goes out. Remember a generator is a necessary piece of equipment, just like the other new purchases you might have made. Make sure that your generator is capable of doing its job when you need it.

· Budget- Like many pieces of equipment, generators can require that you commit a significant amount of money when purchasing. If you are seeing signs that you will need a new generator in the future, and have the money in your budget now, it may be a good time to make the investment. Better now when the money is there than later when money is tight but you need a new unit.

Generators are tools that we often need in desperate times. Storms or power outages will happen and you will need power regardless of their presence. While we are happy to provide full maintenance packages to keep your equipment in working order, sometimes you will need a new generator. It is a decision that requires planning but one we recommend you make when needed.