ACF Standby Systems Blog

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.

Tips for Facilities Managers to Test Your Generator

Your backup generator is a lifeline for your business. It will allow you to keep operating even when weather conditions or mechanical failures threaten to stop you. While a lot of the maintenance should be left to the professionals, there are some things that any facility manger should be aware of. Knowing a little bit about basic generator issues and the testing options that are available will pay off when you need your backup power system to work for you.

Transfer Switch Testing

The transfer switch is the equipment that turns your generator on. Most transfer switches are designed to monitor the traditional power supply (normally your local power utility). When your traditional power supply goes out or drops off significantly, your transfer switch will pass power providing responsibility to your generator. If this switch is not working, you will lose power even with a working generator. This can be a problem because you may not have staff members on hand who know how to manually transfer responsibility over to your generator. Each generator is a little different so make sure that your maintenance provider teaches someone on site how to perform the test. In essence you will be electronically switching power from your utility to your generator. This confirms that your transfer switch is working. This test should be performed monthly. If you have heard that performing this test monthly will put unnecessary strain on your system, do not believe it. Your system is designed for this and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Load Bank Testing

Load bank testing is an actual test that you will need to have done. Basically, this test requires your generator to start up and perform at full capacity. Most often your generator will not use its entire capacity. A load bank test uses outside equipment that simulates what would happen if your generator had to crank up and perform at its highest level. The test will verify that your generator can operate for a specific amount of time and that it will be able to turn off and on while handling a full load. If your generator is not able to perform to its design standards, you will need to have a professional look at your system. Whether or not your system needs to operate at its highest level is insignificant. If your system is unable this is a sign of trouble.

Unloaded Testing

Unloaded testing means that you test to make sure your generator can work at levels lower than its fullest capacity. This test is performed more often because it requires less equipment. It also does not ensure that your generator can handle full capacity. One other issue is that if your generator runs off of diesel, sometimes unspent fuel will end up in the exhaust of the generator. Your generator’s engine cannot work effectively without exhaust (think about the old banana in the tail pipe joke for car). This is called wet stacking and can hurt your equipment. Consequently, a load bank test generally works your generator hard enough to remove any unspent fuel left from unloaded testing. While this form of test will give you piece of mind that your generator can crank up, we do not recommend that yu make it the only means of testing your equipment.

Testing your backup power system is only one part of generator maintenance. It is an important part because it allows you to identify problems while you still have time to fix them.

If you are interested in learning more about generator maintenance, or need maintenance performed, we can help.

What to look for when choosing a generator

We all know that having a generator can be invaluable when you need it. Power outages can stop the course of your business and even cost you money. The problem for many people seems not to be deciding to get a generator, but rather deciding which one to purchase. It is easy to get bogged down by ratings and load specifications. Unless you are an electrician or in the generator business, it isn’t likely that you know what your specific needs are. These tips will clear up some of your questions.

Which type of generator do I buy?

The first decision requires evaluating your electrical needs and deciding on an overall type of generator.

  • Portable- Portable generators fulfill a more temporary need. They are looked at this way because they are not hard wired into a buildings power supply. They are good because you can move them around from location to location providing you with flexibility. You can purchase units with a variety of capacities and fuel supplies. Generally they are smaller capacity and will not be able to say, power an entire office building. They will however be capable of maintaining vital auxiliary systems such as computer servers. They are also useful because they can be moved from location to location, serving you at multiple places of business.
  • Standby- Standby generators are usually larger than portable ones in capacity and size. They are wired directly into the electrical mainframe of buildings. In the event that the usual utility provider cannot supply electricity, a standby generator will be able to keep the building going. (assuming a generator with enough capacity has been purchased) Standby generators can even be programmed so that they turn on when they sense that your utility provider is down. This seemles transition can be vital during a power outage.

How much generator do I need?

Next you must determine how much power you will need your generator to supply. A generator expert is a good resource here. A trained generator expert will be able to estimate the capacity needs for the building that you want to power. (We would be glad to help) Powering an entire building will require a larger capacity than powering certain equipment, such as your main computer server and lights for example. Tell your expert what your needs are and he can tell you how much capacity your generator should have. The generator expert will evaluate the equipment that you want powered, measure the wattage requirements to both start and run the equipment, and finally give you a figure. This figure dictates the minimum wattage requirements that your generator will need to have.

What fuel type should I choose?

Many fuel sources are available and you can choose a generator that runs off of the one that suits your needs best. If your building is already equipped with natural gas lines, then purchasing a standby generator that operates off of natural gas will be the “natural” choice. If you do business in a variety of locations, you may prefer a portable generator that runs off of gasoline as you should be able to acquire fuel wherever your business takes you.

Common generator fuel sources

· Gasoline

· Diesel

· Natural Gas

· Wind turbine

· Propane

Purchasing a generator should be a calculated decision. You need a generator that has the capacity to serve you along with the physical capability and resource fitting fuel supply. The advice of an expert can be crucial to ensuring that you spend your money wisely.

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.

Preparing Your Generator for Hurricane Season

We are a currently two months into the official hurricane season. From the beginning of June to the end of November, it is not only advisable but necessary to be ready for a hurricane. During and especially after a storm has passed over, there is a good chance that you and your business may be left without electricity.

A lack of electricity can cause multiple problems. Consider these potential benefits that you can experience in the event that you are left without power after a storm if you are prepared.

· Increased Revenue- If you provide products or services that people will need after a storm, it will be increasingly difficult to operate without power. Obviously, if you cannot do business you will lose revenues. A working generator can provide you an influx of cash to pay for your own post storm repairs.

· Social Responsibility- Your customers depend on you in good times and bad. If you are able to do business during a blackout or after a storm you will there for your customers and they will remember that. This will help down the road as it has the ability to create positive sentiment.

· Decreased Damage to Your Facility- Without power you will be less able to address damage inside your actual facility. This can lead to structural damage and loss of equipment and files. With a working generator you can carry on operations as soon as possible.

In order to avoid these and other issues you should take some time to prepare your generator. If you have not done it yet, take the time to follow these tips to stave off unnecessary hurricane damage

· Make sure that your generator is a deliberate part of your emergency plan. Does it have the capacity to meet your needs. Perhaps you bought the generator several years ago and have purchased more or larger equipment since. Ensure that your generator has the wattage capacity needed to operate your equipment/facility. Be sure to clear your equipment with your local electricity supplier to ensure you meet code. For a new or additional generator we suggest you consider one of these.

· Properly store your generator. Is a mounted generator in a location that is above potential flood levels or your portable generator stored in area that will not be underwater? If not, relocate it immediately. Also, be sure that your generator is in a location that can accommodate the potential exhaust. This will keep your air breathable while you work after a storm.

· Check to make sure your generator works. Start the generator to make sure that it will be ready when you need it.

· Have the generator inspected by a professional. Even if you generator starts you may want to consider service. Carburetor and other common problems can be avoided with timely checkups by certified service technicians.

· Be fuel ready. Regardless of which type of fuel powers your generator in times of need, have extra on hand. Being prepared will pay dividends when the lights go out. Also, you may need to remove old fuel that has been stagnant in the tank of your generator. Certain types of fuel need to be replaced if left in the generator for an extended period of time.

Your generator may be just one part of your hurricane preparation, but remember how important electricity will be after a storm. Electricity will power televisions and radios that will deliver news, refrigerators that will store food and even air conditioning which may be one of the few creature comforts available directly after a storm. More importantly, it will be impossible to get computer servers and alarm systems back online or to get employees back into a functioning office without electricity.

Top Seven Generator Problems

Companies rely on their generators for consistent and reliable performance during emergencies. Yet improper maintenance, operation, and even storage can impact a generator’s performance. Learning how to identify potential generator problems extends the life of your generator and ensures that it will operate optimally. These seven problems frequently cause generator maintenance challenges:

  1. Water damage: Although one might assume that this problem strikes only generators stored outside, it can affect those stored indoors as well. Water on the outside of the generator can cause rust to form, corroding wires and impeding electrical connections. Meanwhile if water gets on the inside of the generator engine, it can corrode parts and provide breeding grounds for bacteria, which can clog filters. Prevent water damage by using the generator in a dry place free of condensation and other moisture sources.
  2. Poor fuel quality: Generators that run on gasoline or diesel may begin to run rough or produce extra smoke due to poor fuel quality. Water in the fuel can cause the damage described above, while sediment in the fuel can wear down parts prematurely and cause clogs in the fuel filter and fuel injection system. Be sure to always use the manufacturer specified fuel quality, and buy fuel from a reliable source.
  3. Corroded connections: The wires and battery nodes can get corroded over time, causing a weak connection between the battery and generator engine. That breakdown can lead to difficulty starting the generator. Inspect wires and battery before each use. Look for rust, hardened casing, or any other substance that could hinder an electrical connection. Clean the battery nodes if necessary, and replace any faulty or damaged wires.
  4. Overheating: Generators are not designed to run at full capacity all the time. Generally they should run at 60 to 75% of their capacity. Brief dips below are okay, so long as the generator then runs at full capacity for a short time afterward. However, operating the generator at its maximum volume can cause it to overheat and shut down, similar to what happens when a car engine overheats. Check with a generator expert about the electrical load on your generator, to make sure it falls within the manufacturer’s specifications.
  5. Failure to start: When a generator won’t start, it’s usually because of a clog in the system or low fuel levels. Check both the oil and fuel before starting the generator, and carefully follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule to prevent clogs and damage. If a generator won’t start after a few tries, and there’s plenty of oil and fuel, it’s time to call a qualified generator service provider.
  6. Excessive smoke: Multiples problems can cause smoke, from dirty fuel injectors to water in the system. Usually this symptom goes along with a rough engine running. Sometimes using better fuel can solve the problem, but if it persists, consult a technician for repair.
  7. Inconsistent electrical supply: If the generator cuts on and off, or fails to provide a steady output, check the electrical connections first. If these are all operational, the problem could be that the engine is misfiring or has insufficient pressure for combustion. Call a generator repair technician as soon as possible.

When to Call for Service on Your Generator

Generators comprise the backbone of your enterprise emergency system, powering every vital system from the air conditioner to the security system. Yet it’s easy to forget about a generator when it’s not in use, and even easier to forget about proper generator service and maintenance. Proper maintenance not only ensures that your generator runs when necessary, but it can also save money by reducing repair costs and limiting down time.

Benefits of Preventative Maintenance

What’s the best way to keep your generator running? Follow the guidelines for preventative maintenance. It’s ideal to purchase a generator from a company that also services generators; the staff will be well versed in your brand and model of generator and can plan routine maintenance accordingly. During a preventative generator service visit, the technician usually checks the following items:

  • Oil and other fuel levels
  • Gauge accuracy
  • Fuel and air filters
  • Battery power and connection

Remember, a generator is essentially a very large engine, so it needs regular “tune-ups” just like a car or other motorized equipment. These generator service visits are important, even if the generator isn’t frequently used. Leftover fuel can develop into sludge that clogs the carburetor, while battery connections can get dusty or corroded and cause inconsistent electrical supply.

When to Call for Repair

Without regular maintenance, the engine of your generator can get stopped up with old fuel, dust, and dirt. Over time, these can wear out the parts or even cause the generator to fail entirely. If it has been more than a month since the last time you ran your generator, schedule a maintenance check-up before using the generator. These signs are also an indication that it’s time for a service call:

  • Trouble starting the generator
  • Unusual noise coming from the generator while it’s running
  • Signs of oil or fuel leaks around the generator
  • Inconsistent electrical supply, indicated by flickering power or outage while the generator is in use

Timely service keeps your generator reliable and steady. Opt for regularly maintenance visits whenever possible, to protect the generator from damage due to wear and neglect. Be sure to choose a generator service provider with long-standing knowledge and expertise.


Seven Things You Need to Know before Buying a Generator

Purchasing a generator is a critical step in maintaining comfort and safety during a power outage. Yet choosing a generator can seem daunting; selecting the right model requires an intimate knowledge of electrical capacity, flow, and function. To make the process easier, prepare for generator shopping by answering these seven questions.

  1. Where will the generator be stored? If you’re planning to store the generator until needed, a portable generator is the best choice. However, if you’ll need consistent back-up electricity without setting up the generator every time, a stationary model is best. These must have a foundation and meet local building codes, but they can also be set to turn on and off automatically, based on power flow.
  2. Will the required fuel be easily accessible? Generators may run off diesel, natural gas, gasoline, or propane. While stationary generators can be tied into a utility or reservoir to cut down on refueling, portable ones cannot. It’s important to consider how readily available the fuel will be—and its cost.
  3. How will the generator be secured when not in use? Note that portable generators are simple to transport, which also means they are targets for theft. If the generator will be outside when it’s not in use, opt for a stationary model. Although installation presents an added expense, it also ensures that the generator remains secured to the property.
  4. How much power will you need? Consider all the vital systems that you wish to power with your generator, including air conditioning, alarm, and other systems. It may be a good idea to make a list of these items before talking to a professional. An expert can calculate how much power will be needed and help you choose a generator that fits your needs. Remember that a generator requires not just running watts (to keep it going), but also starting watts (a little extra energy to get it going), so that will figure into the generator expert’s recommendation.
  5. How critical are the systems that will be powered by the generator? In hospitals and other settings, a power outage can literally endanger people’s health. Meanwhile, some businesses may lose income or security due to loss of power. If electricity is a vital part of your building’s function, consider a stationary model that turns on automatically during a shortage or outage.
  6. What kind of maintenance does a generator require? All generators require regular maintenance. Ask an expert how to care for your generator and extend its life. For instance, learn how to add and check the oil, visually inspect the generator, and troubleshoot common maintenance problems. Find out if you’ll need to schedule maintenance checks with a professional, as well.
  7. What kind of warrantee is included with the generator? Reputable generator companies provide a warrantee on the equipment they sell. Ask about any limitations on the warrantee, and how long it lasts. Sometimes a “good deal” on a generator isn’t such a good deal if the equipment isn’t guaranteed to last.

Considering the answers to these seven questions can help you make a more informed decision about the generator that’s right for your needs. For more answers to common generator questions, visit our Generator FAQ.