Summer is here, high temps aren’t letting up and keeping your technical facility cool is of the upmost importance. With summer heat also comes extreme summer storms that can wreak havoc on your building’s utilities. Here are a few tips, tricks and ideas for ensuring your technical facility can stay operational with a well maintained back up diesel generator.
1. Fuel System
- Fuel SystemFuel Filters: Fuel shelf life and filter clogging tendencies depend on a series of factors such as transportation and storage, natural oxidation and breakdown, use of production additives and addition of biofuel. Fuel degradation is an inevitable, natural process. And unless an adequate fuel sampling, testing, monitoring and fuel maintenance program (including tank cleaning and comprehensive monitoring of leak detection, water detection and fuel level) is implemented on your generator, fuel breakdown and clogging will continue to be an expensive liability and a major contributor whether your generator starts and stays running. Additional items to check when monitoring your fuel system is all filters including external fuel filters and fuel polisher.
2. Lubrication System
- Check oil level and Maintain the level as close to the full mark as possible without overfilling. Based on your Manufacturers recommendation conduct oil changes, samples and analysis to ensure oil level is within tolerance.
- Maintaining the proper coolant level is the bare minimum to ensure your equipment can withstand the summer heat. Low coolant levels could potentially initiate a “shut down” fault on your generators. This means if the generator senses a coolant level below the acceptable level, the generator controller could prevent the engine from starting, even during an outage. This is because low coolant levels can lead to air pockets in the cooling system, which leads to improper cooling, overheating, and can also cause premature failure of engine components such as seals and water pumps.
- Coolant Mixture – Typically, when filling your coolant most commonly used is a 50/50 premix coolant, always make sure when filling your coolant to use either a 50/50 premix coolant, or coolant concentrate mixed to a 50/50 ratio with deionized water. Using deionized water is essential when mixing coolant as regular tap water can lead to hard-water buildup in the engine, called scale, which can restrict the flow of coolant and clog the radiator. Always check your manufacturer’s recommendation for types and mixtures of coolant.
- Coolant Condition and Protection – Proper generator maintenance procedures include checking the coolant for freeze point levels and for carboxylate levels on a pass/fail basis. Taking samples at regular intervals under typical operating conditions can detect and prevent imbalances between the water, glycol and various additives that coolants contain. Coolant Analysis helps increase the life expectancy of your engine coolant and remove problems that would occur from being contaminated. By periodically getting your engine coolant analyzed you prevent any form of contamination being spread throughout your engine, transmission and hydraulic system. Antifreeze should be field tested on a routine basis and if necessary, changed every 2-3 years or if the coolant becomes discolored, contains sediment or loses its protective properties. Please note, samples do not prevent anything but will identify engine and coolant related problems that can be addressed sooner rather than after a failure.
4. Block Heaters
- Engine block heaters are normally supplied and installed as a generator package accessory. For some generator models, this could be a factory-installed accessory, and for others, it may be an optional price-adder that the buyer can choose at the time of purchase. Block heaters are typically used in environments where the generator is subject to ambient temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). They add reliability to the generator system by preheating the water jacket coolant of the engine and maintaining a warm temperature, thus assisting the engine start cycle for rapid, easy ‘on-line’ performance.
This is especially important for generator applications where the unit is powering critical loads. In cases where an electrical power outage could seriously disrupt critical processes or put the safety of people at risk, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) requires that standby generators be heated as necessary to ensure the system will start and carry the full emergency loads within ten seconds after loss of primary power from the utility service. In addition, the start and on-line time are extremely important to those who use flywheel technology for/with their UPS systems. The flywheel technology has typically less than 1 minute of backup time whereas batteries have typically 10-30 min backup at a minimum.
5. Cooling System/Block Heater Hoses/Thermostats
- Over time, cooling system and block heater hoses deteriorate due to high operating temperatures. The most common points of failure on hoses are near the hose clamps or crimping points, which can be found by inspecting for cracks or deterioration around these critical points. Both coolant and block heater hoses should be replaced every 3-5 years to prevent failure and ensure proper operation. The thermostat controls the flow of the coolant through the system. If not functioning properly the coolant temperature will not be maintained at the desired temperature. These items should be monitored on a regular basis and replaced when needed.
6. Battery Maintenance
- Conducting proper battery maintenance and testing to ensure the battery will start your generator when you need it is important. Testing can include cell voltage and cell balance. Corrosion can block current flow in connectors and cause a resistance between terminals. Battery cable connections should always be securely tightened (possibly properly torqued), cleaned and free of debris. Any buildup of corrosion or debris can lead to shorted or higher resistance connections during cranking cycle, discharge of battery and deterioration of battery cables/wiring. Make sure battery terminals are cleaned and battery Corrosion inhibitor (no-ox) is applied to batteries to prevent corrosion at each service.
- Battery Charger Failure – Battery chargers commonly fail to keep the battery charged due to a breaker being left open or tripped, generally caused by improper maintenance procedures or equipment issues. Always double-check to make sure the battery charger breaker has been turned back on after completion of routine or scheduled maintenance. Once initially installed, battery chargers are relatively maintenance-free and should only be checked for calibration purposes during the life of your generator. Make sure they are keeping your batteries charged at the proper voltage. Charging at too high or too low of a voltage can lead to starting and life cycle problems.
- Alternators that are producing good power usually only require a visual inspection. Dirt, heat, and moisture are their biggest enemies. Dirt can block the heat transfer necessary to keep the windings cool. Heat can damage the insulation on the windings. Moisture can cause windings to short to each other or to ground. Any of these situations will reduce the power that a winding can produce. Most alternator manufacturers provide recommendations for testing winding resistance and cleaning windings, if necessary.
8. Transfer Switch/ Paralleling Switchgear
- There are a few ways to do the switching including transfer switch, paralleling switchgear, or a combination of both just to name the most popular. They can all be a little challenging to properly inspect and maintain. To do a thorough annual inspection it typically requires deenergizing all or part of the system. This may even involve coordinating a planned outage for a specific time period on a weekend or during the night. Function testing is equally important. Monthly is most typical in the industry. Transfer the supported loads to and from the generator in a controlled situation to validate the functionality of all components of the systems and potentially identify issues prior to your need during an emergency.
- Conduct monthly functionality testing of the generator and more in-depth annual testing with load, no-load, full load, heat of summer, etc… Test the entire system. Also conduct visual inspections for any oil leak, fuel leak, broken belt issues and to make sure alarms and valves are in their proper position.
Protecting You and Your Clients
SiTESPAN is your expert partner in creating a custom summer maintenance plan specific to your facility’s needs. Contact us for more information on the services we provide and how we can assist you and your team in protecting your investment.
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