Selecting a Generator Service Provider
The service agreement for your generator should never be a ‘one size fits all’ contract. While there are certain industry-standard maintenance procedures for power generation equipment; the key to creating an effective, comprehensive service contract is understanding your generator’s operational challenges.
Just as different companies in different industries have specific needs, so do the generators that serve those industries:
• Is your generator prime power or for emergency use? Is it frequently operated with little to no load or full load?
• What about the specific environment that your generator functions in? Is the generator outside, or in an climate controlled equipment room? Does it function in a corrosive, salty or high humidity environment or a dusty industrial setting?
• Is the generator easy to access for maintenance and testing or is it in a facility that requires special clearance and training?
• Is the generator a large 2 meg the size of a small building or is it a compact commercial unit? Do you have one small generator or 5 operating in parallel?
• Is it a brand-new install under warranty or an old model you are coddling along hoping to get another year out of?
These questions create unique challenges when tailoring a service contract to meet your needs.
The fuel type also has a significant impact on the type of maintenance the generator will require. A new natural gas powered generator will require a more streamlined maintenance regime than a diesel. Finally, your service program must adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, and to industry specific testing or monitoring. Combine all these complexities and it’s critical that you have absolute confidence in your generator service provider.
While it’s vital to understand the operational challenges your equipment faces when designing a comprehensive maintenance program for your generator, your service provider must also understand your company’s objectives too:
• Do you require a low cost, annual service contract that allows you to meet basic standards for your industry?
• Do you need a comprehensive, frequent maintenance program that guarantees your generator will perform at the highest level, under a huge load regardless of cost?
Planned Maintenance Agreements
Regular, scheduled maintenance minimizes the likelihood of an equipment malfunction.
The purpose of a service agreement is to ensure the performance and reliability of not just your generator, but all the associated emergency power equipment.
A maintenance program must be tailored to the needs of your equipment and your industry, but a comprehensive generator service plan should include routine elements, such as the inspection of all working parts for wear and tear, and the replacement of key components to ensure optimum performance.
Depending on your industry and your generator, regular testing and monitoring may also be required.
A clear, concise equipment report detailing all the services performed, and a list of any parts that have been replaced, should always be presented to you after the technician has performed their maintenance work.
The following routine maintenance tasks usually form the basis of a service contract and should be performed during each visit:
• Change engine oil and filter(s)
• Record lube oil pressure
• Clean crankcase breather
• Record coolant level and mixture
• Record coolant temperature
• Check belt tension and condition
• Check fuel-water separator(s)
• Check duct work for defects
• Check block heater operation
• Check coolant hoses and connections
• Check for oil/coolant leakage
• Check Air Filter/Cleaner
• Check for fuel leaks
• Change fuel filter
• Check exhaust system for leaks
• Check battery specific gravity, electrolyte level and clean connections
• Check battery charger operation
• Inspect ignition wiring, if equipped
• Check ignition timing, points and plugs, if equipped
Other optional services that should be completed annually or semiannually include:
• Antifreeze sampling
• Oil sampling
• Load bank testing
• Battery, belt and hose replacements
• Fuel polishing
• Remote Monitoring
Transfer Switch Preventative Maintenance
It is essential that your transfer switch is well maintained. If the primary power source falls below a predetermined voltage the transfer switch will transfer the power to the generator.
If your transfer switch fails, it doesn’t matter how well maintained your generator is; it will not start. Transfer switch maintenance is so crucial that National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code 110 mandates that transfer switches be maintained at least annually.
Listed are the procedures an expert technician would follow during routine maintenance of a transfer switch:
1. De-energize the engine start signals
2. Check interior of transfer switch cabinet
3. Clean control board areas and relay cases, check for loose or missing relays
4. Check control wiring connections and wire bundle runs for abrasions
5. Lubricate necessary moving parts with manufacturer’s recommended lubrication where applicable
6. Test all lights for operability
7. Inspect mechanical and electrical interlocks where applicable
8. Inspect timing functions and record if applicable
9. Inspect arc shields for proper installation and condition
10. With the customer’s consent, inspect emergency and main contactors (contactors on non-bypass switches will necessitate operation of transfer switch in the bypass side of switch).
11. Inspect control contacts
12. Indicate deficiencies and recommend repairs
13. Re-energize the engine start signals
14. Initiate bypass switches in test mode. Non-bypass switches will not be actuated unless authorized.
Meeting Legal, State and Industry guidelines
The level of compliance to state, federal or industry regulations will vary depending on your industry and location.
However, you should have confidence that your generator service provider is up to date with the necessary legal and industry requirements, and can ensure that your generator meets all testing, monitoring and maintenance standards.
As the need for continuous monitoring of emergency power equipment is increasing in many sectors, this is particularly important.
Familiarity with your Generator brand, size and fuel type
There are many brands of generator, in addition to different sizes and fuel types. Although most generators of the same size or fuel type don’t differ much between manufacturer, a reputable generator service company should have technicians who are familiar with most manufacturers and certified to work on certain brands.
They should also have technicians who are trained and certified to work on different fuel types and different sized generators and be able to produce training documentation if required. Is the tech that works on your generator EGSA Certified? They should be!
An experienced technician, who is dedicated to maintaining your equipment at the highest standard, with excellent customer service is vital to ensuring your generator performs at optimum output. Without expertise, potential issues can go unnoticed, repairs can take multiple visits, or the wrong tests or monitoring may be conducted.
Working to protect the environment
New regulations are introduced regularly to ensure that industry has less impact on the environment. Power generation companies are beginning to think of ways to lessen the impact on the environment. The best programs should also help you save money on operating expenses. It’s an example of innovation being mutually beneficial for both people and the planet.
Responsible generator service providers should recycle or properly dispose of all battery cores and chemicals such as oil, coolant and filters. This ensures compliance to environmental guidelines and keeps these substances from entering the environment, but it also reduces waste.
Customizing a Solution
If a service provider is trying to sell you a cookie cutter program without tailoring it to your specific needs, you should be very reluctant to sign an agreement with them; no matter how cost effective it may seem.
A generator maintenance provider should be most concerned with the challenges you are facing. For example:
• Aging equipment
• Tight operating budgets
• Multiple units at multiple sites
• Strict compliance to industry standards
Once they understand your challenges, they should then seek to understand your objectives. For example:
• Are you trying to maintain older equipment instead of replacing it?
• Are you being restricted by reduced operating budgets while having to comply with new regulations?
• Are you wanting to create a comprehensive maintenance and monitoring program with no expense spared?
The service provider is there to help you and should do their best to provide for all your requirements at a competitive price.
The Next Step
When you are ready to discuss the maintenance of your power generation equipment, no matter the manufacturer, size or fuel type, we are available to discuss your challenges and objectives to create a custom strategy to maintain your equipment at the highest possible level.
ACF is a leading supplier of generators for both prime and standby applications. Our team are experts who customize solutions to your needs and budget.