Generator Checkup: Meaningful Maintenance for Safe Service

Is your generator prepared for a power outage at your farmstead or business?
Generator Checkup: Meaningful Maintenance for Safe Service - Articles
Generator Checkup: Meaningful Maintenance for Safe Service

This time of year often brings inclement weather such as ice, high winds, and lightning. These can often create power outage in rural areas. Farm sites rely on electricity to keep operations running smoothly. An electrical outage, over a several day period, may potentially lead to significant losses in yield and profit.

Farm managers and owners should consider several checks to ensure their back-up or standby generator is in top order when the time comes to put it into service. Meaningful maintenance that ensure safe service and equipment efficiency is important.

Installation of Generators

  • Keep in mind that generator exhaust creates carbon monoxide (CO). This odorless, colorless gas is toxic. Make sure the generator is positioned outside and in well-ventilated areas. Remember it is toxic to both humans and animals.
  • Do not use generators indoors such as parlors, sheds, or barns.
  • Do not place generators near air intakes such as windows to prevent pumping fumes into the building.
  • Install and check carbon monoxide detectors in areas near standby generators.
  • Avoid Back-Feeding by utilizing a professionally installed transfer safety switch. This will protect line workers that are working to restore power. Also, never connect your generator directly to the buildings wiring or an outlet.
  • Practice fuel safety by storing flammables away from heat sources.

Maintaining Stand-by or Back-up Generators

As we know, regular and preventative maintenance on automobiles will increase their life expectancy and reduce the chance of a major break down. The same goes for your backup or standby generators. It is important to inspect and service your generator to ensure it will function properly in the time of need.

Depending on the size and fuel type (gasoline, diesel, or even alternative fuel) of the generator, the maintenance and frequency of service may vary. However, most of the major operating systems can be discussed with little variances.

You should consult your owner’s manual or service technician for specific requirements and service intervals on your generator.

Before completing any maintenance, make sure the power to the generator is locked out and tagged out to prevent any unintentional start-ups.

Key generator components:

  • Fuel (Diesel and alternative fuels may require more frequent maintenance)
  • Engine oil (proper weight oil for engine and environment)
  • Cooling system -if not air cooled
  • Air intake
  • Electrical / Starting system (Batteries, wires, alternator, auto-start, and spark plug-if applicable)
  • Power transfer switch

Along with the regular maintenance, it is important to complete a visual inspection of the unit as well. Check for other issues such as:

  • Combustible material near exhaust
  • Dirt or dust accumulations
  • Any pests that may be moving in (air filters and wiring can be attractive)

If your backup generator is to be stored for a length of time, it is recommended to cover it. Doing so, will reduce the exposure to dust or other environmental factors. This will also help prevent any pest from welcoming themselves to your generator as a new home. Lastly, it may be recommended to use a fuel stabilizing additive to prevent the fuel from going bad over the storage period. By following the service manual for your standby or backup generator, you can rest assured it will provide dependable power when you need it most.

For a more complete list of generator maintenance Authorized Services of New England is a private company that has a thorough online checklist.

If you are maintaining a biogas digester refer to our article on proper maintenance.

Authors

Agricultural Safety and Health Assessment and Evaluation Educational Programming Agricultural Systems Management

More by Michael Pate, Ph.D. 

Farm Safety Demonstrations Ag Rescue Assistant and Educator

More by Stephen Brown