FAQ #11: What are the Top Points of Generator Failure that most sites can easily mitigate against?

In chatting with industry colleagues, about the most common reasons for generator failures, it was interesting to find that there were a few collective reasons that we agreed could often have been avoided with some simple added processes to monthly and annual schedules, by onsite facilities teams or by scheduling regular maintenance services.

With the higher profile of risk management, asset management, service continuity and the basic need for reliable back up power in highly digital-reliant workplaces, we would expect to see a decrease in call-outs for failed generator start-ups.

For many organisations and sites there are definite improvements, but often – when inherited systems are still in place but have been neglected, or dropped down the asset upkeep priority list, we are still finding sites that could have done more to prevent back-up failure and the ensuing on-site issues that follow.

In no particular order, here are the top points of failure that we most commonly attend to, that could have been easily avoided:

Battery condition and failure.

Generator battery failure is one of the most common but easily mitigated reasons behind generator failure. Careful monitoring whilst in service and replacement of batteries at three-yearly intervals + also upgrading to improved charging systems, can greatly reduce unwanted system failures.  This is a standard practice across hospitals and nursing homes due to their high compliance and risk management activities, but often are missed on regular maintenance schedules for less regulated industries.

If you don’t know if you have a policy or process around your back-up generator’s battery replacement at regular intervals, it’s time to check.  Get in touch with our team at PGS and we can help you to ensure this simple risk mitigation strategy is in place.

Fuel Systems .

Poor fuel condition or lack of maintenance of your site fuel supplies, bulk storage, fuel transfer systems, fuel pumps & lines is a dangerous oversight that can greatly affect the functionality of your genset. Regular equipment operation assists to circulate and filter daily storage tanks, and prevent fuel drain-back from pumps & injection systems.  Automated on-site or scheduled fuel laundry or polishing systems can also greatly prolong the life & quality of fuel supplies as well as tank condition

For those who specifically also have tanks on site (to support generators with longer running capacity), check out our previous article on Fuel Care and other components of fuel storage systems.

Human Error.

Yes, we commonly hear that someone on site has operated the Emergency Stop button.  Despite how inviting this button or other integral controls look, we find that with regular schedule training (coupled with regular maintenance so users are familiar with the entire genset), that this risk of inadvertent operation, drops dramatically.

Systems can also quite often be integrated into your site to monitor and report on any unintentional operational of controls or other system alarms, permitting corrective action before a possible failure occurs. Let’s face it people are human, and not 100% perfect all of the time – systems monitoring is a relatively simple integration to mitigate against this risk.

As a side consideration, also note where your generator is located and who has access.  On occasion we have found older gen-sets in high thoroughfare locations (without the regular safety precautions too) – sectioning off the area safely and minimising access sometimes is an easy solution too.

Automatic Transfer Switch Issues or other automated systems operation.

Whether your site has an ATS or other load control systems, any system is only as strong as its weakest link. Often, we attend sites to find a full mains failure & site load transfer to the generator under-controlled, and monitored conditions have not been undertaken for some time, or ever.

Operation of the generator system under substantial load, either from site or dummy load banks is another process that we discover has not been proven or undertaken for some time, to ensure all equipment will operate as required when it is called upon.

It is recommended to regularly operate load transfer systems and load test the system, ideally every month but at least annually for a longer duration.

Curious about ATS’s and how they work? For a quick read, check this past FAQ.

In a nutshell, it’s about staying informed and conducting regular maintenance on your generator asset.  Got questions around one or more of the common points of failure above? Give the PGS team a call or send a message – no judgement, just an expert team who would be happy to support you and your site.

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