May 10 2016
Load Testing Standby Generators
Load testing for reliability.
The rational for a Treasure Coast homeowner to install and maintain a standby generator is that a reliable source of electrical power will be available in the event of an emergency. Insuring that reliability depends on load testing.
How reliable is a homeowner’s on-site power system? Waiting until an outage occurs is not the time to find out. The better way is to periodically test the standby generator under load to help ensure it is ready to run when needed.
Homeowners may be reluctant to test the standby generators, transfer switch, and other components under load because of cost or inconvenience. If the testing reveals a problem, then what? However, there are several very important reasons to test the on-site power system.
Why load testing.
A standby generator that is idle most of the time needs to be exercised to prevent the system from breaking down due to lack of use. Testing helps to pro-actively diagnose and fix problems and determine if an aging standby system is due for replacement or component upgrades — at a time the system is not needed.
Testing a generator with a load bank eliminates the effects of wet stacking. Wet stacking is the build-up of carbon deposits in the exhaust. This build-up can adversely impact generator components including piston rings, turbochargers, injector nozzles, the combustion chamber and the exhaust pipe. Running the generator at the required percentage of the rated load burns off carbon deposits in the engine.
The technicians conducting the load testing will also monitor the engine for leaks, temperature and oil pressure loss. Based on their observations and readings, they can be ready to disconnect the load if problems arise.
Ultimately, the cost of regularly scheduled maintenance and testing is worth the insurance that a well maintained standby generator provides.
How to load test.
The safest and most efficient way to evaluate the health of a standby power system is to schedule periodic field testing of the standby generator and its associated components under the equivalent of a live load. The test should be conducted by qualified technicians under controlled conditions.
Turning on a generator without a load attached is like turning on the ignition in a car left up on jacks in a garage for a long time. There is no way to know if the vehicle will operate on the road. Just hearing the motor run doesn’t mean the car can be driven or the tires are aligned.
Load testing is typically done by applying an outside electrical load to the standby generator. The load bank, which is generally portable and transported to the facility on a flatbed trailer or the back of a truck, is equal to the total load the generator would be expected to carry if utility power became unavailable. This type of test does not disturb the live load and eliminates the risk of causing a loss of power should the system not function as intended.
Once the load bank is connected to the standby generator, the generator is turned on and operated for a predetermined period of time. The attending technicians make note of any operational problems, which the homeowner can then address at a non-critical time.
When to load test.
How often the testing should occur depends on the classification or use of the facility, local building code, the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations for the application, and operating conditions.
While some homeowners may balk at the cost of load testing, the expense is substantially less than the costs of an unexpected outage. Scheduling periodic field testing and pro-actively diagnosing and fixing problems when the standby generator isn’t needed will help ensure a homeowner isn’t left in the dark when the generator is needed.
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Goodiel Electric, LLC.
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