At CD & Power we get calls all the time asking, “Why did my generator just start up for no reason” or “Why didn’t it start when we had an outage?” Even in one case, “My generator is haunted. Can you help me out?”
The questions are not without merit. Your generator is a complex piece of equipment that for most of the time, particularly if it is not exercised on a regular schedule, sits idle.
It’s not unlike that multi-million dollar “closer” on a baseball team. He sits around most of the time. Days go by where he relaxes out in the bullpen and, the only thing he’s doing with that million dollar arm is lifting a Gatorade. But late in a tight ballgame he needs to come in and throw heat for just one inning.
In a power failure you need that “heat” for much more than an inning. You need the confidence that a reliable generator is going to provide immediate and sustained, backup power. If your generator does not seem to be operating normally, it is vitally important to know why. To us, any question you might have about it is a good question.
Here is just a brief sampling of the questions we hear about generators starting and stopping.
“Why does our generator start up for no reason?”
First of all, there’s always a reason. Let’s review a few of them.
- Was there a power outage, however brief, that triggered the start?
- Sometimes, a brownout or power failure, other than a complete outage, could cause your automatic transfer switch to cut over to generator power.
- The generator is exercising per its schedule. Make sure your generator maintenance company has established an exercising schedule. How often you are permitted to run the generator for this purpose is regulated by the air quality management authority. The CD & Power Compliance Department can answer questions you have regarding regulations. Just call us at 866-468-7697.
“Why didn’t the generator start up when I needed it?”
- The most common reason is a dead battery.
- The battery charger may not be working, a common symptom when someone unknowingly turns it off at the breaker or puts it on the same circuit as the block heater, which trips the breaker.
- The control panel draws a little current from the battery constantly, hence the need for the battery charger to be continually on.
- A low coolant level would prevent the start. Because there is a safety issue here, the sensor setting is intentionally conservative. This means it’s quick to assess that coolant is low.
- Low fuel pressure could be a factor.
- In attempting to start the engine did it “over-crank?” The engine will only try to start so many times until it stops trying.
“Why did the generator stop running?”
- If power has been restored the generator will stop running.
- There may be a fault in the engine due to rodents. They like to take up residence in your generator and, in lieu of food, they’ll chew on wires and hoses.
- The block heater may not be working.
- Low oil pressure.
- Emissions issue, for example diesel exhaust fluid level is low, or noxious emissions have otherwise been detected.
If generator dependability is your goal, our “Generator Genius Video Series” lays out a road map to get you there.
On our website you will find what we call our “Generator Genius Series.”
In compact 2 to 3 minute videos we have compiled the collective knowledge we have gained over thirty years of fixing generators. We have produced over a dozen videos covering three major areas of concern:
- Generator Planning and Safety.
- Regulatory Compliance.
- Generator Maintenance.
If you already haven’t done so, designating one person on your staff to manage generator issues would be a sound measure. The Generator Genius videos would provide a comprehensive tutorial for that manager.
If you think you have questions we haven’t heard, challenge us. We might learn something ourselves. About that “haunted” generator? We don’t have an exorcist on our staff but we have a field force experienced in tracking and vanquishing the demons that might lurk in your generator.