The reliability records of standby power solutions can often be correlated to their service and maintenance regimes. The quality and frequency of preventative maintenance is particularly relevant in the case of diesel generators.

This is according to Jack Ward, MD of power provisioning specialist Powermode. He says monitoring and maintenance programmes also minimise the need for emergency repairs and ensure that when called upon to do duty during power outages, standby power systems will work to full capacity every time.

“The investment made in a standby power solution is only as good as the service it receives. In fact, if you budget a little less on the solution and more on its maintenance you will be rewarded with a significantly more reliability and – overall – cheaper long-term cost of ownership,” he says.

Ward says that when it comes to regular servicing and maintenance, many critical procedures are overlooked on a day-to-day basis by owners whose generator plants are frequently ignored until needed – often in an emergency.

“The dynamics of the environment and nature of the equipment are the main factors to be considered. A standby power supply is an emergency power solution which, by its very nature, it is not top-of-mind and normally neglected by employees who are not dedicated to facilities management.

“Only when the power grid fails does the standby power system gain in importance in the eyes of staff members who rely on its reliability to continue to function and be productive,” he notes.

Ward stresses that diesel generators – and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems – face challenging operating environments, including high voltages, unstable power ranges, spikes surges and transient voltages.

“In the case of generators, intermittent or periodic operation causes stagnation of lubricant and fuel. Diesel engines require regular operation, ideally weekly for 20 minutes to 30 minutes, to ensure optimum performance.”

He adds that generators are usually located outside in a yard, in a parking bay or receiving area and the enclosures are less than secure and open to the elements. Rodents are common companions.

“It is precisely because the environment is less controlled and variable that regular planned maintenance becomes vital – and mandatory.”

Ward adds that like their human counterparts, diesel generators need regular exercise. “Units on continuous standby must be able to go from a cold start to fully operational status in seconds. This imposes a severe burden on engine parts. However, regular exercise keeps engine parts well lubricated, fluid lines unclogged and prevents harmful oxidation of electrical contacts.

“Against this background it’s critical, from both operational and safety perspectives, that servicing and maintenance be carried out by qualified technical personnel. Ideally, the task should be outsourced to a specialist firm well versed in diesel generator technology, which differs significantly from petrol engines or engines used in automotive or trucking applications.”