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March 26, 2014 -
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Regular testing, maintenance, exercising, and inspection can help keep standby generators ready to perform when needed.
For optional standby generators (not required by life-safety code), critical loads supported by the generator system typically include data center and call center equipment such as UPS systems, cooling, phone systems, and desktop equipment (computers, etc.).
For emergency standby generators (required by life-safety code), critical loads supported by the generator system typically include emergency lighting, fire alarm systems, fire pumps, and elevators. Life-safety generators are also sometimes used to additionally support optional loads, such as data centers; however, in this case the life-safety loads take precedence over the optional loads.
Good design, quality equipment, trained operating personnel, commissioning, regular inspections and exercising, preventative maintenance, trained service support, and performance testing are all key to reliable performance.
Standby generators should be regularly serviced by, and under a 24/7 service agreement with, a qualified local service organization. Preventive maintenance (PM) service must be performed on schedule. Even OEM and qualified service organizations can become lax about PMs; it's up to the owner to ensure that these contractual requirements are performed or to hold the service organization accountable.
Unless your local utility regularly serves up power failures (of more than a few seconds), an exercising program is required for standby generators. It is standard practice to set ATS or switchgear controls for automatic engine starting and running at no load (no ATS transfer) for about 30 minutes; this is done as often as weekly but no less frequently than monthly. Exercising can be manually initiated as well. If automatically initiated, it's a good idea for operators to be present onsite observing normal performance.