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  • I have had the pleasure of working closely with Electro-Motion on my fire pumps and emergency generator. They correct problems on the spot and report on anything which may need to be corrected in the future, keeping equipment in top working order saves us all in emergency repairs and costly down time.

    Scott W. Varady
    Director of Engineering
    San Ramon Marriott Hotel

    Common Maintenance Mistakes: Failure to Maintain Your Automatic Transfer Switch

    August 30, 2013

    Unless you maintain your Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) each year, you risk failure of your emergency power system just when you need it -- and that’s when the power goes out.

    All the ATS makers, without exception, recommend an annual maintenance. This includes Zenith, ASCO, Westinghouse, Onan, Kohler, etc. The makers know their equipment best, so if they require it every year, it’s important to listen.

    NFPA110 (the National Fire Protection Association) calls for a yearly maintenance on all ATS units. NFPA is the most commonly used standard in our industry, and your local Fire Marshall probably uses this standard as well. Please call us for a copy if you don’t have one.

    Your ATS is 50% of your system. Obviously, if your generator set doesn’t perform you won’t have emergency power. Likewise, if your Automatic Transfer Switch doesn’t perform, you won’t have emergency power. Both are critical, and both should be maintained as intensively as possible.

    Important next steps:

    1) Check Your Records. If you haven’t had this ATS maintenance work done in the last year, that work is due.
    2) Get Information: Begin to gather the information you’ll need to understand how this work must be performed and how to manage the potential internal disruption. Call us and ask for “Automatic Transfer Switch maintenance...what do I need to know?”  We’d be happy to talk you through the impact to your facilities.
    3) Call us to Schedule the Work. We are flexible and can schedule this work during off-hours to minimize disruptions..

    Remember: Your maintenance program must include an Automatic Transfer Switch Maintenance or -- by definition -- it is not comprehensive!

    What is "Meggering"(TM) or "Insulation Resistance Testing"?

    May 1, 2013

    Insulation resistance testing is a specialized procedure where the integrity of the electricity producing portion of your generator set (alternator) is tested in a safe & isolated condition. During the test, DC voltage is applied to the alternator windings to determine if the insulation is damaged and may cause a short circuit under normal operation. This test is a crucial part of maintaining a reliable on-site emergency power producing plant and is recommended annually by NFPA 110. This test can identify and prevent catastrophic failures to not only the generator set, the Automatic Transfer Switch as well as anything on the entire emergency load circuit.

    This test identifies weakness of the dielectric strength of the internal components that may under normal conditions not be detectable until a total failure occurs. Identifying these impending failures is a relatively simple process and typically will not impact any supported building systems. If problems are found, steps can be taken to ensure your on-site power needs are met and costly damage to your entire emergency circuit can be avoided.

    Is My Diesel Fuel Still OK?

    March 13, 2013

    Fuel studies have shown that diesel fuel starts to deteriorate and form solids within 60-90 days after refining.

    As this change occurs, naturally accumulating particulates increase in size and mass. Heavy deposits are soon to be found in the filtration equipment and sludge forms in tanks and other fuel system components. This sludge (or “algae”) is the most common cause of clogged filters, loss in engine rpm, excessive exhaust smoke, and damaged fuel injectors.

    Additionally, water condenses inside fuel tanks wherever there is open space, Correspondingly, it is highly advised that tanks be maintained at full levels. NFPA 110 recommends an annual test of your diesel fuel by sending a sample to a laboratory for analysis per ASTM Standards.

    So what should I do to manage my diesel fuel properly? You have a few choices:

    1. Use up your fuel within two years.

    Why two years? It takes approximately that long for the deterioration of the fuel to become serious. If you “turn over” your fuel within that period, you should be OK. This means if you have a 100 gallon tank, you should burn 100 gallons in two years.

    But what if you can’t? Then you should...

    2. Recondition your fuel.

    What does this mean?

    It means you remove the contamination from the fuel every two years. This process is a called fuel polishing.

    Fuel polishing systems use multi-stage filtration, enabling sludge and water to be removed from the fuel tank. Fuel additives are introduced as well. These additives work in conjunction with the filtration process to ensure the fuel is free of particulates, sediment and water.

    Typically, the cost for this service is about half the cost of new fuel.

    3. Drain & refill with new fuel.

    This is the easiest and quickest approach. But it is also the most expensive.

    The net result of active fuel management is clean tanks, enhanced combustion, elimination of carbon deposits, reduction in harmful emissions, and lower fuel consumption.

    Generator Care When the Building is Empty

    February 14, 2013

    As a building owner of property manager, it's always challenging (and expensive) to have an empty building. Unfortunately, the costs don't stop when the rental revenue does - not the best situation! We understand expenses need to be reduced to a minimum during this period, but taking it too far can be a bad idea. In situations like this, it's important to remember to:

    Preserve the Value of Your Assets

    Equipment of this kind is deteriorating continuously from the day it is installed. You ongoing maintenance program slows the deterioration - flattening the deterioration curve and giving it a full life of 20-30 years. Neglect the maintenance and your equipment will quickly become unreliable and deteriorate much more rapidly. In fact, you could shorten its life by as much as half!

    Maintain a Functioning Asset to Market the Property

    Prospective tenants who require backup power will see an existing generator as a real asset, and this could distinguish your property. Without a well-functioning emergency power standby system, you could lose this type of tenant. Don't limit your prospects by not having a well-functioning emergency power standby system.

    Keep your Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) permit current

    BAAQMD permit requirements for cleaner burning diesel engines have increased in recent years. Older generators that do not meet these newer requirements may be grandfathered, if they keep their permits current. It is important to not let your permit lapse during a period of vacancy. If a permit does lapse, you may not be able to re-permit the unit and could be forced to replace it.

    We would be happy to discuss your situation and to devise a plan to accomplish these goals as inexpensively as possible.

    Coolant Flush versus Cooling System Service - Both are good, but one is better and more complete.

    January 8, 2013

    A coolant flush, as the name implies, is only draining existing coolant, flushing the system with water, draining and then refilling with Fleet Charge 50/50 Pre-Diluted, Fully Formulated, SCA Precharged coolant. Coolant flushes are important but do not address many of the common reasons a generator cooling system fails.

    A complete Cooling System Service includes flushing the system 2-3 times, coolant disposal, replacing all hoses (including heater hoses) plus any clamps that are in poor shape, replacing all belts, replacing the engine thermostats (this is a critical item), replacing the radiator cap, filling with new coolant (50/50 mix) and testing for leaks and proper performance. Hoses fail from the inside out, meaning signs of failure are not evident until it's too late. By proactively changing hoses, failures and leaks are prevented. Engine thermostats are critical in that they prevent units from overheating by enabling the unit to shut itself down before a catastrophic failure occurs. These are relatively inexpensive parts which should be replaced proactively to avoid major engine repair costs or even unit replacement.

    Performing Cooling System Service every 3 years is an industry standard that addresses all key components so that the cooling system performs as designed. A comprehensive preventative maintenance program for generators should include proactively changing cooling system components to ensure the generator is ready for service when called upon during a power outage.

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