With the tropical cyclone season now upon us, if you haven’t developed a disaster preparedness plan and started preparing your worksite, the time to do so is now. The 2020/2021 tropical cyclone is expected to be tougher than usual this year, with at least 11 cyclones predicted across Australia. While not all cyclones make landfall, those that do tend to disproportionately hit Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Largely driven by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — of which “La Niña” is just one phase — Australian tropical cyclone behaviour has proven devastating in recent years and extreme weather that forces people from their homes and businesses to halt operations isn’t a matter of “if”, but “where” and “when”. When South Australia was left without power during the 2016 storms — mostly due to high winds causing trees to fall on power lines — it cost local businesses over $367 million and similar events have occurred across Queensland and the Northern Territory. Just consider the damage that Cyclone Debbie caused in 2017, with the Queensland budget taking a massive $1.5 billion hit in that fiscal year.
To make sure your business doesn’t get caught without power and experience unnecessary downtime that puts your financial stability at risk, a quality generator can be a lifesaver. But it isn’t enough to have a generator to fall back on during a power outage — the Cat generator must be properly maintained and ready to go the moment you need it. That means generator maintenance is a must, especially in high-risk areas, like the QLD and NT coastlines.
The Importance of Pre-Storm Season Generator Maintenance
Just as heavy equipment needs regular maintenance to operate effectively and safely, so too does the generator your business relies on in the event of a power failure. After all, you can’t expect an item of equipment that sits about most of the year to operate at full capacity the moment it’s needed — it needs to be run regularly and serviced at least once annually.
As a power supply backup, a generator failure can be catastrophic for a business. Especially during an extreme weather event that causes a power failure for days on end. Scheduling a generator service before the tropical cyclone season hits provides peace of mind that you’ve got a reliable power source if the electrical grid goes down or your solar power fails you. If you haven’t used your diesel generator since last storm season (or even longer), then now is the time to book a pre-storm season maintenance check. Hastings Deering is here to help.
What Does Power Generator Maintenance Involve?
It’s important to differentiate between a generator check and generator maintenance. You should check your generator regularly to ensure it’s clean, the diesel/petrol it runs on is fresh, and the electrical cords and cables aren’t damaged or worn. Scheduled generator maintenance is more comprehensive than a routine check and will involve the following:
- Petrol / Diesel: Drain any petrol/diesel from the tank and dispose of it properly. The fuel line and fuel filter are inspected for cracks and signs of wear and tear, and replaced if necessary.
- Oil: Check oil levels and inspect oil to ensure it’s clean and free of abrasive contaminants which can damage moving parts. An oil change or oil filter replacement may be required.
- Electrical Components: Inspect electrical cords, cables, connections, wiring, terminals and switchboard, for damage, and clean if necessary. Battery electrolyte levels are also checked.
- Fan Belts: The fan belt is checked for wear and tear (especially cracks which can occur due to irregular usage), and to ensure the belt is the correct tension and won’t slip on pulleys.
- Radiator: The radiator core is inspected for signs of contaminants, and the radiator hose is checked for coolant leakage, damage (swelling, cracks, holes or leaks) and correct fitting.
- Crankcase: Crankcase breathers (which remove gas from the crankcase) are checked and cleared, and nuts, bolts and clamps are checked for damage and to ensure correct fitting.
- Air Grilles and Vents: The intake or outlet air grilles and vents are checked and cleaned to ensure proper ventilation, keeping the generator motor cool and preventing overheating.
Once the components are inspected and serviced, the generator service technician will take a kWh meter reading and test it at full load to ensure it’s operating at 100% capacity. It’s vital to ensure your power generator can take the full load it’s designed for, as it may need to operate at maximum capacity during a power outage caused by an extreme weather event.
Operating Your Generator Correctly and Safely
While your generator has been inspected, serviced and is operating at maximum capacity, you still need to operate it correctly and safely, starting by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Knowing when to ground (earth) a power generator is vital for safe operations, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions step-by-step. Another essential aspect of safe generator operation is checking the wattage rating so you know exactly how much you can power. Understanding your electric generator’s output limits is extremely important, as you don’t want to overload the generator and cause it to shut down when you need it most.
Operating a power generator correctly and safely mostly comes down to common sense, so read the Caterpillar generator instruction manual and familiarise yourself with it before storm season hits. This ensures you understand how it works and you can get it running quickly when you need it most.
How Hastings Deering Can Help
With over 20 locations across Queensland and the Northern Territory, Hastings Deering has a service network to help businesses like yours keep your backup generators powering when it matters most. Its Caterpillar generator repairs and maintenance services provide peace of mind that if your primary power source falters or fails during a storm or extreme weather event, your backup power can handle the load.
Hastings Deering supports a broad range of commercial, industrial and private operations to reduce downtime and ensure reliable power availability for all standby and supplementary power, prime power and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) requirements. When it comes to the peace-of-mind backup electric power supply, Hasting Deering delivers complete parts and service support for all Caterpillar generator models — wherever and whenever you need it.
Source: Hastings Deering