Power failures can wreak havoc on a facility. “Backup generators fail 20 to 30 percent of the time,” found Arshad Mansoor, senior vice president for R&D at the Electric Power Research Institute. This is mostly because generators are not properly maintained or used.

“It’s maintenance related,” says Dan Zimmerle, assistant research professor at Colorado State University. “For instance, if you don’t burn diesel fuel sitting in the tank, it will start to degrade and clog the fuel filters. Things that don’t get used tend to fail.”

LinkedIn’s Facilities Management Group (68,000+ members) recently asked the question “What are the most common diesel generator failures that you have come across?” There were close to 200 responses that stated or implied 50 different reasons. Here they are:

Top 5 (referenced most)

  1. Preventative Maintenance Poor or Non-Existent
  2. Batteries Low or Dead
  3. Load Bank Test Not Done (some recommend 2 times a year)
  4. Remote Monitoring Non-Existent
  5. Routine Inspection/Check Not Done Regularly

Management Specific (alphabetical order)

  1. Facilities Management Poor/Non-Effective
  2. Human Error
  3. Maintenance/Service Records Poor or Non-existent
  4. Neglect
  5. NFPA 110, Chapter 8, 2013 edition Procedures Not Followed
  6. Plan Preventative Maintenance (PPM) or Maintenance Program is Poor or Non-existent
  7. Routine Inspection/Check Logging Poor or Non-existent
  8. Routine Inspection/Check Not Done Daily
  9. Routine Inspection/Check Not Done Thoroughly Every Time
  10. Routine Inspection/Check Procedure Poor or Non-existent
  11. Routine Inspection/Check Records Poor or Non-existent
  12. Service Contractor Not Competent
  13. Service Techs/Engineers Not Rotated Regularly
  14. Service Techs/Engineers Poor/Not Effective
  15. Shortcut Repairs to Reduce Spending
  16. Surprise Audits Non-Existent
  17. Training Poor or Non-Existent

Equipment Specific (alphabetical order)

  1. Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) Exercising Not Done
  2. Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) Failure
  3. Batteries Too Hot
  4. Battery Charger Broken
  5. Battery Charger Fuses Blown
  6. Battery Contacts Corroded
  7. Battery Life Ended
  8. Bird Nests & Mud Daubers Clogging Air Intakes and Vents
  9. Block Heater Broken
  10. Coolant Level Low
  11. Drive Belt Broken
  12. Exercising Not Done or Auto Exercising Not Working
  13. Fuel Dirty
  14. Fuel Filters Blocked/Plugged
  15. Fuel Line Broken
  16. Fuel of Wrong Type Accidentally Used
  17. Fuel Polishing/Cleaning Not Done
  18. Fuel Stored Too Long
  19. Fuel Tank Low or Empty
  20. Fuel Testing/Checking Not Done
  21. Full Building Shutdown Tests Not Done
  22. Hose Broken
  23. Moisture in Fuel (common in humid and rainy areas, and situations susceptible to condensation)
  24. Oil Changes Not Done Per Manufacturer’s Recommendations
  25. Sump Heater Broken
  26. Water Filter In Diesel Fuel Lines Not Changed Regularly (some recommend every 6 months)
  27. Water Filter In Diesel Fuel Lines None Existent (see Moisture In Fuel)
  28. Water Heater Element Is Not Adequate (prevents generator won’t start in cold climate)

Battery-powered lighting and egress systems are not only inherently unreliable, but it is also very time-consuming and expensive to maintain them. Typical testing for just 500 electric exit signs can run between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.

Add the costs of energy usage, replacement batteries, and bulbs, in addition to labor costs, and the expenses just keep piling up. As a result, proper maintenance and inspections do not get completed.

An independent test was recently completed at several randomly selected hotels. Out of 169 fixtures tested for 30 seconds, a whopping 46 of them – or 27 percent – failed the test. The bottom line is anything with batteries or electricity will fail when you need it most.

However, there is a more effective and energy- efficient solution with zero maintenance costs – photoluminescence safety and egress systems.

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