What Are Standby Generators?

Often referred to as ‘backup generators’ or ‘emergency power systems’, Standby Generators are commonly used by hospitals and key government buildings to provide replacement power when the National Grid supply fails. These power failures are far more common than ever before. Generators may be gas or diesel powered and have a large external tank that will usually allow them to run for up to 48 hours before refuelling. A Standby Generator power back-up system is also becoming more common for banks, distribution centres and private businesses that cannot allow any disruption in their critical systems, especially if they are locked into a ‘supply from stock’ contract with their key customers.

diesel-generators-08Simply speaking, a standby generator is a robust commercial engine mounted on a skid, fitted with a large alternator, radiator, on-board fuel tank and electric governing, housed either in a weatherproof canopy or within a purpose built building. Although sometimes referred to as ‘a lorry without wheels’, they are far more sophisticated than that. Each standby system has to be ready to start up at any given time, winter or summer, rain or storm without any possibility of failure, to ensure you have some level of disaster prevention.

The generator will be cabled into the incoming supply distribution board via an ‘Automatic Transfer Panel’ also referred to as an’ AMF’ or ‘Automatic Mains Transfer Panel’.

This is the nerve centre, constantly monitoring the sensitive harmonics of the National Grid supply for any deviation or fluctuation to the regular pattern. If such a deviation is sensed, then the panel will instantaneously send the ‘start up signal’ to the generator.

Is the generator really on permanent standby? Yes. Every standby generator has a water heater that keeps the engine at a constant temperature, so in the event of it being required at a moment’s notice, the engine is already warm and ready to start easily.

Can a standby generator fail? Yes, like any mechanical equipment it needs regular maintenance and servicing. But if it is maintained correctly, a standby generator will give over 30 years of faithful service ready to fire up and hold the building load within 60 seconds, day or night. What could I do to prevent any level of failure? You require N+1 disaster prevention.

Are standby generators noisy? Every generator is built to E.U. noise level standards. Each has a silencer and can be either an openset, which has no housing, or an enclosed set which is much quieter, usually 80dbA at one metre and 65dbA at 7 metres.

In today’s climate of fear, loss of power has become a serious issue. The technology of generators has been around since the birth of the combustion engine, and yet they have become one of the most ‘must have items’ of any new commercial building in the 21st century.

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