Powering ovens, blenders, and refrigerators on-the-go, a portable generator is essential to the successful operation of mobile food business. Due to its importance and the amount of required initial expense, food truck owners need to make sure they get the most out of their generators throughout its life-cycle.
Generator failures are not just inconvenient but can also lead to your mobile food business missing opportunities and losing revenue.
Welp, guess we won't be out tonight. Generator issues again. Sorry folks, see you on Wednesday(fingers crossed).
— Sushi & Seoul (@sushiAndSeoul) May 11, 2015
Impact of Underloading
How you use a generator can affect its efficiency, performance, and reliability. Some models of generators (particularly, diesel and gas engine generators) are designed to operate with a certain amount of load. If such generators are underloaded for extended periods, the engine can experience “wet stacking” and get damaged due to the unburned oil, fuel, and other particle deposits.
Generally, standby-rated and prime-rated diesel engine generators are designed to be operated between 50 and 85 percent while continuous-rated diesel engines are optimized between 70 to 100 percent load. Underloading a diesel engine generator for long periods of time can impact its performance and long-term operational life. Light load operation (less than 30 percent) of diesel engine generators should only be 30 minutes for every four hours. After the time limit, diesel generators must be run on at least 70 percent load for the next two hours.
Generators that run using natural gas or bio-gas are typically designed to operate between 60 to 100 percent load. Adequate load is required to ensure that the generator engine’s cylinders have enough pressure to maintain oil control. Deposit build-up on generator components like valves, spark plugs, and piston rings can cause cylinder liner polishing, accelerated component wear, poor performance, and power loss. Natural gas engines are more sensitive to underloading so check the recommended time limits below.
Low load operation time limits for natural gas generator sets:
0 to 30 percent load = 30 minutes operation
31 to 50 percent load = 2 hours operation
51 to 100 percent load = Continuous (the manifold air pressure must be greater than the atmospheric pressure.)
The inefficient use of your generator set can increase your generator’s maintenance cost and downtime that results to your food truck business incurring loss that are otherwise preventable.
Some of the common reasons why generators fail are wet stacking, fuel and oil leaks, faulty level gauges, corroded or worn out connections, and battery failure. Due to the vital part it plays in your food truck’s operation, doing proper maintenance is important to make sure your generator remains reliably.
Making the time to check the condition of your generator ensures that you will get the most out of your investment and prevent sudden failures that can halt your food truck’s operation. Letting a professional service and maintain your generator is the best option, for convenience and peace of mind. Seek the assistance of a mechanic or technician for routine maintenance like checking fluid levels, verifying control panel readings and indicators, or inspection for wear and tear, among others. Maintenance schedules (annual, semi-annual, or quarterly) should be followed based on manufacturer’s recommendations to increase reliability and apply preventive measures.
If you want to do basic maintenance on a generator yourself, refer to the owner’s manual for details regarding manufacturer’s guidelines. The following inspection and parts replacement can be done by generator owners themselves (may vary depending on your generator’s model or manufacturer):
- Checking and charging the battery
- Inspecting oil level
- Changing engine oil (dispose used oil properly by following local regulations)
- Cleaning or changing filters
- Inspecting or replacing spark plug
Remember to only use recommended replacement parts for your generator. When looking for those parts check the company’s website for replacement parts, or another highly recommended website is repairclinic.com (http://www.repairclinic.com/Shop-For-Parts/a31/Generator-Parts). They have many different parts for all kinds of generators. They are very inexpensive and reliable parts. They have all brands and you can search for parts by specific brand and model of your generator. It’s super easy!
Another website you may find your parts on is northerntool.com (http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/category_generators). They also have inexpensive parts and they have generic parts and parts by specific brand name model. All their parts are very reliable and durable.
Also, if you are looking for videos on how to do the repairs yourself. Youtube is a great source to finding amazing videos on how to do it! I can’t tell you how many times their “how-to” videos have helped me out. They helped me replace parts in my car!
The proper use of your generator not only prevents it from failing when you need it the most but also protects you, your business, and customers from harm. Here are some tips on how to avoid risks and dangers when using portable generators:
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm and never operate a generator in an enclosed area. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be fatal to anyone with prolonged high level exposure.
- Never use the generator in wet conditions to avoid electric shocks.
- Never plug the generator to a wall outlet to power a house (known as backfeeding) as it is very dangerous to utility workers repairing power lines and neighbors served by the same utility transformer.
- Do not overload the generator. Do not underload generators for long periods of time.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator or use extension cords rated for the load.
- Turn off appliances connected to the generator before shutting down the generator.
- Never refuel the generator while in use. Let it cool down before refueling.
- Do not store extra fuel near the generator. Fuel fumes can get ignited by an electric spark. Keep a fire extinguisher ready in case of emergencies.
- Stay away from some parts of the generator that heat up during operation to prevent burns.
- Do not use the generator for more than the recommended run time.