Customers should be made aware about the care and maintenance required to keep a generator in good working order, and the type of generator most suited to their needs, says construction equipment hire and sales company Hire It director Richard Fraser.
He explains that the maintenance requirements are similar to that of a car, in that the generator will need to be serviced regularly.
“As a rule of thumb, a generator should be serviced after every 100 hours of operation, or once a year.”
With generators mostly being used only when required – during power outages and load-shedding – the battery can go flat, with the fuel and lubricants in the machine also degrading. It is, therefore, advisable to run generators at least twice a month for half an hour to keep them in a good working condition, advises Fraser.
“If your generator is a key start unit, which uses a battery to start the motor, it is a good idea to get a smart battery charger, which will keep the battery fully charged for when you need it.”
It is important to remember that if the generator is a fairly small key start unit, with a battery under 6 kVA, it will generally be easy to manually start the generator by pulling the recoil starter. So, if the battery does go flat, the recoil starter can, in most cases, be used to pull-start the generator.
Fraser also warns users not to run a plug from the generator directly into a wall socket, as it is not only a fire and safety hazard but also illegal.
He explains that the easiest option is to run an extension cord from the generator into the house and plug appliances and lights directly into the extension cord.
The proper way to install a generator is to connect it to the distribution board, which should be done by a qualified electrician. The electrician can either install a manual changeover switch for manual start units, or an automatic changeover switch for auto start units, Fraser adds.
This will enable users to inform the electrician to nominate the circuits that they wish to run, such as the lights circuits and particular plugs in the house.
The majority of single-phase homes in South Africa receive 60 A from State-owned power utility Eskom. In most cases, homeowners do not use close to this amount at any time, as 690 A of power translates to a generator of about 15 kVA. This means that if one wanted to run everything in a house using a generator, a generator of at least 15 kVA would be required, explains Fraser.
“In my experience, most people want to run the lights, the television system and the fridge during load-shedding. In this case, a 5 kVA or 6 kVA generator will be able to handle this load quite comfortably in an average-sized single-phase home. “The two appliances that draw the most power in the home are the stove and the geyser and, in most cases if these are excluded, a 5 kVA will run most of the essentials.”
Fraser concludes that Hire It’s years of experience enables it to work with customers to understand their requirements and advise them on the best generator for their application.