When it comes time to purchase a power generator for your farm, there are some key factors to take into consideration to ensure that you’re as prepared as can be for your new investment decision.
Below are five important considerations or questions that every farmer should get familiar with before purchasing a standby generator for their agricultural operations:
1. How long can I continuously run my standby generator?
Essentially, your standby generator will run for as long as you need it to provided there is enough fuel supplied to it. But, you should practice some precaution during extensive power outages that span several days and try to conserve your generator usage, especially if it’s running on diesel or LP. Diesel generators are available with 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour fuel tanks. Natural gas generators don’t require fuel tanks – a plus. And as a rule of thumb, you should occasionally be shutting your generator down to let the engine cool – especially during a longer power outage.
2. What type of service or maintenance will need to be performed?
There is certainly some maintenance you’ll want to keep up with to prolong the life of your generator. With that said, maintaining a natural gas engine is quite similar to that of a diesel engine.
On a day-to-day basis, try to keep your generator warm and dry and safe from pests, and be sure to regularly check fuel, oil and water levels. Ensure the generator’s electrical connections are intact (an electrician will be able to help with that). Keep components lubricated regularly. On a yearly basis, have a technician help you with oil and filter changes, as well as fuel and air filters, and spark plugs. Ensure you’re keeping your unit clean, and performing all necessary tests.
3. What type of fuel do I need?
It’s best to choose a generator that uses the type of fuel most convenient or appropriate for you. For example, if you have a natural gas or propane line that already runs to your location, this can be a good choice. On the other hand, gasoline is an ideal option for isolated areas, and tends to be more available than diesel fuel. You’ll need to ensure that you’ll be able to get fuel easily delivered to your location when you need it. Diesel engines are, on the other hand, known for being very reliable and efficient – but they are a hefty penny compared to the other engine types.
4. What type of transfer switch will I need?
After you’ve decided on a generator to power your farm, you’re going to need to decide on a transfer switch - either a manual or an automatic transfer switch. Installing a transfer switch helps to prevent back-feeding or overlap, and will provide you with fast, direct and efficient access to power in the event of a failure. (Note: you MUST get a qualified electrician to perform the installment; any inexperience can be fatal as you’re dealing with electricity, here!).
A manual transfer switch is standard and ideal for farmers with a PTO-driven unit (not to mention, a lot more friendly to the wallet). It will require manual start-up in the case of a power outage, and then must be manually switched back to the power provider once the power comes back on. A good thing about the manual transfer switch is that it’s easier to maintain and install compared to an automatic transfer switch.
A little more on the fancy side, an automatic transfer switch is convenient and great for generators compatible with auto-start systems, and is a more worthwhile investment for farmers living in areas that experience frequent outages. This type of transfer switch will know when the power fails and will automatically signal your generator to get to work. No action is required on your end, either once the power comes back on.
5. How long will my standby generator last?
The better you care for your generator, the longer it will last. A lot of people seem to believe that diesel engines outlive gas engines, but the truth of the matter is, excellent maintenance will set up any engine type for a long life. More specifically, power generators can last upwards of 30 years on average (give or take how often you’re using it).
Make sure you’re well informed before making your power generator purchase – and once you do, the best thing you can do is keep up with proper daily care and checks. If you show your generator love, it will show you the same in return!