Due to the increasing cases of power outages in the United States, it is becoming a necessity to have a standby generator at home. It will kick in the moment power goes out. Sometimes, a power failure can last for days or weeks, and it could be unbearable for you if you don’t have a portable generator at home.
That’s why many homes now have a generator. However, there’s one big problem with generators. They sometimes fail to start when you need them most. And one major reason for this is that generators are meant to be used often. If you don’t use your generator as often as it should be used, something may go wrong with it.
To make matters worse, you won’t know until you start the generator. To prevent this, you need to test your generator at least once a year. Actually, this article explains how to load test a portable generator. If you have a portable generator at home or if you’re planning to buy one, you should read this article to the end.
We understand that some standby generators start on their own and run for up to an hour before shutting down. That process is called a self-test, and many people usually mistake this for a load test. No, it is different from a load test because it only runs without having any load on it.
5 Reasons to Load Test Your Portable Generator:
- A load test helps you to detect if there’s a problem with your generator, so you can fix it as quickly as possible.
- The process also helps you to ascertain the efficiency of your generator.
- It ensures that your portable generator is always in perfect condition.
- A load test prevents wet stacking.
- Finally, it helps to extend the lifespan of your generator.
How To Load Test a Portable Generator?
First of all, we’ll like to advise you that a load test is something you can run, but it is better to hire a certified generator expert to run the test for you. However, if you prefer to do it yourself, follow the steps below. To run a load test, you need a load bank.
This is a machine that simulates the actual load on your generator. Connecting it to your generator is similar to your generator powering your electrical appliances. You can either buy or rent the machine. If you don’t have multiple generators, it might make more sense to rent the load bank.
You also need a voltmeter. The test is divided into two stages. The first stage is to check its output and the second stage is for running the actual load test.
Stage 1 – Checking the output of your generator
This is where you need the voltmeter.
Step 1 – Start your portable generator.
Step 2 – Turn the voltmeter to “AC voltage” position. It is usually marked as ACA, ACV, A, or V. Don’t guess this. If you’re not sure, seek assistance. If you turn the voltmeter to a wrong position, you could blow a fuse while checking its output.
Step 3 – There are two cables coming from your voltmeter. One is red, and the other is black. Connect the black cable to the frame of your generator. You might need an alligator clip for this.
Step 4 – Plug the other end of the red cable into the AC outlets in your generator.
Step 5 – Take the reading on the voltmeter. It should be either 120 volts or 220 volts, depending on the outlet you plug the red cable into. Sometimes, the reading could be slightly higher than the figures.
If the reading on the voltmeter is lower than 120 volts, it means that your generator is supplying low voltage. And if the figure is much higher than 120 volts or 220 volts, it means the generator is supplying a high voltage. You need to fix the problem first before you run a load test.
Stage 2 – Running a load test
Step 1 – Rent a load bank.
Step 2 – Start your generator.
Step 3 – Connect the load bank to the generator.
Step 4 – Switch on the circuit breaker of the generator.
Step 5 – Start turning on the load switches one by one. Start with the bigger one until you reach the maximum load capacity of your generator. For example, if the maximum load capacity of your generator is 50 amp. You can switch on the load switch for 20 amps and switch on three other load switches of 10 amps each. The total will be 50 amps.
Step 6 – One thing you should observe is that the noise of your generator will continue to reduce as you heap more load on it. This is normal. Watch out for sputtering or clunking noise. Those are signs that something is wrong with the generator. But if there are no funny sounds like that, it means your generator is in perfect condition.
Another sign of a problem is if your generator suddenly shuts down on its own while you’re still running the test. That’s why you should run the test for about 4 – 8 hours.
Step 7 – When you’re through with the test, begin to remove the load by turning off the load switches one by one. This time, start with the switch of the smallest load to the largest one.
Step 8 – Disconnect the load bank.
Step 9 – Shut down your generator. And that’s all.
How Often Does a Portable Generator Need Load Testing?
This depends on the size of the generator. Bigger standby generators should be tested at least once a year, and the test should run for at least 60 minutes. Smaller, more portable generators should be tested 2 – 4 times a year. And each test should run for 4 – 8 hours.
Benefits of Load Testing:
There are several benefits of the test, but all of them are geared towards the same goal. And this goal is the real benefit. It helps to detect the problem with your generator early enough. That way, the situation where your generator will disappoint you when you need it most will be prevented.
Also, many generators don’t work up to capacity. And when your generator gets accustomed to the partial capacity, it will fail when hit with full load capacity. The load test prevents issues like that.
- If you’ve never used a load bank before, get an expert to help you.
- While switching on the load switches on the load bank, always switch on the heaviest load first.
- Never use the generator to power your electrical appliances while carrying out a load test on it.
- Keep the load bank out of the reach of children.
- You should keep children away from the place where you’re carrying out the load test.
- Check the engine oil gauge and fill the fuel tank to capacity before you carry out the test.
Always remember that a load test is important to ensure that your portable generator is working perfectly. This is different from the self-test carried out automatically by some standby generators. Finally, make sure you carry out a load test on your generator at least once a year, and each session should last for about 4 hours.