If you purchased a generator to provide electricity during outages, it can be immensely frustrating to turn the unit on and have it fail to provide the power you need. Here are three reasons why your generator may be malfunctioning and what it takes to get it working right again.
There Is No Electromagnetic Field
Although generators use gas to power the engine that produces the electricity, these machines require a tiny bit of electrical juice to jumpstart the conversion process. Most of the time, the generator will retain a little electromagnetism or electricity in the coils during periods of dormancy for use the next time the generator is turned on. However, sometimes machines that haven't been used for long periods of time, that have been on for extended periods of time, or that were disconnected improperly will lose their spark and won't begin the process of converting gas-powered mechanical energy to electricity when switched on again. Thus, you'll get a situation where the engine will run but the generator won't produce any electricity.
Reproducing the spark can be easy or difficult depending on your machine. Modern generators typically anticipate this type of problem, and the issue can easily be solved by holding the start switch down for a few seconds after the engine starts running. Another method is to plug a drill into the generator, starting the machine, and then spinning the drill in the reverse direction. This should produce the required spark and get the generator producing electricity.
It's best to consult your owner's manual for instructions on dealing with this issue for your specific machine. If you don't have the manual, you can usually find the relevant information online or by contacting a local electrician.
The Battery Has Failed
One common reason why generators won't produce electricity is that the battery has stopped working properly. This can occur for a number of reasons. Lead-acid batteries have a bad habit of developing sulfation buildup. This is when sulfur molecules start covering the battery's lead plates, which prevents electrical currents from passing through the battery. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this problem is to completely replace the battery because the problem will only get worse with continued use.
Another cause of battery failure is debris in or around the sedimentary trays or connections. Cleaning the connections and replacing the sedimentary trays on a regular basis will ensure the battery remains functional during important times when you need your generator to work.
The Capacitor Is Malfunctioning
Another issue that may be causing your generator to produce less electricity is a malfunctioning capacitor. As noted previously, your generator needs a bit of an electrical spark to jump start it to produce electricity. One of the duties of the generator's capacitor is to continuously produce that spark while the machine is in operation. When a capacitor starts to go bad, the amount of voltage produced by the generator will decrease over time until it stops altogether.
You can determine whether the capacitor is the problem by testing it using a multimeter. Be sure to turn the generator off and to completely disconnect it from any electrical source. Since a capacitor can still retain some electrical energy, be sure to wear protective gloves when working with this part to avoid a nasty shock.
Connect your multimeter to the device's terminals. A digital multimeter will display OL while an analog one will show little to no resistance if the capacitor is faulty. Luckily, capacitors are fairly inexpensive, so it should be relatively cheap and easy to replace.
For assistance with diagnosing a problem with your generator or to schedule an appointment to have a technician come out and look at your machine, contact a company like Hans Electrical Inc.