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Generator Catching Fire (Safety Tips)


What causes a generator to catch fire? When gasoline is spilled on a hot generator, it will burst into flames with a risk of a blowup! Overloaded generators can potentially catch fire as well. If you exceed the generator’s power rating, you risk damaging the generator and any connected equipment.

Could you picture having a data center where a generator catches fire during a utility power outage, causing irreversible damage to your customers’ servers? How much worse would it be if you found out that the generator that caught fire had just undergone normal maintenance and inspection?

WebNX, a server hosting company with a 100,000-square-foot data center in Ogden, Utah, has lived through this nightmare in real life. In addition to the fire, the responding fire brigade had to turn off the building’s power, resulting in server outages for the remaining customers.

EEVBlog WebNX Data Center Server FIRE!

To add salt to injury, the fire suppression system that was activated caused water damage to several servers, perhaps resulting in permanent data loss. WebNX is far from the only business to be threatened by a generator fire.

Personal property can also get damaged if generators are not properly installed or maintained:

Generator Sparks House Fire

Maintenance Schedules

Maintenance and inspection of your generator should be done at least once a year, if not twice a year, to ensure that it is in good working order and won’t cause problems later. You may avoid a lot of potential problems by having a professional technician go over your generator at least twice a year.

Without adequate maintenance to inside components and wires, your generator may create sparks. Gasoline fumes or spills could easily be ignited by these sparks, causing the generator to catch fire and the gas tank to explode.

Another reason for routine maintenance and inspection is that if parts begin to fail, the unit could short circuit and catch fire if the damaged pieces are not replaced. If you get your generator serviced by a trained technician, they will be able to detect and correct any potential future problems before they become disastrous.

Load banking is a part of diesel generator maintenance that must be done on a regular basis. Load banking is the technique of attaching a fictitious load to a generator to check its capabilities rather than just turning it on.

Allowing your generator to operate at full load for a set amount of time allows it to reach full operating temperature and remove any carbon deposits that may have built up in the exhaust system over time.

“Carbon deposits can become a fire hazard if they are allowed to accumulate for too long”

Fuel type

Diesel and natural gas are the two most common types of fuel for backup generators. Different inspections and attention are required for these two types of gasoline.

For diesel generators

Make sure you’re always checking for leaks in your fuel lines and fuel filters. Any leak, large or small, should be fixed as quickly as possible.

The fuel tank is another component that requires a checkup. Check for rust, cracks, and leaks, among other things. Even the tiniest of leaks can cause a fire.

Also, make sure the tank is not overfilled and that no fuel has spilled while filling diesel generators. Generators should only be filled to:

80% to 85% of their capacity

If the fuel expands, it won’t spill out of the tank in this manner. Turn your generator off for at least 10 minutes before adding fuel to prevent it from overheating.

Fuel spilled on hot engine parts might also cause an explosion.

For natural gas generators

Check for any gas leaks in your generator on a regular basis. The best approach to detect leaks is to smell them. Shut off the fuel valve IMMEDIATELY if you smell a leak and don’t know what’s causing it.

Make sure the fuel regulator is set to the manufacturer’s specifications to avoid feeding the generator too much fuel that isn’t being used.

Generator location

The NFPA 110 guidelines should be followed while installing your generator. These requirements are in place to protect everyone who works or lives near your generator.

  1. Install your generator in its own room or outside, away from any other combustible appliances. If stored indoors, a generator must be located in a two-hour fire-rated room, according to NFPA 110 chapter 7.
  2. Keep any flammable materials at least 10 feet away from your generator. While the generator is working, certain portions of it can grow extremely hot, and if flammable materials come into contact with them, a fire can easily occur.
  3. The exhaust system and radiator are two other locations that can easily turn into a fire threat. Airflow cannot circulate adequately if the exhaust or radiator are obstructed, and heat can build up to the point of explosion.
  4. Ensure that your generator is dust and debris-free. A competent technician can assist you in ensuring that your generator is correctly sealed to prevent debris from blowing into it or water from pouring in. All of this can harm electrical components, potentially cause a sparking situation.

What other safety measures to consider?

A fire suppression system should be installed in the same location as your generator. To establish a successful system for your generator system, you need to adhere to NFPA 110 specific criteria.

It’s also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby your generator enclosure in case a tiny fire is discovered by a passerby. You can also keep some shovels nearby.

Ensure that your generator is installed by a qualified technician who regularly performs this type of work. It should also be inspected by your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to ensure appropriate installation.

Make sure your generator has been approved by a reputable testing organization. One of the greatest methods to ensure that your generator runs as safely as possible is to choose one that is UL listed:

** Very Important! ALWAYS follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Manufacturers of generators are masters at how their equipment works and can assist you if you have problems.

Your best bet for keeping your generator functioning within its safety zone is to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

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