A 100 kW
diesel engine at WAWZ(FM).
aftermath of hurricanes, the topic of emergency power is at the
forefront of everyone’s thinking, as it was after Sandy last year.
But let a little time pass between emergencies and it’s easy to
lapse into an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
until another disaster strikes and you’re left hoping that this
critical piece of machinery can save you once again.
simple steps you can take to ensure that emergency power will be
there. It’s not much different from maintaining your own or your
instance, when was the last time you changed the oil in your
N.J.,ran on generator power for a week after
Sandy, Chief Engineer Ron Habegger and I calculated that we’d put
the equivalent of nearly 14,000 miles on the engine. Would you drive
your car that long between oil changes? (To put this in perspective,
that’s more than two round trips from New York to Los Angeles,
without taking your foot off the gas.)
were on emergency power during recent storms but haven’t given your
generator some tender loving care, now’s the time to do so.
oil and coolant. Look for leaky gaskets. Check the belts, hoses and
filters. Make sure you have spares on hand. A replacement belt or
hose at the parts supplier does you no good when roads are impassable
and it’s 2 a.m.
weather, make sure the engine has a properly functioning block
with human bodies, exercise is important in keeping the generator fit
and reliable. At WAWZ, we exercise ours once a week for 30 minutes.
We monitor fuel level, and we top it off immediately if an extended
outage is anticipated.
Smeal is director of technical operations for Greater Media New
Jersey. All six of his stations were in Sandy’s path. He outlines
his maintenance regimen:
generator is exercised for 15 minutes weekly. They’re also visually
inspected for leaks, battery condition and whether any pests —
rodents, snakes, insects — have decided to make the generator their
home. Each unit has a preventative maintenance service at least once,
if not twice annually.”
also important to run the generator under load periodically.
year, we pull the main breaker in order to have a controlled outage,”
says Smeal. This not only assures proper generator operation; it also
verifies properly balanced loads.
added gear at the site (i.e., additional STLs, HD Radio equipment,
etc.), you’ll need to make sure the generator can handle it.
exercise doesn’t accomplish much, however, if you just let it
happen in the background. When your generator fires up, do you
actually check its performance firsthand?
seen far too many people rely on automatic cycling hardware,” says
veteran broadcast engineer and consultant David Wilson.
Clanton, station engineer at WRAT(FM), checks up on the genset.
highly recommend they listen to it while operating fully loaded.
Belts slipping, engine problems, bad fuel, batteries in poor
condition can all be caught if someone is paying attention.”
White, vice president of power generation with Cummins Power Systems,
says it’s important to have that annual or semi-annual checkup
performed by a factory-trained technician.
am sure some individuals will be systematic and consistent, I think
the professional technician is going to be more reliable in catching
issues. A trained technician follows a maintenance or repair plan
outlined by the factory and has the current data on that model and
such as defective or recalled components can be addressed. If it’s
a relatively new generator, problems covered by the warranty can be
capacity ideally should be enough to keep the generator running for
at least a week. Make sure you have a reliable supply chain and that
you can reach suppliers in an emergency.
having helped stations weather the Nashville flood of 2010, suggests
having more than one supplier. Your main supplier may be underwater
or otherwise out of commission. Smeal suggests additional temporary
storage when a major event is forecast.
diesel, be sure to consider additives to prevent problems that arise
when fuel is left to sit for long periods. Wilson suggests a tank
heater in colder climates. Diesel fuel actually can start to gel at
temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
not a good idea to fill a nearly empty tank while the engine is
running, since new fuel flowing into the tank will stir up all the
dirt and gunk that settles to the bottom, allowing it to foul the
learned this the hard way after several days on generator power. A
few hours after we topped off the tank, the engine began to lose
power, as did the site. It was a sinking feeling to see our entire
site go dark after we stayed on the air through the worst of the
storm. Fortunately, the utility company restored normal power less
than an hour after the generator died.
morning we changed the fuel filters and all was well.
PUT ONE ON
in the market for a generator, here’s how to determine your
load should be at 80 percent of the generator rating,” Jay Tee
White suggests. “Another alternative is to have a sales engineer
from a generator supplier perform a survey for you to size the
equipment. If you do want to do it yourself, most manufacturers have
a sizing tool to help with the process.”
have the budget for a permanent installation right now? A portable
generator, mounted on a trailer, could be a cost-effective option.
some customers who are starting to look at portable units that they
can move around in anticipation of the potential loss of power with
an automatic transfer switch at each of their installations,” White
says. “If they choose incorrectly, they can redeploy the trailer
unit quickly. We’re seeing this as a way to spread the investment.”
portables than can be rented, even borrowed. Mick Rapeer, chief
engineer of WODE(FM), Easton, Pa., maintains a good relationship with
a local cable company that let him borrow a 50 kW generator during
only necessary equipment and only auxiliary transmitters on low power
for about three days.”
such a relationship in place long beforehand can make a world of
difference, especially when rentals are scooped up in the wake such
an event. Even if the loaner is only large enough to keep your main
studio and an exciter on the air, it’s better than nothing.
station’s emergency generator is as important a piece of equipment
as your transmitter. Think about it; in a power outage, if you don’t
have a generator, you don’t need a transmitter.
often have redundant systems, but only one generator,” said Smeal.
Curt Yengst, CSRE, is assistant engineer for WAWZ(FM) in
Zarephath, N.J. He
also works as a freelance
engineer and assists at WBPH(TV) in Allentown, Pa.