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Must-Know California Generator Regulations: Q & A with Kyle Michael

California’s commercial generator regulations help to keep people and businesses safe — but they’re not always the easiest read. 

Which is why we often get questions from customers such as: 

  • What am I required to do for servicing my generator?
  • Am I required to test my ATS switches as well?
  • How often, and how long, am I required to load-test my generator system?

So we sat down for a Q & A session with Kyle Michael, a Duthie Sales Engineer who has covered both Duthie’s Long Beach and San Diego locations, to tell us what generator owners and managers need to know about Southern Californian local and state commercial generator regulations.

What are the 5 most important commercial generator regulations for Californian owners?

Kyle points building owners to 5 essential statewide generator regulations, 4 of which require specific tests: 

1) Test Your Generator for 30 Minutes Each Month Under at Least 30% load.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s 110 Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems states in regulation 8.4.2:

“Generator sets in service shall be exercised at least once monthly, for a minimum of 30 minutes, using one of the following methods: 

      1. Loading that maintains the minimum exhaust gas temperatures as recommended by the manufacturer.
      2. Under operating temperature conditions and at not less than 30 percent of the EPS standby nameplate kW rating.”

If you’re not sure how to measure your generator’s load, ask our generator experts

2) If You Can’t Do #1…

Some generators can’t be operated monthly, or don’t have the required 30% minimum load that Rule #1 requires. (This is often due to a generator’s small minimum load or multiple switches.)

In these cases, commercial generators for California residents must follow the testing program in NFPA’s 110 Standard Regulation

  1. The generator must be tested annually for 1 hour and 30 minutes. 
  2. For the first 30 minutes of the test, you must place at least 50% of the EPS nameplate kW rating. 

After the first 30 minutes is completed, increase the capacity of the load test to 75%.

3) Test Transfer Switches Monthly And Service Them Annually

Also according to the NFPA 110 generator testing standards, transfer switches must be tested monthly. If you have only 1 automatic transfer switch (ATS) and your generator has the minimum 30% load on it, your ATS test can count as your monthly backup generator load test requirement as well.

In addition, transfer switches must be serviced annually. (If yours is overdue, feel free to schedule a transfer switch service call with Duthie.)

4) Test Fuel Quality Annually 

According to the NFPA 110 Standard Regulation 8.3.7, “a fuel quality test shall be performed at least annually using appropriate ASTM standards or the manufacturer’s recommendations.” 

In addition, not only does the NFPA 25 (Regulations for Diesel Fire Pumps) call for an annual Diesel Fuel Lab Analysis, but so does the NFPA 110 for commercial generators. 

We offer these tests too — just schedule a service call

5) Change Your Oil and Oil Filter Either Every 50 Hours of Use, or Annually (Whichever Comes First).

The NFPA also requires that the oil in your generator be changed regularly. Even if it’s not run regularly, impurities build up in unused oil and can impede your generator’s performance when it’s needed most. Thus, it too requires preventative maintenance.

What Additional Regulations Does Los Angeles Have for Commercial Generators? 

The NFPA 110 covers regulations for all Californian Commercial building owners with generators. However, each area’s operational limitations and permits are set by their own individual ruling jurisdiction.

Generators located in Orange County fall under the rule 1470 in the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). These local government jurisdictions determine allowed annual runtime, permits, and fees. The SCAQMD permits also allow (in general) 20-50 hours per year for testing and maintenance.

What Additional Regulations Does San Diego County Have For Commercial Generators? 

Like Los Angeles and Orange County buildings, ALL of San Diego County’s commercial building and generator regulations fall under the NFPA 110. (Here’s our summary of its recent updates.)

San Diego’s local jurisdiction is the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (SDAPCD). As in Los Angeles & Orange County, the SCAQMD sets permit limitations on how many hours a year generators can be used, tested, and maintained.

Where Can I Find Out More About Generator Regulations in My Area?

For Californian commercial building owners, most of what you’ll need to know is in the NFPA 110 handbook

Los Angeles and Orange County operators can look to SCAQMD Rule 1470 for their additional commercial generator regulations, while San Diego Country operators can do the same at SDACPD 69.4.1.  (SCAQMD Rule 1470 also covers portions of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.)

Final Note 

Since Duthie chiefly operates in the greater Southern California area, that’s where we know the regulations best. Your regulations may be slightly different depending on which state, county, and city you’re in. So we encourage double-checking with your local jurisdiction’s authority for any additional regulations. 

Need professionals to run a generator test or service your generator and transfer switches? Get in touch with a highly trained Duthie generator expert here. We look forward to hearing from you!

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