Why Should I Have a Generator Maintenance Budget?

Desk calculator with invoices for energy and electric bills as elements of calculating a generator maintenance budget.

Like any equipment, generators need some TLC from time to time. In fact, it’s the law: FDA 110 mandates that your generator equipment be professionally serviced according to their standards for fire safety equipment. This means that the cost of regular service visits should be part of your budget. So what should you set aside for your annual generator maintenance budget? 

To find out, we talked to Duthie Service Manager Randy Gross. According to him, you can estimate your generator’s annual maintenance budget based on size and other factors (i.e. the number of ATS switches). 

An important thing to keep in mind when looking at these estimates is that not all inspections are alike. For example, some companies, like Duthie Power, hold semiannual inspections in person, while others do not. Be sure to ask for a detailed explanation of what’s included in an inspection before you attempt to make an apples-to-apples price and service comparison. 

Semiannual Comprehensive Inspection 

Twice a year, your generator should undergo a thorough professional inspection. This not only prevents small problems from getting bigger (and more costly), but also limits the possibility of your generator malfunctioning during inconvenient times. For example, a generator shutting down in the middle of a big show or function at an event center would result in not only an expensive repair, but a major loss of revenue and reputation. A generator glitch at a hospital during an emergency would have even worse consequences. That’s why scheduling and budgeting for semi-annual inspections is so important for this vital piece of equipment. 

From Duthie, this can cost between $300-$900 depending on generator size. 500kW generators will be near the lower end of this scale, while 1000+ kW giants will be near the higher end. 

Since the average cost of a generator repair visit is $2000 in Southern California, regular inspections more than pay for themselves! Just like cars, frequent inspections mean that small problems are caught and resolved quickly. But without semi-annual inspections, these small problems too often become large and expensive repairs. 

This is especially true for generators that are (like many in our experience) 40+ years old. If your generator is over 30 years old, it’s particularly important to have it examined by a good technician who will inform you what parts might need fixing or replacement soon. Your technician can give you a good estimate of what to budget for repairs, which will prevent you from getting caught off guard by unexpected generator fees. 

Annual Service Visit

Unlike the semi-annual inspection’s predetermined price, the price for an annual generator service visit varies by both size and the amount of work needed for each individual generator. 

For example, these visits usually include changing the oil and at least two fuel filters. Even if two generators are the same size, they often use different filters (which need replacing at different rates) or hold different amounts of oil. And changing the 110 gallons of oil in a gigantic 1500-2000 kW generator is very different than changing it in a car!

Because of this variation, it’s best to ask your generator technician what to expect for your generator size, age, brand, and model. Prices for an annual inspection vary from $500-700 for a 200 kW generator, to $3500+ for a 2000+ kW generator.

Annual ATS Test

To ensure that your ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch) reliably switches on power the instant your building is disconnected from the grid, Randy highly recommends an annual test. In Los Angeles County, it isn’t just Randy’s recommendation either: the Fire Chief’s Regulation 4 Fire Test requires a professional servicer to turn the breaker off, turn on the switch, and conduct a walkthrough to ensure that all circuits function properly. 

The only catch is that your building needs its power briefly shut down during the process — but this brief disconnection usually isn’t an issue after work hours. And if you are able to do it during 9-5 Monday-Friday, you can get a reduced rate from Duthie. In 2021, this option may be less disruptive than ever before if most of your employees are currently working from home. What’s important is you have options, and our service team is happy to walk you through the most affordable and appropriate option for your ATS maintenance.

3 Year Service

Every three years, your generator is due for a thorough rehaul. After working for 36 months, various components may need to be replaced such as coolant, belts, hoses, and thermostats. It’s a good idea to ask your technician what they think your particular generator will need, and budget ⅓ of the price of this service into your annual budget. 

With the help of a trusted technician, you can avoid the unpleasant surprise of an unexpectedly high repair fee by estimating how much to set aside for your generator’s maintenance needs each year. This will help you remain confident that you’ll have access to power, no matter what happens, with a well-serviced generator.

Interested in learning more about standby generators and generator services? Get in touch with our home generator professionals at onlinesales@duthiepower.com or just call us up at (866) 838-7962. We’d love to hear how we can help!

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