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Dec 01

Winterization Tips & Accessories For Diesel Generator Sets

By: Patti Dinneen


Freqently generator sets are installed outside the building to which they are supplying standby or prime power. Therefore, system designers need to consider how ambient temperature and common precipitation will affect these outdoor installations. It is imperative that outside generator sets, typically used in telecommunications, data-centers, and hospitals, are protected from winter precipitation and extreme winter temperatures. In this post, we will discuss several winterization accessories that you can access for applications in cold climates (or seasonal cold weather). We have organized accessories based on common issues that are faced by generators operating in cold environments.

Cold Starting

Fortunately, there are various aids to cold-starting issues. We recommend using aids that are approved by the generator manufacturer. Alternatively, it is acceptable for the aids to be fitted by the manufacturer or an authorized distributor. Some typical starting aids include:

  • Engine Block Heater – We often fit standby generator systems with an AC powered engine block heater. These switch block heaters work to heat the engine oil on the block, which helps to maintain the engine at an optimum temperature for starting. After all, you want your generator to start when you need it most.
  • Coolant Heater - Higher engine temperatures promote simple starting by speeding the time the starter cranks and combustion occurs. An electrical heater (controlled by thermostat) is fitted in the radiator to maintain the coolant at a temperature well above freezing. Obviously, the coolant mix should follow the manufacturers’ recommendations.
  • Glow Plugs – Glow plugs intake air into the generator’s combustion chamber, helping to assist starting in low ambient temperatures. We typically install glow plugs on diesel engines below 1.0 liter per cylinder.
  • Air Inlet Heater - A heater in the air inlet duct heats air used for cooling and combustion. The warmer the engine the easier it is to start. When AC power is available they are usually electric. Diesel-fired heaters, such as rental sets, are available for application with no AC power.
  • Control Panel Heaters – Control panel heaters work to lower the possibility of condensation forming on control panel surface areas. Anti-condensation control panel heaters are typically AC powered.

Fuel Condition

Cold temperatures can cause diesel fuel to wax or gel; however, there are several methods to ensure this does not happen. Once again, the generator manufacturer (or authorized distributor) will recommend the ideal method for installation. Typical methods to remediate poor fuel conditions include:

  • Winter Fuel Grade – It’s important to use winter grade fuels that are suitable for your particular generator set. Typically, generator manufacturers work in conjunction with engine manufacturer data to recommend the best winter grade fuels. Winter grade fuels are blended with additives to prevent gelling of the fuel in winter ambient conditions. With winter blend, the supplier has blended the #2 diesel with #1 kerosene. For winterized diesel, the #2 diesel has been treated with additives by the diesel supplier.
  • Fuel Line and Storage Tank Heaters – If your fuel is stored outside, it can be heated with an approved fuel tank power heating device. If necessary, it is possible to heat the delivery lines to the engine. While most bulk storage tanks are located outside, some inside locations have those bulk storage tanks feed small fuel day tanks located inside next to the set to ensure fuel to the engine is at room temperature.

Lubrication Oil

Though your generator’s engine block heater will work to keep your engine oil warm when the generator is idle, there are specific oil grades formulated for cold temperatures that are recommended for generators sets that are going to be continuously run in below-freezing temperatures:

  • Recommended Oil - The engine manufacturer’s recommendation should be followed for suitable multi-grade oil. Oil that is too heavy or viscous will result in slow and difficult starts.

Accessories For Starter Batteries

If your generator’s battery is forced to work consistently at lower temperatures, the battery will likely have a reduced amperage hour capacity. The drop in ampere hour capacity will vary depending on your battery.  We recommend the following for maintaining required battery capacity:

  • Battery Blankets- It may be hard to believe at first, but there are AC-powered battery warning blankets that are controlled by thermostat. We recommend generator blankets for backup generator systems in situations when there is an available source of AC power.
  • Increased Battery Size –If there isn’t any AC power available (this is usually the case for prime power generators such as rental sets and remote-off-grid installations), we recommend that you use larger sized batteries to make sure that that your generator meets the required battery capacity in cold weather.  Your battery supplier or generator distributor will provide the size to give the required ampere hour capacity at any given ambient

Kinsley Power Systems | Diesel Generator Set Winterization

If you have seen a winterization accessory that will help your generator to perform better in the winter, feel free to reach out to our team at Alternatively, if you have any questions, we would be happy to assist you. Our goal is to ensure that your system performs when you need it. Kinsley Power offers customized preventive maintenance programs and extended warranties for all customers - hospitals and cable companies and factories and homeowners alike. Kinsley services all major make and model generators, transfer switches and switchgear. Kinsley also offers such specialized services such as load bank testing and fuel polishing.

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