Frequently Asked Questions

Common Generator-Related Questions Answered


What type of generator is best for your house? How often should an industrial generator be serviced? Is load shedding bad for the health of a generator? There are so many questions about generators and alternative power solutions out there currently, we thought we’d add a FAQ page to our S&A Generators website. Here you’ll find a bunch of common generator-related questions, and the answers to those questions from our generator specialists. Got a question we haven’t covered below? Contact us today and we’ll make sure we find the solution you’re looking for!

The Generator has a " Failed to Stop " Alarm

A “Failed to Stop” alarm on a generator usually indicates that the generator did not shut down properly after receiving the stop command. This could be due to a variety of reasons. To address this issue, you can follow these steps, taking into consideration the safety guidelines and procedures for your specific generator model:

1. Check the Control System: First, ensure that the control system of the generator is functioning correctly. This includes examining the control panel and checking for any error messages or indications that might suggest a fault in the control system.

2. Inspect the Stop Mechanism: The issue could be with the mechanical stop mechanism of the generator. This might include a stuck fuel valve, a problem with the actuator, or an issue with the electrical system that controls the stop mechanism.

3. Electrical Issues: Look for any electrical issues that might prevent the generator from stopping. This includes checking the wiring, connections, and switches involved in the shutdown process.

4. Software or Configuration Errors: If your generator is controlled by software or has programmable features, there might be a configuration error or a software glitch that is preventing the stop command from being executed properly.

5. Maintenance History: Review the maintenance history of the generator. Recurring issues or a lack of regular maintenance might lead to problems with shutting down the generator.

6. Consult the Manual: Refer to the specific model’s manual for troubleshooting guides related to the “Failed to Stop” issue. The manual might have model-specific instructions or diagnostics for this particular problem.

7. Professional Assistance: If the problem persists and you are unable to diagnose or solve it, it’s advisable to contact us. We can perform a detailed inspection and undertake necessary repairs.

Safety First: Always ensure that you follow safety guidelines when inspecting or troubleshooting the generator. This includes turning off the power where necessary and wearing appropriate protective gear.

Remember, the exact cause and solution might vary based on the specific model and configuration of your generator. If you have access to the generator’s control unit manual or documentation, it would be beneficial to consult it for more detailed, model-specific guidance.


Can you make a generator quieter?

There are ways that you can make a generator a bit quieter, however, it will never be completely silent. If you put it in a plant room and soundproof this room – it can make little to no noise. You do need to make sure that there is enough ventilation in the room so that the generator doesn’t overheat. There must also be somewhere for the exhaust to exit the room to the outside. You can also look into an exhaust muffler which will alleviate some of the noise. You can also use soundproofing mats to make the generator a little bit quieter. The next step would be to possibly use a silent canopy for your generator and this can make it a bit softer as well. These won’t take away the noise completely, but they will help alleviate some of it.

What is wet stacking a generator?

Your generator will run on load which means it is supporting the right amount of appliances. Wet stacking occurs when the generator isn’t running on load and it is running below the design temperature and load factor. The diesel generator runs using hot compressed air that ignites the fuel and burns it to create power. If the temperature is too low then the fuel will ignite but it won’t fully burn. This then causes soot and vaporised fuel, in the form of a liquid substance that resembles engine oil, to build up in the exhaust. This is wet stacking. This can cause the exhaust to become blocked and this can cause the engine to overheat.

What happens if you overload a generator?

If you overload a generator it can cause lots of problems down the line. You should never run your generator with more than 75% on load. You always want a generator with a slightly higher KVA so that you don’t overload it. If the generator is overloaded, which is very common, the generator will shut down after running for a short period or it may not even startup. In some cases, the generator will keep running even though it’s overloaded, however, it will overheat and cause damage to the generator. This is why it is crucial to make sure that you buy the right KVA for what you need to run, and hence why a site inspection must be done in order to prevent things like overloading and overheating.

How long can you run a generator continuously?

You either have a standby generator (which can’t be run continually) or a continuous generator (which you can run all the time but it will need to be serviced). These two types shouldn’t be run for too long as it can cause long-term damage without a service. However, most times you can run it until the diesel is almost finished. You should never run the generator until it is out of diesel, otherwise you can cause airlocks in the fuel lines. The generator, however, will need to be serviced once it has reached a certain number of running hours, typically around 200 hours. This means that the longer it is run the more often it will need to be serviced.

My Generator Won’t Start – What Should I Check?

If your generator won’t start it could be due to a number of reasons. It can range from there being no oil to there being a problem with the spark plugs. One of the most common problems we come across is that the oil is low and this means that the generator won’t start as it could damage the generator. Another common reason for the generator not starting is that the battery is dead. It is probably best to get a professional to come out and have a look at it. They will have a better idea of the problem, and you don’t want to risk trying to start it up and then you end up breaking it further.

Do I need an electrician to connect a generator?

An electrician will have to connect a generator to your house or offices. An electrician knows how to connect things safely and properly so that it all works. A certificate of clearance would also have to be done by the electrician, as they are the only people who can do these clearances. A certificate of clearance means that the electrical installation of the generator is in compliance with the legislation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Does a generator come with a plug or distribution board (DB)?

We request that all our generators come with a DB board, however it can be arranged that it does not. This would only make sense if the person ordering the generator already has a DB board. The generator has to be connected to a DB board so that it can provide power during a power failure. The connection from the generator to the DB board has to be done by an electrician and a certificate of clearance has to be done.

What does an Automatic Transfer Switch do?

An automatic transfer switch allows a generator to automatically start if the power goes out. It switches the power between two loads. The generator will run until the power comes back. It acts as an intermediary. An automatic switch is generally used in businesses and banks. This makes it easier when the power goes out as their generator will automatically switch on so that someone doesn’t have to go and manually turn it on.

What is the power factor?

A power factor is a ratio of Active Power (KW) to Apparent Power (KVA). The KVA is the total power consumed. Active power and reactive power (KVAR). This is non-useful power, make up apparent power (KVA). Things that make up the reactive power (KVAR) are things like transformers, induction motors and high-intensity lights. Having a high reactive power can mean that your power factor is bad and this means that you could end up paying more on your electricity bills.

Can Christmas lights overload an electrical circuit?

Twinkling Christmas lights look lovely at this time of year, but they can easily overload your electrical circuit. Traditional circuits are made to power an ordinary family home or business, so they can crumble under the extra strain of strings of lights and animatronic festive figurines. Circuit breakers and fuses trip or blow when circuits are overloaded, which can affect your lights and appliances inside and outside the house. Rig up a generator and you can have a Christmas display worthy of the Griswold’s without the stress.

What should I do if I will not use my generator for a long time?

Every generator set must be tested under load for 10 minutes at least once a week. If you will not use your generator for a long time, you should perform the instructions given in your generator’s Maintenance and User’s Manual about storage. Storage is very important for the service life of generators and must be performed by an authorised service shop. After being in storage for a long time, a generator must be prepared for operation by undergoing an authorised service. This is especially important in terms of its warranty.

Standby vs. continuous vs. prime power ratings: What’s the difference?

Standby power generators are typically used in emergency situations when the power goes out. This type of generator is ideal for applications in which there is another reliable continuous power source. It is recommended to only use this type of generator throughout the duration of the power outage and during maintenance and testing.

Prime power ratings have an “unlimited” run time, which means they can be used as a main source of power and not just as a backup. This type of generator is often used on job sites where there is no traditional power source, such as in mining or oil operations, or in remote locations with no power grid.

Continuous power is comparable to prime power in a number of ways, but stands apart because it has a base load rating. While it can offer a consistent and regular power supply, it cannot handle overload conditions and doesn’t work well with variable loads.

What is the difference between an air-cooled engine and a liquid-cooled engine for a generator?

Air-cooled generators use fans to cool the generator engine, while liquid-cooled generators use splash lubrication systems for cooling the engine. Generally, liquid-cooled engines are used on larger wattage generators, as they provide better cooling power.

What makes buying a generator for my guesthouse in KwaZulu-Natal worth it?

Buying a generator for your guesthouse is definitely a good investment. With load shedding becoming more and more likely for longer periods, it can be very inconvenient to guests if their power goes out and they are wanting to cook dinner, etc. They may get irritated and this could drive away business. It would also be a good thing to include this on the website for your guesthouse or in the description and this will show that your guests won’t be inconvenienced by load shedding.

My estate won’t allow generators, what now?

Most estates don’t allow generators as they are noisy and disrupt those around you. The best choice is a gas generator. Gas generators are quiet and therefore will not disturb any neighbours around you. Many estates are also becoming more eco-friendly and gas generators are more eco-friendly compared to other generators. Gas generators are also more cost-effective than other alternatives.

What is a gas generator?

This is a generator that powers households by using gas. The gas is created through a process of combustion. Gas generators generally come in smaller KVA’s. They are better equipped to run a household – however, it depends on what you are wanting to run in the household. A site inspection will help you to determine this. A gas generator is also more cost-effective than other generators.

Can I service my own generator?

It is not a good idea to service your own generator, as you do not know exactly how your generator works. You could end up doing more damage to your generator, and it can become more expensive to fix. It is definitely best to get your generator serviced by someone who knows what they are doing. This will probably end up being less expensive in the long run as you know it is being done correctly. By choosing a professional to service your generator, you can guarantee that it will work properly the next time you need it.

Are diesel generators environmentally friendly?

Not necessarily. However, measures can be taken to make the generator more environmentally friendly, or you can buy a generator that is already modified. You could get a bio-diesel generator which will be more environmentally friendly. You can modify a diesel generator by adding filters to the exhaust which will potentially clean the air that is coming out. That is just one example of what you could do to make your diesel generator more environmentally friendly.

Should I buy a diesel generator or go solar?

This depends on your preference and what you would use the generator for. How much of your office or house will need to be supplied with electricity if the power was to go out? It may be a good idea to choose a solar generator; however, while they do have a better impact on the environment, solar generators are more expensive. It may be a good idea to get a site inspection done first, then proceed from there based on the advice that is given.

What are the main types of power outages?

There are three types of power outages. These are a blackout, a brown-out and a permanent fault. A blackout is the most severe power outage, and can last from a few hours to weeks. Blackouts are caused by a power station tripping, and is a total loss of power.

A brown-out is a drop in power voltage which can affect the operation of equipment and the productivity of a business.

A permanent fault is due to a surge of power through the power line. This is usually relatively quick to resolve. In South Africa we have load shedding, which is due to us not having enough of a power reserve, as well as there being a higher demand than there is a supply of electricity.

Portable generator or standby for my office?

Both will help to supply your office with power but there are some subtle differences. A standby generator is attached or installed permanently at your office. It also turns on automatically when the power goes out, and it doesn’t have to be filled with diesel or petrol as often (it has a larger reserve tank). A portable generator can be moved from location to location, however it does not turn on automatically and has to be turned on manually. It also has to be filled frequently (it doesn’t have a large reserve due to its portable nature). A portable generator can be more of a hassle when the power goes out, however it is more cost effective. You will have to decide what you think will suit the needs of your office.

What do I do to my generator if I sell my house?

The generator can be added into the price of the house. You may want to see if this is an option, so speak to a professional about this option. However, if you would like to keep the generator, then it might be possible to relocate the generator to your new home. This may be a more expensive route.

What home backup generator should I use?

This will depend on what you are wanting to run off the generator. For example, your lights, plug points, heaters, etc. It is probably best to get a site inspection done prior to buying a generator. This way you know for certain that the generator you are buying will be able to run your house or  the parts of it. It is also helpful to get a site inspection done to find out the best position for the generator to limit noise pollution, as well as finding the easiest way for the cables to be run from the generator to the DB board. A house generator’s size can range anywhere from 5KVA to 80KVA, depending on what you are running off of it.

How much does an industrial generator cost?

The cost of an industrial generator can vary depending on the brand of the generator as well as the KVA that will be needed. The higher the KVA, the higher the cost of the industrial generator. The brand of the generator will also affect the price point. Prices range from anywhere between R80000 and R200000 depending on the KVA and brand. There is the option of Chinese brands which are, on average, a lot cheaper – but sourcing spare parts is often a challenge.

What should I look for when buying a house generator?

If you’re looking for a generator for your house, you should take into consideration the following: noise polution. If you’re staying in a complex or close to other houses, you may have to get permission from your governing body or your neighbours. Space. You will need to see where you will be able to place the generator. The distance from the DB board to the generator will also have to be determined as this will affect the length of cables required. KVA rating: The KVA is determined by what needs to be run off of the generator. EG: If you are wanting to run just lights off it, for example, the KVA will be a lot less than if you want to run the entire house off it. The KVA of the generator and the space that will need to be allocated can be determined by a site inspection by one of our technicians.

Can a diesel generator run on biodiesel?

Biodiesel is diesel that is made up of vegetable oil or animal-fat fuel. Use of biodiesel is a more recent advancement, so newer generators as well as other selected dated generators may be able to run off of biodiesel – with a special conversion in place. Biodiesel can be more cost-effective, however it is not as accessible as regular diesel. We recommend getting your generator checked out by a generator specialist to assess whether biodiesel could be a fuel option before adding it to your generator’s fuel. If you’re looking for a more ‘green’ backup power solution, consider battery, solar or wind turbines.

What oil should I use in my diesel generator?

We use Kleinz Oil when we do our generator servicing, an oil which is considered one of the best generator oils available. There are many brands that are more cost-effective, but do not offer the same longevity. The amount of oil can differ from generator to generator, so it’s better to get an official opinion on what oil to use and how much. This will ensure you don’t end up damaging your generator with incorrect lubricants.

How do we go about arranging a generator service at my office?

First, you contact us via email, or you can call. We will then ask you more information about your generator and then give you an SLA agreement (this is a service plan for your generator.) and from this, we will arrange services for your generator for certain dates and times. This is stipulated further in the SLA agreement.

How often should I service my generator?

Routine services are done quarterly, and a major service should be done when a generator has 200-250hrs or a year (whichever occurs first). An inspection service can also be done monthly.

How long does it take to connect a generator to a house?

8 Hrs if it is under 30KVA but this can differ depending on how long the cable length must be (this means from the generator to the meter board).

Is it healthy to run a generator until the fuel runs out?

No, it can cause air to get into the system. Your generator should have low fuel protection and a low fuel alarm as well as a no fuel shut down.

Does S&A Generators service small generators?

We service from 10KVA upwards however if you have a generator smaller than a 10KVA we can refer you to our service provider to service your generator.

What size generator is needed to power a house?

For the average household, it is 25-30 KVA but this can vary depending on what you are wanting to power. For example, how many ovens, electrical stoves and aircons you want to power.

Why would my generator keep shutting off?

There are many reasons why a generator could be turned off. Some of the main reasons are that there could be an electrical fault, and old battery, it could be over speed or under speed and there could be low oil pressure or high-water temperature.

What can a 1200 watt generator run?

This depends on the wattage outputs.

What is kVA rating of a generator?

This stands for kilo-volt-ampere and determines what can be powered by the generator.

How do you determine what size generator you need?

The size of the generator is determined by the load requirement. The load requirement is the most important thing to look at when you are choosing a generator.