What Causes a Generator to Surge? Is It Normal?

Last Updated: August 8, 2022
Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon & other affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

Have you seen varying machine speeds or lights flashing when you’re running on backup power? The term “surging” is used to describe the behavior. When there is a power surge caused by your generator, it is an indication that something is broken.  

What Is Surging? What Are the signs?

Spiking occurs when a generator or another electrical component, appliance, or device exhibits noticeable fluctuations in behavior at regular intervals. The intervals can be either random or follow a pattern. What exactly does this mean? We’ll take a look at some examples.

A surging generator would cause the lights to flicker back and forth, causing a flickering back and forth effect. Sudden changes in speed can be seen in machinery, such as a fan running faster and slower for no apparent reason.

What Causes Generators to Surge?

A surge in a generator is caused by something. The main causes of surging are improper fuel consumption, lack of maintenance, old age, a malfunctioning capacitor, and some other component, clogged carburetor, unbalanced load and many more. Let’s discuss each of them.

One of the three problems that cause fuel-related surging are improper fuel, low fuel levels, or poor fuel quality. Surges can be caused by using any type of fuel that isn’t within constraints, and most generators have certain fuel needs.

Fuel can cause generator surging, which is less common. Check the fuel filters and look at the fuel quality to make sure nothing is blocking the fuel filters or fuel lines.

Surges could be caused by fuel pumps that are malfunctioning. Ensuring that your fuel pump is in good working order is a crucial step in determining the cause of the surge. If there is a reduction in fuel flow due to a fuel line leak or obstruction, check it out.

Component Problems

If you’re looking for the cause of surging, damaged generator components could be the problem. A damaged capacitor is one example of a single component that may prevent your generator from generating and distributing power resulting in erratic fluctuations in power supply and distribution regulation.

Old Age

Generators are susceptible to surging due to regular wear and tear on parts of the generators. If your generator is reaching its estimated service life and you start to experience surges, consider replacing it with a newer model.

Poor Maintenance

Like any other piece of equipment, generators require regular maintenance to keep them in top working order. Increasing wear and tear, as well as other more serious issues, such as your generator becoming more susceptible to surge, can be a result of neglecting your maintenance intervals.

Surge watts of Connected Equipment

The surge in load can be caused by the start of huge machinery on backup power. If this pushes your generator’s power output capacities to the limit it will struggle to keep up with demand. After a brief loss of power to other devices, everything balances out and you don’t notice a difference in power quality, this can sometimes happen. Sometimes the increased load is too high for your generator to handle, leading to power spikes or even the complete shutdown of the generator due to overload.

Load Balancing

The load can rise and fall very quickly depending on what you’re trying to connect to. It’s important to double-check that the load is distributed evenly across the three phases. This is also a good time to make sure you don’t overload the generator, either constantly or with brief spikes in load caused by equipment startup. Because of their high electrical demand at beginning, motors are often the main culprit in unbalanced load conditions.

AVR Failure

A type of regulator is the Automatic Voltage Regulator. An AVR, which is mounted on your alternator, monitors the power output of your generator. Its purpose is to maintain a constant voltage across the equipment load. When the load on your generator varies greatly, this is done. The generator’s power output is smoothened by the use of the AVR. Power surges could be caused by an AVR malfunction.

Less Common Reasons

Damaged Spark Plugs

Look for damage or wear to your spark plugs. The spark plug should be replaced if the porcelain insulator is fractured, the electrode is damaged or there is a lot of carbon at it. If the spark plug is faulty, use a spark plug tester. You should see a bright spark between the tester’s terminals when the engine is cranking. The spark plug has to be changed if there is no visible spark.

Clogged Carburetor

Leaving fuel in the generator for an extended period of time is one of the most common causes of a clogged carburetor. A thicker, stickier substance that cannot flow through the fuel system may be created by some of the components in the fuel. This sticky fuel can cause the engine to stall or run rough if it becomes clogged. It’s a good idea to use a cleaner to clean the carburetor if it is blocked. You might need to rebuild or replace it if you don’t get beneficial results from cleaning the carburetor.

Blocked Fuel Filter

The most common cause of a fuel filter not working properly is old fuel. The components of the fuel evaporate over time, leaving a thicker, stickier substance behind. If gummy fuel remnants become stuck in the fuel filters, the engine may stop or operate erratically. If the fuel filter is damaged or clogged, it must be replaced.

Read Next:

I am a mechanical engineer with years of experience working on Internal combustion engine and fixing electrical and mechanical systems, generators, transfer switches, and equipment related to storm water and sewage pumping stations.