Generator Engine Block Heater: A Complete Guide

Standby generator by yellow home

A generator engine block heater is also known as a water jacket heater or an engine pre-heater. While a generator engine block heater has many functions, its primary job is to regulate the temperature of your natural gas or diesel generator.

Regulations set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) require all standby generators to ensure operations within ten seconds or less following a power outage.

Your engine coolant needs a temperature between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit to accomplish this task. This optimal temperature can prevent a cold start that would otherwise severely damage your system and force your generator to be non-compliant.

While most modern generators already have an engine block heater, there are still considerations to make before choosing a heater. This comprehensive guide will detail what engine block heaters do, how to maintain them, how to troubleshoot issues properly, and more.

Four Main Advantages of a Water Jacket  Heater

Technicians recommend a block heater when your engine faces temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Regardless of the type of generator block heater you want to install, each one should come with these four main advantages:

1. Reduces engine wear: A block heater can reduce engine wear by ensuring standby generators maintain a temperature between 100 and 120 degrees. Under this range, oil pressure is high enough for optimal starting temperatures. Your standby generator will start up while reducing metal contact—preventing excessive wear and tear.

2. Energy-efficient: With a block heater, you can curb emissions and prevent pesky black smoke. Better burning fuel also means you save on gas or diesel.

3. A longer-lasting battery: A cold start forces your vehicle or machinery to work harder and can cause a drained or dead battery.

4. Less condensation in your engine sump: Condensation reduces dramatically when your engine is warmer than the surrounding temperature outside.

Ways You Can Maintain Your Block Heater for Your Diesel Generator

Residential generator in snow

When properly maintained, a block heater can last for several years. While nothing lasts forever, there are some strategies you can use to increase your block heater’s longevity:

  • Check the heater every week or when needed
  • Clean, drain and flush your heater every two years
  • Don’t use hard water
  • Blend antifreeze correctly to prevent weather-linked issues or scaling
  • Replace your block heater’s rubber hoses regularly (often three years)

How to Troubleshoot Your Block Heater

There can be numerous reasons why your generator isn’t working, including a dirty tank or pipes, a rodent invasion, fuel levels being too low, sensor failures, or a problem with the engine itself.

When it comes to a faulty block heater, there’s a simple way to troubleshoot the issue:

  • Step One: Plug your block heater in. If possible, you’ll want to do this on a cold or chilly day. Wait at least an hour, then test your block heater’s temperature on other parts of the vehicle or appliance. If you notice an apparent difference, then your block heater is working.
  • Step Two: Use a multimeter. Unplug your block heater first before grabbing a multimeter. Set your multimeter to the “ohms” setting, apply a probe to each block heater’s prongs, and view the resistance level; if there’s an infinite or zero reading, your block heater isn’t functioning.

Maintaining Your Standby Generator

Although your generator engine block heater can help maintain your standby generator, issues can still occur. The main issue a standby generator faces is the lack of maintenance. Some common standby generator problems include:

  • A faulty battery: Even with a block heater in place, a battery can still die, have corroded terminals, become too old, or have faulty connections. Replacing your batteries every two years can prevent these issues.
  • Deteriorated hoses and belts: Belts and hoses can deteriorate after numerous years of wear and tear. Regularly scheduled maintenance sessions with a technician can identify these potential issues.
  • Problems with the engine coolant system: Many issues can occur with your engine coolant system. These problems include debris blocking proper airflow, oil or coolant leaks, rusty piling in your engine, and your block heater failing.
  • Bad electrical connections: Over time, your electrical connections can loosen and need retightening.
  • Pest-related issues: Anything from insects to birds, snakes, rats, mice, and possums can cause problems. It’s not uncommon, for example, for rats to eat through electrical wiring and create nests that might restrict airflow.
  • Poor fuel quality: Poor fuel quality can cause fuel to become useless or deteriorate. Better fuel quality can ensure issues like this don’t happen.

Ways to Lengthen Your Standby Generator’s Longevity

Generator in plants behind home

The best way to ensure your standby generator and your generator engine block heater function properly is to schedule regular maintenance services.

Unfortunately, because standby generators are often only used in emergencies, they can be easy to overlook. However, you can keep a log handy and ensure you check your standby generator weekly to prevent this.

While you’ll be able to check your oil, coolant levels, and filters for comprehensive maintenance, you’ll want help from a team of expert technicians.

When you work with Blue Sky Electric, our team of generator technicians can test and diagnose any issues with your standby or generator engine block heater.

Call Blue Sky Electric Today

A generator engine block heater has many benefits, including reducing engine wear, improving energy efficiency, and ensuring a longer-lasting battery. However, to ensure you receive an optimal block heater paired with exemplary service, you’ll want to work with Blue Sky Electric today.

Whether you have a specific issue in mind, need help choosing a new block heater, or want routine maintenance, our team can help. Our generator installers in Oklahoma City are ready to step in!

For a proper generator engine block heater installation and repair, fill out our contact form today.