Tripping is basically the word used to describe abrupt disconnection of any electric device when the circuit breaks. Every electric device contains circuit breakers. These help to switch the device off whenever there is a surge in electricity or any other issue that might harm the device or other devices connected to it.
Just like main electric supplies, generators also trip at times unexpectedly. It can be really frustrating when there is no electricity and the generator also trips. In this article, you will learn different reasons why a generator might trip, what you can do to fix it and how to prevent it from happening.
Main Reasons for Tripping
Generally, a generator trips due to either the circuit breaker disrupting the supply or a problem with the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles.
Both the circuit breaker and GCFI are used to protect devices from damage, however, they serve slightly different purposes.
All generators contain circuit breakers (and fuses) that trip or disconnect electric supply whenever there is a potential threat for the connected devices. Mostly they are used to deal with the unexpected electric surges and only trip when the electric supply is higher than needed.
In contrast to the circuit breakers, the GFCI receptacles are used to detect any potential leakage of electricity from the device. In other words, they indicate that the electric current is being lost in some unwanted direction instead of following the desired path to the ground.
There can be different causes of electric leakages; these include torn wires, worn insulation, water or moisture, a defective electrical appliance and even contact with the human skin. A GFCI is very important and life-saving equipment that abruptly shuts down the generator to prevent any possibility of electric shock or electrocution. If the GFCI does not work properly, there is a possibility of a fire breaking out.
While both circuit breakers and GFCIs are extremely important, there are times when they start malfunctioning and keep turning the generator off without any valid reason. When that happens, then you will have to check each of them to see where the problem lies.
Quick Ways To Fix It
Finding the Fault
Since there are two main possible causes of a generator tripping, it is important to find out the exact cause and narrow down the problem. It should be noted that all generators do not have GFCI receptacles so the first thing you should do is to find out if your generator has them.
Sometimes, it is possible that both the circuit breaker and GFCI trip at the same time. If it is only the former, then you may need to ensure that you are not putting load beyond the generator’s capacity. However, if it is only the GFCI that is tripping, then it is a most likely leakage of electric current.
Checking the GFCI Receptacle
In order to check whether the GFCI receptacle is causing the trip or not, you will have to turn off the generator and disconnect all the devices from your generator. After doing so, you have to restart the generator and reset the GFCI receptacle. This is done by simply pressing the “Reset” button. See if the button remains depressed afterwards – if not, then that is an indication that your generator’s GFCI receptacle has stopped functioning and needs to be replaced.
If you find no potential issue with the GFCI receptacle, then you can try connecting a small electrical load, such as a bulb, directly without using any extension cord. Wait for at least 15 seconds to see whether it trips or not. If it does not, then that further suggests that there is nothing wrong with the GCFI receptacle and there might be some other cause of the problem.
Even in the case the bulb trips, do not jump to conclusions before repeating the procedure with a different bulb or some other small load. If every device that you are connecting keeps tripping, then you may need to seek professional help.
Check the Cords
If you use an extension cord to connect your devices, then once you have checked or fixed the GFCI receptacles, you must also examine your cord using the same process. Connect all cords to your generator one by one and also check if there is any dirt or moisture affecting any of them. If the generator trips with any of the cords, then that cord needs to be replaced.
If there is no problem with the GFCI receptacles or the cords, then you may have to check your circuit breaker and get it replaced. In some situations, the generator works for some time and then then the automatic air switch trips a few minutes later, releasing a burning odour.
This is usually the result of insufficient spring pressure or poorly contacted air switch. This increases the contact resistance in the main circuit and hence heats the switch, causing it to trip. To fix this, you should properly clean the switch and get rid of any moisture or dust. Make sure the switch is properly in place.
In some cases, the generator will trip as soon as you connect the load to it. This is usually because either the load is too heavy or there is an external short circuit. For this, you might need professional support to find exactly where that external short circuit is and get it fixed.
Checking the Capacitor
Checking your capacitor is an even more complicated task than checking the GFCI receptacles. Many circuit breakers have a built-in indicator to show that there is an overload and the device has tripped. However, there are times when either there is no indication or the breaker stops working and hence the indicator cannot be trusted.
To confirm that whether it is actually the faulty breaker or something else, you may have to try the same steps and connect different appliances. You can also use a multi-meter to measure the resistance on the lead wire connections that are present inside the panel.
Usually, any readings suggest that the breaker is functioning and the problem is somewhere else. If the reading shows ‘OL’ (overload) or Infinity despite having no appliances connected, then that is an indication that the circuit breaker is malfunctioning and must be replaced.
Check the Wires
Wiring is also very crucial and sometimes damaged wires can also cause the circuit breaker to react and trip the generator. It is better to check on the wires every few days.
Choosing the Right Circuit Breaker
While there is no way, you can control the power surges and unwanted tripping that will happen unexpectedly at times, choosing the right kind of capacitor can make it easy. Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a capacitor.
High Voltage Rating
All capacitors come with a specific voltage rating. A good capacitor is the one which has enough voltage capacity to run the appliances and will not heat up easily. The higher the rating, the better it is.
Must-Have a High Maximum Interrupting Capacity
Interrupting capacity of a capacitor is basically its potential to deal with the electric surges without getting damaged. The interrupting capacity of a capacitor should always be high so that it does not stop working when power fluctuates.
Should Deal with High Temperature
A good capacitor should always have the potential to deal with high temperatures whenever a device heats up. Always find out if the capacitor you are buying is recalibrated to the environment you are going to use it in.
Prevent from Corrosion and Moisture
It was mentioned earlier as well that often dust and moisture can result in tripping of the generator. There are some capacitors in the market that are designed to deal with the moisture. When buying a capacitor, keep these properties in mind.
In this article, we have highlighted different issues that might cause the generator to trip. We have also discussed how to check where the problem lies so it can be fixed accordingly.
Moreover, we have also explored some of the qualities that we should seek in a capacitor to prevent everyday problems. The information provided in this article can help people understand why their generator trips. Those who understand electric circuits can benefit from this and use it to fix their generators.
While having knowledge of things is good, it is always better to seek the help of experts in every field. Unless there is an emergency, it is always better to call a professional electrician to deal with these problems.
Sometimes, tripping might indicate a deeper problem that can even be life-threatening at times.
If you smell a burning odour, a spark or severely heated up wires, then it is important to seek professional support at the earliest. Ignoring these signs or not getting proper help can often result in the outbreak of fire. Sometimes, there are certain things that only an expert can understand.