Commercial Standby Generators: Today’s New Normal for Business Owners
When shopping for commercial standby generators for any building or place of business, owners and site managers must specifically decide whether to purchase a stationary or portable generator. In most business cases — whether your operations are small or large — a permanent standby backup generator usually wins out. But why?
While prices for residential backup generators can range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the size, commercial standby generators for business are more expensive. Small- to medium-sized businesses will usually need a generator that can provide at least 22 kilowatts (Kw) of power, if not larger — such as 27 Kw, 32 Kw, 38 Kw, 48 Kw, 60 Kw, or even up to 150 Kw.
Because they are permanently connected to the building’s electrical system, standby generators are ready the moment your local grid goes down. When the lights go out and your machinery or office devices’ power supply fails, a backup generator immediately powers up, using an automatic transfer switch. These fuel-efficient commercial standby generators can run continuously for days without wearing out or breaking down.
That’s only half the battle. The other half involves ensuring your generator’s dependability. You must complete or schedule routine maintenance and testing. Having a certified generator technician inspect and test the entire generator system will ensure it’s ready to operate when the next emergency strikes. Remember to schedule regular maintenance during normal times so you don’t get caught in a bind down the road.
At the very least, it’s prudent to consider having an onsite generator as power outages become more common. A generator can help you avoid exorbitant costs, disruptions to business continuity, and general safety and security issues. You can’t prevent power outages, but your business can be prepared to live with them.
Commercial Standby Generators Keep People Safe and Productive
U.S. regional power grids are under greater strain than ever as scorching summer sun pushes temperatures up and winter cold chills are all too frequent, forcing business owners to explore a range of commercial standby generators. Regional blackouts are occurring at higher yearly rates regardless of the season.
A recent nationwide study found that over 231,000 power outages lasted more than one hour, with the majority stretching over eight hours. At least one electrical outage lasted more than eight hours in most U.S. counties, with northeastern and southern regions accounting for most of these blackouts. Power outages are also five times more likely to occur in an area with heavy precipitation. In short, power grid failures have increased by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years.
Because power grids aren’t foolproof, commercial landlords and property owners have become dependent on generators. If your commercial property doesn’t have a permanent backup generator installed, you are at the mercy of power outages.
Whenever there’s a power grid failure, a generator keeps buildings and occupants safe, providing valuable backup power for maintaining equipment and operating systems, ensuring instantaneous electrical restoration. Your business is even more likely to benefit from a generator if it relies on data, and the same is true for businesses conducting extensive research and experimentation. Loss of electricity means loss of production time and resources.
Fines, Penalties, and Morale
For some businesses, to avoid fines and penalties, they must ensure safety for anyone on the property. It’s not just a business’s customers that are protected by a standby generator, it’s the employees as well. Any business should take convenience and security into account to protect everyone onsite.
Natural disasters and power outages also negatively impact morale. This puts greater importance on maintaining employee productivity. Power outages can result in suboptimal conditions, attitudes, and staff accidents. However, a standby generator can immediately restore emergency lighting, alarms, security, and business continuity.
How Much Power is Enough Power for Your Business?
Before you begin reviewing a handful of commercial standby generators on the market, first determine how much power your property will need when the power grid goes down. Your commercial property’s size and the type of business you operate will show you the type of generator needed, as different occupiers have unique needs. Refrigeration units need power from restaurants, payment terminals need power from retail stores, and data-computer servers need power from the offices they serve.
You’ll need to do a deep dive into how much power your building uses after determining your building’s geographic specifications and specific device needs. Many business owners make a comparison of their building’s electricity usage to utility bills from the previous year — and from those bills, they determine their overall power consumption. You can determine peak demand and how much reserve capacity you will need to install.
Fuel source and fuel cost are often the top considerations. All fuels — including diesel, natural gas, propane, and blends — can be used to power generators, and some models even allow you to switch between fuel types. For some business owners and operators, diesel-fueled generators are easy and dependable. In mission-critical situations, they can serve as trusty backups.
The Drawbacks of Using Diesel
But using diesel also has its drawbacks. Diesel’s higher emissions rate may affect your building’s decarbonization goals. This is especially true when compared to other fuel options. Also, diesel prices are volatile and can unexpectedly skyrocket within weeks, due to domestic and international geo-political events. Diesel can also have a short shelf life. However, a generator powered by natural gas emits fewer emissions than diesel. This is due in part to how your commercials property’s gas line connects directly to the generator.
Diesel or natural gas power more than 90 percent of today’s backup generators for commercial properties. However, propane’s distinction as a cleaner fuel has steadily made it more popular. Unlike other fuel sources, propane generators are also more suitable for remote locations. Propane also lasts for decades, unlike diesel fuel. However, a propane generator can also be more susceptible to weather conditions, depending on the model purchased and your local seasonal climate.
Right-Sizing Commercial Standby Generators for Various Properties
Fuel type is only the beginning of your journey when you start exploring the world of commercial standby generators. It’s crucial to choose the right-size generator for your commercial facility. You can achieve this by examining the environment and climate that surrounds your building. Altitude and other local factors affect generator performance.
High altitudes cause the air pressure to drop, which lowers the density of the air and its oxygen saturation. When trying to start a generator, this could cause issues, since air is necessary for ignition. Thankfully, this isn’t a major issue, since most commercial businesses across the nation are at lower altitudes.
Another element affected by air is the generator’s ability to dissipate heat. Keeping a generator’s engine temperature stable is important as internal combustion generates heat, which must be released into the atmosphere. Heat dissipates differently in different regions, depending on humidity and other environmental particulars. Fortunately, commercial generator engines rarely overheat. This is especially true when you perform the required yearly maintenance.
You should also consider ambient temperature. Ambient temperature is the temperature of the air and space surrounding where equipment is stored. Whether inside or outside, insufficient air supply and seasonal temperatures can strain a generator that hasn’t been maintained. This effect increases on lesser-quality models. All of which result in poor ignition. If the generator’s engine doesn’t have enough oxygen to burn, it could completely shut down. Ongoing inspections by a certified technician is essential to making sure none of these problems happen.
Consider fuel, cost, and efficiency when selecting a backup generator for mission-critical business operations. A generator can be your only lifeline if power goes out, so make sure your commercial generator meets both your current and future needs.
W. Danley Electrical
At W. Danley Electrical, we assist you throughout the entire process — from helping you prepare for installation, repair, and maintenance to anything else surrounding the research behind commercial standby generators, as well as obtaining permits, inspections, and much more. We help you optimize and fine-tune your situation so you get the most out of your investment, as well as determine the correct generator size.