Is your business prepared for a power outage? Here are some tips on How to Choose the Best Generator for Your Business. In an increasingly digital world, companies large and small can’t operate without power to charge devices and keep the lights on. Retailers need energy for their point of sale systems, security cameras, and refrigerators. Manufacturers need power to fuel their equipment. Power outages shut down data centers, hinder medical care in hospitals, and close down schools.
No matter your industry, a commercial generator can mitigate the risk of a shutdown. Some companies even use generators as a full-time energy source. There are several types of commercial power generators that serve different purposes and load requirements. Check out our commercial generator service guide for help or questions!
DEFINE YOUR NEEDS: STANDBY, PRIMARY OR EMERGENCY POWER
When choosing the best generator for your business, start by understanding why you need a generator. Is it to cover your bases during the occasional power outage? Do you need an uninterrupted power supply for mission-critical operations? Maybe you’re considering permanent on-site power generation. The three primary uses for commercial generators include:
Emergency power generators act as an alternate source of power for life safety systems, and they won’t power your whole facility during outages. Instead, they temporarily supply power to a few operations, including emergency exit lights and fire alarms, during a blackout.
Standby power is the next step up from emergency power. Generators act as an independent power source when the primary source cuts out. Most businesses use them to remain fully functional during local power outages. All power loads, or at least a majority, can connect to a standby generator.
As the name implies, standby generators monitor the primary energy supply and kick on as soon as they detect failure. They can change over with minimal disruptions or combine with an uninterrupted power supply to kick on without any delay.
Businesses invest in commercial generators as a primary power supply for several reasons, including:
- To save on utility power costs
- Reduce carbon footprint by using a natural gas
- Power a facility in a remote location too far from the power grid
- To supply energy when the local grid can’t handle the facility’s power requirements
- To accommodate peak energy usage above what the utility provider usually offers
A primary power generator replaces or supplements the power used from the utility. A facility can create a microgrid, separate from the local power supply. Additionally, the utility can stay connected and act as backup power when the primary generators fail. Except for scheduled maintenance, prime power generators run 24/7. Data centers and hospitals, which provide critical services and have high energy usage, often have prime power generation.
TYPES OF GENERATORS: STATIONARY VS. PORTABLE
Another distinction when evaluating how to pick the right commercial generator for your business is whether to invest in a stationary or portable generator. For most companies that operate out of one location, the right choice is a stationary generator. Permanently installed generators offer standby power to your entire building.
Portable commercial generators generate less power, and their primary use is as a mobile power source. Professional-grade portable generators have higher capacities, longer run times, and greater efficiency than their residential cousins. As a result, they’re the preferred choice for remote power generation on construction job sites.
Another reason you might use a portable generator is if you rent it. A rented generator will be mobile rather than permanently installed and offer a similar capacity to a standby generator. Rented portable generators provide remote power, temporary power for special events, short-term peak shaving, or load testing.
DETERMINE YOUR POWER REQUIREMENTS
Once you understand the type of power and generator you require, you need to look at your facility’s or job site’s load requirements.
First, you’ll need to determine how many watts of power you require to keep your business running.
To do this, make a list of everything your generator needs to power at any given time. A standby generator can power all or most of your operations. You may want to choose what is most critical rather than powering the entire building. Working off of what you want to power, you can add together the total wattage of all the items you need to operate.
Next, decide how much running time you need in case of an emergency. If you’re interested in a prime energy generator, the running time will be indefinite. With proper maintenance and a steady fuel supply, primary generators continue running 24/7. You may want this same capacity for a standby generator. In either case, you’ll need to consider fuel consumption and source since your ability to restock fuel before it runs out is crucial.
Most manufacturers recommend a standby generator run for a maximum of 500 hours at a time. Under that arrangement, your generator should provide about three weeks of continuous use, which should cover the majority of emergency outages.
GENERATOR FUEL TYPES
The next step in our guide to buying a commercial generator is to decide what type of fuel to use. Commercial generators offer some flexibility, allowing you to select a generator that runs on your preferred fuel. Your options include:
- Diesel: Most standby generators run on diesel. This fuel type is readily available and known for reliability, with a fast kick-on time. Companies concerned about their carbon footprints may want to avoid diesel since it produces more emissions than other fuels. Diesel also has a maximum shelf life of two years.
- Gasoline: While gasoline is easy to source, it’s only a viable option for generators producing less than 150 kW of power. Unless you’re opting for a non-commercial portable generator for your business, you’re better off with another fuel type.
- Natural gas: Natural gas generators run cleaner than diesel and are usually more affordable. The fuel comes through the utility’s natural gas pipeline. It eliminates the need for on-site storage, which can be both a pro and a con. If you go with natural gas, you won’t need to refuel it. You will also gain better performance in cold weather with natural gas.
- Propane: Propane has an unlimited shelf life and is easy to store on-site. Propane generators tend to be less noisy than other generator types, too.
It’s crucial to note that roughly 95% of commercial backup generators run on either diesel or natural gas. These options have the most dependability and are the best commercial generators for your business. Recent data suggests natural gas offers 97.3% reliability and diesel offers 94.7% reliability.
One final consideration is where you’ll place your generator. Generators produce a decent amount of noise, some more than others. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, you’ll want to consider accommodations for noise levels. If placing your generator outdoors, you’ll want to install it in a remote location that won’t disturb your employees, customers, or neighbors.
Indoor commercial generators must also consider noise levels. They may require mufflers or enclosures to reduce noise levels. Indoor generators also create vibrations which effect other equipment if not placed strategically.
Finally, if you place your generator closer to your electrical wiring, the installation will be much simpler.
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