Commercial Generators – Keeping Your Business Running
Power outages resulting from unpredictable weather, man-made or natural disasters, or site-specific events can disrupt your business operations, and even cause significant damage to your business’ competitiveness. In fact, statistics show that when small businesses are forced to close because of a disaster, at least one in four never reopens.
One important consideration to ensuring your business keeps running, no matter what the weather, is the purchase, operation and maintenance of a generator. This fall-back tool enables you to continue operating some or all of your electronic equipment and lights and minimize business interruptions.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) provides the following guidelines when considering a commercial generator.
Choosing a Generator
Before purchasing an electrical power generator, consider what electrical equipment must be operable when normal power is interrupted. Other considerations include:
- How often does your business lose power and for how long?
- What are the most likely sources of power outages?
- The Open for Business® vulnerability assessment will help you to identify the events that could interrupt business operations. These factors will help to determine the size and type of generator to buy.
One threshold question facing the business owner is whether to purchase a portable or back-up generator, or to choose a permanent or stand-by generator. A portable generator is a relatively small machine, which is usually rated no higher than 15 kilowatts and 240 volts, and is intended to be moved and activated for temporary use at a location where utility-supplied electric power is not available. A stand-by generator, in contrast, is a back-up electrical system that is permanently installed and may operate automatically through the use of a transfer switch, which senses a power loss, commands the generator to start, and then transfers the selected electrical load to the generator.
Additional Information on Portable and Permanent Generators
Purchase and Installation
IBHS recommends retaining an expert with extensive experience with all types of generators to assist with choosing the design and installation of the right generator; specific attention should be paid to the applications required to meet your business needs.
Make sure the chosen expert helps select the right size generator for your needs. This will include a determination of wattage needs (constant and start-up) and voltage ratings. You also should make sure that whatever generator is chosen is rated to provide power at a frequency of 60 hertz.
Additional Suggestions for Purchasing the Right Generator
Testing, Maintenance and Operations
Most emergency generator failures are typically caused by poor testing and maintenance practices. Below are several recommended testing and maintenance guidelines.
- Maintenance contracts with third parties are a good way to make sure your system is regularly maintained and achieves prime performance.
- Generators — portable or permanently installed — require the use of fuel. Diesel fuel is more prone to oxidation than gasoline, and should never be stored for longer than 12 months. If there are plans to store fuel, a fuel stabilizer should be added.
- Testing of permanently installed generators should include simulating a real power failure. This practice will test the transfer switch’s function and the generator at the same time.
- In the event of an impending storm that could result in power outages, test the generator system and top off all liquids at the conclusion of the test.
- Do not tamper with safety devices or attempt to repair the generator unless you are a qualified service person.
Additional Testing and Maintenance Guidelines
Using a generator poses certain risks that must be addressed for safe operation, including fire, damage to electrical equipment, and even injury or death to those operating the generator or working in the building where it is being used. Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator.
- Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow carbon dioxide from the generator’s exhaust to come indoors.
- Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.
- Never overload a generator. Contact a certified electrician to conduct an electrical load analysis of the building and equipment to determine the power consumption of the entire building and individual electrical equipment.
Additional Safety Considerations
© 2012 Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety