We get a lot of calls from customers who would like a quote on installing or replacing a generator, either residential, commercial or industrial. For any work requiring more than minor changes to a permanent structure, we are partnered with our general contractor, Don Nunley of Nunley Construction. While some customers immediately rely 100% on us for everything relating to the install, some already have an idea of what they want and some let us know exactly what they want. Still, all of these clients require the same process:
• We will interview the customer to confirm that we're providing exactly what best suits their needs. While it helps when the client already has in mind what they want, it is not required.
• We will survey the load, taking measurements, appliance information, etc.
• We will propose what we believe is the correct generator size because the end result always reflects on our company:
All too often we will get calls from customers who "just" want to know how much it is to install a specific kW generator, when what they actually need is a generator sometimes half or double that size. This happens about every other time. Our staff has been professionally trained and has experience with generator sizing, so we always check, double-check and then re-check the sizing of the generator.
A generator that is too small will either not power the largest load (usually a motor load like a large air conditioner) or will require that the client juggle their loads, making sure to not run the well pump at the same time as the well booster pump, or something similar. The worst is when we see that another generator company already sized and installed the client's generator perfectly to the kW rating of their load, only to find out that, because the load was highly reactive, the generator should have been oversized by as much as 500%. Undersized generators are easily avoided by our detailed consultation, which is why we recommend it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, not a lot of clients understand the downside and costs of an excessively oversized generator aside from the higher initial cost. Our experience has been that less than 10% of engineered systems are properly sized, with about 85% being dramatically oversized. If, by chance, a generator is undersized, there is often no remedy other than replacing the generator, which is very expensive. To avoid this, the engineer will usually err on the safe side, often oversizing by three times or more. There is usually no negative consequence for the engineer, but oversizing a generator costs the customer many times the amount of a properly sized generator, both at purchase and every year following.
There are several reasons an oversized generator is less desirable, aside from the obvious initial cost:
- The motor in a generator is like the motor in a car. It requires a load to properly break-in when new. Without sufficient load, the rings will not seat and eventually the motor will begin to consume oil, resulting in unpleasant, polluting smoke leaving the exhaust. This is true for almost any engine type. Customers without sufficient load on the generator should have the generator professionally load-banked at startup.
- Diesel engines are sensitive to running without a load for their entire lifespan and not just during break-in. Customers without sufficient load must have the generator load-banked annually or severe engine damage can result.
- Those required to have a generator for a life-safety application will also be required to meet NFPA-110 loading standards. That means they must run the generator every month at 30% load for 30 minutes. If the customer's load is less than 30% of the generator's capacity because the generator was oversized at installation, (we see this about 85% of the time), that generator will have to be load banked annually for two hours, according to California law. This usually effectively doubles the cost of the annual maintenance.
- The annual maintenance cost increases with the size of the generator.
- Many parts costs increase proportionally with the size of the generator, like radiators, stators, rotors, fuel tanks, etc.
- The amount of fuel used to power a given load will increase with the size of the engine.
- Permit requirements: Air quality permit costs increase with the size of the generator.
- Pollution increases with the size of the generator.
A properly sized generator, along with being the best price at the time of installation, is also more efficient. Let me give you an example: A 10kW Generac generator, run at full capacity, uses 156 cubic feet of natural gas per hour, while a 20kW Generac generator, at 1/2 capacity, will use 206 cubic feet per hour (Generac's published specifications). While a generator may be most efficient near its capacity, we don't want to run it too close to capacity for various reasons, like the risk of not having extra capacity for short-term or momentary loads. The target we generally shoot for is 80% with everything on, while there are some notable exceptions, like unbalanced and reactive loads.
Because of considerations mentioned above (like the initial cost, maintenance costs and permit fees), some customers choose to make their load match a smaller generator. We can install a variety of solutions for these customers. The most common is simply to choose what will be powered by the generator in a power outage and what will remain unpowered. A more elegant solution is load-shedding where the generator, as it nears or exceeds capacity, is disconnected from less critical loads. We work with the customer to find the ideal solution for their situation.
• We work with customers with a 10 second requirement to choose the best generator, transfer switches and remote annunciator panels that meet or exceed NFPA99 and NFPA110 guidelines.
• We do the research to make sure the desired generator is compliant with local air quality and sound ordinances.
• We help the customer choose the best site for his generator and transfer switch.
• We will sign a contract with the customer prior to starting any work.
• We will provide the generator, transfer switch and any other necessary purchases.
• We obtain the necessary permits for the customer, where applicable
• We handle all the plumbing, wiring, electrical, aesthetic, soundproofing, HVAC, concrete and structural work. Our team has the necessary tools, skills, licenses and experience to build an entire building from the ground up but we choose to specialize in generators.
• We will either provide or recommend UPS/IPS systems as required.
• We will complete the project on time and on budget.
• We will provide training on how to properly use and maintain your new equipment.
People often ask why our turn-key prices are always so much better than our competitor's prices. It is because we specialize in turn-key installations and it has a lot to do with what we don't do:
• We avoid giving quotes without a thorough site visit so we don't have to estimate high to cover things that we may have missed.
• There isn't much we have to sub-contract out (exceptions are crane work, hazardous material work, etc). On simple installations, you'll find we do everything ourselves, passing that savings on to our customers.
• Normally, we only provide turn-key installations. We don't provide separate quotes for installing the generator, another for the electrical, another for plumbing, etc. One job, one contract, except in very rare cases, keeps our business simple. That allows us to spend our energies on the actual work, instead of paperwork and meetings with various sub-contractors. It reduces miscommunications as well and has many other benefits.
• We specialize in custom installation solutions where attention to detail is paramount. We have so many great examples of custom installations in our history to choose from, since almost all our customers end up taking advantage of our expertise in order to get the most out of their generator installation, that it is difficult to choose just one for an example here. Have a 10 second requirement? Medical facilities are our specialty. Have solar panels? Whether you just need advice or a complete solar power solution with a generator just for backup and battery charging, we can help. If you want a 90-day runtime for a worst-case scenario, we've done it. Want to convert a portable to alcohol? Need to mount an outdoor generator in an enclosed trailer? Trying to assemble a custom generator without an internal combustion engine to power it? We've dealt with all of these applications. If you still think your application is custom after reading this list, then you really need to call us!