PacB Group // Some Points to Consider When Purchasing Generators for a Business


Some Points to Consider When Purchasing Generators for a Business

With Eskom’s load shedding programme now attaining an unprecedented stage 4 status and regularly cutting 4 000 megawatts from the national grid, the importance of generators for a business has never been greater. In practical terms, this means that the original three-tier policy has now been extended to include eight stages, despite assertions by the parastatal that it is highly unlikely to implement stages five to eight. However, with an unserviceable debt of almost R420 billion, the national service provider is supplying electricity at a loss, so such a promise could prove to be somewhat rash.

From the end user’s viewpoint, stage 4 load shedding means either 12 periods of two hours without power, spread across four days, or the same number of four-hour cuts spread, instead, over eight days. Either way, while the majority of domestic users should be able to cope with these outages, generators are now vital for a business in order for it to continue functioning in the wake of current emergency power-saving measures. Before making a purchase, however, there are a number of important points that will first need to be considered.

Unlike many of the heavy industries that rely on power produced on site either as an alternative to mains power in remote areas or to augment it when the load demand exceeds the maximum capacity of the mains or the latter fails, the need for commercial users is generally for an automatic standby installation to maintain its activities during an accidental or planned outage. Whichever may be their purpose, the ability to deliver sufficient power must be the primary deciding factor when purchasing generators for a business. The first and most important requirement, therefore, will be to work out exactly how much power is going to be needed.

When sizing a unit, it will be necessary to determine whether the entire building needs to be powered in the event of a blackout or just certain vital functions. In the former instance, factors, such as the peak demand for air-conditioning during summer months and the number of elevators in operation and their start-up and operating consumption will need to be taken into account. When just powering emergency services, only the consumption of the relevant circuits needs to be considered. Accurate sizing will not only ensure peak efficiency during emergencies, but will also determine just how much will be necessary to spend when purchasing generators for a business.

Perhaps, the next most important decision is what type of fuel will be best to power the installed unit. Typically, the choice will be between diesel, propane, and natural gas. Petroleum is largely regarded as inefficient for commercial purposes, whilst also creating storage problems due to its highly inflammable nature. Diesel and propane are far more efficient and can be stored on site, whereas natural gas is available as a continuous supply from a utility, and thus avoids the need for refilling. Once again, the relative cost of these fuels can also influence the choice.

The location of generators for a business is also important. An outdoor installation presents less of a problem with ventilation, and can be soundproofed and protected from the elements with a suitable canopy, but it should not be positioned too far from the fuel supply and the transfer switch. An indoor installation will require exhaust ducting, and should not be located close to entrance ways or combustible structures.

Installation requirements are subject to local regulations, and are best left to a professional engineer while the importance of sound warranty and service agreements goes without saying. The transfer switch is key to a successful transition between mains and backup power, and when selecting one for use with generators for a business, many owners choose to seek the assistance of PacB Group, a local leader in the manufacture of specialised gensets.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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