Purchasing and Operating a Generator: Tips for a Small Business

From operating the cash register to unclogging toilets and taking inventory, small-business owners are forced to wear many hats. If your budget is tight, you cannot afford to miss a day of work. Unfortunately, Mother Nature sometimes has different plans, leaving you without power during a nasty storm.

It’s time to put on another hat and learn how to purchase, own, and operate a commercial generator. Here are a few tips to help you keep your small business running by finding the right generator for your needs and budget.

Choose a Generator Type

Three types of generators that are effective for small-business owners include a standby generator, inverter generator, and portable generator. Here are the benefits of each type and points to consider when shopping for a unit:

  • Standby generator. This is the most expensive option that is fixed and should be installed by a professional. These generators also provide the most wattage and can run on gasoline, propane, or natural gas.
  • Inverter generator. This is a more cost-effective, portable option. It is quieter and has fewer emissions, making it safer than a standby generator.
  • Portable generator. This type is less expensive than a standby generator and usually produces more watts than an inverter generator. This unit can be installed a by a professional and runs on gasoline or batteries.

A standby generator will automatically turn on when the power goes out. Portable generators and inverter generators must be switched on manually.


Determine Your Power Needs

The appliances, lighting, HVAC, and anything else that runs on electricity require a certain amount of electricity to operate. A generator’s output is measured in wattage. Tally up the estimated power needs of everything in your small business and what needs to continue running during a power outage.

Here are the average power needs of appliances and utilities in a typical small business:

  • Central air conditioner. A 10,000 BTU system requires 1,500 running watts. A 24,000 BTU unit needs 3,800 watts to run.
  • Light bulb. Check the wattage on your light bulbs, which is printed on the bulb or the packaging. For example, a 60-watt bulb requires 60 watts to run.
  • Computer. A typical laptop requires between 200-250 watts and a desktop model needs 600-800 watts to run.
  • Coffee maker. The average coffee maker needs 1,000 watts of electricity.
  • Furnace. The typical unit featuring a one-half horsepower fan requires 875 watts to run.

The numbers above are the running wattage, not the starting wattage. Many appliances require a higher starting wattage to turn on. For example, a clothes dryer and refrigerator have a higher starting wattage and a lower running wattage.


Operate the Generator Safely

Gasoline, propane, and natural gas-powered generators must be installed and run a safe distance away from your commercial property and never indoors. The carbon monoxide created by a generator that runs on fuel are dangerous to you, your patrons, and employees. Some models run on a combination of fuel and batteries, which lowers the emissions.

Install your generator on a flat, dry surface. Keep it protected from the elements, but do not run it in a closed building, such as a storage shed or garage.

Also, store the fuel in a safe, dry place. When you add fuel, never overfill the generator. You should also never touch the generator or fill it with fuel while it is hot or running. Don’t smoke around the generator or the fuel tank either. To ensure your generator runs safely when you need it, hire a professional to inspect it yearly.

Purchasing a generator is a great investment for a small-business owner. If you have any additional questions, including which generator is best for your business and budget, contact the professionals at Ben’s Cleaner Sales, Inc.