Backup Generator Strategies for Multi-Location Businesses

  • By Josh Morphew
  • 10 Mar, 2017

Consider the following scenario: A vicious ice storm is looming. Jim’s boss Cindy says she can’t afford downtime from an extended power outage and tasks Jim with finding a solution. Armed with the Internet, Jim searches for a rental generator . The closest generator he finds is 4 hours away and even if he could pick it up, he can’t find an electrician to help hook it up.

 While Jim had managed the facility for years, backup power was never a priority for the previous owners. The plant was already operating at maximum capacity, so they couldn’t make up for lost time with additional shifts. Regardless of what happens with this storm, Jim knows he needs a better plan to deal with any type of future power outage.

 Jim’s situation is very common. Many businesses think of backup power as an all-or-nothing scenario. Permanently installed generators are cost prohibitive so they settle for nothing instead.   Today, facility managers and building owners have more choices, providing them with the reassurance of having backup power at a fraction of the cost.

Some businesses need a permanent generator, some don't. 

Some facilities, such as hospitals and data centers, have a need for continuous, uninterrupted power. If utility power is lost, seamless transition to backup power is needed. While it’s possible to use a single large generator to meet their needs, there is still a risk of losing power if the generator fails. A common solution is to provide the facility with two or more smaller generators to either alternate or run in parallel and have a backup.

 Multi-location businesses like banks or senior living facilities may be able to absorb a sporadic power outage but need some type of solution for extended outages. These could include localized fires, construction, accidents or similar incidents. Bar a weather catastrophe, the risk of a simultaneous outage across a large geographic area is low.

Alternatives to Permanent Generators

Temporary generators can be brought in and connected to the existing infrastructure. This solution often requires a licensed electrician to connect and disconnect the wiring. This is certainly more budget friendly than a permanent installation. Yet it still carries the risk of finding the right size generator and electrician in a time of need. Situations like ice storms or major windstorms leave the business at the mercy of supply and demand.

How to minimize key risk factors

A variation on the above solution is to remove one or both remaining risk factors. Instead of renting a generator, a multi-location business could invest in one or more trailer-mounted generators. Factors to consider in deciding the number of generators to acquire:

·      Number of locations

·      Proximity of locations to each other

·      Facility size variation

·      Power demands

 

An operation with ten similarly sized facilities spread out over 100-mile radius will require one strategy. An operation with ten facilities ranging in size from 20,000 to 100,000 square feet located within a 10-mile radius will need a different strategy.

 

With the generators acquired, the remaining risk is the availability of electricians to connect and disconnect the generators when needed. Factors that can increase this risk include:

·      Highly variable construction activity in area

·      Industry migration

·      Regional weather events – coastal hurricane damage may create a temporary shortage in skilled trades

 

One way to mitigate the risk for skilled trades is to install a standardized generator connection system in each building. Imagine what would be needed to water your garden if hose connectors weren’t standardized. Hooking up a generator to a standardized connection panel is as simple as connecting a garden hose.    

Reduce capital outlay by 80% to 90%.

The same capital investment that may have been allocated for one permanent generator can be spread to cover multiple facilities instead. Moreover, recurring expenses for temporary electrician connection and disconnection are eliminated. Additionally, operating losses resulting from downtime become more manageable.

In conclusion, there are a variety of commercial electrical solutions that you can consider but if you need an expert opinion, contact the pros.

If you know that you need a backup power solution, however, are worried it isn’t affordable - worry no more. Baxter Commercial Services will help design and install a backup power solution that works for you. Contact us today.

By Josh Morphew 29 Jun, 2017

  • Most refrigeration equipment operating on R-22 is likely many years old. Compare the age to the life expectancy of the equipment.
  • Is the unit still under warranty? If so, what type of repairs does the warranty cover?
  •  Review maintenance logs to determine the service vs. repair history of this equipment. How often has it required service?
  • What is the nature of the current problem? How significant is it?
  • A typical 25-ton commercially packaged unit will require about 25 to 30 pounds of refrigerant. If there is a leak, the entire system will need to be drained before testing can be done to isolate the leak. Those two steps alone may cost $1,000 or more. 
  • How much refrigerant has already been lost?

  • If the leak can be repaired, what is the cost of the repair and the cost to replace the refrigerant? The price of R-22 is subject to supply and demand. Prices have been steadily increasing with little to no new R-22 production.
  • It is not uncommon to see service/repair calls increase with equipment that is beyond the midpoint of its expected lifespan. If your unit needs too many services and repairs, it may be more economical to replace the unit.
  • You can no longer replace just a compressor or evaporator. Components manufactured today are designed for newer refrigerants and are not compatible with R-22.

By Josh Morphew 19 Jun, 2017

As a facility or building manager, you face numerous decisions daily. Some of those may involve repair or replacement decisions for air conditioning or refrigeration equipment. Cooling technology is evolving to meet environmental standards and these changes could impact your decisions. In this article, we will discuss changes in refrigerant technology and their implications to daily operations.

By Josh Morphew 19 Jun, 2017

For many businesses, backup generators serve a critical need. If they fail to perform when needed most, it can have a significant detrimental impact on business functions. Consider the critical nature of a backup generator at a hospital where a surgeon operates on patients or a call center with 1,000 agents waiting to close deals. One is life-and-death and the other could be if the call center is a 911 helpline.

 

Facility managers are often the people responsible for the proper care and maintenance of backup generators. After years of installing and servicing generators, our team of electrical contractors has identified a list of reasons why backup generators fail as well as a guide on what can be done to prevent these failures. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does represent the most common problems throughout the facilities that we service:

By Josh Morphew 12 Jun, 2017

Electronics are vulnerable to electrical spikes: surges in voltage that occur for several reasons such as:

·        a power line or phone line being struck by lightning,

·        utility power being restored after an outage,

·        utility services being interrupted from construction,

·        an accident or a fire, and/or

·        high winds that cause power lines to cross and acr.

 

Even seemingly small occurrences, such as normal motor or compressor cycles within a facility, can render small but damaging fluctuations to electronics.

By Josh Morphew 05 Jun, 2017
This particular case study covers how commercial lighting solutions helped Yukon Public Schools to save 400,000+ kWh annually by retrofitting their lighting and participating in the 2013 OG&E’s Schools and Government Efficiency Program. Four Yukon Public Schools were retrofitted with lighting and 70% of the total project costs were covered by OG&E incentives. Several schools in Oklahoma have been able to afford lighting retrofit projects thanks to the OG&E incentive program.   At a time when every educational dollar counts, a program like this can potentially put money back into a school district’s budget.
By Josh Morphew 29 May, 2017

When commercial HVAC systems breakdown, it can be a huge negative impact on the business. We have found that preventative maintenance can assist in reducing or even eliminating the risk of breakdowns and failures. Below is a case study to illustrate.

In mid 2013, Baxter Commercial Services was approached by a client who owned and managed a retail shopping center with 20 individual units. The problem was that the HVAC systems were frequently breaking down.

This caused several problems including lost retail revenue, ongoing costly repairs, angry tenants and lease renewal implications. The landlord wanted to discuss preventative maintenance programs as the breakdowns were becoming far too frequent and costly.

Following the discussion, Baxter Commercial Services technicians performed complete diagnostics and inspections of all 20 units. The team discovered clogged coils and filters on many units and other signs of little to no maintenance had been performed on units. The experts further advised landlord that some units were older and the lack of maintenance had cumulative impact that would likely result in the need to replace several units during the year.

It was also advised that after the  initial round of maintenance, ongoing maintenance would be performed every six months. During the first year, 5 older HVAC units failed and were replaced.


Once Baxter Commercial Services was in charge of the HVAC system upkeep, consistent maintenance was performed every 6 months over the following 3 years.  During this period, there we no unit failures nor breakdowns.   The before and after contrast was significant. The landlord avoided costly repairs and could either re-invest those dollars into other projects or increase the operational profit margin.

Moreover, the landlord said that tenants reported lower utility bills and were happier in general resulting in a higher percentage of lease renewals.

By Josh Morphew 15 May, 2017

Ever notice that the light bulb section in your local hardware store is getting bigger and the choices are getting more complicated? Bulb size, wattage, base type, dimmable or not, color temperature and more are all decision points today. Not to mention price. If you have ever come home with the wrong light bulb, you have plenty of company. For commercial lighting applications, multiply the difficulty level several times.

 

A simple looking ceiling fixture may not be as simple as it looks. Historically, commercial buildings have used fluorescent lighting for office areas and a combination of other fixtures for warehouse and even parking garage lighting . Many businesses are converting both types of lighting to LED lighting for energy efficiency, reduced maintenance, and improved light coverage. Converting from fluorescent to LED may be as easy as swapping out one light bulb for another, but, given all the nuances of commercial lighting fixtures, spending some extra time researching and planning will save time and headaches in the end.

To make a comparison, with automobiles, some parts like wind shield wipers are interchangeable between vehicle brands and models, while other parts are very vehicle specific. The same concept applies to commercial lighting fixtures. To add a level of complexity, if portions of a commercial building were built at different times, light fixtures may appear to be the same, but, can actually be different.

By Josh Morphew 01 May, 2017

The enactment of the Montreal Protocol came with implications for owners, equipment operators, and managers of commercial buildings.  The international environmental agreement requires nations and states to phase out all the refrigeration and air conditioning systems , that uses the R-22 refrigerant, a commercially-produced hydrochloroflourocarbon (HCFC-22). This substance is listed among the most notorious ozone depleting substances. It was expected that by 1st January 2015, all the existing refrigerators running on the fluid, would be phased out. However, some companies and individuals are yet to do so.

By Josh Morphew 24 Apr, 2017

Simply defined, smart lighting is lighting technology designed for energy efficiency. This can include everything from the light bulbs to light fixtures, to switches or electronic controls that adjust lighting automatically.

By Josh Morphew 17 Apr, 2017

When systems fail or equipment breaks, there are often far-reaching implications. For a manufacturer, it could mean that a production line is shut down. A restaurant may not be able to prepare food. Or a senior living center may have to make provision for patients that are sensitive to temperature swings.

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