How to Pick the Right Commercial Generator for Your Business

Was your business left in the dark during that last hurricane? Florida business owners know that tropical storms and thunderstorms are to be expected during storm season, but sometimes, bad weather strikes at the worst time.

You may have lucked out in the past and had the township restore your power within a few hours of a storm taking out your lines, but severe hurricanes can cause a multiple-day outage. Can you afford to freeze operations for days on end?

Even if you could, why would you want to? With the help of a commercial generator, you could have operations running smoothly within minutes of an outage. 

Ready to start commercial generator shopping? Here are some things to consider before purchasing a business generator:

The Two Main Commercial Generators

The first and fundamentally most important choice you’ll need to make when searching for a commercial generator is whether to get a standby or a portable generator:

Standby/Backup Generators

When you think of the permanently-installed generators sitting outside of most businesses in large, metal boxes, this is your standard standby or backup generator. Business-grade standbys are similar to the backup home generators you’d see residentially, however, commercially-rated units often pack a bigger power punch, can withstand long run times, and are more convenient and efficient for bigger businesses.

Portable Generators

You don’t always have a large enough storefront with high-wattage technology to merit investing in a heavy-duty standby generator. For smaller businesses, a standby generator could be overkill, depending on what you need to be powered and for how long during a power outage. If you’re just looking for a Band-Aid to provide partial power for a few hours, a portable unit could get you by without investing thousands upon thousands of dollars in a standby. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Commercial Generator

To help you decide whether a permanently-installed standby generator or a mobile portable generator is best for your business, here are four important considerations:

1. Your Wattage Requirements

When the power goes out, what are the bare minimum appliances and technology you need to fire back up, without negotiation? Make a list of all the items you absolutely need to juice to operate, then use to discover each device’s wattage rating.

If your business requires anything under 12kWs to operate smoothly in a short-term pinch, you may be safe sticking with a smaller, portable generator. Most medium- to large-sized businesses, however, are powering upwards of 22kWs and simply can’t find a portable generator rated for the job. Learn more about generator size and the reasons that picking the right-sized generators matters here. 

2. The Initial Installation and Cost To Operate

It’s common to look at the cost of a commercial generator and feel a bit of sticker shock. 

Let’s use Generac units for example. At the time of writing, it’s $10,639 for a 22kW Generac generator and $13,259 for their 36kW Protector generator. By comparison, one of their top-performing portable generators runs about $3,969. Because of this stark price difference, business owners tend to opt for the portable unit — however, it’s not always the smartest investment in the long run.

While portable generators can cost less upfront, they are not safe to operate long-term for days in a row. They need to be covered overhead to prevent weather damage, but cannot be trapped in a closed room because of carbon monoxide emissions. Plus, they are not rated for long-term use; they are a few-hour solution rather than a few-day power engine. Standby generators also often require less maintenance and are more convenient to refill — with bigger tanks that don’t require more juice every few hours. 

3. Fuel Type

Commercial standby generators can run off of two main types of fuel: liquid propane (LP) or natural gas (NG). Businesses without access to a natural gas line underground are best to select a liquid propane option. These types of generators have their perks because they typically run quieter than NG-powered units and offer a “cleaner burn.” 

However, commercial properties that do have access to natural gas don’t need to  worry. Liquid propane generator owners don’t have to refill their tanks; they have gas on-demand whenever they need it. That means no waiting around for fuel delivery in the middle of a storm. NG is also historically cheaper than propane when considering the long-term cost of fueling your generator.

4. Warranty

Generally speaking, commercial standby generators come with longer, higher coverage warranties than portable models. That’s because they are built to last upwards of 10 years as a long-term investment versus a convenient portable unit.

It’s important to realize that your generator’s warranty will vary based on the brand and product you choose. For example, Generac offers a 3-year warranty on its standalone generators and a 2-year warranty on its portable products. On the other hand, Kohler offers a 2,000 hour or 5-year warranty on its standalone products, and a 3-year warranty on its portable models. Compare models and brands of popular generator types here to choose the smartest warranty for your needs.

Compare Your Options with SWFL Electric

Deciding on the right commercial generator for your business is not a decision you should take lightly.

Make the choice easier with our Generac vs. Kohler vs. Cummins Generator Sizing Guide. We’ll stack three brands against each competitor’s model, comparing different wattage, prices, features, and more to help you make the smartest move for your business. Download the guide today!