Backup Generators: Why Pick Diesel?
When it comes to backup power solutions for businesses and facilities, industrial backup generators are one of the most commonly used solutions available in the market. Backup generators come in both standby (stationary) and rental style (portable) form factors that provide flexible backup power options for customers in need across various different industries. These backup generators most commonly come in handy in events of power outages due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, and even man made disasters that interrupt power from the main utility grid. Backup generators are not limited to just being used in situations such as disaster response and disaster recovery, but can be useful in situations such as rolling brownouts and blackouts, as well as times when service or upgrades are being made to the main utility where steady, reliable power is unavailable.
There are two main options and one sub-option when it comes to a backup generators. The main options are diesel and natural gas, with some natural gas generators being able to be converted to run off of propane. Each generator and applicable fuel type have their own advantages and disadvantages, but diesel generators are known to be a little more versatile when it comes to practical use and application.
So what makes diesel generators such a robust solution? Diesel generators are one of the most commonly used backup generator used in the industry for multiple reasons. Industrial diesel generators are built with more sturdy materials and designed to run over long periods of time when compared to smaller residential style generators. These diesel generators can also be purchased in different power configurations to run only in standby (when you only need backup power during emergencies and power outages), prime (which the generator will act as your main power source), and portable (rental style generators often serving as the main power source for off-grid projects for facilities that cannot accommodate the installation of a stationary backup generator) options.
While it might be obvious, diesel generators run off diesel fuel. Diesel fuel is known for its high stability, being less flammable than gas, and has a greater energy density to volume ratio. In general, diesel generators often tend to burn less than half the amount of fuel when compared to their natural gas counterparts and can still achieve the same amount of work output. Adding to the fact that newer diesel generators are becoming increasingly more fuel efficient allows you to get more for less when it comes to fuel consumption. When it comes to scenarios such as preparing for inclement weather or natural disasters, it’s important to note fuel storage and management. Most diesel generators are either mounted to a diesel base tank or connected to a larger diesel fuel tank, but when preparing for prolonged runtime of a diesel generator, it’s possible to store additional diesel fuel on site via portable modular diesel fuel tanks. This allows you to operate the diesel generator for long periods of time beyond its base capacity. When comparing fuel supply via natural gas generators, the natural gas utility is often one of the first things turned off to prevent dangerous gas leaks, fires, or combustion which would leave a natural gas generator inoperable.
Reliability is another key factor when it comes to diesel generators. One of the main core components when it comes to a diesel generator is the engine. The engine is a high power diesel engine that provides the driving force to start the process in generating energy. Newer diesel generator engines these days tend to require less maintenance when compared to their natural gas generator counterparts. One of the big reasons is due to the way the engines operate. While diesel generator engines use compression ignition for igniting fuel, natural gas generators rely on spark plugs and spark ignition in order to ignite fuel. By removing the need to regularly maintain spark plugs, associated wires, and hoses (cracks and pinholes can be dangerous and must be inspected/replaced regularly as needed) can result in lower overall maintenance costs.
Longevity is a factor that is considered more in the long-term when evaluating both diesel generators and natural gas generators. While both types of industrial generators are robust and dependable backup power solutions, diesel generators can operate for longer periods of time than natural gas generators before requiring maintenance. One of the biggest reasons for this is because natural gas generators tend to run hotter than diesel generators, which can significantly impact both the operation time and lifespan of a natural gas generator. While this may be an item to worry about down the line, it’s a good to keep this in mind when making your purchase.
A majority of portable generators (also known as rental style generators) are diesel generators mounted to a double-axle trailer with an on board diesel base tank that provides an all-in-one backup power solutions package on the go. As with stationary diesel generators, a portable diesel generator can run off the fuel within its diesel base tank and also run off diesel fuel stored in a modular diesel fuel tank. This allows for operation in many different applications across various industries, as the generator can be moved from site to site and location to location during a project. This also benefits businesses and facilities that cannot install a stationary generator due to either cost or space restrictions, but require backup power. Portable generators can be delivered on-site and removed once power is restored to the main utility grid.
While having the ability to store additional diesel fuel on-site means that you can run the diesel generator for longer, in prolonged applications – this can be a major problem. When running a diesel generator for a longer than anticipated period of time, it’s important to ensure that the fuel supply is replenished. This means that not only will you need staff on-site to refuel the generator, but they will also have to make sure that diesel fuel deliveries make it on time. It’s important to prepare a contingency plan on who will be keeping the diesel generator properly fueled and that a diesel fuel delivery service is able to make it when you need it. This could be challenging in situations such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and other bouts of inclement weather. For this sole reason, this is one of the biggest disadvantages when compared to natural gas generators. With natural gas generators, as long as the gas supply to the pipeline is not cut off, a natural gas generator will have a steady supply of fuel to run continuously in events like a power outage.
With emissions regulations becoming increasingly more stringent, diesel generators are still at a disadvantage. Even though newer diesel generators run much cleaner when compared to the diesel generators of old, they still produce a thick, smoky, strong smelling exhaust. These emissions produced are toxic to both humans and animals and can even be fatal when inhaled in large quantities over a prolonged period of time. When installing a backup diesel generator, it’s important to either install the unit outside away from the facility within a weatherproof or sound-attenuated enclosure or if installing indoors, then properly set up a designated generator room that is equipped with a sufficient exhaust system that can safely funnel emissions outside without exposing employees and other tenants within the building to these harmful emissions.
Industrial generators produce noise and lots of it. While this is the case for both diesel generators and natural gas generators, diesel generators tend to be extra loud. While this may not be a concern if a diesel generator is installed outside in a spacious suburban or rural location, it could definitely pose a problem in an urban location. Diesel generators especially can produce extremely loud noise levels at high decibels that can cause headaches or even damage human eardrums when exposed to it. While installing a sound-attenuated enclosure may help reduce the overall noise, it may still be loud enough to bother those around you. If a diesel generator is installed in a designated generator room, it’s important to pick a location that prevents the noise and vibrations produced by the generator from negatively affecting your employees and tenants within the facility. This is why it’s important to work with a consultant to help you best select the best installation location who can also provide guidance to ensure any required guidelines are followed to ensure not only the safe and proper installation of your backup generator, but also the safety of your employees.
Diesel generators and natural gas generators are both great solutions when looking into backup power solutions with each having their own advantages and disadvantages. While either generator is not a “one-size fits all”, it all comes down to your needs and what you’re looking for in a backup generator for your business or facility. Though they both have their own drawbacks, a backup generator is one of the most commonly chosen solution across many different industries for a reason. Be sure to assess your needs and gather as much information as possible before making your decision.
If you’re looking to find out more on diesel generators or looking to purchase a generator for your business or facility, please reach out to us at Woodstock Power Company!
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