Sizing Up the Next Storm

By  Dan Giampetroni, Business manager, residential-light commercial

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Maybe it was the gas station that was closed for days during Superstorm Sandy. Or perhaps it was the storeowner who lost thousands of dollars in perishables during the last major power outage. One thing is for certain: Recent weather disasters have opened the eyes of many convenience-store operators to the importance of emergency backup power. If this sounds familiar, you’ve likely gone online to research your backup-power options. Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to take the next step. This article will help you through the process of selecting the right standby generator to meet your needs, helping you stay open and operating during the next big storm.

Bring in an Expert

The next step in selecting the best backup power option for your store is to bring in an authorized and trained dealer. As with having a furnace replaced at your home, the dealer will size up your individual situation and provide a quote. As part of the professional consultation, the dealer will look at your store’s footprint and power demands, help you decide on fuel type and explain what installation looks like.

When it comes to sizing up a generator, a convenience store can take anything from 30 kilowatts to 150 kilowatts, based on a number of factors. A smaller generator can power a few critical components, such as lighting, communication, some gas pumps, a cooler and point-of-sale systems. A larger generator can power your entire operation, including air-conditioning, which may be critical for stores in climates such as the Southeast.

Donna Richards of Richard’s Service in South Glastonbury, Conn., has owned a 50-kilowatt standby generator for almost 10 years. She is happy with the size; it powers her entire store and doesn’t take up too much room behind the building. Because she runs the only place in town able to provide gas, hot coffee another essential items to her community during weather emergencies, the standby generator paid for itself after just four major storms, she says.

“Instead of the inconvenience of losing items like milk and ice cream or having to push customers away, it’s nice to be able to serve people,” Richards says.

Another consideration when selecting a standby generator is the fuel type, such as diesel, propane or natural gas. Diesel generators have been in use for many years and offer long-lasting durability; they are designed to meet extreme operating conditions. Propane and natural-gas generators are less expensive and offer a greener alternative because of lower emissions. Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference, cost and ease of installation.

What’s the ROI?

There are several reasons why convenience stores should consider standby power. First and foremost, it ensures that a business can remain open and operating during a power outage. Standby power also serves as a protection against losses. Including refrigerated items and deli selections, today’s stores may easily have tens of thousands of dollars in perishables at risk. Storms themselves are not typically covered by insurance, so a standby generator can help protect a business from potentially lost inventory and sales, theft and more. (As a point of reference, the approximate suggested retail price of a 38-kilowatt Kohler generator, fueled on natural gas or propane, is $13,800.)

This vulnerability is echoed in a statistic by the Insurance Information Institute, which reports that up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural roman-made disaster never reopen. Recently, one gas station was bankrupted after Superstore Sandy. Closed during the storm, the company’s losses affected its credit rating. After being named a high-credit risk, terms and conditions changed, resulting in the loss of the store’s key product distributor. Ina short matter of time, the company washout of business.

As a convenience store operator, can you afford for your store to be closed during an extended power outage? For most, the answer is no. That is why a standby generator is critical for keeping a convenience store open and operating during an emergency situation.

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