Being Prepared Is Not Just For The Boy Scouts – Spinella Electrical Contracting
Being Prepared Is Not Just For The Boy Scouts
The phrase “longterm power outage” has taken on a new meaning since Hurricane Sandy and Irene swept through the state. Building Managers that lost power for a day or two considered themselves “Lucky”. Increasing electric demand on an overloaded power grid and hundred year storms that come every year have made generators as necessary as air conditioning.
“Essential circuits” is another term that has taken on a new meaning. In the past, an elevator, fire panel and common area lighting would suffice. Today, having the means to power a server room and a router for connectivity can mean the difference between losing days of work verses the ability to work from home.
There are three levels of back up power that can be adapted to each specific need. The first would be a whole building generator. The limiting factor is that they can be cost prohibitive and very large in size. These are usually diesel powered. With this type of generator you should establish a relationship with a reliable vendor that can supply fuel consistently in the aftermath of a storm. Knowing the run time on a tank of fuel is key information. The obvious benefit is total power during an outage. An Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) will start the generator and transfer the power back on within 8 seconds. This is a very attractive feature to a perspective tenant. During the engineering phase, the difference in cost between a whole building and partial building generator should be weighed against the cost of labor to separate the power in order to decrease the generator size.
The second and most common option is to designate essential circuits and centrally locate them into emergency panels fed through one or more ATS units. This significantly reduces the size and cost of the generator and can possibly allow the use of natural gas as a fuel source. In addition to the standard essential circuits, managers should have a command post powered up with computers, phones and a kitchenette for engineers to stay onsite longterm. Common area receptacles and lighting should be included so that clean up can begin right away. Fitness centers can provide personnel the opportunity to shower when they might not have hot water at home. One lesson learned from Sandy and Irene, was that backing up cafeteria refrigeration can not only save thousands, but will eliminate the task of discarding food during a time when your staff is already taxed. The major benefit of this is not having a dumpster full of rotting food on your property in August.
The third level of power loss protection does not even involve owning a generator. Buildings can be set up with a tap box, which is essentially a giant plug, and a manual transfer switch that will allow quick and easy connection of a portable generator to your building. Rental companies have set up priority lists which you can join for a fee. They will know in advance the size and voltage of the generator you will require including the drop off location and and power cord lengths. This can save days of down time spent calculating size and connection method before beginning the search for a generator along with everyone else. Even without the installation of the tap box knowing this information in advance can save valuable time.
Not all power failures are storm related. Failure of incoming service feeders is a common occurrence and can leave a building without power for days. Often times it is the responsibility of the owner to repair or replace these cables. Compromised underground conduits require excavation and utility coordination. This can happen at anytime and without warning.
Though it may seem that a generator install does not provide an ROI, there is a savings associated with eliminating the need and maintenance of battery powered exit and emergency lights. The un-tangable benefit would be tenant retention and an attractive leasing feature to your building. There is a great feeling of comfort sitting in your well lite office conducting business while looking out the window at a sea of dark buildings.
Joseph Spinella Lic# 9468
Spinella Electrical Contracting Inc
Twenty Two Years of Excellence