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Cost to Install Backup Power for Hospitals: What Size Generator Do I Need for a Hospital?

When the power goes out in your home, it's annoying, but usually not a life-or-death situation. Hospitals, on the other hand, have far different concerns as regards maintaining reliable power. Life support machines and other medical equipment rely on electricity.

In the event of a storm or other power outage, it is crucial that a hospital has a backup power source.

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What to Look for in a Hospital Backup Generator

The most important consideration in a backup generator is its ability to handle your power needs. This means you must find the right size, since anything too small not only stresses the generator, it may damage any devices drawing power from the unit.

How to Size a Hospital Generator

Most modern medical equipment runs on an AC current, meaning you need an AC generator.

For a facility as large as a hospital, your best bet to determine your generator needs is to hire a certified electrician. He or she will inspect your facility's power needs and usage to provide accurate calculations.

However, if your goal is a basic understanding so you know where to start looking, you need to determine the total wattage needs of every item to be powered by the generator. Begin by making a list of these items (you should already have an inventory list for your facility). Then, note the wattage needed to both start and run each item. From there, you can calculate your total wattage needs.

The device itself should list either wattage or amperes. If not, you may find it in the owner's manual or possibly online. Converting amperes to watts is a simple calculation. For a resistive load, multiply the amperes by the volts. Reactive load wattage equals the product of amperes times volts, multiplied by the load factor. Now that you see the amount of work required, you understand why hiring an electrician to perform this task makes sense.

How Much does a Hospital Generator Cost?

The cost of a generator varies widely, depending on a numerous factors. For example, a diesel fuel generator typically costs more up front, but operating and maintenance costs are lower.

Installation costs also vary. However, an average rate for both the unit and installation is around $400 per kilowatt. You may save between 25 and 50 percent if you buy a used model, but you need to worry about reliability. The answer then is to choose a unit from a top manufacturer, since these are more likely to last longer.

All that said, we provide a few basic price ranges for just the generator.

  • A 50 kW, 120/200Vt diesel unit averages around $16,000.
  • A 100 kW, 120/240V propane unit averages around $26,000.
  • A 150 kW, 240V propane unit averages around $30,000.
  • A 400 kW, 208V diesel unit averages around $85,000.

Installation, warranties, and service agreements add to the total price, which is where the $400 per kW figure comes in.

The Bottom Line

A hospital cannot afford not to have a backup power source. Generators are a necessary operating expense to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patients. Talk to a certified electrician to determine your needs, and then research manufacturers and vendors to find the right plan to handle your facility's power needs.

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