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Cost to Install Backup Power for Hotels/Motels: What Size Generator Do I Need for a Hotel?

Part of any emergency preparedness plan for hotels and motels must include backup power in the event of an emergency. A variety of weather conditions lead to power outages, from blistering heat to freezing cold to hurricanes in coastal areas. In addition to weather-related power outages, North America's power grids have weakened in recent years thanks to high demand and a nationwide tendency to ignore maintenance of infrastructure. Add manmade issues, such as construction and roadwork interfering with power lines, and the need for a generator to supply backup power is clear.

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Obviously, this requires a lot more power than found in a typical household generator. You need an industrial generator for your hotel.

How to Choose a Hotel Generator

When choosing a generator, it's important to purchase a unit capable of handling your facility's power needs. Too big, and you're wasting money. Too small, and your generator not only fails to meet your needs, but it may also cause damage to the items it's intended to power.

The smartest, simplest way to determine what size generator you need is to hire a certified electrician to inspect your building's power usage and calculate your needs for you. In addition, he or she ensures you remain compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC).

As regards commercial generators, NEC requirements cover installation, sizing, and use. It also identifies which systems are considered critical for safety, such as fire alarms and pumps.

How to Size a Hotel Generator

If you decide not to hire an electrician, you can determine the size by performing a series of calculations on every electrical item you determine belongs on the "critical" list.

You should have an inventory already. However, if you don't, you need to make a list of each item you want the generator to power. Next, you need to make a note on the wattage each item requires to both start and run. You may then find the total wattage your generator must provide.

The device should include a tag identifying either wattage or amperes. If the tag is missing, or unreadable, check the owner's manual or look the item up online. If the item lists amperes instead of kilowatts (kW), you need to convert amps to kW. To calculate the resistive load, multiply amperes by volts. To calculate reactive loads, multiply amperes by volts, and then multiply that product by the load factor.

After finishing these calculations, you should have the wattage for every device. Add them all up; that's the wattage you need for your generator.

Another option, though not as accurate, involves using your square footage to determine your needs. The basic formula is 50 kW, plus 5 watts per square foot.

How Much does a Hotel Generator Cost?

Including installation, warranties, and service agreements, expect to pay around $400 per kW for an industrial generator. Used models cost between 25 and 50 percent less, but make sure you buy a unit from a respected manufacturer.

The unit itself costs much less than $400 per kW. Some average prices include:

  • $16,000 for a 50 kW, diesel-powered generator
  • $26,000 for a 100 kW, propane-powered generator
  • $30,000 for a 150 kW, propane-powered generator
  • $85,000 for a 400 kW, diesel-powered generator

Pricing varies by location, but this provides a basis for your search.

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