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Cost to Install Backup Power for Restaurants: What Size Generator Do I Need for a Restaurant?

Power outages happen at any time, without warning. Construction workers hit power lines, car accidents knock down power poles, and storms wipe out electricity.

To keep your workers and diners safe, as well as to protect your investment, you must have a backup power plan. This requires an industrial generator, since a traditional household unit does not have the power to handle the electrical needs of the typical restaurant.

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How to Determine the Right Restaurant Generator Size

The number one factor when choosing a generator is whether it can handle your restaurant's power needs. Buying a unit that's too small not only doesn't fulfill that goal, it stresses both the generator and any items it tries to power.

Your second consideration is whether the unit is compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC). NEC requirements cover installation, sizing, safety features, and usage.

Hiring a certified electrician is the most surefire way to ensure you find the right size generator while remaining compliant with NEC guidelines. He or she works with you to determine which electrical items you deem critical to continue running in the event of a power outage. Then, the electrician inspects your usage and determines what size unit you require.

Can I Size a Restaurant Generator Myself?

The short answer is: Yes, you can. The longer answer is: Yes, you can, but it requires a bit of math on your part (more than a bit).

If you have a strong DIY gene, you may prefer to make these calculations yourself. You can familiarize yourself with NEC standards, as well.

Start with an inventory that includes each item you want to keep running in the event of a power outage. You likely have such a document already, for tax purposes. If not, create one.

Next, list the kilowatts (kW) of each item. Then you just add them up. You find the kW information on the unit's tag, but you may also find it online or in the owner's manual.

If the power is listed in amperes instead of kW, you need to do a bit more math. To determine the resistive load, multiply the number of amperes by the number of volts (amps X volts). To determine the reactive load, multiply amps times volts, and then multiply the product by the load factor. This looks like: (amps X volts) X load factor.

If you're happy with a ballpark estimate, you can use the square footage estimate. Start with 50 kW, and then add 5 watts for every square foot of space. For a 10,000 square foot restaurant, this calculation looks like: 50 kW +50,000 watts. There are 1,000 watts in a kilowatt. Now the equation is 50 kW + 50 kW for a total of 100 kW.

Cost of a Restaurant Generator

On average, industrial generators cost $400 per kW for the unit, installation, warranty, and service agreement. The unit alone averages:

  • $16,000 for 50 kW
  • $26,000 for 100 kW
  • $30,000 for 150 kW
  • $85,000 for 400 kW

Location and whether the unit is gas or diesel also affect cost, with diesel units costing more.

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