Ten industry experts weigh in on how the past few years have changed generator rentals and the trends they see powering up the future.
By Erin Whitehead, RER
Whether the cause is a thunderstorm that takes out a neighborhood’s power or a hurricane that nearly wipes out a city, when the power goes out, one of the primary goals is to get the electricity flowing again. Backup generators can not only prevent the inconvenience of power outages to homeowners, but also provide power in emergency situations to hospitals, gas stations and other critical applications. Top generator experts weigh in on the rental market, trends of the future and the importance of after-market support.
The panel of experts includes John Raber, generators regional sales manager, Baldor; David Brown, vice president, MQ Power; Jeff Moureau, general manager, rental division, Miller Electric Mfg.; Kristen Delaney, manager of marketing and product planning, American Honda Motor Co.; Al Rodriguez, emerging markets business development manager, Makita USA; Pam Meyer, equipment sales manager, Robin America; Marc Leupi, utility product manager, Wacker; Todd Howe, generator product marketing manager, Ingersoll Rand; Rodney Givler, product specialist, Godwin Pumps; and Mike Joseph, national sales manager, and Dave McAllister, manufacturing engineer, Magnum Products.
RER: Describe the current conditions in the generator rental market.
Baldor/Raber: We’ve seen steady growth in the market this year although the construction market seems to be slowing. The energy market has been particularly busy, as has the telecommunication market.
MQ Power/Brown: From our perspective, the generator rental market is strong. Demand is high, and our customers are forecasting steady growth. Many tell us they are planning to open new branch operations across the country.
Miller Electric/Moureau: I’ve seen two trends occurring in the rental market over the past year. The first is an ongoing transition toward powering multiple inverter-based systems with a single, high-powered generator. While there are definitely cost savings realized by this approach (as much as $2,500 or more per month) most of our customers say they’re doing it because they need to squeeze a lot of arcs into a small, oftentimes confined area — something they’re not able to do with multiple generators.
The other trend I’ve noticed is a significant surge in rentals of diesel-powered welding generators, primarily for infrastructure repair and maintenance projects. As the recent pipeline rupture in Alaska has shown, the uncertain economic climate over the past several years has caused infrastructure maintenance to languish in many sectors. Having regained some economic stability, many corporations and governments are now taking on those infrastructure maintenance projects that have been sitting on the backburner.
Honda/Delaney: The current rental market for generators appears to be strong and steady.
Makita/Rodriguez: The generator market is still growing due to the severe weather we’ve experienced in the last few years.
Subaru Robin/ Meyer: The generator market was strong for the first six months, but we have seen some softening in the third quarter. I expect the fourth quarter to be typical.
Wacker/Leupi: The current market is strong and is still experiencing occasional product supply shortages. Equipment prices have been increasing as OEMs are finally passing on some of the raw material, labor and other related cost increases as well as the increased costs associated with the new EPA emissions engines.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: The generator market has shown strong growth over the past three years due to significant recapitalization of rental fleets fueled by a healthy economic climate as housing starts, non-residential construction spending, and infrastructure improvements have experienced growth in this time period. In addition, increased focus on disaster preparedness in the wake of 2005’s hurricane season has driven growth in the generator rental market as municipalities, government agencies, and businesses secure backup power as a fundamental component of their disaster readiness plans.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: The current trend seems to be geared toward construction and maintenance (upgrading).
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: Present market conditions are very positive with respect to generator sales. In addition to the normal demand from rental customers, there has been an emergence of demand for security, disaster preparedness and oil-field support.
Security concerns from the federal down to the local municipal level have increased the overall demand for generators. Power demands can range from powering a remote guard shack to having emergency power for lift stations.
Disaster preparedness and oil-field support have been the two largest contributors to the increased demand for mobile power generation. The hurricane activity over the past few years has exposed the tremendous deficiencies with utility infrastructures in the Southeast, and people have taken matters into their own hands. Generator sales to businesses, government and residences in the Southeast have exploded since 2004.
With oil prices as high as they have been for the past few years, the oil fields are drilling as fast as possible. This increased activity demands mobile power generation, and the increase is worldwide.
How does the market look for the future?
Baldor/Raber: This is a growing market, we estimate about 5 percent to 7 percent annually. As we become more dependent on electrical energy the opportunities for generator rentals continue to grow. We’ve seen a real increase in our customers’ long-term rents, in terms of months and even years. This is a growing market that we’re excited to be a part of.
MQ Power/Brown: We are forecasting continued strong demand for rental power through 2007.
Miller Electric/Moureau: The research we’ve conducted over the past year indicates that we can expect sustained growth in the generator rental market, due in large part to the many infrastructure projects being initiated now that the economy has regained some momentum. We expect that trend to continue for at least the next several years.
Honda/Delaney: All indications are that the outlook for the future appears to be promising for generator rentals.
Makita/Rodriguez: The future of the market depends on a number of factors, including the construction industry, natural disasters, new technology in battery power, and alternative energy sources.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: Generators will continue to be a dominant product. I think we will see many generator manufacturers trying to reduce their inventories in the fourth quarter because of the lack of storms this summer.
Wacker/Leupi: The market appears fairly strong but is dependent on the strength of the overall economy, especially the construction sector. Prices will likely increase in the future as OEMs try to pass on the hefty cost increases of the upcoming Tier 3 engines.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: I see the market softening just slightly in 2007 as large rental companies pull back on capital spending and begin to age the equipment they have acquired over the past 24 to 36 months. However, both the economy and the rental industry are strong and still growing, just not at the rate experienced in 2005 and 2006, so I don’t foresee a dramatic slowdown on the near- or medium-term horizon.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: If it is anything like the past, it should remain positive.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: With the continued need to support security, disaster preparedness, oil field and rental fleet needs, the immediate future for mobile power generation appears stable.
Has anything changed in the past few years regarding generators in terms of emergency preparedness or disaster preparation?
Baldor/Raber: Inventory levels are higher than they historically have been. Manufacturers also send teams into areas hit by disaster to help with power questions and problems.
MQ Power/Brown: The government, as well as business and property owners in areas prone to hurricanes, has become increasingly aware of the impact that loss of power has on safety, security, and loss of data or revenue. In some regions, legislative bodies have passed laws requiring gas stations to have emergency standby generators. MQ Power has also seen an increase in demand from several grocery store chains.
Miller Electric/Moureau: We have always designed our welding generators with disaster relief work in mind. However, hurricane Katrina and other, more minor natural disasters have increased general awareness of welding generators as an alternative to a stand-alone generator or a stand-alone welder.
It can be very difficult to access a disaster site, so it’s important to be able to carry as much equipment on your truck as possible. Welder generators have grown in popularity because they free up space for other equipment to be transported to a disaster relief site, and because they are very cost competitive with generator-only units.
More people have also become aware of the welder-generator combination because demand surges have sold traditional generator retailers out of their stock and led customers to alternative outlets, such as rental houses and welding supply outlets.
Honda/Delaney: As an increasing number of people are looking to generators for emergency or disaster preparedness, demand for these products has increased. Today, however, end users are looking beyond the basic need for power to minimize interruptions in their homes and businesses. Fuel consumption, quiet operation and reliability have become paramount to discerning consumers who want the right generators for their needs.
Makita/Rodriguez:Businesses and the general public are more aware of the need for generators in proper emergency preparedness. People are willing to spend the money on a generator in order to be prepared.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: There has been a much larger focus on this. Many large rental companies have adopted emergency/disaster programs in which they are working closely with manufacturers so they have immediate access to equipment in case of a crisis. Many manufacturers are making sure they have adequate inventory to handle the increase in demand.
Wacker/Leupi: Yes, the market has grown rapidly due to the influx of Homeland Security money. Municipalities and other government agencies are seeking more dual-purpose mobile generators instead of just standby generators for their buildings.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: Certainly the 2005 hurricane season demonstrated just how unprepared we are as a population when large-scale disasters strike. From this we have seen a lot of municipal initiatives, such as the Florida requirement for backup power at gas stations. Looking back at Katrina, many people were stranded when their cars ran out of fuel, not because the gas station was out of fuel, but because there was no electricity to pump the fuel from the underground tanks. This scenario highlights how important it is to have backup electricity to ensure that people can evacuate quickly and safely. That is just one example of the increased focus and level of detail that municipalities are putting into their emergency planning.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: The 2005 hurricane season showed people the need to be more prepared for emergencies and disasters on many levels. We are seeing changes at some of our customer locations where programs and standards are being put into place to ensure there is power where it is needed most for any future emergencies.
What drives the demand for generators?
Baldor/Raber: The demand is predominately driven by construction markets, the utility industry, telecommunications industry and government sales. Certainly adverse natural disasters drive demand as well.
MQ Power/Brown: Several factors, including continued population growth, recovery from natural disasters, military operations, and homeland security as well as a keen awareness of the loss of revenue, convenience, data or security sustained during power outages.
Miller Electric/Moureau: In general, infrastructure, new construction, maintenance, disasters and special events drive generator demand. Because many of these drivers correlate to the health of the economy, it is no surprise that generator demand has surged recently.
Honda/Delaney: It depends on which segment of the market you’re talking about. Honda designs and produces generators for play, home, and work applications, and there are unique demands for each of these marketplace segments. For example, for those consumers who want to use their generators for recreation, one factor for consideration is the growing popularity of outdoor activities such as camping and fishing, combined with our need for comfort, security and communication in the great outdoors. For these consumers, portability is an added factor. In addition, let’s turn to tailgating in the 21st century; these parties have become as important as sports events themselves. Sports fans are pumping up the level of tailgate parties by bringing out everything from satellite TVs and stereo systems to blenders and upscale cookery. And generators are the power behind these parties. All of this is driving growth in the consumer recreational use segment. For consumers who need to power critical home systems in the event of storms, hurricanes, blackouts or brownouts, the likelihood of power outages drives demand. Finally, customers using generators for commercial or work purposes often report that the economy and construction market drives demand.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: All facets of the construction market are responsible for the major day-to-day demand for generators. The rental market handles a broad base of users from the contractor to party/concessions to the DIY user. Natural disasters, such as storms and disruption to our electrical grid, also increase the demand for generators. Homeowners have become much more concerned with protecting their homes during power outages.
Wacker/Leupi: Many areas drive the demand for generators but construction activity is one of the biggest drivers.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: With two-thirds of mobile generators being put into initial service in a rental fleet, the rental industry plays a significant role in driving generator demand. Beyond construction and disaster readiness needs, mobile generators support a tremendous number of diverse applications that require a temporary power source. Special events, telecommunications, military installations and industrial uses all contribute to the demand for generators.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: Construction, upgrades, emergencies, disasters, events, you name it.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: There is an obvious demand with new construction or exploratory projects in remote areas, but the lack of confidence with utility power that is growing in the U.S. has become one of the largest contributing factors.
What sort of training do you offer your rental customers and end users?
Baldor/Raber: We offer sales and hands-on service training to our rental customers at our production facility.
MQ Power/Brown: MQ Power offers product training for both sales and service personnel. We can provide this service at our company training facility or at the customer’s location.
Miller Electric/Moureau: We offer customized, on-site training to our rental customers. We have a dedicated rental product support specialist whose main purpose is to provide support to the maintenance and repair level of our customer base. This person visits the rental facility and conducts maintenance, operation and repair training based on the amount of time the company can devote and the products they carry.
We also offer specialized sales and application training sessions that explain which of our products are best suited to specific projects and how the salespeople can best convey the benefits and features of our products and thus maximize their revenues. We prefer to conduct these training sessions at one of our facilities, but if there are enough attendees lined up, we will go to the rental facility.
Honda/Delaney: Honda offers all of our distributors and dealers online training resources to assist them in understanding and servicing our complete generator line. In addition, all Honda generators include a comprehensive owners’ manual that provides the end user complete information about setting up, operating, storing and maintaining each model.
Makita/Rodriguez: Product knowledge classes on the features, benefits and safety aspects of Makita generators.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: Subaru has comprehensive manuals and CDs for all users. We also offer training classes for dealers.
Wacker/Leupi: We offer full sales application and certified service training programs for all of our products including generators.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: Ingersoll Rand provides complete sales and service training. Our Black Belt sales training seminar is a two-and-a-half day, hands-on course that provides basic electrical and generator theory plus product, application and sizing instruction. We also have three- and four-day training sessions for technicians. To further expand our reach with educational tools, we launched Utility University in January 2006. This is an online, self-paced learning environment with training modules designed to bring the Black Belt sales training experience via a computer.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: Classroom and on-site training on the basics and fundamentals of electricity and our Godwin Power generators.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: Magnum provides personalized on-site technical and sales training for its dealers and end users. We also provide training at our headquarters in Berlin, Wis. This not only allows the trainees to learn the generator system, but it also allows the trainees to see how the product is assembled in manufacturing, which provides them with a more comprehensive understanding of the system.
Magnum will also be launching a new website in the fourth quarter of this year that will provide online technical data along with technical training aides.
What advice would you give to rental companies to improve their rentals?
Baldor/Raber: Know your customers! Know their needs and make sure your customers know your company’s capabilities. Get out and make sales calls, don’t wait for the business to come to you, go get the business.
MQ Power/Brown: Rental companies should sell the entire solution instead of the pieces of the puzzle; that is, be a complete resource to your customers.
Miller Electric/Moureau: Rental companies need to be able to find people and companies that normally buy all their equipment and explain to them the benefits of renting. There is still a lot of room for growth in the rental industry, and a lot of the people who always buy their equipment often don’t understand many of the hidden costs involved in owning and maintaining equipment.
Rental companies need to show how renting can negate storage and transportation costs, personal property taxes and repair/downtime expenses associated with owning equipment. Renting also allows companies to take advantage of new technologies and avoid suffering buyer’s remorse when a new model is released with new features and benefits shortly after purchasing an older model.
Honda/Delaney: Customers are attracted to eye-catching and well-organized product displays that feature generators offered for sale or rental. Another good tool for capturing and maintaining customers is offering accessories such as power cords, covers, DC charging cords and transfer switches that are commonly requested by generator consumers. Finally, letting potential renters see how easy it is to properly and safely use a generator can make the difference for people who might be on the fence about renting or buying. Actually, renting a generator is a good way for people to be drawn into buying a generator later.
Makita/Rodriguez: Offer package deals of drills and generators at a discounted price. Also, it’s important to take the time to find out how the customer will be using the generator.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: Have equipment that looks good and performs well. The user will come back and rent the generator again, or other equipment if they can get the job done without problems. Also make sure you have all of the other items needed to do the job. Extension cords, gas cans and oil are all items they will need to purchase along with renting the generator.
Wacker/Leupi: Carry high-quality equipment and maintain it properly. People rent generators because they can’t get power elsewhere, so if your rental generator goes down it becomes a major problem for that rental customer. Make sure your staff is knowledgeable about generators, can perform basic trouble-shooting and can confidently size generators for the customers’ applications.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: There is tremendous competition in the generator rental business, so the key to success is to differentiate your offering. Customers expect that you will provide quality, reliable, well-serviced equipment, so as an organization, a rental company needs to move beyond providing equipment and focus more on providing a customer solution. Generators are complex from an application and installation point of view, so a typical customer needs assistance in understanding his product needs. If a rental company can fill the role of an application consultant, it provides real value beyond simply providing the generator. The customer will value this expertise and look to your organization to fill their mobile power needs. This is specifically the reason our training programs devote a great deal of time to application and sizing instruction. Our goal is to help our customers become experts at assisting their customers in matching the right generator to the application.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: For all intents and purposes, generators are rather simple systems. Yet, the general populous is not very comfortable when it comes to running electrical systems. Therefore, if a rental salesman is equipped with some of the basic application questions, he can deliver the proper generator configured for the customer’s specific application. As with all sales, the easier you make it for the customer, the more likely they are going to come back.
Any common mistakes you see end users make regarding generators?
Baldor/Raber: Trying to rent or purchase too small of a generator for the application results in overloading the generator. Also incorrectly wiring the electrical loads may cause damage to the generator or the tool.
MQ Power/Brown: Misapplication. Proper selection based on the application, duty cycle and load requirement are all very important. If you can be a knowledgeable resource to your customer then their rental experience will be enhanced, and you will have a higher probability of receiving your returned equipment in rental ready condition.
Safety. Always understand how to properly connect the load and give consideration to all code requirements including grounding. Tell your customers to never operate the voltage selector switch under load and make sure you know how to properly tow any mobile generator. Proper hitch, lighting and brake connections, and towing capacity are a few of the vital considerations.
Miller Electric/Moureau: To eliminate many of the frills that often lead to operator confusion, Miller has modified its products for the rental market with an emphasis on simplicity and core capabilities. Our research has shown that people who buy our products generally want to be prepared for a variety of possible projects. People who rent our products want them to perform a very specific task, and therefore focus in on the core specifications, such as amperage output, horsepower and the like.
Simplifying our products has greatly reduced the potential for operational error. One common mistake, however, would be for end users to choose generators that are either too large or too small for their needs.
Honda/Delaney: Consumers should be very clear about how and where they want to use their generators. If they are not certain of their power needs before shopping for or renting a generator, this can lead to choosing a model that offers too little or too much power for the task at hand. Honda helps with this problem by providing a wattage calculator on our website at www.honda.com. In just a few minutes, you can find out how much power your application needs. If you’re preparing for a storm, for example, you can quickly figure out which appliances are necessities and which ones you really can live without. On the other hand, if you want a generator for a camping trip, you’ll be able to choose the generator with the right power level and the quietest operation for your needs. Who wants to spoil the peace of the outdoors with a noisy generator?
Makita/Rodriguez:One of the most common mistakes is using the wrong size generator for the job.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: Buying or renting the wrong size generator. Most people do not understand how to figure out what size they need. Subaru provides a helpful guide on our website to assist in choosing the correct model. The other unfortunate situation we hear about is running the generator inside of an occupied building. Generators produce carbon monoxide just like an automobile and can be deadly.
Wacker/Leupi: Rent or buy too little generator for the job. Running out of fuel and then blaming the generator is a common complaint from rental companies.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: A very common mistake made on the jobsite is when someone switches the voltage selector switch to change the voltage output while the generator is running. Unfortunately this almost always damages the voltage selector switch and potentially other components, which results in machine downtime and a costly repair. Ingersoll Rand has addressed this issue on our PowerSource range of generators by adding a shutdown protection system, which prevents access to the voltage selector switch while the generator is running. Our customers in the rental business really appreciate this feature and have seen increased uptime as a result.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: Oversizing and under utilization of the generator’s available power. This can actually damage the equipment over an extended period of time.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: The most common mistake we have seen is when a generator is oversized for the application. For instance, a contractor may need 10 kW for his job shack, and a 70-kW generator is sent out to the jobsite. More is not always better! In general, a diesel engine needs to be run at a minimum of 40-percent load in order to operate efficiently. Running at less than a 40-percent load you run the risk of wet stacking the engine. Basically, if the engine is not working hard enough, diesel fuel combustion is incomplete and raw fuel can then pass through the engine and collect in the exhaust system. This will cause the engine to run less efficiently and can eventually lead to engine failure. If a generator becomes wet stacked, it must be put under an 80-percent load for a minimum of 10 hours in order to clean out the engine system.
How important is after-market support when it comes to generators? How should a company go about researching this when purchasing generators?
Baldor/Raber: Aside from the quality of the product being purchased this is probably the single most important issue. Most reputable manufacturers have servicing dealers listed in the service literature that came with the unit or on the manufacturer’s web page. Most servicing dealers also advertise in the yellow pages and online. Make sure a service representative is available locally.
MQ Power/Brown: Very important. After-market support consists of several components: the availability of parts and service, technical support, and training. First, the company must establish the life-cycle expectation of the equipment as well as understanding its business model and equipment replacement cycle. For example, a company that plans to purchase equipment and then re-sell it within the time span of the warranty period will have different needs than a company planning to sell its equipment every seven years.
Miller Electric/Moureau: After-market support is absolutely one of the most important aspects of the entire manufacturer/customer relationship. We want their new business, but if we don’t take care of the products they have already bought from us, they’re going to have a bad taste in their mouth and look elsewhere when they need a new product.
You can have the best product and the best price, but you need to be sensitive to the cost of ownership. To that end, Miller offers customized, on-site maintenance and repair training sessions. And because it does no good knowing how to fix a machine if you don’t have the parts needed to make the repair, our Signature Service program guarantees in-stock parts shipment to the nearest service distributor within 24 hours.
When researching after-market support, I would recommend that rental equipment purchasers speak with their service technicians. Every manufacturer will make grand claims about their customer support, but it is the service technicians who actually receive the support and are in a position to evaluate those claims.
Honda/Delaney: When a consumer is renting a generator to complete a job, he or she can’t afford to have any problems with that generator. So, the first step in selecting the right generator is to choose a unit that is reliable and backed by a trusted manufacturer. Second, ask the rental company if it has backup inventory in the event of a failure and/or if they provide service.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: After-market support is very important. End users should be purchasing their generator from a dealer that can offer service after the sale. Dealers should make sure that they are working with a company that is easy to work with, from ordering parts to filing warranty claims.
Wacker/Leupi: Very important since generators must be serviced regularly and uptime is such an important issue in this industry.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: After-market support is extremely important to generator customers. So many applications that mobile generators are used in are powering critical items so downtime is simply not an option. Our customers have an expectation that maintenance parts and critical components can ship same day, and our goal is to exceed 95 percent fill rates on these items. Companies should ask their supplier to show recommended spare parts lists and show historical fill rates on these items when researching a generator supplier’s after-market capabilities, as well as understanding the supplier’s process to expedite critical parts orders.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: After-market support should be important no matter what type of equipment is purchased. It is key to building trust and loyalty with your customer.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: After-market support is paramount when it comes to generators. Generators are generally in service because they are the only source of electrical power. Therefore, if problems arise, they need to be resolved immediately. That’s why it is so important to do your research before you purchase a generator. The two most important questions are “What engine and generator is the unit equipped with?” and “How vast are their support networks?” This is why Magnum equips its generator systems with trusted names like John Deere and Marathon Generators. Both American-based companies have a long history of producing high-performance equipment with nationwide support.
What else should buyers look for when purchasing generators?
Baldor/Raber: Make sure that the engine is an industrial-grade engine and that the alternator is built and tested to NEMA standards. This information can generally be found on the unit’s nameplate. I would also double check the unit’s continuous output rating — this is the output power you can really expect out of the unit indefinitely. The surge or maximum output rating is what you can expect for electrical load-starting requirements, not running requirements.
MQ Power/Brown: Life-cycle costing. The more sophisticated buyers are evaluating life-cycle costing, which takes into account initial cost, operating and maintenance costs, resale or salvage value, the amount of time you plan to operate the equipment and financing costs.
Miller Electric/Moureau: The main things a company should look for when purchasing a generator are the company’s reputation for quality and aftermarket support, the product’s ease of maintenance and its features and benefits, such as output power, receptacle configurations and transportation options.
Honda/Delaney: It’s best to begin by determining how the generator will be used and how much power is needed. You also should consider how quiet the unit needs to be. You might not think that noise makes a difference, but it does. Ask yourself whether the unit needs to be portable and how fuel efficient you want the generator to be. By answering these few questions, consumers can determine the right size and model of generator and the features to best fit their particular needs.
Makita/Rodriguez: Check the warranty period and support.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: If buyers have time they should do a little homework first to help them determine the size of generator they need. Unfortunately during storms, they purchase whatever is available and it may not be the size they need. They should also consider the size of fuel tank and hours of run time before re-fueling. How quiet is it? With the inverter generators in the market, homeowners can get very quiet generators. Talk to their local dealer, to find out general operating instructions, warranty information and how to handle service and repairs if needed in the future.
Wacker/Leupi: Length of warranty is a good indication of how confident the OEM is of its generators. Build quality, especially elimination of rust points, is important because lower build quality shows up as rust and excess body wear within a short period of time.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: Customers have given us three key product attributes that they look at when evaluating the purchase of a generator. Environmental containment, which prevents fuel, oil or coolant spillage outside the generator, is a key feature that more and more applications and jobsites are requiring. Additionally, many customers are looking for generators designed for quiet operation. Also, the generator needs to be easy to operate to minimize operator training requirements, particularly in the rental environment.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: Durability, the right generator for the job, the company they are purchasing from, and that company’s quality and service reputation.
What new trends are coming up in generators?
Baldor/Raber: We see low sound or noise requirements as the biggest new trend. More and more municipalities are requiring engine-driven equipment to have low sound output levels.
MQ Power/Brown: Although the technology is not widely applied in larger generator sets, variable speed units are available today in small packages[DB1] and for special applications, including rubber-tired gantry cranes and military projects. The power electronics that make this possible are widely used in wind, solar and turbine applications.
Miller Electric/Moureau: One of the new trends we’re noticing is the pairing of very large generator-only units with multi-operator inverter-based welding systems. Instead of renting 20 individual generator welders, companies are renting one 300-kW generator and running five racks of four inverters off of that.
These configurations are increasingly replacing multiple generators on construction sites because they reduce transportation costs and the overall footprint. Inverter-based welders also provide better arc characteristics than traditional transformer-based systems.
I also believe alternative fuel capabilities will be one of the major new trends in generators in the future, although that development is not on the near horizon at Miller.
Honda/Delaney: Although we are unable to discuss Honda’s future product plans specifically, the market for generators appears to be growing in the portable segment. This leads people who track the marketplace to believe that increased portable generator offerings with new technologies will be important in the future.
Makita/Rodriguez: The inverted generators are becoming popular because of their steady power, noise level and reliability.
Wacker/Leupi: Even cleaner-burning engines due to the EPA Tier 3 emissions regulations to control particulate emissions. In smaller generators, inverter technology will replace standard alternators, although this is still several years out.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: Keeping up with EPA and European emissions standards means manufacturers will be redesigning their products to incorporate cleaner Tier 3 engines, and, in the future, Tier 4 engines. Along with this, there will be increased focus on fuel efficiency and alternative fuels as fuel costs have continued to rise. Manufacturers will also continue to achieve lower sound levels for their products with new sound-attenuating materials and design principles.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: The newest trend is variable-speed power generation. At present time, diesel-powered mobile generator sets run at a constant 1,800 rpm. With a variable-speed system, the rpm would be dependent on the load applied to the generator. This provides two significant advantages: First, you have an extremely fuel-efficient system, and second, you are matching the load to the rpm, which virtually eliminates the possibility of wet stacking. Although this technology does currently exist, the controls and components are very expensive and not rugged enough for the mobile environment.
Have you seen a trend of backup generators being used in new homes (for power in case of outages)?
Baldor/Raber: This market has been established for several years now and has historically been serviced by standby generator manufacturers with a residential product line.
MQ Power/Brown: Yes. This is a growing trend but there are some barriers rental companies should be aware of if they intend to branch out into this market. These include, but are not limited to, emissions, fuel storage, installation and application issues, local codes and community restrictions.
Miller Electric/Moureau: We are seeing an increase in backup welder generators primarily in rural areas where they can regularly make use of the welder and have the generator handy if needed.
Honda/Delaney: Absolutely. During the past several years, the increased number of power outages and the tragic results of natural disasters in the United States have led many more consumers to consider utilizing generators for stand-by and backup power for their homes and offices when the AC power goes out. Honda’s EU2000 is a popular choice for backup power for homeowners, as it offers ample power to operate necessary home appliances in an emergency, while offering exceptionally quiet operation and best-in-class fuel economy.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: Yes. It is now becoming very common when building a new home to pick out the generator you want — almost as common as it is to pick out the kitchen cupboards. Homeowners can no longer rely on uninterrupted power to keep their lights and heat on, their food cold and their sump pump working.
Wacker/Leupi: Yes, and as homes become larger — and filled with more electronic gadgets, big screen TVs, computers and sound systems — the backup generators have become larger as well.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: There is a growing market for residential backup generators, spurred by awareness generated as result of recent natural disasters, particularly in areas prone to power outages. Typically these units are 15 kW or smaller and may be fueled by diesel, natural gas or propane.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: Our dealers have sold our mobile units for residential use from time to time, but the residential market is another market all in itself.
How do you determine the correct size generator?
Baldor/Raber: By understanding the requirements of the electrical load you want to run and matching that to the electrical output and characteristics of the gen-set. There are mathematical formulas to help with this.
MQ Power/Brown: The most important factors are the size and type of load. You should know the voltage, the amps, whether the load is single-phase or three-phase, if the load is purely resistive, whether motor starting is a concern, the duty cycle of the load, and the operating environment. Altitude and ambient temperature are also important. Once these factors are known, there is a variety of sizing tables, charts, graphs and software to assist the customer in determining the correct size of generator for the job.
Honda/Delaney: Power needs and portability are the most important factors in determining the right sized generator for a specific application or job. For example, in the case of an industrial application, Honda’s EB series of generators would most likely allow for the most power on the jobsite while offering longer run times and durable frames. The Honda website at www.honda.com has a handy wattage calculator to help users understand the power requirements of specific electrical devices.
Makita/Rodriguez: We offer a chart identifying specific Makita generators that will work best with a number of commonly used tools based on their wattage.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: If you are a homeowner, the best way to ensure you are purchasing the correctly sized generator is to have your electrician review the appliances you want to run during an outage. If you are looking at installing an automatic home standby, a generator with a manual transfer switch system or just wanting to run extension cords out to a portable generator, they will be able to review your electrical system to make sure everything is done properly. Rental dealers need to make sure they ask the user what he plans on running with the generator. Determining all of the amperage of the tools/appliances that will be run on the generator will avoid problems later with the generator not being able to start and run everything. Subaru has a sizing guide on our website that will walk you through the process step by step in sizing your generator.
Wacker/Leupi: By determining the total power required by all tools and equipment that will be connected to that generator. Important in that calculation is factoring in the start-up power and the starting sequence of the multiple tools.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: To accurately size a generator you need to know as much information as you can about the devices that will be connected to it. At a minimum you need to know the voltage and amperage of each device that will be connected.
Also, you need to recognize that motors require special attention to calculate the “inrush” or starting kVA of the motor at start-up. Once you have this information, you convert this data to kilowatts to determine the size generator required. This gives a simple overview into what can be a fairly complicated procedure depending upon the application. To assist, Ingersoll Rand has developed GenSelect, which is a generator sizing tool. GenSelect allows the user to input data about the devices to be connected to the generator and automatically calculates the power requirements and suggests the correct generator for the application. In addition, our generator specialists and field sales team have the capability to provide application and sizing assistance.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: By gathering as much information about the application as possible. For example, what is the generator being used for? What voltage and amperage is required? What phase? Permanent installation or portable application?
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: It is first important to decipher what the voltage and amperage requirements are for the application. Compare the requirements with amperage outputs listed for each generator on our literature. Select a generator where the application requirements are at least 60 percent to 90 percent of the generator’s prime output. This is a good rule of thumb for standard construction site power requirements.
In the event that you have a customer looking to power an electric motor, we will need to know the lock-rotor-amps and motor code to properly size a generator. Electric motors can require two to nine times the power to start them, as it does to run them. Therefore, we recommend gathering the information noted above and contact one of our sales people or technicians for proper sizing.
In what situation would you recommend a generator-welder combination unit rather than a generator-only product?
MQ Power/Brown: Where flexibility is important, space is limited and both functions are required.
Miller Electric/Moureau: We recommend renting a generator-welder whenever space is at a premium or when both are needed.
Honda/Delaney: A generator-welder is a specific product for a specific solution. This type of combination unit is only recommended when there is a specific need for this unique welding application.
Makita/Rodriguez: A generator-welder combination is best when mounted in service trucks that do welding in steel frame buildings.
Subaru Robin/Meyer: The welder-generator combination unit is great for the utility and service truck market. This allows them to have two products in one package, which saves valuable space on their trucks for other tools.
Wacker/Leupi: Primarily useful for welder heavy applications where there is a need for auxilliary power.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: In a convenient application where it allows for the productive use of the generator and the welder or in an application where it is more sensible to use one piece of equipment in place of two.
What is the most unusual application you’ve seen your generators used for?
Baldor/Raber: We sold several skid-mount 80kVA generators that are mounted to a “cat tracks” and used for emergency power in mountainous regions with heavy snow coverage.
MQ Power/Brown: Both our mobile generators and custom-engineered products have seen duty in just about every conceivable application. They have supported our troops abroad, powered the equipment used in responding to 9/11, supported various NASA programs and provided power to thousands of victims and rescue workers after Hurricane Katrina.
Some of our more unique applications were those that required considerable engineering to achieve the design goals. For example, we designed and built custom generators that were placed into aircraft shipping containers to be deployed as part of a major telecom company’s disaster recovery strategy.
MQ Power has also built a very unique system consisting of four 190-kW generators genn in a custom trailer. The system provides quiet, redundant, lightweight power with parallel capability — all within a custom trailer that includes a conference room.
Our engineering team has designed a 1,500-kW lightweight generator set packaged in a custom trailer to fit inside a Military Cargo Transport Aircraft. The gen-set is rated to operate in extreme operating environments.
Miller Electric/Moureau: Using a Miller Bobcat to power a plastic welder for welding plastic pipes.
Honda/Delaney: In the past, people typically used generators to power home appliances during outages or to provide electricity at remote worksites. But lately, more consumers and businesses are using our EU series of generators to power computers and delicate electronics in remote locations or in emergency situations. This is possible because Honda’s complete line of EU Series inverter generators produce cleaner power required by sensitive electronics.
Makita/Rodriguez: I once saw a generator being used to power drills to mix beans in a chili cook out.
Wacker/Leupi: Some more unique applications are running amusement park rides, running pumps for aerating fish ponds, backup generator for a chicken farm.
Ingersoll Rand/Howe: One of the most unique applications we’ve heard about lately was from a customer in south Florida who purchased a mobile generator to protect his business against power failure. The customer’s business was to supply bait to commercial fisherman. The generator was needed to provide backup power to circulation tanks and refrigeration systems to keep the bait alive and prevent losses in tens of thousands of dollars.
Godwin Pumps/Givler: On a floating barge powering submersible pumps for the Army Corp of Engineers.
Magnum/Joseph/McAllister: NASA came out with a specification a few years ago for a pair of 290-kVA ground support generators for the space shuttle. In true fashion, their specification had NASA written all over it! After a number of conference calls, and a couple of visits on-site we had our direction. Our twin 290-kVA generators are now part of 75-foot trailer that is brought out onto the runway upon the return of a space shuttle mission. This ground support package powers the shuttle’s internal cooling systems. The generators run in parallel, and if one goes down for any reason, the other generator instantaneously takes the load.