Twenty years after starting Alrac in September of 1979 we decided to enter the standby generator market in 1999. It was not until then that we could sell the idea to homeowners. The fear of Y2K power failure was too great for some people and hence, we sold a few. After the scare, we thought our brief sales were over until our local power company sold out to a larger company based in Ohio. Suddenly, power customers who were used to getting their power back on in a timely manner were now facing the attitude of “we will get to you when we can” when reporting these outages. So we started selling again to frustrated customers and word spread as we installed.
Then came December of 2007 when Tulsa suffered a tremendous ice storm that left some people out of power for a full month. We had never been busier on repairs or in so much demand in our history of electrical contracting. It was more than just repairs, but also selling permanent natural gas standby generators that took all of 2008 to complete the installs. We have much pride for our designs and installs on some of Tulsa’s finest homes and businesses.
Our average size install is 60KW, which easily handles up to 20 tons of air conditioning. Our residential sizes have ranged from 10KW to 140KW and our commercial up to 350 KW, all natural gas and some diesel.
Another note, all air-cooled generators run at 3600 RPM, with 22KW being the maximum size, and are a nice bang for the buck on smaller homes up to 3,500 sq. ft. Larger homes will need a commercial grade, water-cooled generator and these can be purchased at either 1800 RPM or 3600 RPM. We prefer the 1800 RPM for their quiet operation and longer engine life.
Since 2009, our competition has grown with many opportunists. We never hear about the good jobs installed, only the ones that are not working properly and the original install company cannot or will not correct the problem. Unfortunately, we do not get involved in correcting other companies’ generator mistakes. We do, however, talk with them about the symptoms their generators are having and sometimes even go to their property to look at the installation and make suggestions. What seems to be consistent on poor installs is an under-sized gas line to the unit which under heavy loads starves the generator of fuel making the unit misfire, speed up, slow down, and simply stall out. You should be weary of a contractor who tells you they will tie your new generator into your home’s existing gas line. Very seldom is the existing gas line large enough to feed the extra BTU of a generator.
The majority of our installs, starting at 17KW and up, have to be plumbed with a separate pipe back to the gas meter to get the proper gas flow. Sometimes a larger gas meter is also required. If your contractor is not looking at your existing input BTU listed on all your gas appliances and calculating the total including gas fireplaces then you should be suspicious. Under-sized gas lines may not appear problematic until you have a heavy gas usage of all your appliances, such as furnace, stove, and hot water, running at the same time. Simply enough, the generator cannot get what is needed. We have also had people complain that the generator will not let them run their household like they were told when sold the unit. Some contractors are installing under-sized generators and are over-selling their capabilities.
It is wise to demand electrical and mechanical permits for your install and is required in city limits.
I hope this will help you when contemplating a standby generator.
President, Alrac Electric Inc.
OU Schusterman Medical Center in Tulsa. Industrial grade 100 KW 480 volt standby generator. 1,000 Amp Transfer switch with turn key installation.