Propane-Powered Backup Generators Offer Protection for Facilities

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Construction pros count on propane for its clean, resilient power

Power outages in commercial buildings create enormous costs and hardships for business owners, tenants, and employees. The cost of outages can include loss in productivity, sales, and product, as well as brand damage and safety issues. For these reasons, many commercial buildings incorporate backup power systems—either voluntarily or based on code requirements.

Backup power helps buildings be more resilient, mitigate against financial losses, keep employees and customers safe, provide vital services, or some combination of these goals. Commercial construction professionals can help customers navigate backup power needs by being well versed in different systems and energy sources.

Propane is a stable, portable energy source that is ideal for backup generators and can help support Americans even when the grid goes down, ensuring continuity of operations.

The impact of power outages on commercial buildings

S&C Electric Company surveyed facilities and energy managers of commercial and industrial businesses across the U.S. in 2018 and found that productivity loss and service, delivery, and production delays were the most common problems they faced because of power outages.

The same study found that around 82 percent of all businesses experience an outage at least every two years, and 24 percent of respondents experience an outage once a month or more. Respondents also said that power outages can have a significant impact on their businesses’ reputations. The types of impacts vary by the building type and the industry; for example, a high-end hotel or restaurant is very sensitive to a damaged reputation.

Help customers achieve a resilient design with propane

Preparedness is the best defense, which is why it’s important to start a conversation with your customers on this topic. Construction professionals who are well versed in reliable, resilient generator systems will set themselves up for success as a growing number of businesses continue to seek backup power solutions.

Installing permanent backup generators is one common building resiliency strategy and it is increasing significantly. An analysis from The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), Power Generation: The Emissions Shifting Problem, looks at recent power generation trends.

According to PERC’s research, commercial buildings currently rely heavily on diesel generators, which is creating an emissions problem. Diesel generator sales have significantly increased due to electric grid disturbances caused by severe weather events, exacerbating local air quality concerns.

Propane’s environmental profile offers lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to diesel. Data from the DOE shows 16 percent greater carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy for diesel compared with propane.

Many commercial buildings are required to provide backup power solutions to meet building codes (IFC and IBC) for life safety. Propane backup generators offer a great solution as they can be configured to service the most critical building loads, maintain full operation in the event of power failure, or help with peak-shaving and demand-response programs that provide building owners with additional revenue.

Propane does not degrade or oxidize over time like diesel, so it has no fuel maintenance issues. A propane generator’s features make it easier for commercial buildings to achieve more comprehensive protection without having to go through the fuel storage, maintenance, reliability, and emissions challenges of a diesel-fueled generator. Additionally, the same propane tanks that are used to power a backup generator can also provide power for other propane systems and appliances.

Consider propane—a reliable power solution, with a low emissions profile, for your customers. Propane is a stable, portable energy source that can help support Americans even when the grid goes down, ensuring continuity of operations.

To learn more about the benefits of propane backup power, visit

Jim Bunsey is the director of commercial business development at the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at

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