Propane generators help meet demand after storms like Sandy

January 11, 2013 By    

Hurricane Sandy’s destructive path through parts of New Jersey, New York and New England zapped electrical power to millions of homes and businesses and immediately underlined the importance to consumers of permanent standby and portable propane generators.

Propane marketers’ focus after the storm Oct. 29 turned to filling propane generator accounts, and those customers without backup power options were rushing to buy equipment and emptying store shelves.

Roy Willis, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), says marketers delivered 20 to 40 percent of their normal November gallons in the first week after the storm – mostly for standby power generation.

“Most [marketers] discovered they had more standby generator customers than they initially realized,” Willis says.

Wisconsin-based generator manufacturer Generac reported an increased demand in the fourth quarter “as a result of major power outage activity, and full-year 2012 total net sales are now expected to increase in the low 40 percent range over the prior year.”

PERC and Generac have partnered on several generator projects, including the currently available LP3250, a portable model that holds a 20-pound tank in the frame. The multiple-use generator can power small home appliances and provide emergency backup. A 5,500-watt portable generator will launch in February, and the development of a 1,600-watt model will follow.

Power generation products on the market for the residential and commercial sectors were highlighted at PERC’s fall meeting: the 6-kilowatt Generac EcoGen, the 6-kilowatt Kohler variable speed DC hybrid and the 2.0-4.7-kilowatt Marathon ecopower micro-combined heat and power (CHP) system.

In addition, Yanmar offers a 10-kilowatt micro-CHP and a new 5-kilowatt model. The 10-kilowatt unit can serve as a primary or backup power source, good for multifamily housing, large residences and around-the-clock businesses. It can burn about 7,600 gallons of propane per year. The smaller CHP is ideal for residential homes up to 8,000 square feet and for a variety of businesses.

Towable generators and a Nextaire 11-ton rooftop heat pump are also in development for this year, according to PERC.

“You will see an expansion of standby power, by businesses and individual homeowners,” Willis says of Hurricane Sandy’s impacts. “Significant [industry] investments are being made in permanent standby generators, CHPs, towable generators. However, the industry needs to be mindful about the surge in demand for standby power in these times and mindful of its own constraints and ability to meet the large standby demand.”

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