Lights, Power, Action, Go

Has the idea of spending the weekend with the in-laws felt like a better option than dealing with the paperwork and headache faced when renting a piece of equipment for a small construction project? With the obstacles contractors face, renting a popular tool like a generator or light tower can be an arduous task, but it doesn’t have to be an inquisition. Similar to preparing for construction projects, proper planning for the equipment and some helpful tips can save time and frustration at the rental house.

If you need a generator for purposes other than a construction project, such as disaster relief or an awesome rock concert (or both), all of the guidelines provided still apply — total power required, unit size, diesel engines, extra options and dealer approval.

 

One of the best ways to determine the quality of a dealer is to look at his yard. If things are disorganized and cluttered, this could be an indication that the dealer is not well organized and may not provide a high level of care for his fleet. It is best to avoid these types of dealers.

On the other hand, if the equipment is displayed in an orderly manner, the shop is uncluttered and the rental services and rates are prominently posted, then it is reasonable to think the dealer is organized and takes better care of maintaining the equipment. Most reputable rental dealers will post the rates and offer daily, weekly and monthly prices. Before leaving the dealer, be sure to read the fine print of the rental agreement. It can contain details that will end up costing more money, if not thoroughly reviewed. Another point to take note of is that companies will charge the same rental fee for equipment whether it is new or 10 years old. The obvious preference of contractors is for new equipment.

To identify the age or condition of equipment, do not be afraid to ask the dealer questions. Have the dealer find the in-service date of the equipment, check the engine run time meter for total hours of operation and ask him to start the unit to verify operation. Also, the dealer should be able to give instructions on the proper startup and shutdown sequence. For generators, have the dealer demonstrate the proper way to fine tune voltage output and engine speed (frequency), and how to shutdown the engine in case of emergency. It is important to know and understand these steps in case it is necessary to instruct others. For the most part, light towers are very simple to operate. Most of their instructions or advice can be found by reading the operator’s manual.

Choosing the Best Light Tower

When renting a popular piece of equipment like a light tower, most would agree it is a fairly easy process. A light tower is just that, a tower that produces light. Through the years, light towers have had the same look since they came on the market. It does not require a great amount of research to select the right tower. The majority of light towers sold and rented today are basic models. A basic light tower provides four 1,000-watt metal halide lights fixed to a 30-ft telescoping mast that rotates 360 degrees and is powered by a 6-kW generator. Some manufacturers offer six and eight light packages, although these units require a larger power source and lack the mobility many users are looking for. Ultimately, selection should be based on how much light is needed and for how long.

Renting the Right Generator

 

When renting a generator, it is best to first determine the total power required. It is easy to estimate the majority of wattage requirements by taking note of the equipment labels. For motor loads, review the labels or call the supplier for this information. After all the running loads have been calculated, review these parameters with the rental dealer to make a final decision on a generator. Selecting a generator that is too small will not improve the disposition. Picking a generator that is too large will cost more money and under some circumstances, could result in a generator that is so mismatched to the load that it performs poorly. Most equipment rental companies will have a variety of generators to choose from. The most common type of generator, and the type that is preferred by the majority of rental companies, is powered by a diesel engine. Diesel engines tend to be more rugged than gasoline generators and are more reliable. The small, hand-carry portables are usually gasoline fueled.

Multi-Purpose Use of Generators and Lighting

If it is necessary to rent a generator or light tower for purposes other than a construction project, such as disaster relief or for the storm season, all of the guidelines provided still apply. If renting for the storm season, it would be wise to take additional precautions to ensure the right amount of emergency backup power is available, as well as proper lighting for times when it is needed most.

For instance, make sure the generator is fitted with a battery charger. This should be plugged in to utility power while the generator is sitting idle to ensure the battery is fully charged at all times. If a project is completed in an extremely cold climate, make sure a generator and light tower have engine block heaters installed. This device should also stay plugged in to ensure the engine will start reliably in cold weather.

During storm season, it is recommended to have a variety of choices available for connecting the generator to a home or business. Depending on what option is chosen, this decision could affect the configuration of the generator. If a manual disconnect is used to switch power from the utility to the generator, the only requirement is the battery charger and block heater since this will be a totally manual system. In the event of utility power failure, it will become necessary to hand start the generator, set and then manually operate the disconnect switch.

A basic light tower provides four 1,000-watt metal halide lights fixed to a 30-ft telescoping mast that rotates 360 degrees and is powered by a 6-kW generator.

If a fully automatic operation is used, it is necessary for the rental generator to come equipped with a remote, two-wire, auto start/stop control package. If an automatic transfer switch is not pre-installed at the facility, it is possible to review this option with the rental dealer, as many of them also rent this hardware.

It’s Not So Hard After All

Once you find the right rental dealer, selecting the best generators and light towers is easy. Be sure to choose the correct size equipment for the intended purpose. And finally, be smart about the contract portion of the business and make sure you are getting the best deal.

 

Jim Rose is director of Product Management-Power Equipment and Jonathan Cuppett is a product manager, both of Multiquip Inc., based in Carson, Calif.

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