Power Up: What to Know Before Renting a Portable Generator

Bobcat generator

Renting a portable generator for your jobsite can not only provide peace of mind, but it can also yield an increased return on investment should the unexpected arise. Power outages, weather situations or simply a need for extra power can happen at any moment, and renting a portable generator offers flexibility when you need it.

An important note, however: Renting a portable generator isn’t as simple as signing a contract and picking it up. Contractors should consult with an electrical technician or their local dealer ahead of time to ensure the best selection, use and care of the portable generator rental.

Here are key considerations for customers as they begin planning for the type and size of portable generator they will need to rent, as well as the maintenance needs and safety considerations to ensure a smooth experience.

Understand the Different Fuel Types

Portable generators can run on three different types of fuel – each of which have their own pros and cons related to the project or need at hand.

  • Diesel-powered generators are more fuel efficient, with the ability to run on the same amount of fuel as other non-diesel generators for longer periods of time. These generators require less maintenance.
  • Propane-powered generators release far less greenhouse gas emissions and are quieter than diesel-powered generators, although not as fuel efficient. They are best used for short-term projects or needs, which in turn means they require more frequent propane refills.
  • Gasoline-powered generators are popular since gasoline is the easiest-to-find source of fuel. These generators are typically smaller and not as robust in power output compared to diesel- or propane-powered generators, so they may be more affordable in comparison to other generator models.

Pick the Right Size Generator

It can be an oversight – and result in oversizing – to select a larger portable generator “just to be safe.” In the same vein, picking a smaller generator for a larger need can lead to undersizing.

A generator should be the appropriate size for the job or event at hand, so renters should work with their rental dealer for a recommendation based on the total power requirements necessary.

  • Small jobs: If customers need a portable generator for a smaller job – from actuating power tools on a jobsite to ensuring lighting equipment stays on to powering fans or blowers – a gasoline-powered portable generator may be the customer’s best choice. Smaller generators are also easily portable, which makes them perfect for jobsites with limited space.
  • Big jobs: When planning for a larger outdoor event such as a music festival, a rental dealer will likely steer the customer toward a larger diesel-powered portable generator as they have larger capacities to handle significant power requirements.
  • Emergencies: In the event of a natural disaster, as one would with big jobs, it is important to consider and plan for a variety of scenarios. Selecting a portable generator – or multiple generators – for an emergency or natural disaster means the customer will need to consider both the detailed needs and the overarching scenario for which they are providing power.

Optimize Generator Performance

Bobcat generator

To perform at its best, the generator must reach a certain operational temperature. Anything less hinders performance and makes it difficult to burn off excess fuel. Unburned fuel becomes a sludge-like buildup or wetness in the exhaust system known as “wet stacking.”

Diesel generator wet stacking can clog the exhaust and after-treatment system, requiring time-consuming cleaning and expensive repairs. It can also cause permanent damage to internal engine components.

However, even appropriately sized generators can suffer performance or reliability problems as they work to perform in challenging light-load applications that can be further affected by extremely low temperatures.

Engine manufacturers require a minimum of approximately 30 percent load on the engine for optimal performance. This is where Bobcat generators’ Intelligent Load Management System (ILMS) comes in handy, as it automatically raises the engine and exhaust temperature with supplemental heat, achieving the optimal operating temperature necessary to prevent wet stacking and ensure uninterrupted generator performance in light-load or fluctuating conditions.

It is also important to know the size of the site on which the generator will be placed. For planned projects, renters should understand the dimensions of their jobsite to choose an appropriately sized generator. Getting an idea of where the generator will be located will also help the renter determine what additional accessories they may need, such as what length of cable they will need for the voltage and amperage capacities of the generator.

Then again, just because a customer needs to power a larger jobsite or event doesn’t necessarily mean they need to rent the largest portable generator available. Experts often will recommend renting multiple smaller generators to be synchronized and paralleled together for applications that require additional power or desire redundancy to ensure the ultimate reliability.

Ensure the Generator Is in Good Working Order

While most rental companies will ensure that their portable generators are kept in good condition, renters should also do their due diligence in inspecting the products on site daily.

Rental companies typically conduct routine maintenance on their portable generators. Customers should also be prepared for any maintenance they need to complete during their rental period, including monitoring the fuel level and voltage and amperage draws, as well as checking for any buildup in filters.

Work Smarter

Most portable generators are intuitive and easy to operate, which is key for rental customers who have less experience running them. However, many rental companies will also demo the generator for the customer. In addition, renters should be aware of environmental and operating considerations when using a generator.

  • Proper ventilation: Generators are driven by combustion engines and should always be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas.
  • Power considerations: Size is an important consideration for the generator’s cables, cords and transfer switch gear so that the unit does not become overloaded. When a generator is overloaded, the breaker may trip and the unit may shut down to protect itself. Proper grounding will also reduce the event of a breaker tripping or the unit short-circuiting.
  • Power off to refuel: Just as you shouldn’t gas up your car while it’s running, you also should not add fuel to a generator while it’s running. Ensure it is off and cool before refueling.

The multifunctionality and reliability of portable generators are crucial for a wide variety of projects and needs – from powering tools on a construction site to providing energy for a concert to delivering essential power during disaster relief.

For temporary needs, the ability to rent portable generators provides another level of stability and insurance that the power will stay on no matter what happens on site, allowing customers to get back to work quickly and safely.

Bobby Ranker is a product specialist at Bobcat Co.