Choosing a Commercial Generator 101: Diesel vs. Natural Gas

Written by: Billy Wingate

Master Electrician / Master Plumber / Residential Carpenter

Owner and operator of Wingate Power with over 30 years of experience in electrical work.

Published: May 30, 2024

Are you facing the challenge of ensuring uninterrupted power for your business? The right commercial generators are a cornerstone for reliability and efficiency. From sizing to maintenance, this article dives into diesel, natural gas, and mobile commercial generators, providing actionable insights to keep your operations empowered through any outage.

Key Takeaways

  • Commercial generators, including diesel and natural gas types, come in different sizes and power capacities to match specific business needs and are pivotal for continuity during power outages, requiring proper installation and regular maintenance for optimal performance.
  • Natural gas generators offer a cleaner alternative to diesel with benefits of lower emissions and cost savings, while bi-fuel generators combine the efficiency of diesel with the sustainability of natural gas, catering to businesses focused on environmental impact.
  • Standby and mobile generators provide tailored power solutions to a variety of industries, ensuring uninterrupted operations with features like automatic transfer switches, and generator-powered lights and accessories enhance business functionality and safety.

The Essentials of Commercial Diesel Generators

Commercial diesel generators are the unsung heroes of business continuity. With their efficiency achieved through compression ignition, they consume less fuel, thereby reducing operational costs. The higher energy density of diesel fuel enhances this efficiency, providing more energy per unit of fuel than alternatives.

Operating at about 40 percent efficiency within their optimal range, these generators deliver substantial energy output relative to the amount of fuel used. This makes commercial diesel generators an essential part of any business, ensuring continuity of operations during various power outage scenarios such as severe weather or grid failures.

Generator Sizes and Power Capacity

Commercial diesel generators are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They come in a variety of sizes and power capacities to meet the specific power needs of different businesses. For instance, the power requirements of a small retail store would differ vastly from that of a large manufacturing unit.

Therefore, it’s crucial for commercial buildings to have a generator that is adequately sized to power essential systems. The sizing should be tailored to the specific requirements of the building’s tenants, ensuring that even during a power outage, operations can continue without a hitch.

Installation and Maintenance

Installing a commercial diesel generator is not a plug-and-play affair. It involves securing a permit, with varying requirements by location that include site plans, electrical outlines, and structural calculations. Proper installation ensures the optimal performance of the generator and reduces the risk of operational issues down the line.

Moreover, once the generator is installed, regular maintenance and periodic system testing by certified technicians are vital. The maintenance of diesel generators is essential for preserving their efficiency and lowering emissions, which is generally less expensive compared to maintenance on gas engines.

Scheduling regular maintenance and load testing is crucial for ensuring longevity and optimal performance, providing the business with reliable power for years to come.

Trust in Quality and Durability

When it comes to commercial diesel generators, quality and durability are non-negotiable. These generators boast robust construction with safety features, like lower flammability diesel fuel and self-cooling, enhanced by modern all-weather enclosures. They are built to withstand harsh conditions and provide reliable power during critical times.

Among the many brands in the market, Generac stands out as the #1 brand for home and commercial generators. Generac generators are designed with features like all-weather aluminum enclosures and true power technology for enhanced robustness. Choosing Generac provides various benefits such as comfort, peace of mind, and extended warranties of 5, 7, or 10 years, making it a trusted choice for businesses seeking reliable power solutions.

Natural Gas Generators: Clean Energy for Commercial Application

While diesel generators have been the traditional choice for many businesses, the tide is shifting towards a cleaner and more sustainable option: natural gas generators. These generators have a lower carbon footprint compared to their diesel counterparts, making them a more environmentally friendly choice. Their growing popularity is also attributed to their reduced emissions, offering additional fuel cost savings.

Generating 1 million Btus from natural gas offers several benefits:

  • It costs roughly half that of diesel, representing significant cost savings for businesses using natural gas generators.
  • In the United States, the abundant production and widespread pipeline network enhance the reliability of natural gas supply, further bolstering the dependability of natural gas generators.
  • Obtaining operating permits for natural gas generators is relatively easy.
  • Natural gas generators offer potential cost-saving strategies like peak shaving.

The Versatility of Fuel Options

Embracing the best of both worlds, bi-fuel generators offer an intriguing solution for businesses. These generators combine the power of diesel fuel with the longevity of natural gas, offering operational flexibility. Natural gas, as part of Bi-Fuel operation, is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, reducing emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides compared to diesel.

Bi-Fuel generators capitalize on environmental benefits, including the potential to use field gas from drilling operations, thus minimizing reliance on dirtier fuels. Moreover, the combination of diesel and natural gas in Bi-Fuel generators results in approximately 30% less carbon dioxide and other pollutants compared to diesel-only generators, making them an environmentally friendly choice.

Reliability Meets Sustainability

The reliability of a commercial generator is as important as its fuel efficiency, and natural gas generators score high on both counts. Natural gas is a resilient fuel source with fewer major outages compared to the national power grid, enhancing business continuity even in the face of natural disasters.

These generators provide a reliable on-site electric power source, particularly beneficial in situations where the aging power grid fails. By being a more sustainable and reliable option, natural gas generators are a testament to the fact that reliability and sustainability can indeed go hand-in-hand.

Sizing and Suitability for Businesses

Just like their diesel counterparts, selecting the right size natural gas generator for a commercial establishment involves careful consideration. It requires calculating the total power requirements and incorporating a reserve capacity to handle peak demands and potential surges.

With the right size generator, businesses can ensure that they have a reliable power source that can scale up during peak usage without overloading the system.

Standby Power Systems: Ensuring Continuous Operation

The frequency and associated costs of power outages are on the rise, making commercial generators a vital measure for protecting against revenue loss. Standby power systems play a pivotal role in maintaining business continuity, enabling operations to persist without interruption during power disruptions. They are particularly important for business owners in regions like Raleigh-Durham, who would be severely affected by loss of power.

During power outages, commercial backup generators enable businesses to keep critical systems operational, continue income generation, and uphold customer loyalty. These systems require distinct installation and maintenance requirements; standby generators offer instant power recovery, whereas backup generators require manual operation. To prevent the high costs and disruptions of power outages, it is crucial for businesses to have a well-installed generator and a comprehensive power solution in place.

Automatic Transfer Switches

A key component of standby power systems is the automatic transfer switch. These switches are integrated into a building’s electrical system, enabling the system to activate the generator during an outage. They detect power interruptions and instantly initiate the generator, guaranteeing a continuous power supply without manual intervention.

During a power outage, automatic transfer switches seamlessly switch the power source from the main supply to the generator, eliminating the need for manual operation. Brands like Generac offer transfer switches with functionality to transition between utility and generator power, which can be done either automatically or manually, according to the needs of the business.

Full-Scale Protection

Standby generators, especially single phase ones, provide more than just a backup power source – they offer a full-scale protection against both power outages and voltage fluctuations. They deliver stable power directly to a business’s electrical system, ensuring that operations continue smoothly even during power disruptions.

Custom Solutions for Unique Business Needs

Standby power systems, such as commercial standby generator, are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They are essential for a diverse array of commercial entities, ensuring industries such as data centers, office buildings, and shopping malls have reliable power. Standby generators offer versatility with options including diesel and spark-ignited models, designed to meet the exact power needs of specific industries like agriculture, healthcare, and data centers.

In emergencies, the presence of automatic standby generators is critical to maintain the function of communication systems and other essential infrastructure, minimizing disruption. Businesses in the Raleigh-Durham area have access to standby generators in sizes ranging from 22 to 150 kilowatts, allowing them to choose a system that best matches their power needs.

Mobile Generators: Power on the Move

While standby generators cater to the needs of fixed locations, mobile generators offer a unique solution for businesses that operate in locations without permanent electrical infrastructure. These generators are designed to provide power in locations such as construction sites and outdoor events.

With adequate care and maintenance, mobile generators can reliably serve for 10 to 15 years, offering a durable power solution.

Portability and Convenience

Mobile generators are available in a wide range from smaller towable units to large containerized options, suiting different power requirements and facilitating portability. They can be easily moved and set up in different locations as power demands change, providing businesses with a flexible power solution that can adapt to changing needs.

The transportability of mobile generators makes them an advantageous power solution for businesses operating on new work sites that are not connected to the electrical grid. Whether you’re setting up a temporary office space or hosting an outdoor event, a mobile generator ensures that you have a reliable power source wherever you go.

Robust and Ready for Any Environment

While mobile generators offer the advantage of portability, they don’t compromise on durability. The durability of these generators is significantly impacted by factors such as:

  • The frequency of usage
  • The quality of maintenance they receive
  • The environmental conditions they are exposed to, with extreme weather increasing the risk of rust and corrosion.

Despite these challenges, with the right care and maintenance, mobile generators are designed to withstand various environmental conditions, ensuring a reliable power supply in any setting.

Range of Applications

Mobile generators are employed across diverse industries including construction, mining, agriculture, and aerospace, reflecting their wide applicability. There are even specific mobile generator models designed with unique features such as zero localized emissions and linking capabilities, providing versatile lighting solutions for different events and job sites.

Regardless of the industry or the application, mobile generators provide a reliable and flexible power solution that can adapt to a wide range of situations.

Lighting Up Your Business: Generator-Powered Lights and Accessories

Lighting is crucial for safety and productivity, especially in industries that operate outside of daylight hours or in low light conditions. Generator-powered lights and accessories enhance the functionality of businesses, providing illumination for various settings. Light towers with generators can illuminate extensive areas, some powerful enough to light up over 10 acres, supporting visibility during nighttime operations or in low-light conditions.

LED light towers like Generac’s MLTS Light Tower offer a cost-effective lighting solution for businesses with lower initial and operating costs compared to traditional lighting. Some benefits of LED light towers include:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Long lifespan
  • Durability
  • Instant on/off functionality
  • Low maintenance requirements

Commercial generator light towers, such as the MLT6 LED Light Tower, offer compact and affordable lighting solutions suitable for a wide range of business applications.

Illumination for Safety and Productivity

Portable light tower and generator systems are designed to support smaller work sites, enhancing safety and enabling extended working hours. Commercial light towers can ensure a well-lit worksite during night operations, which is particularly common in industries like welding where critical infrastructure repairs are needed outside of busy daytime hours.

These extended hours, which often involve extended periods of work, are especially critical for industries that need to operate after dark, demonstrating how well-planned illumination is vital for productivity. A range of lamp configurations, including:

  • metal halide fixtures
  • LED fixtures
  • manual tower assemblies
  • automated tower assemblies

…are available, demonstrating the flexibility of lighting systems.

Some commercial light fixtures also function as power generators, which adds adaptability and flexibility to the worksite. The MLT4200 Light Tower, for instance, provides both illumination and 20kW of onboard export power, illustrating the integration of additional functionality.

Accessory Integration for Enhanced Functionality

Commercial generators can enhance their functionality through a wide array of accessories such as:

  • Wheel kits
  • Remote start kits
  • Power cables
  • PTO shafts
  • Trailers

These accessories allow businesses to customize their power solutions, catering to their unique needs and operational requirements.

Manufacturers like Gillette, Kohler, Kubota, Multiquip, and Winco offer a comprehensive range of generator accessories, including:

  • Generator carts and dollies for easy transportation
  • Remote start kits for convenient operation
  • Parallel kits for connecting multiple generators
  • Power distribution panels for distributing power to multiple devices
  • Transfer switches for seamless switching between utility and generator power

These accessories provide the flexibility to adapt to your business needs.


In conclusion, businesses today have a wide array of power solutions to choose from, each with its unique advantages. Whether it’s the fuel efficiency of diesel generators, the sustainability of natural gas generators, the reliability of standby power systems, or the portability of mobile generators, there’s a solution for every business need. Add to this the benefits of generator-powered lights and accessories, and it’s clear that a well-planned power solution can ensure business continuity, enhance safety and productivity, and provide peace of mind.

In an era where power disruptions are increasingly common, investing in a reliable and efficient generator is not just a good business decision – it’s a necessity.

If your business needs help securing power – no matter the weather or status of the power grid – WingatePower can help! We’ve installed generators for countless businesses in the Charleston, SC area and help them keep their commercial generators running reliably and optimally.

Contact us today for a Free Consultation!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of commercial backup generators for business owners?

Commercial backup generators are a necessary investment for business owners as they provide uninterrupted power supply, allowing businesses to keep essential systems operational and generate income even during power outages. They help maintain customer loyalty and ensure continued operations.

What sizes of standby generators are offered for businesses?

Standby generators for commercial properties range from 22 to 150 kilowatts, and the appropriate size is determined by the business’s total power needs. Make sure to assess your power requirements accurately to choose the right size.

What is Generac known for?

Generac is known for being the #1 home and commercial generator brand, offering generators with all-weather aluminum enclosures and true power technology.

What services does WingatePower offer for Generac generators?

WingatePower offers preventative maintenance, regular service, and emergency service for all types of Generac generators. Our comprehensive range of services ensures that your generator is always in top condition.

How do mobile generators support businesses operating in locations without permanent electrical infrastructure?

Mobile generators provide a reliable power solution for businesses operating in locations without permanent electrical infrastructure, lasting for 10 to 15 years with proper care and maintenance.

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