Whether you’re working through the hot summer months or slogging through the depths of winter, there is always the risk that a blackout or a power outage could throw a wrench in your plans. Poor weather, uncontrolled drivers, or overtaxed grids can all cause the lights to shut off, and prevent you from being able to meet your deadlines and finish your jobs until the power company gets their service restored.
That is why it is essential for construction managers to have an emergency power plan in place to keep things moving forward. If you don’t already have one in place, here are some tips to help you get started to prepare for any and all emergency power needs.
Defining Temporary Power
Having a temporary power setup is common on construction sites, especially those that might not be connected to the local power and water infrastructure. What defines temporary power? According to the National Electrical Code, power is considered temporary “ as long as you are in the process of construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition of buildings or similar activities; the temporary power will be permitted for the length of time needed to complete the project.”
It is important to note that while this is the national definition of temporary power, there may be local building code guidelines that are specific to your region to consider as well.
Understand the Risks
What could cause you to lose power in the middle of a construction project? That will depend on a lot of variables including:
- Your location — some regions might be prone to severe blizzards, while others have the risk of thunderstorms, tornadoes or other natural disasters.
- The time of year — Blizzards in the winter plus people heating their homes. Storms in the summer and home and business owners alike rely on AC to keep things comfortable.
- The number of people utilizing the local grid — The more people tapping into the grid at the same time, the more likely brownouts or blackouts become.
There are also variables that you won’t be able to predict or control, no matter where you’re working, such as the occasional drunk or distracted driver taking out a power pole with their car. The trick here isn’t in predicting these power outages — though having a bit of foresight and knowledge can come in handy. It’s in being prepared for whatever the universe might throw your way.
Calculate Your Power Needs
Before you start opting for generators, you need to calculate your power needs. What will you need to keep running if the power goes out? For most companies, that might include everything from computers and servers to air compressors and other tools. Once you have a list of everything that will need power in an emergency situation, you need to start figuring out the overall wattage requirements that you’ll need.
One of the easiest ways to find this information is to reference your utility bills — specifically our electric bill — for the last 12 months. A detailed utility bill will provide you with your peak usage so you can better figure out what your emergency power needs might be if the grid fails.
Choosing Your Backup Power Sources
Once you know, how much power you’re going to need, now is the time to choose your backup power sources. They can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from typical gasoline or diesel-powered generators to something a bit more exotic. Battery backups, charged either by the generator or a green alternative like solar could help keep things running if fuel sources run low. These are a bit more complex — and a bit more expensive — than your typical automotive battery.
Some countries are even exploring hydrogen fuel cells for construction site power. These burn hydrogen rather than gasoline or diesel while only producing water as exhaust instead of carbon monoxide. The biggest challenge with these hydrogen cells is keeping them fueled, but as hydrogen fuel cell technology becomes more common, this challenge will likely vanish.
Keep the Lights On
A power outage can throw a big wrench in your plans, making it difficult or downright impossible to meet your deadlines and get the job done. An emergency power plan can help you keep the lights on and keep things moving forward.
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