Back-up generator for emergency power.

Get in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ with These Tips to Forecast Temp Power Needs

By Kevin Lahey, CR and Dan Turpin | Published November 8, 2022

When it comes to commercial property water damage restoration, no regulatory requirements exist for drying and minimizing damage from the loss. 

Yes, the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) sets the standard of care. However, the industry is still tasked with finding the “Goldilocks zone” of generator size and equipment needs for each restoration project — not too little, not too large, but just right. 

Incorrectly forecasting temporary power needs and availability can cause cost overruns and reputational damage long after the generator has stopped running. 

The amount of equipment and power needed to dry the damaged facility is based on the power demands of the equipment required for effective drying. Largely, the equipment needed is guided by American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/IICRC S500 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration.1 This standard of care is used in the absence of or in conjunction with a Certified Industrial Hygienist. 

Once the drying equipment is identified and its amperage load tabulated, the correct generator size can be ordered. We now have two predictable factors: drying equipment and power generation. The third is fuel burn. Based on the generator size, the fuel burn is also predictable. The load applied can vary the fuel consumption, but there are minimums and maximum ranges well-documented. 

That collective data will help you produce the project’s equipment daily burn rate — the daily cost of equipment needed to dry the facility completely. Obviously, the burn rate diminishes over time based on the efficacy of the drying procedures. 

Time is where the restoration company must be diligent. Too much generator, and the fuel usage is too high for the equipment used. Too small, and the generator cannot produce enough power to run all the equipment needed. Time compounds these costs and can cause wide swings in the drying time and cost of similarly impacted buildings. 

Of course, a variety of factors and scenarios could derail this approach — a large-scale catastrophe could limit access to equipment, fuel or resources, for example. In those cases, the restoration company should document the overages and fully explain why the abnormalities were necessary to ensure they are properly compensated. Also, it’s worth noting that when house power is available the calculations are similar; but that’s another story. 

Regional catastrophes aside, the following single-structure, commercial loss scenario will describe how to help protect your client’s bottom line and your company’s reputation in the aftermath of a water damage disaster. 

Forecasting Accuracy: Trust but Verify 

The onus is upon the restoration company to properly forecast power needs and costs from the start, but knowing how to do so can help keep the expectations of clients, contractors and insurance companies in check from the beginning. 

Let’s say that a commercial business has taken on water and there’s no power to the facility. The restoration contractor states the following equipment will be needed to properly dry the facility: 

  • 40 axial fans, drawing 2.5 amps each
  • 35 low-profile fans, 2 amps each
  • 40 “1200” dehumidifiers, 6.4 amps each
  • 20 air scrubbers (700 CFM), 3 amps each 

From that information, the contractor forecasts the need for a 100-kilowatt generator, which will require 178 gallons of diesel fuel per day to run at full capacity. This calculation seems legitimate based on data tables (readily available on the Internet, such as Generator Source, for example) so the claims manager tells the contractor to proceed with the work. 

Upon the project’s completion, the contractor reports they actually burned 350 gallons of fuel per day and demands payment for that cost overrun. In response, the claims manager could demand a detailed explanation of the miscalculations or mitigating circumstances that caused such an extreme departure from the forecasted burn rate. This documentation would include the daily fueling bills. If the contractor can’t validate the overage, the insurer has a case to challenge the billed overage. 

The following are three common miscalculations that could occur: 

  • Overestimating the amount of equipment needed. Science and technology are pushing the innovation envelope to create more efficient drying techniques. Verify the correct amperage requirements for the equipment and correlate against the current ANSI/IICRC S500 Standard before forecasting equipment needs. 
  • Underestimating the time needed to thoroughly dry structures. Running more equipment than is needed at a higher rate doesn’t automatically dry a structure faster. In fact, it often just forces the generator to use more fuel, additionally driving up costs. 
  • Giving an estimate that shows burn rate at full power for an oversized generator. If the contractor only has a generator that is larger than needed for the job, make sure the generator is set to run at an appropriate level (rather than full capacity by default) to use less fuel. The fuel usage should match the amperage actually delivered, rather than the generator’s maximum capabilities. There is a calculable correlation between the power supplied and the fuel used. 

Check contractor certification and equipment expertise 

The industry is full of honest, certified contractors, but don’t assume all are up to date on the ANSI/IICRC S500 Standard, which has and will likely continue to evolve as science and technology improve. Make sure the contractor’s IICRC certification is current to avoid using obsolete information around amperage and equipment output, for example, which can drive up costs. The methodology for calculating drying equipment has gone through several iterations within the standard itself in the past several years. 

Even if a contractor is certified and demonstrates an excellent understanding of the process, you should maintain open lines of communication from the start, and then trust but verify their numbers are accurate. They, in turn, will learn to trust but verify your numbers as well. 

It is important to know if any legacy equipment is being used, as those machines might pull higher amps than their contemporary, higher-efficiency counterparts. That means they will need more generators and fuel to run. Should any numbers not add up, give the other party the opportunity to explain why old equipment is being used. 

Remember: The goal is to sit in the Goldilocks zone, where everyone is on the same page, from contractor to client, and water damage is mitigated as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. 

For help with water-infiltration restoration projects, reach out to RMC Group today.

This information is intended for informational purposes only. Each restoration project has unique properties and must be evaluated individually by knowledgeable consultants. RMC Group is not liable for any loss or damage arising out of or in connection with the use of this information.

1 Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IIRC) “ANSI/IICRC S500 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration.