WEIRTON - Fed up with power spikes and outages that put his inventory and equipment at risk, Wine & Beverage Merchants owner Nick Latousakis opted to invest in a natural gas-powered backup generator for his Weirton business.
"I was having continuous power outages, and voltage changes up and down," he said. "There was a period a couple years ago when we'd had an ice storm and there was no power for three days. That's when I decided I had to do something."
Initially, Latousakis had considered a liquid fuel generator, but soon ruled that option out because of site logistics and the heavy truck traffic he has on his site: fuel tanks would have required permits and regular testing, plus the lines would have been next to the building and thus exposed, something he wasn't sure he wanted to risk with delivery trucks going in and out on a regular basis.
READY WHEN NEEDED — G.E.M. Electric’s Dan Mosti, left, and Weirton Wine & Beverage Merchants owner Nick Latousakis look over the gas-fired, energy efficient generator that automatically kicks in when power goes out or voltages surge. Latousakis said the safety and reliability of the system gives him “peace of mind.” -- Linda Harris
With his backup generator, the gas supply is underground and the unit itself is encased in metal inside a padlocked fence.
"It's cheaper to operate, especially now," his contractor, Terry Giuliani of G.E.M. Electric Industries in Mingo Junction, said, alluding to the steep drop in natural gas prices due to warmer-than-normal temperatures over the winter.
Giuliani said the gas-fired generator is a business-friendly option. It doesn't require the double-lined tank needed for liquid fuels, nor do they have to obtain environmental permits or do periodic reinspections. And even with delivery trucks moving freely through the property, he said fuel volatility isn't a concern.
He said the unit he installed at Wine & Beverage Merchants actually self-checks once a month to make sure the system operates correctly.
"You still have to do maintenance," he said. "A company from Pittsburgh comes in twice a year and changes the oil, but you'd have had to do that, anyway, even with fuel oil."
It currently has the juice to power one of Latousakis' five buildings as it's currently set up, though as the operation becomes more energy efficient the generator will be able to do more.
While the units can be pricey - typically costing anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 - Latousakis said it's worth it for the peace of mind a safe, reliable, uninterrupted power supply brings. In addition to protecting his computer and networking equipment from damage caused by fluctuating voltages, he said it also enables them to operate seamlessly through outages.
"It's not an inexpensive system, but it's well worth the cost for the peace of mind," he said. "In the 15 or 16 months we've had it, it's probably kicked in three or four times when we've had outages. The longer ones lasted a few hours, the shorter ones a few minutes. If the power flickers, we'd never know it."