What size generator do I need?
That is probably the most important question to ask when setting out on your mission to purchase the right generator you need for your personal requirements.
In the event of a power outage, the ideal generator will ensure that all your appliances keep running and allow you to go about your business while you wait for power to be restored.
If you have a generator, everything will feel relatively normal in your home even if the rest of the neighborhood does not have power.
Finding a generator that’s capable of handling all your power needs is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the purchase decision. If the generator you get is unable to meet your requirements., it won’t do any good since it can put unnecessary stress on the unit itself along with some of the appliances/devices connected to it.
Unfortunately, determining the exact size generator to buy is not the easiest thing since a lot of factors and considerations are involved. The following is an in-depth look at what you need to consider when buying a generator to ensure that you get the right size of generator for your home or outdoor requirements.
- What Will You Be Using the Generator For?
- What About Starting Watts Vs. Running Watts?
- What Do I Need to Know About Watts, Amps, and Volts?
- Guide to Average Device Wattage
- What Size Generator Do I Need? Important Considerations
- Other Important Considerations When Buying a Generator
- What Size Generator Do I Need? Final Thoughts
What Will You Be Using the Generator For?
Generator size goes by wattage, which refers to the amount of power that it is capable of putting out.
Other terms to consider are starting wattage and running wattage.
When you are looking to find the right size generator to buy, you must consider the intended usage. You have to determine what you want to run with it i.e. The number and type of electrical appliances.
Heating and cooling appliances such as refrigerators and air conditions, for instance, tend to consume lots of power. You would therefore require a bigger generator to power such appliances. Conversely, if you just want to power the lights in your home or a small power tool, then a smaller generator would be fine.
Different appliances will have different wattages. For instance, a dishwasher might have a running wattage of 1200. That number is exactly what you should know to calculate the minimum size of generator you need.
When you will be powering the appliances is another important consideration. While you may add up the wattage of all your appliances/devices to determine what size of generator to get, it is important to understand that you will probably not be running some of them at the same time.
You probably won’t be running your dishwasher, microwave, and TV at the same time. So, if you were to add up the wattage, you would probably end up getting a much larger generator than you really need. A better approach is therefore needed.
For instance, something else such as the microwave can be powered on when the dishwasher is off. If you use such an approach, you will find yourself actually avoiding paying extra for a larger output generator whose full potential you will probably never use.
You need to make a list of all the appliances you would want to power in case of an outage taking the points above into consideration. Whether you decide to stick with the essentials of aim for full home coverage, it is important to be thorough with your list.
What About Starting Watts Vs. Running Watts?
It is important to get the right starting and running wattage of the devices you plan to power to calculate accurate power needs. You should ideally do your calculations early on to avoid the damage. You will find all the required information about the starting and running wattage of your equipment at the following resources:
- Owner’s Manual that Comes with the Equipment
- The Equipment’s Identification Plates
- The Equipment’s Online Webpage on the Manufacturer’s Website
Running (Rated) Watts
On the generator side, running watts refers to the maximum number of watts the generator is capable of outputting continuously without actually damaging it. On the device/appliance side, it refers to the consistent power level that a device/appliance needs to run. Devices such as light bulbs and hot plates typically have just one wattage rating, which is their required running watts.
Starting (Surge) Watts
On the generator side, starting watts refers to the maximum number of watts the generator is capable of outputting for a limited time. This allows the generator to increase its power output considerably even though just for a limited time to meet the demands of appliances and equipment that require more wattage to get started. Such appliances/equipment are typically those with electric motors such as washers, refrigerators, and driers.
What Do I Need to Know About Watts, Amps, and Volts?
The amount of electricity that the equipment needs to run is typically given in the form of Amperes (Amps). Volts, on the other hand is a unit of measure of how strongly a current is sent around an electric system.
Detailed Physics explanations and definitions aside, the vast majority of electrical appliances sold in the United States to a similar standard and are rated 120V. Still, you will find some electric appliances running at a higher voltage with 220V being the most common.
The energy requirements of each device will always be provided in various resources as explained above. Once you know the Amps your appliance or tool requires to run, you can easily calculate its wattage using the following simple formula:
Wattage = Amperes x Volts
You should then add up the total wattage needed to keep your appliances/equipment running to get the wattage number required for the generator that you should get.
Ideally, the generator you choose should be capable of handling slightly more than your total wattage for safety. For instance, if you find the total wattage for the items you need to run as 10,000 watts, you should consider getting a generator capable of handling at least 12,000 watts.
Guide to Average Device Wattage
The following table shows the average wattage for some common appliances in your home and will assist you in determining how big of a generator you need.
|Appliance||Running Wattage||Starting Wattage|
|2 Light Bulbs||140||0|
|Cell Phone Charger||25||0|
|Electric Water Heater||4,000||4,000|
|LCD TV - 32"||100||0|
Note: The sample wattages provided in this table are simply a guide. If you want the correct wattages for your calculations, please be sure to check the specific appliance or tool that you plan to be powering in case of power outages.
What Size Generator Do I Need? Important Considerations
If you buy a generator that’s too small, you will overload it or force it to supply more power than it is capable of handling. If that happens, the generator will either overheat or automatically turn off, which will not only destroy the generator itself but also your expensive appliances.
If you buy a generator that’s too large, you will find yourself overpaying for the unit as well as the costs associated with operating it. It’s thus quite evident that you need to buy a perfectly sized generator for your needs. Here is a more in-depth look into why you should buy the right size generator:
1. Avoid Random System Failures
Once you learn how to properly size a generator for your needs, you will no longer have to worry about downtime, which is the result of power outages. If you work from home, you simply cannot afford to have any downtime. Even if you don’t work from home, you cannot afford to have a power outage especially during winter or else you risk freezing to death. If you have a generator, however, you will never have to worry about any of that.
2. Enjoy a Longer Generator Lifespan
A generator can be a sizeable financial investment and you simply cannot afford to have something as costly as a short lifespan. It is thus important to have a generator that’s properly sized to ensure that it does not break down prematurely thus setting you back thousands of dollars.
3. Avoid Sporadic Shutdowns Caused by Overloading the System
The maximum power capacity for your needs is another key advantage you gain by getting an appropriately sized generator for your needs. You will no longer need to worry about appliance/device failure from capacity overload.
4. Enjoy Excellent Performance at All Times
When looking for a generator to buy, it is important to choose one that gives you maximum power whenever you need it. You can use the guide provided here to find the right size of generator for your needs and enjoy excellent performance at all times.
5. Ensure the Safety of Everyone
Safety is always of utmost importance when dealing with electric equipment. When your appliances rely on a generator for power, each of them must have sufficient power without the risk of short circuits or any other mishaps that may lead to the safety of members of your household being compromised.
Other Important Considerations When Buying a Generator
Conventional or Inverter?
Whether you go for a conventional portable generator an inverter generator is an important consideration. You read our in-depth comparison on inverter vs generator. Inverter generators are essential if you wish to power your sensitive electronic devices because it produces clean power with low total harmonic distortion (THD).
Standby or Portable?
If you have a large house and want to power your appliances whenever the power goes out you could consider a standby generator. These are also referred to as whole house generators. Of course your budget is an important consideration here as these models can be quite expensive and have installations costs such as electrician. Also a transfer switch is required, adding to the expense.
If camping, RVs, tailgating or work sites are your principle interests then a portable generator will be your best bet.
Budget planning is important since it keeps your household running smoothly. So, ensure that you plan your budget such that buying the generator and supporting its repair/maintenance does not cause any disturbance in your household.
Generators typically use a fuel source such as LPG, diesel, kerosene, and many others for the generation of electricity. It is important to decide what kind of generator you would like to buy based on the fuel used before you ever head out to buy your generator. Portable generators typically use either propane or gas and some both
It is always a good idea to look for certain features when buying a generator such as automatic shutdown, automatic voltage regulation, automatic cooling, among others. The generator should also be equipped with the right safety features to avoid any mishaps.
It is always a good idea to check the noise levels (in decibels) and ensure that the generator muffler is of excellent quality so that it does not sound like a truck’s engine. The noise level is particularly an important consideration when getting a generator for recreational applications such as camping.
What Size Generator Do I Need? Final Thoughts
Generator selection is not the easiest thing to do in this world, but this guide will help you choose the right size generator. The best generator is one that’s perfectly matched to power all the appliances/devices you want to run in case of power outages.
If you buy a generator that’s too big, it will not only be expensive to buy but also won’t necessarily run as efficiently as the properly matched size. If you buy a portable generator that’s too small, however, some of your appliances may not give it maximum output, which means that its lifespan may be reduced.