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What Size Generator Do I Need Figuring Out Your Emergency Power Needs .pdf


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What Size Generator Do I Need? Figuring Out Your
Emergency Power Needs
readylifestyle.com/what-size-generator-do-i-need
Joe Ready

March 5, 2018

What Size Generator Should You Buy?
One of the first things to go during many disasters is the electricity. The obvious way to fix this
problem is to buy a generator to power your essentials. When getting ready to buy a generator,
one of the most common questions is what size generator do I need?
It sounds like an easy question but there are a lot of factors to consider. What does rated watts
mean? What does surge watts mean? The power requirements for my device is listed in amps,
how do I figure out if the generator can run it? These are questions that people tend to run into
when they first look into a generator. It can all be overwhelming initially if you’re starting from
scratch.
This article will answer all of these questions and more.

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What are Running and Surge Watts?
Understanding how generators are rated is the starting point for determining how much
wattage you need in a generator. It may seem confusing, but it’s actually really easy.
Simply put, running (or rated) watts are the maximum number of watts that a generator can
continuously output without damaging it. Running wattage is the consistent level of power that
a device requires to run. Devices like hot plates and light bulbs will typically only have one
wattage rating. This is their required running watts.
Surge (or starting) watts are the maximum amount of watts that a generator can output for a
limited time. This allows the generator to ramp up its power output for a limited time to meet
the demands of equipment and appliances that need more wattage to get started. These are
almost always items with electric motors like refrigerators, washers, and driers.
Manufacturers almost always display the surge wattage as the wattage of the generator. Take
this WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt for example. It’s labeled as a 2000 watt generator, but
that is its surge power level. The running wattage of this generator is 1600 watts. Other
displayed ratings like max power, etc are all referring to the surge watts of the generator.
It’s not a big deal if you know what you’re looking for. Just be sure you read the label carefully
and you’ll be good to go.

2/7

How Much Power Do My Devices Need?
The answer to this question will decide what size generator you need. First, you need to
determine what you want to run off of the generator. Are you going to try to power your entire
house or do you just want to keep your food in the refrigerator from spoiling until the power
gets turned back on?
The table below will give you a rough idea of how much power you need to power certain
devices. Keep in mind that these are just rough guidelines and you should get the exact power
requirements from the labels on the equipment you plan to run on the generator.
Kitchen Devices

Running (Rated) Wattage

Surge (Starting) Wattage

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1500

Microwave

1000

Coffee Maker

1750

Dishwasher

700

Electric Oven

2100

Hotplate

1300

Household Utilities

Running (Rated) Wattage

1400

Surge (Starting) Wattage
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Furnace Fan

300-875

500-2350

Well Pump

1000

2000

Central Air Conditioner

3800

4950

Electric Water Heater

4000

Window Air Conditioner

1200

Box Fan

200

Washing Machine

1150

2200

2300

Household Electronics

Running (Rated) Wattage

Television

140-300

Desktop Computer

600-800

Laptop

65

Charging Mobile Devices

10-12

Electric Grill

1650

Space Heater

1800

Radio/CD/DVD Player

50-200

Power Tools

Surge (Starting) Wattage

Running (Rated) Wattage

Surge (Starting) Wattage

Circular Saw

1400

2300

Table Saw

1800

4500

1 HP Air Compressor

1600

4500

Battery Charger

2400-7800

Bench Grinder

1400

2500

Drill

600

900

Electric Welder

5000

How Do I Figure Out Power Requirements for a Device if it’s Listed in Amps?
Figuring out the power requirements for a device if it’s listed in amps is easy.
Wattage is determined by multiplying volts x amps.
Most generators output 120 volts.
So if a device needs 10 amps to power it, you would simply multiply 120 volts x 10 amps to
figure out that you need 1200 watts of power to run it.

4/7

How Do We Determine How Much Power Our Generator Has to be Able to
Output?
Now that we understand the basics of how generators are rated and what the rating means,
let’s look at how we figure out the exact size of generator we need.
Keep in mind this will be the least powerful generator that will run your appliances or devices.
The more power that your generator can output, the more items you’ll be able to power.
In the first example, we’ll say that we just want to power the minimum number of things needed
during a power outage.
Scenario #1

Running (Rated) Wattage

Surge (Starting) Wattage

Space Heater

1800

1800

Laptop

65

65

Charge Phones/Devices

12

12

Hot Plate

1300

1300

Total

3,177

3,177

In this scenario, we’ve determined that we want to be able to charge our phones, run a space
heater, charge our laptop and cook on a hotplate. So if we wanted to run everything at once,
we’d need 3177 running watts. Something like a DuroStar DS4000S would be sufficient. If we
decided not to ever run the heater and hot plate together, we could even drop down to a 2000
watt generator.
In the second example, we’ll say we’re looking for a generator to provide back up power for our
entire house.
Scenario #2

Running (Rated) Wattage

Surge (Starting) Wattage

Central Air Conditioning

3800

4950

Electric Water Heater

4000

4000

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1500

Microwave

1000

1000

Dishwasher

700

1400

Electric Oven

2100

2100

Well Pump

1000

2000

Furnace Fan

600

1500

Electric Water Heater

4000

4000

Television

300

300
5/7

Laptop

65

65

Total

18,265

22,815

In this scenario, we’re looking for something to power our entire home during a power outage.
Obviously, this is going to take a much larger and expensive generator.

This example would need something like a Generac 7043 Guardian Series 22kW/19.5kW
standby generator. Having a standby generator for your home is great because it’s already
wired in and can seamlessly switch on when the power goes out.

Conclusion
Buying a generator for an emergency is a great option for anyone who is preparedness
minded. Being able to generate your own power can add a lot of versatility to your
preparedness plans.
Deciding to buy a whole house standby generator is an expensive option that most people
probably won’t decide on. A portable generator, on the other hand, can be a great choice for
short-term power outages.
Be sure to check out our other gear related articles here!
Additional Reading: The Best Bug Out Bag List – What You Need and Why You Need It!
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