Sizing up the Perfect Generator – What Size Generator Do I Need?
Before considering which brand of generator to buy, or where you’ll purchase it, you should ﬁrst
ﬁgure out which size you need. I’m not referring to the generator’s physical size—though that
may be an issue if you’re debating between a portable or standby model. Rather, size is determined by the generator’s voltage.
Typically, generators are 120-volt and 240-volt. The higher the voltage, the more high-powered
devices it can power, such as dishwashers, air conditioning, and laundry units. But if you’re just
looking to keep the lights on, you can settle on a generator with a lower voltage.
If you’re a ﬁrst-time buyer, you’ll want to know how to determine your desired voltage. Here’s a step-by-step checklist to go through before you make a purchase:
1) Figure out which household appliances you want to run during a power outage. You should
be practical—your 60-inch television and desktop computer will take a backseat to your
refrigerator and furnace.
2) Calculate the wattage of each appliance. The units of measurement will be watts, volt-amps,
or kilowatts. Usually this will be listed on the appliance’s nameplate or in the manual it came
with, but if not you can always search online. Consumer Reports offers an excellent Wattage Calculator as well.
3) Separate the desired appliances based on whether they have a motor or not. If they don’t,
use the running power requirements as a reference. But If they do, ﬁgure out their starting
power requirements, which is usually double or triple the running power. Again, you can use the
magic of the Internet to ﬁnd these numbers if you can’t locate them on the nameplate or in the
manual. Add these two totals together, and you will have your magic number.
4) Once you’ve calculated how much power you will need, you can choose the size of your
generator. Remember, if power outages are uncommon and don’t last long, you would be ﬁne
with a smaller generator that hooks up to certain appliances. But if you live in a small town that
gets hit hard by blizzards or tropical storms, invest in a generator that connects to the electrical
system in your home.
5) This bears repeating: stay practical. The typical home will need 5,000-7,000 watts to run just
the essential appliances, so you probably won’t be able to start everything up with a generator.
When you ﬁgure out your wattage requirement, try to stick to that number. There’s nothing
wrong with buying the next size up to be safe, especially if you’re using a computer, but there’s
no need to be extravagant.
There’s a different generator size for everyone depending on their price range, desired
appliance usage, and how many power outages they experience annually. Take these factors
into account and you will be one step closer to ﬁnding your perfect generator.
If you have any questions regarding generator size or how to use our generator switch, let’s us know down below in the comments.