What size Portable Generator do I Need?

When in the market (or the need) for a generator, the selections might be limited if you’re seeking out a generator in the middle of an lively hurricane season. However even if you’re in a rush, you will want to take time to match your energy needs to the scale of the generator you buy. If you’re able to wait a few days with just the fundamentals preserving your meals cold and your lighting on—great. But even if this is an urgent need, it’s still crucial to clear your head when making this notable investment for your family’s needs.

In terms of choosing the right kind of generator, there are two types: Stationary (or standby) and portable. In choosing the right portable generator, there are many different models, and these are much more affordable then stationary, with less limitations, for instance, stationary generators are under strict safety codes, rules and regulations by environmental establishments, and once you have it installed, it can’t be moved.

Portable units are just that – light enough to be carried and transported to anywhere at the home. There are no strict rules and standards to adhere to, these units are already designed to meet their own portable generator safety standards, and many are CARB-compliant, which means they are allowed for operation in all 50 states. Portables cost less to by and are much easier to install – just wheel it over to where you want it – but you will still have to keep it fueled and maintained.

To determine the correct generator size for your needs, the easiest way is to add the wattages of all the appliances you need to power in your home, remembering that some appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and sump pumps require more wattage (surge watts) when cycling on. If there’s time, we recommend consulting with your electrician for their recommendation, and then selecting a unit with a little higher wattage than needed so it will accommodate all your existing needs but also be able to handle those extras you might need that haven’t been considered.

Some units include a transfer switch, which allows for easier connections, and is the safest way to transfer power, protecting any utility workers who may be out there working on the line. According to the Consumer Reports’ cheat sheet, here is a guideline on what kind of portable unit you will need for your home:

Small Sized Portable Generator: What it can Power

Small portable: 3,000 to 4,000 watts

  • Refrigerator (600 watts)
  • Microwave (1,500 watts)
  • Sump pump (600 watts)
  • Several lights (400 watts)
  • TV (200 watts)

Mid sized: What it can Power

Mid sized portable and small stationary: 5,000 to 8,500 watts

  • Portable heater (1,300 watts)
  • Computer (250 watts)
  • Heating system (500 watts)
  • Second pump (600 watts)
  • More lights (400 watts)

Large Generator: What it can Power

Large portable: 10,000 watts

  • Small water heater (3,000 watts)
  • Central air conditioner (5,000 watts)
  • Electric range (5,000 watts)

Large Stationary: What it can Power

Large stationary: 10,000 to 15,000 watts

  • Clothes washer (1,200 watts)
  • Electric dryer (5,000 watts)

Our advice is to try not to wait until a major storm or catastrophe to buy a portable generator – rather, make this purchase when you are not going to need it right away. Take time to do the research into the best product for you and weigh all the options so you can make a smart, informed decision about your purchase, and when bad weather does hit, you are prepared and ready to go.

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