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How to Choose a Generator Size When You’re In the Dark

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 17, 2017 9:10:18 AM / by Jaron Henkel

The power’s out. Again. You and your family are sitting in darkness, unable to charge your electronics, run your air conditioner (a must in southwest Florida in the summer!), use your stove, and, oh yes— your refrigerator full of food is about to spoil. You’ve had enough! It’s time to invest in a backup generator!

The catch? You don’t know which size of generator would be best for your house. What size do you need to keep your home powered up?

Good news! We can help! We’ll cover all of the things you need to know to ensure that your generator will be able to keep up with your family.

Before you set out to buy your generator, let’s look at the way manufacturers size generators.

 

Size Up Your Generator

Generators are available in Watts (W) or Kilowatts (kW), which are measurements of electricity; they’re not measured by their physical size, but by the electrical power the generator supplies.

Does it really matter if you don’t have a generator that’s the right size for your home? In a word, yes.

If a generator doesn’t offer the amount of electricity that you require, it can be a serious issue. There will not only be a voltage drop, but that drop can cause damage not only to your generator (up to and including ceasing to function), but to your appliances as well. If you get a generator that produces more than you need, you’ll be spending way more than necessary not just on the generator but on the operating costs, too.

It just makes sense to take the time to determine what size would be best for your level of operation. With that in mind, let’s go over the steps you should take to ensure that your generator is right for you.


It’s as Easy as 1,2,3

Step 1: Create a detailed list of the appliances that you absolutely must have powered should a power outage occur. (Try to keep it bare bones— don’t go crazy. You don’t want to unnecessarily tax the generator.)

Step 2: It’s time to do your homework. Take the list of necessary appliances and figure out the starting and running wattage for each of the appliances. If you don’t know this off the top of your head, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. Here’s a helpful wattage worksheet that will allow you to figure it out safely.  (Side note: The starting wattage simply means the amount of electricity that an appliance needs to start. This is usually larger than the amount of energy it requires while it’s going.

Step 3: Once you’ve determined the wattage for all of the appliances, add it all up. (Get out your calculator and check your math.) The total is the minimum amount of wattage you need your generator to be. Quick and easy!

 

For Example...

Ok, two different homeowners are looking into purchasing a generator. Each one has a 2500 square foot home, but their power needs vary. Who will need a bigger generator?

Is it Person A? They’re running a bare-bones operation at their house; they only want to power a couple of light fixtures, their air conditioner, the water heater, and the refrigerator and the freezer as well as their laptop. All told, they need about 8800 watts in running wattage, and 1070 watts in starting wattage. They could get away with an 11kW generator and power everything they have on their list

How about Person B? They plan to power more than 10 light fixtures, air conditioner, water heater,  a couple of laptops, water heater, washer, dryer, sump pump, microwave, stove, dishwasher, and the garage door opener. Whew! All told, the running wattage would be about 19000, and the starting wattage is a whopping 39000! They would need to invest in a 40kW generator.

Of course, the homeowner who would be buying the largest generator is Person B. This means that they’re going to be spending more for the generator itself, and more to run the generator when the time comes. If money's no object, and you’re interested in keeping everything on no matter what, that option might appeal to you. However, if you’re trying to maintain a budget, you should probably follow the example of Person A.

You can measure your own wattage, if you think you’re up for it; a homeowner’s estimate is rough at best, so it’s not the worst idea in the world to reach out to an electrician to get some help with this very important calculation. If you’re committed to doing it on your own, you can get assistance by using a wattage calculator.

Are you ready to do this? We’re happy to help! Southwest Florida Electric is equipped to assist you install and service your generator; whether you’re looking to do some preventative maintenance on your generator or get it working in your home before the next hurricane strikes. If you’re interested in learning more about putting a generator in your home, contact us today!

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Topics: Home Generators