Say Watt? 3 Things to Consider When Choosing Generator Wattage

power-generatorThis time of year – heck, any time of year – it’s a good idea to be prepared for a storm or power outage with a portable generator. As you shop, you’ll run into a lot of different models with a wide variety of wattage capacities. How many watts do you need? You want to have enough for all your electrical needs, but without breaking the bank. Here are three essential things to consider as you decide what generator wattage to choose for your portable generator:

1. Know how much energy you need.

If you want to keep all your household essentials up and running during a power outage, you’ll want to start by adding up how many watts you will want to use at any one given time. Use this chart as a guide:


2. Consider ‘maximum power’ vs. ‘rated power’.

Generators are listed by the maximum wattage they can produce, but you’ll also see a measurement of a generator’s ‘running power’. A generator will only run at maximum power for about 30 minutes, so look at a generator’s running wattage for a better estimate of what you can power using your generator. Some electric motors use additional power during start up, up to three times their normal running wattage. Calculate the surge wattage of all the electronics you need to power using your generator, and choose a generator with enough extra wattage to withstand the additional load required.

3. Look at additional features.

Generators are available with a wide range of features, with each generator suited to a particular application. For example, inverter generators are the quietest and most efficient – perfect for tailgating or using in close proximity to neighbors. The type of generator you select will depend heavily on your application. For storm preparedness, choose an emergency portable generator with enough watts for your household essentials (refrigerator, lights, et cetera). For permanent peace of mind, a home standby generator will ensure your home will never lose power for more than a few seconds. For working with electric tools at a job site away from a power source, a PTO model could be your best bet.

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