What Size Portable Generator Do I Need?
The main benefit of having a portable generator is the accessibility of electricity wherever you are on the planet. With a portable generator in your truck or RV, you can ensure that wherever you go, your gadgets will always have power, and your appliances will always be running. They’re also great for having around during emergency situations that knock out the power in your city.
When searching for a portable generator, the main thing to consider is how much power it can supply. Essentially, you don’t want a portable generator that doesn’t offer enough juice to keep your most critical appliances running, but you also don’t want to invest in a super-beefy machine since you’ll end up spending more on unused capacity. So how can you determine how powerful of a portable generator you need? Finding the right model is a three-step process which you can find below.
1. Make a list of the appliances you want to be plugged in
Are you keeping your portable generator at home as a compact standby unit or are you taking it with you on the road? How many appliances do you need to be powered on at all times? Which can you live with and without?
First and foremost, be aware of what you need and don’t need. If you don’t plan on microwaving hot pockets during a blackout, then you don’t need to include your microwave’s wattage on your list. For emergency situations, the most vital home appliances that need power are refrigerators, desktop or laptop computers, and water pumps and/or heaters.
When hitting the open road, your requirements may vary significantly. For instance, you might need to operate a portable 10,000-BTU air conditioner, TV, several handheld electronics, and a portable refrigerator simultaneously.
2. Calculate the total power requirements needed to keep them on
After compiling a list of the electronics that need constant power, now it’s time to calculate how much power each item uses. You can look at the appliances’ manuals if you haven’t thrown them out already or just do a quick internet search for the make and model of your home appliance. You might be lucky and find a downloadable manual for your electronics.
There are general estimates for each home appliance you can use as a rough guideline. For instance, a TV uses 300 watts, a laptop uses 250 watts, a portable AC uses around 10,000 watts, etc. For the most accurate wattage requirement calculation, please check the manuals.
After counting how much you need, it’s a good idea to add a few hundred extra watts to your calculation. This should give you enough flexibility to plug in a few more small appliances to your portable generator or upgrade your current ones to larger but more power-consuming models.
3. Search for a portable generator model that provides more power than what you’ve calculated
Now that we know what we need and how much power each appliance uses, now comes the hardest part: finding the right portable generator. There are several important considerations regarding specs and features to take into account before picking up a portable generator from the interwebs. These include whether it’s an inverter generator, safety features such as low-oil shutoff, the number of outlets, portability (weight and/or wheels), and how much noise it produces.
If you do your research or consult our portable generator buying guides such as our [Best Honda Portable Generators: Buying Guide], then you should have a good idea of what model will suit you best. Just keep in mind never to deviate too far under or over your initial wattage requirement calculations since you’ll either end up not having enough power or investing more on a generator than you actually need.
The most common question first-time portable generator buyers ask is what size portable generator they actually need. The answer is entirely dependent on what appliances you need powered on all day. After you make a list of what you need, try and calculate how much power they use collectively; this should indicate the minimum wattage capacity requirement to look for in a potential portable generator. Finding the right portable generator model can be a bit tricky, but with a bit of research, you should find the right generator with relative ease.