## Where Do I Start?

When I started searching for a portable generator I was completely overwhelmed by all the options and all the technical specifications. In order to understand which generator I needed, I went through a journey of learning what all the jargon meant. Below I’ve tried to make it easier for you to **quickly understand all the technical speak**. This page has a summary of all the** important things you need to know**, with links to more detailed information if you want to understand more.

## How Do Generators Work?

## Key Things to Consider When Buying a Generator

There are a lot of terms and number bandied about when shopping for a generator. Below I’ve **simplified this into a list of key things** to consider:

**Portability**– Will your generator be staying in one place or moving around?**Weight**– If you intend to move your generator around, it’s weight is extremely important. Luckily, there are a lot of lightweight options available.**Size**– Again, if you intend on moving your generator around, make sure it is a manageable physical size.**Power Output (also called Continuous Power Rating or Running Watts) (watts)**– This is the amount of electrical energy that a**generator can deliver continuously**. You will need to figure out how many and what type of appliances you want to run using your generator and use this to figure out how much power you need. There is more information in the next section to help you. As a general guide, 1000 watts of power will run 1 to 2 appliances at once, 2000 watts will run 2 to 4 appliances at once, and 3000 watts will run 3 to 6 appliances at once.**Maximum Power Output (also called Peak Power) (watts)**– This tells you the**maximum power a generator can produce**, measured in watts. Why do you care about this peak power figure? Well, appliances often require more power to start. So, you may use your generators “peak power” temporarily to get an appliance up and running. A generator should never be operated at its maximum power output for more than 30 minutes.**Voltage**– Voltage is a measure of the “force” of a power current. It is important in your decision because different appliances run on different voltage.**Most appliances in the U.S. run on 120 volts**. It is only**heavy duty appliances**, such as hot water heaters and air conditioners, that**need 240 volts**. So, if there is a specific appliance that your generator must support, check its voltage before purchasing a generator.**Run Time**– How long will the generator last before it needs more input energy? Now the answer to this question will depend, of course, on the amount of energy that you are using. But a generator which runs on gas will run longer if it has a bigger tank capacity.**Fuel Source**– This describes the input energy that your generator needs to operate. Fuel sources are things like gasoline, natural gas, diesel, propane, solar, or hydrogen.**Noise Level**– You want to think about how noisy your generator is, particularly if it will be running close to your campsite or indoors. This can be measured in decibels (DB), where a whisper measures about 30 DB, a normal conversation is about 60 DB, and a motocycle engine is around 95 DB.**Outlet Types (also called Receptacles or Electrical Outlets)**– You want to make sure the generator you choose supports the type of outlet you need. So, for example, do you want to plug in a toaster with a three prong power plug, or do you want to plug in a USB-A or USB-C connector?**Indoor vs Outdoor Usage**– Several generators are not suitable for indoor use because of the fumes they produce. Make sure you check carefully if you want to use a generator indoors.- Quality of Power Suppl
**y**– Some electronic devices such as laptops can be sensitive to the type of power you use. If you want to use your generator for these types of things, you may be best served by purchasing an**inverter generator which offers more consistent power than other generators**. However, if you want to run a toaster and coffee pot, you want need an inverter generator.

## >How Much Power Does My Generator Need?

This is the million dollar question. It is worth spending a little bit of time on this question to make sure you get a generator with the right amount of power for you. I will write a whole separate article about this shortly but below is the short version. To recap, there are two power ratings that you need to care about:

**Maximum Power Output (also called Peak Power or Maximum Surge):**This is the maximum power outage that the generator can produce. However, it is only supposed to be used in short bursts, to provide the extra power that appliances need to start up.**Power Output (also called Continuous Power Rating or Running Watts):**This is the amount of power the generator can produce on an ongoing basis.

So, for example, a refrigerator requires about 1200 watts of power to start, but then only requires 200 to 400 watts of continuous power supply to operate after the initial start. When calculating the amount of power you need from a generator, you need to sum up the total amount of ongoing power you need from your appliances and compare this to the Power Outage of the generator. You can generally ignore the start up, or surge capacity needed, because it is only required for a few minutes and can be met by the “Peak Power” of the generator. Lets look at some examples of what kind of watts your appliances use:

- Toaster: 700 watts
- Blender 550 watts
- Coffee maker 1000 watts
- Laptop 250 watts
- TV 150 watts
- Refrigerator 400 watts

You can see that you are going to have to make a guesstimate of the amount of power you require. Unless of course you will always have the same appliances plugged in continuously at all times (which is unlikely). You can check the amount of power your specific appliances require, or there are several online calculators to help you. But, as a **rough estimate**, you can see that

**1000 watts**will allow you to run**1 or 2 appliances simultaneously**.**2000 watts**will allow you to run**2 to 4 appliances simultaneously.****3000 watts**will allow you to run**3 to 6 appliances simultaneously**.**4000 watts**will allow you to run**4 to 10 appliances simultaneously**.

So, you can see that how much power you need depends on how many appliances you want to run at the same time. If you are willing to unplug one appliance to use another appliance, then you can get a generator with a smaller power output.

The average house will require 5000 to 7500 to run the core appliances such as fridge, heat, and water. If you are looking for full power, you will likely want to look at the 10000 watt plus generator.

- 3000 watts is a popular size for camping
- 4000 to 7000 watts is a popular size for an emergency generator at home. It will r run the core appliances such as fridge, heat, and water. If you are looking for full power, you will likely want to look at the 10000 watt plus generator.
**10,000 watt plus generator.**If you are looking for full power or have a large home with a lot of people (say 4+), you may want to look for more power.

## Types of Generators

This is a complicated topic. Why? Well because some people classify generators in lots of different ways….and it gets confusing. But, the most common way that people classify generators is by size or by how they are powered.

### Classify Generators by Size

So, if we were to classify generators by power, it would look like this:

- Standby Generators
- Portable Generators: This is the maximum power outage that the generator can produce. However, it is only supposed to be used in short bursts, to provide the extra power that appliances need to start up.
- Industrial Generators: This is the amount of power the generator can produce on an ongoing basis.

If we were to classify generators by how they are powered, it would look like this:

- Gasoline Generators:
- Natural Gas Generators: Ts only supposed to be used in short bursts, to provide the extra power that appliances need to start up.
- Diesel Generators: This is the amount of power the generator can produce on an ongoing basis.

### Classify Generators by Power Source

If we were to classify generators by how they are powered, it would look like this:

- Gasoline Generators:
- Natural Gas Generators: Ts only supposed to be used in short bursts, to provide the extra power that appliances need to start up.
- Diesel Generators: This is the amount of power the generator can produce on an ongoing basis.