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February 21, 2020

Home Generator Safety Series – Part 1

With hurricane season approaching and the chance of a severe winter storm still possible, if you are considering the purchase of a generator, now might be a good time. In this 3-part series, we’ll be covering generator basics from selection to use to safety.

Before we delve into part 1, there are some basic generator use rules that are worth following and repeating, so these will be at the start of each post in this series:

  • Thoroughly read the manufacturer’s operating and safety manual before setting up or using your generator.
  • Never leave your generator running unattended. This doesn’t mean you have to stand outside and watch it, but it does mean no quick trips to the store while the generator is running.
  • Check the generator every 1-2 hours to ensure it is working correctly.
  • Be careful when touching your generator as it runs hot and stays hot long after turning off.

How to Choose the Generator That is Right For You

How do you know what size generator you should be using to ensure your safety and comfort when your power is out? You need to calculate the watts/amps of each appliance, device and light so you can match it to a generator’s output.

Most generators use watts to rate output. Wattage is calculated by multiplying the voltage times the device’s capacity in amperage (Watts = Volts X Amps).

You can find the amps that a generator can output by dividing watts by volts (Amps = Watts/Volts). For example, a 1,500 watt generator delivering 120 volts can put out 12.5 amps.

Finding the watts needed for lights is simple. Just read the top of the lightbulb or the box in which it came. Finding and calculating watts on appliances and other devices is a bit more complicated. Electric devices have an added complication as they require more power to start up than just run.

Generators have a limited amount of power they can produce and the total load from the devices and appliances you are powering cannot exceed that amount.

Yamaha Generators has a handy online calculator to help you determine your needs. Just click on each item you’ll want to run and the wattage is calculated for you. You can find that HERE.

Calculate The Wattage You’ll Need

Follow these simple steps for calculating the wattage you want to use and you’ll be able to find the right generator for your needs (you can find the power needs of appliances and devices by looking on the back, side or underside).

  • Write down the appliances and devices you’ll want to use.
    • Look for the wattage and/or power requirements of each and record that on your list.
    • Determine which lights you will want to use and add up the wattage of each and record that total.
    • If you need to convert amps into watts, use the formula above.
    • Total up your wattage needs and use that as a base for finding the right generator.

Here is a table of the standard wattage requirements for the most common household appliances:

Household Uses Required Wattage
Air Conditioner, 10,000 BTU 2,000 – 3,000W
Coffee Pot 1,000 – 1,500W
Electric Heater 1,000 – 2,000W
Electric Stove (one element) 750 – 1,800W
Gas Furnace 300 – 1,500W
Hair Dryer 800 – 1,500W
Iron 1,000 – 1,500W
Microwave 500 – 1,500W
Oil Furnace 400 – 2,000W
Radio 30 – 100W
Refrigerator / Freezer 600 – 2,500W
Sump Pump 800 – 3,000W
Television 100 – 350W
Toaster 1,100 – 1,700W

*Electric motors require at least three times more wattage when first starting than when running.

READ MORE:

Generator Safety – Part 2
Storm Preparedness Checklist
Easy Steps to Minimize Power Outage Damage to Your Home