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Power Generators


Choosing The Right Generator
For dependable power when utilities fail, a power source for your recreational outing, or portable power at the job site, a generator is the tool you need. For peace of mind and maximum efficiency, make sure you choose the right one to meet your specific needs. If you're thinking about purchasing a portable generator but don't know where to begin, this quick guide is designed to help get you started.

Which Size Generator Is Right For You?
Appliance or Tool Wattage Chart
The Style of the Alternator - Standard or Inverter?
Starting Your Generator - Recoil or Electric?
Generator Power Outlets
Determining Generator Run Time
 

 
Generator Power - Which Size Is Right?
Generator power is rated in watts. The simplest way to figure out how much wattage you need from a generator is by adding the wattage ratings of all the appliances you wish to power with the generator. You can often find the wattages of your appliances by checking each appliance's faceplate or owner's manual. Keep in mind that appliances with motors (like freezers and refrigerators) or that heat up will often require a much higher wattage to start than to run, in which case you will need a higher wattage generator.

We have classified our generators into three primary categories to make selection as simple as possible:
  • Low Output - 1000W to 2900W
    A low output generator can support a few small appliances for a short duration. This can include items such as a lamp, radio, power tools or even a low wattage compact refrigerator. This type of generator is generally small in size, making it ideal for most portable applications such as a camping trip, picnic or running a saw or other power tool where an outlet is unavailable.

  • Medium Output - 3000W to 6500W
    Medium output generators can come freestanding or on wheels for easy portability. These generators produce enough power to support several appliances running simultaneously, making them perfect for emergency power outages or when standard power is not readily available. Builders and contractors generally use medium output generators at their job sites to power tools, lighting or even charge batteries for heavy equipment.

  • High Output - 6600W to 9000W
    The most powerful generators are listed as high output power generators. These heavy duty generators come with heavy duty frames and can be freestanding or on wheels for additional portability. High output generators are ideal for the longest term use and can be adapted for permanent hookup and remote startup during power interruption. These generators can support multiple high wattage appliances simultaneously, even providing enough power to run home central air and heating in some cases.
Always remember that simple power management will allow a smaller generator to do a big job. Very seldom are all tools or appliances operating simultaneously. When calculating power requirements, consider the starting requirements are only for the initial start and then additional tools may be operated in addition.

Use the chart below to get a quick idea of the wattage requirements of some standard household tools and Appliances:
 
Appliance or Tool
Running Wattage*
Startup Wattage*
3/8" hand drill
500
750
Jigsaw
600
900
Airless sprayer
700
1800
6" bench grinder
700
1800
Belt sander
1200
1700
Demolition hammer
1200
1800
7 1/4" circular saw
1500
1900
Portable heater
1500
1800
Furnace fan
1100
2000
Refrigerator/freezer
1200
3000
Sump pump
1700
3200
Clothes washer
1000
7500
Small refrigerator
500
2000
Light bulb
50
0
Home security
100
0
Television
400
0
Microwave
750
0
Toaster oven
1500
0
Air conditioner (20,000 BTU)
3300
0
Water heater
4000
0
12v DC battery charger
200
0
Radio
225
0
Slow cooker
250
0
Electric blanket
1000
0
Electric skillet
1200
0
Coffee maker
1200
0
* Wattage numbers are estimates. They will vary based on the wattage rating of the tool or appliance being used.
 
The Style Of The Alternator
If you think about it, a generator is basically an engine and an alternator. The quality and style of these two components will determine a generator's size, quietness and, ultimately, price. Most people assume that the engine -- which generates the power -- is the most influential component. In fact, the style of the alternator -- which converts the power into electricity -- is actually the difference maker. There are two styles of alternators: standard and inverter.
  • Standard Generators
    Standard generators consist of heavy copper coils, which generate a raw form of electricity. The engine must maintain a constant speed of 3,600 rotations per minute to produce AC power. In other words, it must run at full speed, regardless of the load needed, consuming more fuel and generating more noise. The electricity produced isn't as clean as utility power. Therefore, standard generators are NOT recommended to power sensitive electronics like computers.

  • Inverter Generators
    Inverter generators, however, utilize a different type of alternator to generate very clean AC power. The inverter technology reduces the generator's weight. But more importantly, the engine can run at varying speeds, significantly reduce the noise levels. The state-of-the-art technology adds a few hundred dollars to the generator, but quality doesn't come cheap.
 
Starting Your Generator
All portable generators have two basic methods of startup: recoil or electric. Low output models generally use the recoil startup while medium and high output generators will use electric or allow startup using both methods. Always refer to the unit owners manual for precise startup instructions for your generator model.
  • Recoil Startup
    Similar to a lawn mower, recoil startup requires you to manually pull a rope to start the engine. In most cases, recoil generators come with an ON/OFF switch that should be turned to the "ON" position prior to pulling the starter grip. When ready, simply pull the starter grip lightly until resistance is felt, then pull briskly. Do not allow the starter grip to snap back against the engine. Return it gently to prevent damage to the starter.

  • Electric Startup
    Electric startup simply requires you to turn a key or push a starter button. Some generators also come with a handy remote control to allow electric startup from a distance. Be sure not to operate the electric starter continuously for more than 5 seconds, even if the engine does not start. Extended cranking can damage the starter motor.
 
Power Outlets
Make sure you select a generator with enough outlets and the right type(s) of outlets. All portable generators come with a standard set of power outlets, usually one 120V-15A AC outlet and one 12V DC outlet at a minimum. Larger generators can have multiple outlets of each type, as well as providing 220V-30A AC outlets for supporting larger 220 volt appliances such as clothes dryers, air conditioners, or cooking ranges.
 
Generator Run Time
Run time is the measurement of time a generator can run on a single tank of fuel. There are several factors that determine the run time length of a generator, the most obvious being fuel tank capacity. The larger the fuel tank capacity, the more fuel a unit can hold, thus the longer the run time. Other factors that affect run time include the size and type of the engine, the type of fuel (gas, diesel, mix), and the number of components or "load" the generator is powering during it's run cycle.

For a quick guide, we have compiled the following run times for the different size generators. Keep in mind, these times will vary depending on the factors mentioned above. Actual run times should be indicated for each individual model in the product specifications or your product owners manual.
  • Low output generator - approximately 6 - 8 hours on a single tank of fuel.
  • Medium output generator - approximately 8 - 10 hours on a single tank of fuel.
  • High output generator - approximately 10 - 12 hours on a single tank of fuel.
 

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