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How do I know what size generator I need?

The most important piece of information that you need to know is how much electrical power you will need in your specific situation. Nothing will be more disappointing than to buy a generator that does not produce adequate power for your needs.

  1. Determine what electrical devices you will want to run from the generator. Your home has appliances that run on either 120 volts or 240 volts. Most lights and small appliances are 120 volt devices and most bigger items (electric stoves and clothes dryers) are 240 volt devices. Practically all generators produce 120 volts, but not all produce 240 volts. If you need to run 240 volt devices, be sure to get a generator that provides a 240 volt output.

  2. Determine the power requirements in watts for all the devices that you want to run at the same time. Wattage ratings are printed on light bulbs; other devices like hair dryers and electric heaters are also described by their wattage requirements. If the device doesn't provide a wattage requirement, you can determine watts by multiplying volts times amps. If you just can't find the power requirement of a device, look at the table in the worksheet to the right. (Remember that the table is just a guide; actual wattage requirements vary significantly among brands and types.) Be aware that some electrical devices have starting wattage requirements that are larger than the running watts. If so, use the starting wattage requirement for the largest of the devices you want to run and the running watts for all other devices.

  3. Add together the wattage requirements for all the electrical devices that you want to use at the same time. This is the minimum wattage you will need from a generator. You should also consider the current ratings of the electrical outlets (receptacles) on the generator as well as the outlets' mechanical configuration. Be sure that the outlets are the right match for the electrical devices you want to power.

Use the chart to help you in determining your power requirements.

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