Home Standby Generator Watts Comparison—What Can I Run?

A frequently asked question about generators is, “What can I run with my generator?”

Guardian 20kW Home Backup Generator

Guardian 20kW Home Backup Generator

The answer is, it depends. Norwall PowerSystems supplies standby generators with power capacities that range from 7000 watts to 150,000 watts, and many that fall somewhere in between. Since a standby generator represents a considerable investment in both the equipment and in the installation costs, buying the right generator to meet current and future needs is important.

Home standby generators for backup emergency power are permanently installed appliances and operate on an as-needed basis similar to a hot water heater or furnace that only runs when it is needed. When a power outage occurs, the system senses the outage immediately. A short wait confirms the outage isn’t momentary. The generator motor is started and comes up to speed, then the automatic transfer switch isolates the electrical system from the utility lines and connects it to the generator to provide the home with power. The entire process happens in seconds.

7000 to 10,000 Watts

Generac's 7kW core power unit pictured with 8-position 50-amp ATS.

Generac 7kW Core Power with Automatic Transfer Switch

Air-cooled standby generators in this range provide enough power to keep essential home systems operating. Operating a sump pump, freezer, refrigerator, and furnace will use up to 4000 watts. Add in some lights, a small television, and a microwave oven, and a 7000-watt unit is working close to its continuous capacity. The larger 10,000-watt standby unit could probably handle the additional load of a 1-ton air conditioner.

This scenario depicts a home operating with only the bare essentials. There’s enough power to keep the home safe from flooding and the food from spoiling while providing the means for minimal lighting, some outside communication, and to heat some soup for dinner.

11,000 to 14,000 Watts

In addition to powering the basic essentials, the larger standby generators that supply 11 to 14 kilowatts can handle some larger loads that include well pumps, electric hot water heaters, and a larger central air conditioning unit. A transfer switch with a managed power can extend this capability to a number of appliances. At the top end, there’s usually enough power left over to keep the kids busy with a video game or a desktop computer.

Generac Guardian 11kW Standby Generator Pre Packaged with 200 Amp Service Rated ATS 6438

Generac Guardian 11kW Standby Generator Pre Packaged with 200 Amp Service Rated ATS 6438

With a generator of this size, it becomes possible to use multiple kitchen appliances such as electric fry pans, coffee makers, hot plates, and toasters. Each use 1000 to 1500 watts, so it is still easy to overload the system if you are not careful about your power use. Keep too many of these devices operating and you’ll find that your A/C unit won’t start or the well pump doesn’t run.

15,000 to 20,000 Watts

Mobile Link with Generac Guardian Standby Generator

Generac Guardian with Optional Mobile Link

Generators in this range are a good choice when the homeowner wants to keep all the essentials operating along with a number of conveniences. With transfer switches that manage power, a number of high-voltage appliances can operate. It is still important to understand that the generator isn’t the nearly-limitless supply that the electric utility offers. Even so, most of the people in a house won’t notice that the power is out once the generator is running.

Standby 15kW to 20kW generators are essential if you need to power multiple large air conditioners alongside hot water heaters and well pumps. Larger homes may require additional power.

22,000 Watts and More

Owners of larger homes will want to consider liquid-cooled standby generators that can supply more power than largest air-cooled models. These generators offer exceptional reliability.

Liquid-cooled generators use automotive style engines with a radiator, cooling fan, and coolant that circulates to keep the engine cool. Residential units of up to 60 kilowatts are available to keep even large, luxury homes supplied with power. If you need more power, commercial standby generators can supply up to 150,000 watts of power.

Run multiple air conditioners at the same time, use your electric range and the electric dryer too. All while keeping the lights on and everything else running too.

Before deciding which generator you will purchase, conduct your own power audit to size your generator, consult with the electrician who will install it, and confirm your plans with your local building and code enforcement agency.

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