Standby and portable generators can handle a lot during a power outage, but they still have their limits. You probably know that your electric range can use a lot power, and if air conditioners are running, adding heat to the house with a range only adds to the electrical load. When the power goes out and you’re using standby power for essentials and conveniences, you need other options for cooking food.
When you’re pulling out those seldom-used, counter-top cooking appliances, remember that those short cords serve a purpose. They prevent the cord from hanging down off a counter where a child could grab it and pull it down. Appliance cords are also made to handle the amount of power the appliance uses. Don’t overload an extension cord made to power a lamp by using it for a microwave or toaster oven.
Only use extension cords made for appliances, and don’t allow cords to hang where a child could pull the appliance down on top of themselves. Keep extension cords from crossing places where people walk or where they might be stepped on.
Microwave and Toaster Ovens
The cooking power is a good indicator of how much power the microwave uses. Microwaves use up to 40 percent more power than their cooking power, so a 1000 watt microwave uses about 1400 watts. Toaster ovens use from 1200 to 1700 watts, but microwaves cook fast if the food isn’t too thick, so they are a good alternative for heating up convenience foods like hot dogs, TV dinners, and canned or frozen foods.
The toaster oven is better for cooking meats and will do a better job of browning the meat and cooking it more evenly.
Microwaves and toaster ovens won’t wreck your standby power budget and make good choices for use during an outage. If you’re using close to the maximum power your standby generator can supply, turn off an air conditioner or other large appliance while you’re cooking dinner, then turn it back on when you’re done eating.
Hot plates come in single and two burner versions, and on average use between 500 and 800 watts per burner. They are similar to using a small, single coil burner on an electric stove. At less than half what toaster ovens and microwaves use, they work well with both standby and portable generators for cooking a meal.
They are safe when used carefully and can be used to boil a pot of water or simmer dinner in a frying pan. They’re great for making oatmeal or cream of wheat, or just heating up a can of vegetables or baked beans.
Be sure to place the hot plate where it can’t fall or tip over, and don’t place pots on it that are too large for the burner to support.
Other Cooking Appliances
Electric fry pans, waffle irons and griddles can use 1000 to 1600 watts, and coffee makers average 1200 watts. They fall into the same energy category as toaster ovens and microwaves. Crock pots and slow cookers are the energy misers at just 200 to 300 watts on average. If you’re using a portable generator, these little gems might take all day to cook a pot roast, but they’ll do it without breaking into your emergency power energy budget.
Don’t forget the BBQ grill. Charcoal and gas grills can do more than grill a few burgers or sausages on a warm summer day. They are perfect for cooking food during an outage and don’t use any power. Just remember that grills are outdoor appliances―never use them indoors because they emit dangerous carbon monoxide.