Choosing the right generator size is more than just picking a number. It’s about understanding your power needs and making sure you have enough juice to keep everything functional. You could rely on an expert, but if you’re a hands-on person like me, you’d prefer knowing how to do it yourself.

Living off-grid in a tiny house for over a decade has given me a unique perspective on self-sufficiency and simple living. I’ve always loved the feeling of freedom that comes with growing my own food, building huts, and traveling from place to place. If you’ve ever wondered what size generator you’d need to keep your tiny house running smoothly, you’re in the right place.

Basic Overview

Determine the total wattage of all devices you’ll power. Choose a generator with a capacity 20% higher to ensure efficient operation. For basic needs, a 3000-4000 watt generator works well.

So, what’s the most important thing to consider when choosing a generator? Size. You need to know how much power you need to keep your lights, fridge, and other essentials running. But figuring out your power needs can be tricky. I’ve been there too!

In this post, I’ll break it down for you. I’ll share my expertise on how to calculate your power requirements and choose the right generator for your needs. Let’s get started!

Understanding Generator Sizing

Determining the Right Size Generator
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Getting the right generator size for an off-grid tiny house is crucial. Incorrect estimates can cause operational inefficiency and device damage. Keep in mind these things:

Why Accurate Sizing Matters

Getting it wrong can lead to inefficiencies or even damage to your appliances. I’ve seen it happen to fellow off-grid enthusiasts who didn’t take the time to calculate their power needs.

To avoid this, you need to calculate your load and consider the starting or surge watts needed for your devices. This ensures your generator runs smoothly and doesn’t get overwhelmed.

Understanding Your Appliances’ Power Needs

The key to getting the right generator size is understanding your appliances’ power needs. You need to know the running and surge wattages of each device to make informed decisions.

For example, a fridge might need 1,000 watts to start, but only 500 watts to run. By understanding these differences, you can choose a generator that can handle your peak power needs without running at maximum capacity all the time.

More Factors to Consider

When choosing a generator, you also need to think about the type of fuel it uses. Gasoline, propane, or solar-powered options each have their pros and cons. Fuel efficiency, size, weight, and portability are also crucial factors to consider.

You should also think about the features you need, such as electric start, multiple outlets, and safety functions. By weighing these factors against your requirements, you can find the perfect generator for your off-grid lifestyle.

You may like: Tiny Homes Thrive with Smart Solar Systems

Calculating Your Power Needs

Determining Your Power Requirements
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

For accurately estimating your power needs, start by identifying the vital appliances that you need to run using the generator. Consider devices like light bulbs, coffee machines, water heaters, and refrigerators, each with their specific power requirements.

This table gives you an overview of tiny house power usage.

Appliance Running Wattage (Rated Watts) Starting Wattage (Surge Watts)
Refrigerator/ Freezer 700 2200
Electric Water Heater 4500 0
Sump Pump – 1/3 HP 800 1300
Sump Pump – 1/2 HP 1050 2200
Space Heater 1800 0
Window AC unit – 10,000 BTU 1200 3600
Central AC unit -10,000 BTU 1500 4500
Washing Machine 1150 2250
Microwave Oven 600 Watts 600 0
Coffee Maker 1000 0
Television 27 Inches 500 0
Desktop Computer With 17″ monitor 800 0
Laptop Computer 50 0
LED Light Bulbs (per bulb) 10 0
Ceiling Fan 75 0
Electric Kettle 1500 0
Toaster 800 1600
Hair Dryer 1500 0
Blender 350 450
Vacuum Cleaner 300 0
Slow Cooker 180 0
Electric Grill 1500 0
Pressure Cooker 700 0

An understanding of the wattages required to power each appliance is vital. Combining the starting and running wattages for all devices will give you an approximate idea of the total power requirement.

Refer to owner’s manuals for precise wattage figures, and remember to account for the differences between starting and running watts for appliances with variable loads, like refrigerators and water heaters.

Read also: Step-by-Step to Off-Grid Energy Autonomy

How Much Generator Power Do I Need?

Determining the Required Generator Power
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

If you’re wondering, “how big a generator do I need for my house,” you’re essentially asking about the amount of electrical power required. Whether you’re in a tiny house off-grid or a regular home, knowing your power needs is crucial.

Home use generators typically range from 5kW to 50kW. Choosing the right size ensures your appliances run smoothly and safely. Here’s why it’s important to get it right:

  • Too Small: An undersized generator will overload and overheat, causing it to shut down automatically. This reduces its lifespan and can damage your appliances.
  • Too Big: An oversized generator can be wasteful, using more fuel than necessary and incurring extra costs.

When living off-grid or preparing for power outages, knowing how much generator power you need is essential. Here’s a simple guide to help you out:

List All Devices You’ll Power

Start by listing all the appliances and devices you intend to run on the generator. This could be anything from lights and laptops to refrigerators and water heaters.

Record the Wattage of Each Device

Next, write down the wattage of each device. You can usually find this information on the device itself or in the user manual. Remember, some devices have different starting and running wattages.

Add Up Total Wattage

Add up the running wattage of all the devices you plan to use at the same time. This gives you a baseline for your power needs. Also, factor in the highest starting wattage for one of the devices to cover your initial power surge requirements.

Calculating Wattage from Amperes

When determining the wattage of your appliances, you might come across devices that only provide amperes (amps) instead of watts. Don’t worry! You can easily calculate the wattage using this simple formula:


For example, if you have an appliance rated at 10 amps and it operates at 120 volts, the resulting wattage would be:

1,200 WATTS (calculated as 10 x 120 = 1,200)

This formula will help you convert amperes to watts, ensuring you have an accurate assessment of your power needs.

Add 20% to Total for Buffer

After getting your total wattage, add 20% to it. This buffer ensures your generator won’t be running at full capacity all the time, which helps in prolonging its life and maintaining efficiency.

Choose a Generator Matching or Exceeding This Wattage

Finally, choose a generator that meets or exceeds this wattage. If your total power requirement (plus buffer) is 5000 watts, opt for a generator that provides at least 5000 watts or more. This way, you’ll have a reliable power source without straining the generator.

Read: Monolithic Dome Homes: Safe, Sustainable, and Stylish

Understanding Generator Watts: Starting, Running, and Surge Wattage

Wattage for Start-up, Running, and Surges.
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Before you start searching for the perfect generator, it’s essential to understand the different types of wattage: starting, running, and surge wattage. These terms can be confusing, but knowing the difference is crucial to choosing the right generator for your needs.

Starting and Surge Wattage

Starting and surge wattage are interchangeable terms. They refer to the maximum power required to start a device, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner. This power surge is needed to overcome the initial resistance and get the motor running.

Running Wattage

Running wattage, on the other hand, is the continuous power required to keep the device running. This is typically lower than the starting or surge wattage.

For example, a portable generator might have a maximum surge power of 2000 watts, but its continuous running power is around 1600 watts. When shopping for a generator, make sure to check the specifications for both the surge and running watts.

Appliance Wattage

Some appliances, like refrigerators and freezers, have two different wattage listings: surge watts for starting and running watts for continuous operation. A refrigerator might require 2200 starting watts but only 600 running watts.

Why Surge Wattage Matters

The reason surge wattage is so high is due to the electric motor in these devices. When the motor starts, a high current flows through it, causing the power requirement to skyrocket. However, this surge is momentary, and the power requirement drops to normal once the motor is running.

What This Means for You

When choosing a generator, it’s not enough to only consider the running watts of your appliances. You need to factor in the surge watts required during startup. If you don’t, you might end up with a generator that can’t handle the power requirements of your devices.

Remember, understanding generator watts is crucial to ensuring you have a reliable power source.

Types of Generators

Different Types of Generators
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

All generators provide power during outages, but understanding the differences between them is crucial for making the right choice. Here’s a breakdown of the various types of generators:

Portable Generators

If you need a generator for occasional outages or recreational purposes, a portable generator is a great choice. They are lighter and range in capacity from 2000 to 8000 watts.

Portable generators are versatile and can be easily moved around as needed. They are perfect for small households or outdoor activities like camping.

When choosing a portable generator, consider:

  • Fuel Efficiency: How long will it run on a full tank?
  • Size and Weight: Is it easy to transport?
  • Additional Features: Look for electric start, multiple outlets, and fuel gauge.

Home Standby Generators

Home standby generators are larger in size and capacity, making them suitable for frequent power outages.

These generators can deliver up to 20,000 watts, providing enough power to run important appliances and systems in a home during extended blackouts.

Key features include:

  • Permanent Installation: Installed outside the home and connected to the electrical system.
  • Automatic Operation: Switches on automatically when power is lost.
  • High Capacity: Can power large appliances like HVAC systems, refrigerators, and sump pumps.

Inverter Generators

Inverter generators come equipped with inverter technology, producing clean AC power with less than 6% harmonic distortion.

They are more fuel-efficient and quieter than traditional models, making them ideal for sensitive electronic devices.

Advantages of inverter generators:

  • Fuel Efficiency: Adjusts speed based on the connected load to optimize fuel consumption.
  • Low Noise: Quieter operation compared to other types.
  • Portability: Lightweight and easy to carry, making them versatile for various uses.

Inverter generators are an excellent choice for those looking for a reliable power source with minimal noise and emissions, perfect for running sensitive electronics like laptops and medical devices.

Understanding these different types of generators will help you choose the one that best suits your needs, whether for home, recreation, or emergency purposes.

Pros and Cons of Different Generator Types

Generator Type Pros and Cons
Portable Generators Flexible usage and easy to move around
Can be noisy and less powerful than other types
Home Standby Generators Provides high power capacity and peace of mind
Expensive and requires professional installation
Inverter Generators Fuel-efficient and produces clean power
Usually more expensive than traditional generators

Choosing the Right Generator

Choosing the Right Generator
  • Pin it for tiny dwellers!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

When selecting a generator, there are several factors to consider to ensure you get the right one for your needs. Here are some key considerations:

Fuel Type: Gasoline vs. Propane

Gasoline and propane are two common fuel types for generators. Gasoline is readily available and burns with high efficiency, but it has a short shelf life, emits fumes, and is highly flammable.

Propane, on the other hand, has a long shelf life and burns cleaner than gasoline. However, propane generators deliver less wattage than gasoline-powered ones.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency is crucial when choosing a generator. Modern generators have more efficient engines that deliver better fuel efficiency. Look for generators with a higher number of hours of runtime on a full tank, as this reduces energy costs and environmental impact. Consider the fuel tank size and type of fuel for optimal efficiency.

Size and Weight: Portability and Build Quality

When it comes to portability, consider the size and weight of the generator. Larger generators are heavier but have more capacity. Look for generators with wheels for easier movement. Ensure the build quality is durable enough to withstand impacts. Check for additional features like electric start and multiple outlets for convenience.

Inverter Technology

Generators with inverter technology provide clean AC power and are more fuel-efficient. They adjust their speed based on the load for optimized fuel consumption. Choose a generator size that fits your needs and offers the necessary features for a smooth operation.

Additional Features to Consider

  • Electric Start and Multiple Outlets: Look for generators with electric start and multiple outlets for convenience.
  • Automatic CO Detector and Gauges: Prioritize safety features like an automatic CO detector and gauges to ensure safe and efficient generator operation.
  • Additional Safety Features: Consider generators with multiple safety features, such as low oil shutdown and overload shutdown, to prevent potential damage to the generator and ensure safe operation.

Investing in a generator with these additional safety features ensures that both the unit and your household remain protected. By considering these factors, you can choose a generator that not only meets your power needs but also ensures safety, efficiency, and reliability.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When selecting a generator, there are some common pitfalls that can lead to less-than-optimal performance. Avoid these mistakes to ensure you’re choosing the right generator for your needs:

Underestimating Power Needs

One major mistake is underestimating your power needs. Many people focus solely on running watts, forgetting about the surge wattage needed during startup.

Surge wattage is the temporary spike in power required by devices like refrigerators and air conditioners to start up.

How to Avoid This Mistake:

  • Calculate Total Power Requirement: List all the devices you’ll be powering and find both their running and starting wattages.
  • Adjust Usage Patterns: Consider staggering the startup of power-hungry appliances to reduce the overall power requirement.
  • Add a Buffer: Always add a 20% buffer to your total wattage to account for any unexpected power surges.

By accurately estimating your power needs, you can avoid overloading and overheating your generator, which can lead to automatic shutdowns and a shortened lifespan.

Overlooking Surge Wattage Requirements

Another commonly overlooked factor is surge wattage. Devices with electric motors, like refrigerators and air conditioners, require additional wattage to start up.

Ignoring this can result in a generator that can’t handle the initial power draw, causing it to fail in powering your devices.

How to Avoid This Mistake:

  • Check Surge Wattage: Look in the user manuals of your appliances for exact power consumption figures, including both running and surge wattages.
  • Calculate Surge Requirements: Make sure your generator can handle the highest surge wattage requirement of any single device you plan to power.

Understanding surge wattage is crucial for selecting the right generator. Ensure your generator can handle these temporary spikes to keep all your appliances running smoothly.

Ignoring Fuel Efficiency and Safety Features

Fuel efficiency and safety features are often overlooked but are crucial for reliable and cost-effective generator operation.

High fuel consumption can lead to higher operational costs, and lack of safety features can pose serious risks.

How to Avoid This Mistake:

  • Prioritize Fuel Efficiency: Look for generators with efficient engines that provide a longer runtime on a full tank.
  • Check Safety Features: Prioritize generators with automatic CO detectors, low oil shutdown, and overload protection. These features protect both your generator and your household appliances.

Ignoring fuel efficiency and safety features can compromise the performance and longevity of your generator. Make safety a top priority and opt for a model with essential safety measures to ensure reliable and safe operation.

Loading the QUIZ…

And that’s a wrap!

I’ve walked you through the essential steps to determine the right size generator for your needs. Remember, when it comes to choosing the perfect generator, the power in Watts matters. Finding the right generator size involves a combination of technical understanding, practical considerations, and personal preferences.

Now that you have the knowledge, don’t wait any longer to prepare for the next power outage. Get the right size generator for your needs and enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.

Categorized in:

Quizzes, Survival,

Last Update: June 2, 2024