Emergency Generator Sizing
Selecting an...


How to Install a Generator!
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To properly size a generator for use as an emergency power source for your home, you must decide what circuits you want it to power. For instance you might want it to power only necessary items such as a few lights, furnace/boiler, water pump etc. Or, you may decide that you want it to power your entire house or somewhere in between. Prepare an itemized list of these circuits and/or appliances and total up the wattage. Some standard or common household appliances are listed with their wattages on the power page of this site. Most appliances and motors have its wattage listed on a nameplate. If not, try to find its voltage and amperage and multiply them together (see Power Page). Motors require special attention so a separate section is provided for them. Take some time to think about this, and list the items in their order of importance to you. Let’s try an example with no motors first;

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So our total wattage is 1,440 watts. Now if no other loads are to be added, then a 10% safety margin should be included (1,440 X 0.10 = 144 watts), bringing our total to 1,440 + 144 = 1,584 watts. Therefore we need an emergency generator that has a continuous rating of at least 1,584 watts. Remember that we must always use the rated or continuous rating of the emergency generator and not the maximum or surge rating.




Emergency Generator Sizing

Electric motors may give us problems because in many cases they require a much higher wattage to get them started than they do when they are up and running. For instance if you have a pump motor that requires 250 watts when running, it may require up to 3 times that amount or 750 watts to get it started. Of course this draw will only last for a few seconds until the motor is up to speed, but if your generator capacity is borderline, then this surge may be enough to trip the generator circuit breaker. If you have several motors that will be used at the same time there are several possible combinations that we should investigate. Here's an example;

Motor A starting watts 2,100, running is 700w.

Motor B starting watts 1,500, running is 500w.

Motor C starting watts 750, running is 250w.

Total starting watts are 4,350, running is 1,450w.

The absolute worst case scenario of the above example is one in which all the motors are started simultaneously. That would require us to supply 4,350 watts from our generator---- just to start the motors. Realistically, however, while all the motors may at one time or another be running in concert, they won't necessarily all start simultaneously. With this in mind we must again assume the worst case condition, which in this example is the starting of the largest motor while the others are running. To calculate this condition we add the motor with the largest starting load, which is motor A (2,100), to the running loads of B (500) and C (250), for a total load of 2,850 watts. This load requirement can be reduced if we have manual control of all the motors to ensure they are started largest first. In this way, the motors with the largest starting requirements are already running and drawing their smaller running loads when the last and smallest motor is started. Therefore we would add the running loads of A (700) and B (500), to the starting load of C (750), for a total load of 1,950 watts. But be careful, because as you can see this load is less than the starting load of motor A (2,100) alone. So the minimum load we can use in this example is 2,100 watts, and only if we have control of the motor starting order. Motors in small appliances do not require much starting current so don't worry too much about them. Also, the larger appliances should not be too much trouble as long as you use their maximum load indicated by the manufacturer. The most important motors are circulating pumps, sump
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Emergency Generator Sizing

pumps, water (well) pumps, pool pumps, power tools etc. These are the motors that you must take starting requirements into consideration and also determine whether they will be running at the same time or not. They will be the largest drain on your generator. For instance a 6,000 watt emergency generator is only rated to start a 2HP 230 volt capacitor start motor, while a 6HP motor would require a 12,000 watt emergency generator! What you're trying to accomplish is to determine the maximum or worst case load the generator will see in order to select the proper capacity. After you determine both the motor and non-motor loads, add them both together to find your total requirements.

Let's take the last two examples; Non-motor load = 1,440 watts Motor load = 2,850 watts Total load = 4,290 watts To this figure add our 10% safety margin to obtain the final figure we'll use to select a generator size; 10% X 4,290 = 429. 4,290 + 429 = 4,719 watts. Thus we need a generator that can provide us with 4,719 watts of continuous power. Choose Wisely! I know that your first instinct may be to try and justify purchasing the smallest and least expensive generator to save money. This is completely understandable. But, if this is to be a one time investment, that will last you many years, then it must be sized not only for today’s needs but also for tomorrows. Of course, if your sizing calculations reveal that a smaller unit is more than enough then by all means don’t spend the extra money for a larger unit. When properly sized, used, and maintained the high quality generator you purchase here will get you through many many hurricane seasons or winters. Choosing an "economy" brand may come with a considerable reduction in quality and dependability; a trade-off that might bring you right back here two years from now. When done with this page go to the Selecting an Emergency Generator page.




Emergency Generator Sizing
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