2,000-watt portable generators have become a workhorse class of generators thanks to their compact sizes, convenient outlets, and ample power. There is also now a huge variety of affordable inverter generators offering 2,000 watts of power, which are quieter, lighter, and more efficient than their traditional counterparts.
2,000 watts may not sound like a lot of energy, especially when compared to some of the 10,000-watt portable generators that are available.
So, what can you run on a 2000-watt generator? What exactly will 2,000 watts power for you?
There’s no single answer to this question, since how far you can stretch your generator depends on how you are planning to use it.
We will explain how you can figure out exactly how your power supply matches up to your appliances. We’ll also look at some example scenarios where you might use a 2,000-watt generator, including camping, RVing, and for a power outage at home.
Table of Contents
Understanding Portable Generator Wattage
The 2,000-watt rating of your generator may refer to either the rated power or the surge power.
The rated power is the amount of power that the generator can output continuously for its entire runtime. The total wattage of any appliances and devices you plug into your generator must sum up to less than its rated power.
The surge power is a higher wattage rating that your generator can only sustain for a few seconds. This is specifically designed to accommodate the higher startup wattage requirements of motor-driven appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and lawn equipment.
The sum of the wattages of everything you already have plugged into the generator plus the startup wattage of your motor-driven appliance must be less than the surge wattage. The easiest way to manage this is to plug in motor-driven appliances first – that way they can settle to their running power requirements before you further load your generator.
Wattage Requirements of Common Appliances
The power requirements of common appliances can vary quite a bit. For example, the difference between an EnergyStar-rated refrigerator and a regular refrigerator can be several hundred watts. As you can see in the chart below, running your refrigerator off your generator is safe as long as the wattage of the generator is greater than the wattage of your particular refrigerator.
With that in mind, here is a rough estimate of the running wattage requirements of some common home and RV appliances:
- Incandescent Light Bulb – 60 watts
- Refrigerator/Freezer – 700 watts
- Microwave – 800 watts
- Toaster – 850 watts
- Coffee Maker – 800 watts
- Dishwasher – 300 watts
- Electric stove – 1,500 watts
- Small AC unit – 1,200 watts
- Laptop – 200 watts
- Television – 200 watts
- Phone charger – 5 watts
2,000 Watt Generator Example Use Cases
To help you better understand what you can power off your 2,000-watt generator in a real scenario, let’s take a look at a camping trip, an RV trip, and a power outage at home.
Camping Trip Generator Needs
If you’re out camping, you likely want electricity to keep your campsite lit up and to power a few basic cooking supplies.
To light up your campsite, you may have a few bright electric lamps or lanterns, or even string lights. If you have two lanterns that are 100 watts each and a set of string lights that are 50 watts, lighting your entire campsite only uses up a scant 250 watts.
You could also use your generator to power a laptop for watching a movie or to charge your phone. Together, these draw just over 200 watts of power and have no surge power requirement.
Your kitchen will draw more power, though, so you may need to trade off which appliance is turned on. For example, if you have a coffee maker that draws 800 watts and a portable electric stovetop that uses 1,500 watts, you’ll need to choose whether you want to make coffee or cook breakfast first. I say make the coffee and unplug the pot, then cook the food – coffee first, right?
RV Trip Generator Needs
RVs give you space for larger appliances, such as a refrigerator/freezer and an air conditioner. So, a 2,000-watt generator might not be enough power for a truly luxurious RV trip.
If you have a refrigerator in your RV, you’ll want to keep it running most of the time the generator is plugged in. That sucks up around 700 watts, plus a surge up to 1,000 watts when you first plug it in.
You might think that an air conditioning unit could also fit on your generator since smaller units only use around 1,200 watts of power. But, the surge requirements on most air conditioners – typically 3,000 watts or more – far outpace the surge capacity of any 2,000-watt generators.
So, with your refrigerator plugged in, you could run all the lights in your RV and charge your laptop and still remain close to a 1,200-watt load. That leaves you just enough power to run a microwave or toaster – but you might want to turn off the lights when doing so to be safe!
Power Outage at Home Generator Needs
When it comes to dealing with a power outage at home, a 2,000-watt generator can make it possible to keep the bare essentials running.
To start, you can keep your refrigerator and freezer running so you don’t have food that spoils. You can also turn on the lights, although to conserve fuel and power you may want to use lights more conservatively than normal.
Alternatively, if you keep the lights off, you can power some other important home appliances. A sump pump typically uses around 1,200 watts, which your generator can handle along with a refrigerator. You can also keep a second refrigerator or freezer running if you have more than one in your house.
Don’t expect to run your house as you would in the absence of a power outage, though. Your washer and dryer as well as any home air conditioning or heating systems all require more power than a 2,000-watt generator can supply. In addition, the large number of lightbulbs in a standard home means that simply turning on the lights can suck up several hundred watts of energy.
A 2,000-watt portable generator is an extremely versatile power supply whenever you’re able to get by with budgeting energy. While you may find yourself with ample wattage in a situation like a camping trip, you can quickly run up against the generator’s limits in an RV or at home during a power outage.
If you need to push your generator to its maximum capacity, it’s always a good idea to check the exact wattage requirements of your appliances to ensure you will not cause an overload.