What can a 10,000-watt generator run?

The last several years have seen an upsurge in natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, snow-related, flooding, etc.) that have caused power outages for several days in many communities.  Having a generator to provide power to your home/business during times of crisis can alleviate loss and frustration. 

A 10,000-watt generator provides enough power to run large appliances, as well as a range of tools on a job site, or many RV accessories.  If you have enough fuel to keep the generator powered, your life can be relatively comfortable during a power outage. If you happen to be in the market, we have a guide reviewing the best 10,000 watt generators.

You can operate lights, refrigerator, freezer, most small appliances, a water or sump pump, a window air-conditioner, and/or furnace conservatively with a 10,000-watt generator.  These items will mostly be run through your 110-volt circuits.  Obviously, the more power (wattage) you draw, the more fuel your generator will consume.

When deciding on the size of generator it is important to consider the critical components you need to run during a power outage.  An electric range or central air running on a 220-volt circuit needs more wattage for starting up, sometimes1,000 watts over the running watts.  By calculating how many appliances you are running at any given time, you can estimate how much “room” you have for the starting watts or surge watts before maximizing the 10,000 watts of your generator.

When choosing a generator make sure it can handle the starting wattage.  To determine what wattage your range or air-conditioner requires, look at the unit’s nameplate or check with the manufacturer. 

What are starting watts and why are they important?

Starting watts are extra watts needed for two to three seconds to start motor-driven products like a refrigerator, air-conditioner, or power tool.  This should not exceed the generator’s maximum wattage.  The generator can provide this wattage temporarily, in a brief surge (which is why the starting watts are also called “surge watts” or “peak watts”).  Running watts are the wattage needed to keep an appliance or tool running.

The wattage of an appliance should never be assumed.  If powering something that has more significant energy draw than your generator can handle you can risk overloading it.  This can cause significant damage to other things that are plugged in.  To get a perspective of the watts needed for various household appliances, follow this list of estimated wattage used by various appliances and peripherals:

What can a 10,000 watt generator run? Estimated usage of various items

Estimated wattages for common home appliances:

  • Refrigerator/Freezer – 700 watts
  • Microwave – 800 watts
  • Toaster – 850 watts
  • Coffee Maker – 800 watts
  • Dishwasher – 300 watts
  • Electric stove – 1,500 watts
  • Washing Machine – 500 watts (1,400 surge watts)
  • Dryer – 3,000 watts
  • Air conditioning – 1,000 to 4,000 watts, depending on size
  • Sump or well pump – 1,000 watts
  • Lightbulb – 60 watts
  • Television – 200 watts
  • Laptop – 300 watts

Estimated power requirements of common tools on a work site

  • Circular saw – 1,400 watts (2,300 surge watts)
  • Table saw – 1,800 watts (4,500 surge watts)
  • Portable air compressor (1/2 horsepower) – 1,000 watts (1,600 watts)
  • Portable air compressor (1 horsepower) – 1,600 watts (4,500 surge watts)
  • Electric drill – 600 watts
  • Bench grinder – 1,400 watts (2,500 surge watts)
  • Chainsaw – 1,500 watts
  • Electric leaf blower – 1,000 watts

Big output generators, like the 10,000 watt, are popular for their ability to power a large variety of appliances and home functions along with their portability.  They generally are equipped with easy-to-use handles and heavy-duty wheels that make them easy to move.  Some homeowners may choose to have their generator more permanently installed (with proper ventilation).  Note that a permanent installation of any generator requires a licensed electrician (see DO NOT plug the generator into a wall outlet).

The portable 10,000-watt generator options for fuel may include propane, gasoline, or diesel.  Gasoline-power is the most common.  Generators running on gasoline are generally less expensive to purchase.  However, note that gasoline and diesel have shorter shelf lives (see “Shelf life of fuels). 

what can a 10000 watt generator run

The following information is provided by the US Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency.

What to know when running your 10,000 watt generator

Know your generator’s rate of fuel consumption. Be aware of the fuel consumption at various power outputs and for how long.  Carefully consider how much fuel you can safely store and for how long.  Gasoline and diesel fuel stored for long periods may need added chemical to keep them safe for use. 

Shelf life of fuels.  It is important to know that regular gasoline has a shelf life of three to six months.  Diesel can last up to a year before it begins to degrade.  Organic-based Ethanol can lose its combustibility in one to three months due to oxidation and evaporation.  Propane can last up to 30 years.  Check with your supplier for recommendations. Store all fuels in specifically designed containers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, away from all potential heat sources.

How to safely run your 10,000 watt generator

Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling.  The generator will be hot from operation.  Use caution with pouring flammable fuels.  Only use the type of fuel recommended.

DO NOT plug the generator into a wall outlet.  NEVER try to power your house/business by plugging the generator into a wall outlet or the main electrical panel.  Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel by installing the proper equipment according to local electrical codes.  Make sure the electrician installs an approved automatic transfer switch so you can disconnect your home’s wiring from the utility system before you use the generator.

Plug equipment directly into the generator.  If the generator is not used with a main electrical panel and automatic transfer switch, be sure to use heavy-duty, outdoor rated extension cords that are in good working condition and have a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any connected appliances.

Keep the generator dry.  When operating your generator in a portable setting keep it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator.  A generator should not be run in rainy or wet conditions.  Make sure the generator is grounded to prevent shocks and electrocutions.

Safety first.  Connecting your generator correctly is vital.  Using a generator improperly can lead to danger as carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust can occur.  It is important that generators be installed with safety measures for air-circulation and proper exhaust measures in place.  Attempting to connect a generator improperly can cause electric shock or electrocution.  A worst-case scenario is that an overload could cause a fire.  Use a portable generator only when necessary and only to power essential equipment.

Disconnecting from normal power.  Disconnect the normal power coming into your home/business before you operate your generator.  This is important as the power from your generator could be sent back into the utility company lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers.

Inspect and maintain your generator regularly.  Check the tank and valves regularly for cracks and leaks.  Replace damaged materials immediately. 

Every emergency is different so you should follow your state and local emergency management authority’s guidance.  Always practice safety.

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