What Can You Run on a 5,000-Watt Generator?

When you have a serious need for power, a 5,000-watt generator has a lot to offer. This powerful class of generators is designed to meet the basic needs of most households during a power outage. Plus, 5,000-watt generators can help you run tools at a work site or keep a large RV electrified.

So, is a 5,000-watt generator the right choice for your power needs?

To answer that question, we’ll take a look at exactly what appliances and tools you can run with a 5,000-watt generator. On top of that, we’ll dive into some common scenarios for which you would want to use a generator and explore whether 5,000 watts is enough.

Understanding Generator Wattages

Before we dive deep into wattages, it’s important to realize that every generator has two wattage ratings: the surge wattage and the rated wattage.

The surge wattage is the maximum amount of power that your generator can put out. This can typically only be sustained for a few seconds while motor-driven appliances, which require more power to start, get running.

The surge wattage is important because many heavy-duty appliances, like your home’s sump pump, can have startup power requirements that are twice or more what the appliance uses once it’s up and running. If you plan to run a lot of motor-driven appliances, surge wattage can be your generator’s primary power limitation.

After those few seconds at maximum power are up, you’re limited to your generator’s rated, or continuous, wattage. This is the power that you generator can output consistently for hours at a time.

Keep in mind that if you try to run your generator above the rated wattage but below the surge wattage for more than a few seconds, you will overload the engine. So, the sum of running wattages of appliances and tools you plan to power must be less than the rated wattage of your generator.

Powering Your Home with a 5,000-watt Generator

One of the most common reasons to buy a 5,000-watt generator is to get a backup power supply for your home during an extended blackout. But, it’s important to look at how much power the appliances around your home actually require.

Let’s start by looking at the most power-hungry appliances you’re likely to have around your home:

  • Electric stove – 1,500 watts (no surge requirement)
  • Window air conditioner – 1,200 watts (1,800 watts surge power)
  • Central air conditioning system – 3,800 to 6,000 watts, depending on size (8,000 to 12,000 surge watts)
  • Space heater – 600 to 1,500 watts
  • Central heating system – 5,000 watts and up, depending on size
  • Sump pump – 800 watts (1,500 to 3,000 surge watts)
  • Well pump – 1,000 watts (2,000 to 4,000 surge watts)

As you can see, these major appliances use up a lot of power – especially once you have to take start-up power requirements into account. For most homes, it won’t be possible to run a central heating or air conditioning with just a 5,000-watt generator.

That said, you can pair your generator with a window air conditioner or space heater. Even if you want to heat three bedrooms at night using space heaters, you can accomplish that with a 5,000-watt generator and still have wattage left over.

So, a 5,000-watt generator can certainly save you from freezing during a winter outage or baking during a summer outage – you’ll just have to pick which rooms are climate-controlled.

Keep in mind that moving water around your house with a sump pump and well pump can also take a lot of power. You’ll likely want to plug in these pumps before any other appliances, as they have high surge wattage requirements that can test the limits of a 5,000-watt generator.

If we move into the kitchen, power requirements for common appliances are much more modest:

  • Refrigerator/Freezer – 700 watts (1,200 surge watts)
  • Microwave – 800 watts
  • Toaster – 850 watts
  • Coffee Maker – 800 watts
  • Dishwasher – 300 watts

Even if you are running a small heating and air conditioning unit and a water pump, a 5,000-watt generator will still leave enough power to keep your refrigerator and freezer running.

In an ideal situation, you won’t need to control for temperature and you get water from city lines. In that case, 5,000 watts allows you to run most other appliances in your home as if the power never went out at all. You can even power most of your electronics, since computers and televisions typically require less than 400 watts each to run and don’t have surge requirements.

Powering a Work Site with a 5,000-watt Generator

Contractors and builders frequently use 5,000-watt generators to provide power for portable electric tools. 5,000 watts is more than enough to run most common contractor-duty power tools:

  • 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

Keep in mind, though, that if you want to run multiple power tools at the same time, you’re likely to run up against surge power limitations. This isn’t a huge deal for many contractors, especially since many pneumatic tools will run off a generator-powered air compressor.

However, if you have a large work site with multiple people depending on your generator, 5,000 watts may not always be enough to get the job done.

Powering an RV with a 5,000-watt Generator

A 5,000-watt generator is the perfect amount of power for large RVs. It offers enough juice to power your entire kitchen, lights, and a small air conditioning unit or space heater without all that much power left over.

While smaller RVs may be able to run off a smaller 3,000-watt generator, the advantage of a 5,000-watt generator is that you don’t have to balance running multiple appliances simultaneously. With 5,000 watts, you can be almost certain that your generator can handle your RV’s entire electrical grid.

Is 5,000-Watts the Right Size for You?

5,000 watts is a lot of power – or not quite enough, depending on how you plan to use it. A 5,000-watt generator can help you power the essentials in your house during an outage, or it can provide more than enough power to run any common heavy-duty power tools at a worksite. For RVing, a 5,000-watt generator provides peace of mind that you’ll never run up against an overload.

If a 5,000-watt generator is more power than you need, consider a 3,500-watt generator. Alternatively, if 5,000 watts won’t meet your power demands, see what a 7,500-watt generator can do for you.

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