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We live in an area that frequently suffers from power outages during bad winter weather. As a result, one of the most popular of all propane appliances is the emergency generator. In recent years generators have improved in efficiency and noise but knowing what size and type of generator would best suit your needs can seem complicated. Really it’s just a matter of figuring out what’s most important to you in times of emergency.

Generators are sold by their wattage output. So the first thing to do is decide what you want to run off the generator.

Most appliances will have their required wattage clearly labeled, either on the appliance itself or in the documentation. Below is a list of some common household items and their average wattage requirements:

  • LED light bulb, 10 watts
  • Incandescent light bulb, 60-100 watts
  • Laptop computer, 25-75 watts
  • TV, 50-240 watts
  • Desktop computer with monitor, 200-400 watts
  • Heating system, 500-800 watts
  • Space heater, 750-1,500 watts
  • Refrigerator, 500-750 watts
  • Coffee maker, 600-1,200 watts
  • Chest freezer, 600 watts
  • Well pump, 750-1,000 to run, 1,400-4,000 to start
  • Sump pump, 800-1,050 to run, 1,300-4,100 to start
  • Microwave, 1,000-2,000 watts
  • Toaster oven, 1,200 watts
  • Water heater, 3,000-4,500 watts

To decide what size generator you require, add the watts required for the appliances you would want to keep running. If an appliance has a higher wattage for starting - like the well pump and sump pump in the list above - that's the figure you should use.

Let's say you want to run a small sump pump (1,300 watts [1.3 kW] to start), a small refrigerator (500 watts [0.5 kW]), a small space heater (750 watts [0.75 kW]) and five incandescent lights (500 watts [0.5 kW]). To run all these at the same time you'll need a generator with at least 3,050 watts (3.05kW) output. A small portable (output 3 to 4 kW) will do just fine in this scenario and will cost somewhere in the region of $400 to $800.

But maybe you want to do all of the above and work at the desktop computer (300 watts [0.3kW]), watch TV (150 watts [0.15kW]), use the microwave (1,500 watts [1.5kW]), keep the chest freezer going (600 watts [0.6kW]), and have hot water (3,750 watts [3.75kW]). Now your total need, if running everything simultaneously, is 9,350 watts (9.35kW), for which you'll need a large portable giving 10,000 watts (10kW) and costing between $1,000 and $5,000, or a stationary model giving 10,000–15,000 watts (10–15kw) and costing between $5,000 and $10,000 plus installation.

If you already have a generator it’s important to get it properly maintained. While Lamprey Energy installs and provides the propane used by a stationary generator, and insures correct gas pressures, we do not provide maintenance or service. There are many local companies that do offer generator service work, but they are not all as thorough as each other.

When considering a generator service provider make sure they offer a comprehensive bi-annual service program.

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