A 3,500-watt (3.5KvA) generator can run a large range of home appliances, including heavy-duty things such as a refrigerator, an electric furnace, a microwave, and a television. In general, appliances require a higher wattage amount when they are first started up; during operation, the running wattage typically drops significantly. Theoretically, a 3,500-watt generator can run many appliances simultaneously, though each needs to be activated separately.
When considering the number of appliances that can be run on a generator, it is important to take note of what the operational and starting watt requirements are for each item. A large refrigerator, for example, may require anywhere between 1,200 to 1,600 watts to start up, but then might drop to as low as 200 to 700 watts during normal operation.
Certain appliances, such as a microwave, can have static wattage requirements due to the nature of their usage. A microwave is typically used for a very short period of time and uses a large wattage to power its normal functions.
When using a 3,500-watt generator, balancing wattage requirements is important. While it is theoretically possible to run most, if not all, of a house's appliances on 3,500 watts, spikes in watt usage may sometimes cause the whole system to short and turn off.
Your total required wattage
Many people ask us “what size generator do I need?” The answer to this question depends on what it will be used for. All our models are rated to run at a certain wattage, so you must consider the amount of wattage you need your generator to produce. Regardless of whether you’ll be running camping equipment or a whole construction site, this is a vital step in the buying process – otherwise, you might end up with a generator that isn’t fit for purpose.
Here are four key things to consider when it comes to wattage:
You can find the individual wattages of an item on the equipment itself, in the user manual, on a manufacturer’s website, or by contacting the manufacturer by phone.
What items do you want to run together? For example, if you want to run a slow cooker and a fan at the same time, you need the combined wattage of the equipment. If you’ll only ever run each item independently, then you just need to worry about the item with the highest wattage.
Do the items have a starting wattage? Any piece of equipment with an induction motor will have a starting wattage, and therefore a higher wattage requirement. This includes chop saws, air compressors, vacuum cleaners, pressure washers, and freezers - anything with a motor in it. Simply multiply the item’s wattage by three to find its starting wattage.
Give yourself some headroom. Just because your car can go 120 miles an hour, doesn’t mean that it’s suitable to drive at the maximum all the time. Your generator will be very much the same; a 4200W generator shouldn’t be used to power 4200 watts worth of equipment. Give yourself at least 20% headroom.
So, what capacity generator do I need, exactly? Here’s how to work out what your final required wattage is:
All the individual equipment wattages for the items you wish to run together (x 3 if the item has an induction motor), + 20% headroom = minimum wattage generator you require.
For example, to run a 250W slow cooker with a 650W hand drill the maths is:
650W (drill) x 3 (starting wattage) = 1950W
1950W (drill total) + 250W (slow cooker) = 2200W
2200W + 20% = 2640W total required watts required