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Generators Buyer's Guide at Cabela's

Generators Buyer's Guide

Author: Melissa Shutter

As generators become quieter, lighter and more compact, portable power becomes a necessity rather than a convenience. Running kitchen appliances, heaters, lights and power tools at locations miles away from electrical outlets makes time spent in the outdoors even more enjoyable.

To choose the right portable generator for your needs, several factors must be considered.
Mobility and Weight

Relative to their size, generators are not lightweight. Some portable generators, especially larger, heavier models, feature wheels for your rolling convenience. Most of these larger generators are best handled by at least two able-bodied people when lifting from truck boxes or trailer beds.

Compact-sized generators are lighter, though it’s at the expense of limited power and fuel capacity. Remember - weights listed in generator specifications do not include fuel.
Power Requirements

When determining generator power requirements, consider the equipment with the highest power needs first. The power required to start these applications will determine the rated power of the generator you should choose for your application.
Champion portable generator
Two types of appliances are common to the job, camp and home: resistive and reactive.

Resistive appliances require continuous power. An example of a resistive load is a light bulb. The same amount of power is required to turn on and run the light bulb for an extended period. Resistive appliances do not usually operate with an electric motor.

Reactive appliances have a peak power requirement, involving the start up of an electric motor. Peak power is most often encountered during appliance start up, and must be taken into account before deciding on generator. For instance, we’ve all seen lights dim when a refrigerator or dryer turns on ... that’s a reactive appliance.
Use this simple formula to determine an appliance’s generator requirement:
Volts x Amps = Watts

In this formula, you only need to know two of the variables to calculate the third.

For example, you may want a generator to power a coffee maker. The coffee maker is 120V and requires 6 amps of current. By multiplying volts and amps, it can be calculated that the coffee maker will require 720 watts of power.
Yamaha portable generator
A generator should never be operated at its maximum power output for more than 30 minutes. Rated power is a more reliable measure of safe generator power. Typically, rated power is 90% of maximum power.
Recreation Wattage Estimation Guide
Application Approximate Starting Wattage Approximate Running Wattage
RV Air Conditioner
11,000 BTU 1600 1010
13,500 BTU 2800 1800
15,000 BTU 3300 2000
RV Refrigerator 600 180
Blender 850 400
Electric Grill (tabletop) 1650 1650
Slow Cooker 170-270 170-270
Radiant Heater 1300 1300
Fan (portable) 120 40
Satellite Reciever 250 250
DVD Player 350 350

Home Wattage Estimation Guide
Application Approximate Starting Wattage Approximate Running Wattage
Refrigerator or Freezer
(Energy Star)
1200 132-192
Microwave Oven
650 watts 1000 1000
800 watts 1300 1300
1000 watts 1500 1500
Incandescent Lights as indicated on bulb
(i.e. 60W)
as indicated on bulb
(i.e. 60W)
Tube type 300 300
Flat Screen (20") 120 120
Flat Screen (46") 190 190
Coffee Maker (4 cup) 600 600
Dishwasher (Cool Dry) 540 216
Electric Fry Pan 1500 1500
Automatic Washer 1200 1200
Radio 50-200 50-200
Window Air Conditioner
(10,000 BTU)
2200 1500
Laptop 200-250 200-250
Desktop 600-800 600-800
Monitor (LDC style) 30 30
Printer 400-600 400-600
Garage Door Opener 1420 720
Air Compressor
1/2 hp 1600 975
1 hp 4500 1600

Making a Wise Choice

Knowing the wattage required, factoring peak power appliances and determining a manageable size and weight, you can purchase a generator with confidence. Choosing the right generator to suit your particular needs will make life easier at home, on the work site or around camp.

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