How Do I Use My Generator Safely?

How Do I Choose a Generator?

Before you buy an emergency generator, calculate how much power you need to run essential appliances during a power outage. You should know both the running wattage and the starting wattage needed to run appliances.

Running wattage, also called rated watts, can be found on the appliance nameplate. Starting wattage is an important rating for compressors, motors, and pumps, and is usually two to seven times the running wattage. The starting wattage for the smallest heat pumps and central air conditioning unit will be greater than 10,000 watts, which is beyond the capacity of most portable generators.

To determine generator size, first decide what essential equipment needs to be operated, and which large appliances can be cycled on and off. It may be practical to rotate equipment use to reduce the size and cost of the generator you need.


Buying a generator can be a lot like buying an automobile. The body and engine are included in the base price, but the many desirable features you want cause the price to go up. Practical options to look for include the following: