How to Calculate Generator Output

Written by g.k. bayne
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Electrical generators use watts to rate the generator's output. Watts is a combination of voltage times the electrical devices load capacity in amperage. Sizing a generator correctly is a crucial process for efficient operation. A generator that is sized too small will not provide enough power for the equipment you want to run on the portable electrical supply device. You must have the electrical equipment specifications in order to calculate the correct generator for the output usage.

Skill level:
Easy

Things you need

• Electrical equipment specifications

Instructions

1. 1

Understand the generator can only output a finite amount of power. That amount of power will be listed as watts. A generator may be listed as 3,000 watts delivering 120 volts.

2. 2

Find the amperage that the generator can output at 120 volts. Wattage is equal to volts time amperage (w = v X a). Divide wattage by volts to find the amperage (a = w/v). In this example 3,000 watts divided by 120 volts is equal to 25 amperes. Some generators may be a dual voltage type and also output 240 volts.

3. 3

Find the amperage available from the same generator but at the higher voltage. Divide 3,000 watts by 240 volts. Only 12.5 amperes are available by the same generator at the higher voltage. Take into consideration what you are going to operate with the generator. In other words, the total load from the devices cannot exceed the generators overall output.

4. 4

Look at the electrical specification label on the devices you wish run with the portable generator. Add all of these wattages together for the final total. Size the generator.

5. 5

Understand that all generators may be rated differently. Look for the “constant load” or “continuous load” specification on the generator. This is the amount of power in Watts that the generator can safely output for an extended period of time.

Tips and warnings

• Use the Resource link for more electrical load calculations. All electrical loads are different just as generators, it is always best to oversized a generator to the electrical load. In other words, if the electrical load is equal to 3,000 watts, it may be best to size the generator at 4,500 watts.
• Consult the generator manufacturers specifications for any dual voltage feed problems. Not all generators can provide 120 volts and 240 volts simultaneously.
• Understand that all electrical motors will have two wattage ratings. The run rating and the start rating. The start rating will be much higher in power consumption than the run rating. Be sure that when sizing a generator with a motor load, that the constant run load of the generator is greater than the total start ratings of any motor device being operated by the generator. In other words, is a motor load has a starting rating of 4,000 watts, size the generator at 4,500 watts or higher.
• Never back feed your homes electrical system by plugging an extension cord back into the homes electrical system. Severe damage may occur to all electrical appliances and create a sever electrical hazard to all persons.

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