What can you run on a 10,000 watt generator? While that seems like a lot of power, generators in this size class do have their limits. It’s not enough to run everything in your house, and you may run into problems with the type of power the generator produces.
Factor in issues like altitude and noise reduction, and your generator’s actual output could be far lower than its rating. Here’s what you need to know to figure out how much power you have available from your generator, and what you can do with it.
How Much Power Does a 10,000 Watt Generator Make?
A 10,000 watt generator can’t make 10,000 watts all the time under all conditions. You also need to factor in wear, fuel changes, altitude and other issues to determine how much power you can reliably get from your generator.
Generators are rated by their surge power and running power. They’re usually advertised by their surge power rating, because it’s the biggest number. Surge power can be maintained for a short period, usually one minute. This helps the generator deal with load spikes, like turning on an electric motor. Running power is how much power the generator can produce 100% of the time. This is usually 20% less than surge power, so a 10,000 watt generator has a sustained output of 8,000 watts.
Running your generator at maximum capacity increases wear and noise. Manufacturers recommend keeping power output at 90% or less of the generator’s rated maximum output for reliability. If you want to avoid breakdowns, plan on using no more than 7,200 watts of sustained power.
Considering a Dual Fuel Generator?
Natural gas is less energy dense than gasoline, which lowers engine output by 10%. When you run your generator on propane, you’ll only have 6,480 watts of running power and 9,000 watts of surge power.
Concerned about noise and fuel consumption? Decibel and fuel economy ratings are usually quoted under 25% or 50% load. The difference in noise between full and half load is usually around 5 dB. That doesn’t sound like much, until you consider that the decibel scale is logarithmic.
That means we perceive this as a 50% increase in loudness. Fuel consumption usually scales almost linearly, so running the engine at 100% load uses about twice as much fuel as it does under 50% load.
Altitude is also a factor. On average, the engine in your generator loses 3.5% of its power for every 1,000 foot increase in altitude. If you’re in Denver, your generator makes about 20% less power than it would in Ft. Lauderdale.
Get up into the Rockies, and power could drop by as much as 35%. This power loss will be worse if your generator isn’t getting the right amount of fuel. Generator manufacturers offer high altitude kits that replace the standard carburetor jets with smaller ones. This keeps the air/fuel mixture from getting too rich for the engine.
How Do I Access the Full Power of a 10,000 Watt Generator?
You can’t plug appliances directly into a generator this size and get its full output. Instead, you need to use high amperage outlets, or a combination of high amperage and household connections.
NEMA 5-20R sockets are similar to what you use for home appliances, except they also support 20 amp connections. 5-20 plugs have one sideways plug blade. Using a 20 amp-compatible connection, you can draw up to 2,500 watts from this circuit. 5-20R sockets are wired in duplex, so two sockets share the same circuit. If your generator has four sockets, you can draw a maximum of 5,000 watts using two of these sockets.
There are three high amperage connections used on generators this size: TT-30, L5-30 and 14-50R. TT-30 and L5-30 sockets support up to 30 amps, or 3,250 watts. 14-50 supports up to 6,250 watts. Keep in mind that amps are calculated by dividing watts by volts.
While you’ll get half the amps from a 240 volt connection than a 120 volt connection, you’re still getting the same amount of electricity. You may run into trouble connecting older RVs to a 14-50R plug. This connection uses two hot wires, and some electrical systems can’t detect both of them in 120 volt mode. This halves the power you can get from this connection.
Do You Plan on Using Your Generator for Home Backup Power?
If you connect it to your home wiring, you need to add a transfer switch. This automatically cuts the connection between your home and the grid. Without one, your generator can send electricity over the power lines, which could electrocute the people working on them. You also need an external ground. The generator should have a lug you can connect to a grounding rod.
As with any generator, you need to be sure it’s several feet away from buildings while it’s running. If the generator is next to a window or awning, or it’s in the garage, the space can concentrate carbon monoxide from the exhaust. This odorless gas causes asphyxiation and death.
Plan on using heavy gauge extension cords to link your generator to the appliances you want to run. Want to connect appliances directly from your generator? You can buy breakout cables that plug into high amp outlets and have multiple household sockets.
Do I Need an Inverter Generator?
Household alternating current gradually changes between positive and negative polarity 60 times per second. If you connect this “clean” power to an oscilloscope, you’ll see a perfect sine wave.
A standard generator sends power from the alternator directly to the sockets. Electrical interference and changes in engine speed affect this switch in polarity. If you connect this “dirty” power to an oscilloscope, you’ll see a wave with spikes and flat spots. These fluctuations are hard on electronics, wearing out components prematurely.
An inverter generator turns electricity from the alternator into DC power, then back into AC power. This process removes the interference, creating a near perfect sine wave that’s safe for electronics.
10,000 watt inverter generators are rare, and those that are available are around twice as expensive as a standard generator. If you need power for your electronics, it may make sense to power them with a smaller inverter generator, and save the big generator for everything else. If you’re setting up a mobile welding station, you need a large inverter generator to power a high amperage inverter welder.
What Can You Power with a 10,000 Watt Generator?
Before you buy your next generator, you need to figure out how much power you need. You probably aren’t going to use all the appliances you own at the same time. With a little planning, you can spread your use out, so you don’t overload your generator. For example, if you’re using your generator for home backup, you can shut off your window air conditioner or space heater while you’re cooking.
When you’re calculating your usage, estimate the highest demand for all the appliances you know you’ll use use at the same time. This tells you how many running watts you need. Electric motors need twice as much power when they start than when they’re running. Adding the highest reactive load to your maximum average load tells you how many peak watts you need. Electric motors are used in a variety of appliances, including tools, kitchen appliances, refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units.
Power requirements are usually listed on appliances next to model information, or in the owner’s manual. If you want to know exactly how much power an appliance consumes, plug it into an electricity usage monitor. This device goes between the power socket and the plug, and displays the power running through the connection in real time. Be sure to check the power readings during startup to estimate surge loads.
Here are some examples of the what you can power with a single 10,000 watt generator.
A 10,000 watt generator can’t power central heat or air. It also can’t power 240 volt devices, including electric water heaters, ovens or clothes dryers. However, a generator this size can power just about everything else in your home. Here’s a list of common of appliances and their power requirements:
Other appliances use well under 1,000 watts. If you don’t have an inverter, you don’t want to use your generator to power your TV or computer. However, it’s safe to use a standard generator to charge portable electronics. Converting power from AC to DC removes power interference.
RV Shore Power
A 10,000 watt generator can power everything in your RV, no matter how big it is. However, you might be pushing the limits of its capacity if you have two air conditioners. If they start at the same time, they can consume up to 8,000 watts.
RV appliances are smaller and more efficient than their household equivalents. An average RV water heater uses around 1,500 watts of electricity, while a refrigerator needs 600 watts to start and 200-300 watts to run.
You need an inverter generator to charge tool batteries and power inverter welders. For everything else, a standard generator is fine.
Hand tools need between 800 and 1,200 watts of continuous power, depending on their size. Keep in mind that some tools, like drills, impact wrenches and circular saws, stop and start constantly. For these tools, plan on using their peak draw almost continually.
A 1 HP compressor uses around 4,000 watts of electricity to start, and 2,000 watts while running, as do many large tools, like drill presses and belt sanders. Tools with a 1.5 HP motor need 6,000 watts to start and around 2,500 watts to run.
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