Can A Generator Run A TV?


Living off grid can sure have its perks.  Nightly campfires.  A good book.  Stories told over meals.  But sometimes you just want to watch a movie or catch the latest football game.  So get yourself a TV and plug it into a Generator because youʻre about to watch some TV – Off Grid Style.

Most any generator can run a modern LED TV, but it must have a built-in inverter to protect your electronics. If your generator doesn’t have inverter-technology, you must buy a separate inverter to protect sensitive electronics like computers and televisions.

Before you go plugging your TV into a generator though, you have to be sure of a few things.  Iʻll be sure to keep this short so you donʻt miss the next play on the big screen, so read on to learn more about running a TV with a generator.

Is It Safe To Run A TV With A Generator?

Yes, it’s safe to run a TV with a generator as long as the generator does double-duty as an inverter, otherwise your TV may not work – or worse, you could fry it.

One big thing to remember when running a TV on a generator is total wattage used.

LED TVs don’t require many watts, but plasma screens and very old box-type televisions use much more. 

Also, the stated wattage is per hour. While you might only use kitchen appliances for a short amount of time, it’s pretty easy to watch TV for more than an hour. 

You’ve got to consider how long your generator is going to be continuously running, either for the amount of power you’ve stored in your solar battery or for fuel in your gas-powered generator.

How Many Watts Does A Generator Need To Be?

You can’t just factor the wattage of your TV and pick a suitable, small generator for your home. I guarantee that your generator is going to be powering more than just your TV. Even if it’s just your fridge and a couple of light bulbs, you’ve got to factor total running watts here.


Think about everything you’ll be using your TV with, too.

  • Watching Netflix? Then you’re using the internet, add the router.
  • Playing video games? Then factor in the game console, too.
  • Streaming from your computer to your TV screen? Add the running watts of your computer, too.

Most TVs use relatively low watts, especially LED TVs, which can use less than 150 watts. However, you don’t want to overload your generator, so always give a cushion of extra wattage, just in case you forgot a minor item. 

For example: a small homestead of 3 people or less could probably do just fine with a 3000 watt generator, as long as TV time is limited and few large appliances are being used at the same time.

If you’re a larger family, or you expect to be watching television for hours at a time, consider a 5000 or higher watt generator to run simultaneously with other large appliances.

However, if you just want a generator to power only a TV with related add ons, you canʻt go wrong with the 1000watt Jackery Solar Generator which I go over more in detail below.

Powering a TV with a Solar Generator

Solar power is incredible, and yes, it can power a generator, enabling you to run lots of appliances, including a TV. 

What you need is a solar generator that powers Lithium-ion batteries. Then, you can connect your TV (as well as other appliances) to the battery for your modern off-grid home.


But, if you understand solar generators, it’s not just a process of plugging in your TV and being all done. It’s necessary to have an inverter (which I’ll discuss next), and to consider how much power you’ve stored in the battery. 

Remember that wattage is calculated per hour. So, while your TV may only use 140 running watts, if you’re watching for 4 straight hours, you will drain over 550 watts from your solar battery. It’s not powered by fuel like other generators and you will have to wait until the next day to replace that power.

One of the big reasons I chose a solar generator over a gas-powered generator for my TV? The noise level. I use a gas-powered generator on my homestead for lots of other things and it works great.  Although while it isn’t especially loud, it does make noise. Noise that is really annoying if I’m trying to watch TV.

Solar generators, on the other hand, are noiseless and much smaller. Instead, I can keep my gas-powered generator outside and bring a small solar generator into the living room for some quiet, relaxing TV.

You Might Need an Inverter for that TV

I’m repeating myself, I know, but that’s because you cannot avoid the facts: if you’re using a solar generator, you probably need to get an inverter. If you’re using a gas-powered generator, you still may need an inverter.

 It’s all about the type of output provided: TVs run on AC power, lots of generators provide DC power.

The initial investment of an inverter might seem like it rules out the benefits of using solar over other options, but the alternative is buying all new appliances. 

Common appliances for the home require AC power, while some generators (and specifically many solar generators), provide DC power. This means that the power provided is not compatible with your TV….or computer….or coffee maker, etc.


This leaves us folks going off-grid with a few options:

1) Buy new appliances that run off DC power, or run directly off solar power (like some of these fridges)

2) Keep your current items and get an inverter 

3) Choose a secondary, portable generator that has a built-in inverter

No matter what, you’ve got to invest in something, somewhere.

Are There Solar TVs That Donʻt Need A Generator?

There are solar TVs out there, but they don’t have very good reviews and really – what can you watch? 

If you’re using DVDs, movies or a satellite dish, you still have to power up a DVD player, internet router or something else in order to watch.

In most cases, just having a television that runs purely on solar isn’t enough, because you need a dish or something else in order to view anything on your TV.

My Favorite Portable Generator To Use With A TV

When I want to binge-watch a TV show, my go-to solution for hours of uninterrupted TV time is the Jackery Portable Power Station. It’s a solar generator that stores up to 1000 watts, and has a built-in inverter allowing me to use AC or DC power, as well as USB ports for quick charging of devices, etc

.

I decided that for me, it made more sense to get a secondary, portable solar generator to use with my TV and accessories. No need to calculate light bulbs or other items here, just pure entertainment for a couple of hours. 

I like that instead of adding up everything in my home, I just add the watts of my DVD player or internet and the television, multiplied by the number of hours I intend to watch.

This solar generator is completely noiseless, so no competing for volume against my TV. It is light and doesn’t take up much space. I can set this little guy up beside or behind my TV on the TV stand (making sure there is plenty of safe airflow, of course) and not even notice it while I relax with a few hours of television.

The Jackery can be used for other things beyond my TV, like for camping or as a back-up generator in a pinch. So, when I chose this option, I knew I wasn’t buying something only for my TV, but making an investment in a multi-purpose, quality solar generator.

Consider the options and choose what’s best for you: a solar generator or a gas-powered generator with a separate inverter so that you can watch TV with no worries.

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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