Whether you’re new to off-grid homesteading or a veteran, you’ve probably considered or bought a generator before. But what is the right size generator for your off grid homestead?
Off grid cabins that rely on a generator for 100% of its electrical needs require a 3500 watt generator at minimum. If you are using a generator as a back up to a solar system, you can use a smaller 2000 watt generator to provide that extra power.
Now, these numbers can naturally vary based upon your householdʻs electrical consumption. The more electricity you use, the bigger generator youʻre going to need.
Taking the time to assess what you’re going to use your generator for, what appliances you absolutely need to run, and finding accurate running and starting wattages, will help you decide which generator to choose from and save you money too.
Purchasing a generator is an investment. Follow our tips to make sure you pick the right size generator for your off-grid homestead.
Choosing the Right Size Generator to Buy
Generators are sold based on how much power they can generate. The size of the generator you should buy depends on how much energy you need and how much wattage you need.
Each family’s energy requirements will vary greatly. You might be planning to use your generator to only charge your backup batteries to supplement your energy system. Or you might be looking for a generator to completely power up your off-grid home.
Calculate typical energy usage
Before deciding what size generator you need, you’ll need to calculate how much energy you typically use.
Start by figuring out which electrical devices you run daily. Check the wattage requirements of your specific appliances. Then calculate the power requirements of each device, not forgetting to include starting and running watt numbers.
How Many Watts Does your Household Consume
To easily figure this out, you can use a load calculator or wattage worksheet. For each item, report the surge/starting wattage and running wattage. The total wattage requirement will come from the sum of these two numbers. It is important to remember that electrical motors require up to three times as much power to start as they require to run.
Pick a generator with a higher capacity than what you need so that your generator lasts longer, is quieter, and doesn’t get overused. I know that higher capacity generators are more expensive, but you want to avoid overloading your generator.
Where Can You Cut Power?
If this initial calculation is way above the generator size you want, go back to the drawing board. What appliances do you absolutely need, which ones can you limit their use, and what can you eliminate completely?
Here are some ways to lower that energy consumption.
- Use light dimmers and rely on natural light whenever possible.
- Keep your fridge and freezer full. It takes less energy to keep a full fridge cold than an empty one.
- Use ceiling fans instead of energy-sucking air conditioning.
- Wash your clothes with cold instead of hot water when possible.
- Consider hanging your clothes to dry. Dryers use up a lot of electricity.
Generator for a Typical Small Off Grid Cabin
Since everyone’s situation varies, you’ll need to calculate your energy consumption before purchasing, but for the typical small off-grid cabin, you’ll need a 2000 to 3000-watt generator at a minimum. The best generator in this size range is a Honda Generator, hands down, which you can have delivered straight to your door on Amazon.
Keep in mind that if you have an air conditioner, water heater, or off-grid water pump system, you’ll need a generator of more than 7000 watts. If you’re using full-size electrical appliances simultaneously, you’ll also need considerably more watts as well.
Generator for an Off-Grid Family
How big of a generator your off-grid family needs depends on your situation. Decide what you’re going to use your generator for. If you need to power the whole house from your generator or if you will only use it for essential appliances, it will make a huge difference when it comes to energy consumption.
For example, a 4000-watt generator will power up the essentials during an emergency like:
- A few energy-efficient light bulbs
- Phone charger
- Computer charger
- Small fridge
- One other small appliance
With a larger 7000-watt generator, you could also use your
- Washing machine
- Full-size fridge
- A small AC unit
- A couple of small appliances
- A couple of fans
The typical off-grid family will want a generator of at least 7000 watts to have a comfortable off-grid backup system. You can learn more about what appliances these generators can power in this short, helpful post.
7000 watts should generally be considered the minimum. If you need to run large appliances simultaneously like a water pump, large air conditioning unit, welder, or a dryer, look at large generators of 10,000 watts +.
Don’t forget to check your specific appliances for an accurate calculation of your energy needs.
Pairing a Generator with an Off-Grid Solar System
Generators go hand-in-hand with an off-grid solar system. Of course, you probably have a solar system to be energy sufficient, but there are days when you need electricity when your solar system isn’t going to cut it.
- Overcast days. Although it may be rare in the tropics, extended days without sunshine do happen, and it’s good to have a backup energy source on those days so that you can fully charge your battery.
- Maintenance/repair. Keeping up with maintenance and repairs means you can’t use your solar panels 24/7. Having a backup generator means you can schedule services without worrying about not having electricity.
- Budget. If you’re just beginning your off-grid journey, it can be very expensive. Combining solar with a generator is generally a cheaper way to start out as you invest further in your energy independence life.
If you’re using your generator with a solar system, you might decide you need a smaller generator for your needs.
I have a Honda EU2200i Generator as a backup to boost my batteries when there isnʻt sufficient solar energy available to do it thru the panels. Typically I run the washing machine at the same time I backup my batteries because that little 2200 watt generator is powerful enough to do both!
Picking the Right Generator for your Family
Of course, you have to consider more than just size when choosing a generator for your off-grid homestead.
Here are some other articles to help you decide on the generator type and off-grid fuel source you should buy.
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