Can A Portable Generator Run A Furnace?

Are you confused about running a furnace on your portable generator? Do you want to know will it be problematic for your generator and furnace? And, what’s the best setup for running other appliances along with a furnace?

We will answer all your concerns about running a furnace on a portable generator in this article.

Can A Portable Generator Run A Furnace?

Run a furnace on a portable generator

The simple answer to this question is yes. The detailed explanation: it depends on a number of conditions. Let’s look at them.

Furnace Wattage

An average American household has a ¼ or ½ HP fan furnace. We will consider the example of ¼ HP furnaces. It has a starting wattage of 1600 watts and a running wattage of 600 watts. It is evident that you would need at least 1600 watts output to start the furnace and 600 to keep it running.  However, a furnace is not the only appliance; you would want up and running during a winter blackout.

Let’s look at the starting and running wattages of some common household appliances in the table below.

Appliance Starting Wattage Running Wattage
1/2 HP Furnace 1600 600
Refrigerator 1600 200
5 Lights 300 300
TV 300 300
Microwave Oven 1500 1500
Total 5300 2900

As you can see that the starting and running wattages are different from each other. At the first look, it looks like you would need a minimum of 5300 Watts generator. However, you can run all these things without any issues with a smaller one. It will be less expensive to buy for the first time and also less costly to maintain and run. Let’s check out how you can do it.

If you ponder over the above table, you will notice that the continuous power needs are around 1400 watts. It includes running wattages of a furnace, refrigerator, lights, and the TV. (Not all the lights and TV will be on at all times so it can go down as well). The occasional power needs are around 1600 watts, including the starting wattage of refrigerators, furnaces, and ovens.

Here lies the catch; you would have to make a sacrifice to save you some bucks. You would need to start the high wattage appliances at different times. For example, if you add a refrigerator and furnace to the generator at different times, you would need a maximum of 2200 watts. Let’s say that your furnace is already running and you add a refrigerator to it. Once started, the refrigerator will need only 200 watts to run.  Currently, 800 watts are being consumed by the furnace and refrigerator. You can also run your oven at this time. It will need 1500 watts for starting and running. Hence the total power need at this time will be 2300 Watts.

If you are willing to let go of your TV, you can also charge your phone on the generator. You won’t need all 5 lights at one time. This wattage can be used to run ceiling fans as well.

Final Words

In the above discussion, you would need a 3000-watt portable generator to manage all the appliances successfully. You can calculate the power wattage according to the appliances you need to run on your portable generator. Make sure you add 500 watts as cushion wattage. It will help you adjust some additional devices like a charger or laptop. A little extra power also saves your generator from overloading and gives maximum efficiency and fuel economy.

The Best Cost-Saving Solution: You can run all the appliances on a 1600 watts generator. To achieve this, you would have to turn on the furnace and refrigerator at different times and turn off the lights and TV while adding them to your generator. It will be a risky setup and can overload your generator.

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