What Appliances Can a 4,000-Watt Generator Run?


You want to be prepared for power outages, but is a 4000 watt generator overkill? Or is it just right? If you’re looking for a generator that can run all your essential home appliances, then you might be on the right track. This size generator is an excellent balance between portability and power. But what appliances can a 4000 watt generator run? 

A 4000 watt generator will run your essential home appliances. It can handle your refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven, coffee maker, window air conditioner, space heater, television, laptop, and lights. A 4000 watt generator can handle several of these simultaneously, but not all of them at once. This type of generator can also be used for RVs and work sites. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of the starting and running watts of your 4000 watt generator. We’ll explore how to figure out which appliances you can run, what appliances you can run simultaneously, and what your generator won’t run. But first, let’s take a deeper look at the difference between starting and running watts. 

Starting Watts and Running Watts of a 4000 Watt Generator

Watts are a measure of electrical output. Watt output is an essential part of understanding generators because every appliance will require a different number of watts to run. Generally speaking, the larger the appliance, the more watts it will require. Conversely, smaller appliances will typically require fewer watts to run. The exception is that appliances with a motor will need an extra boost of power to start up. This extra boost of power is known as starting watts, while the appliance’s power just to run is called running watts.  

Running Watts or Continuous Watts of a 4000 Watt Generator

Continuous watts, or running watts, are the amount of watts that your generator can generate for an extended period of time. For example, if you need to run two 75-watt light bulbs for an hour, your generator will need to put out 150 continuous or running watts to be able to keep those lightbulbs lit for that duration of time. This information is usually available on the box and in the owner’s manual of your generator. 

As previously mentioned, appliances with motors will need some extra watts to get the motor up and running, followed by a smaller amount of watts to keep the appliance running. These watts are known as starting or surge watts. 

Starting Watts or Surge Watts 

Some appliances, specifically those with a motor, will need extra watts to get started up. These extra watts are known as starting watts or surge watts. Most generators will be able to supply some amount of starting watts for a few seconds, but the actual amount and length of time depend on the generator’s specific brand. When you purchase a new generator, you can usually find the number of starting watts or surge watts listed on the box. 

Your 4000 watt generator should have at least an extra 500 starting watts, but most will have even more. This is because all generators are different, and starting watts are different for each one. 

It is essential to know the number of starting and running watts your generator can supply and what your appliances will need. If you don’t have enough starting watts or surge watts, you won’t be able to get those appliances powered up at all. And if you don’t have enough running watts, your appliances won’t have enough juice to run. 

You could also damage your generator and your equipment by overtaxing the generator. If you overestimate what your generator can handle, it could be both dangerous and costly. 

What Appliances Can a 4000 Watt Generator Run? 

While a 4000 watt generator can technically run 4000 watts worth of appliances simultaneously, you’ll be better off if you don’t run your generator at more than 90% of its capacity, or around 3600 running watts. 

If you don’t run your generator at the maximum load, it will give you a little margin of error if you miscalculated the number of watts your appliances will require. It also gives your generator room to run more efficiently. 

That being said, you can technically run 4000 watts worth of appliances simultaneously as long as the total of the watts needed does not equal more than 4000 and as long as the startup watts are not higher than the surge watts the generator can supply. 

See the chart below to estimate the number of starting and running watts needed for most essential household appliances. 

Starting and Running Watts of Typical Household Appliances

ApplianceStarting WattsRunning Watts 
75 Watt Light BulbN/A75
Cell Phone ChargerN/A25
Coffee Maker N/A1000
MicrowaveN/A600- 1200 
Oven RangeN/A2000-5000
CrockpotN/A250
Blender N/A500
Toaster Oven N/A1200
Full-Size Refrigerator2200700
Camping Refrigerator500350
Electric GrillN/A1250
Laptop N/A60
50 Inch LCD TVN/A150 
Home ProjectorN/A300 – 800
String of outdoor lightsN/A40 
DishwasherN/A1500
Washing Machine22501150
Clothes Dryer 67505400
Hair DryerN/A1250
Sump Pump (1/2 HP)21501050
Hot Water HeaterN/A3000
Powered Drill CordlessN/A100
Power Drill Corded N/A800-1200
Window Air Conditioner  (10,000 BTUs)36001200
Central Air Conditioner Up to 11,4003,800 
Space Heater N/A1800
Well Pump40002000

How Do You Know If Your 4000 Watt Generator Has Enough Watts? 

The chart above gives you a basic idea of the watts that typical appliances need to run. However, every machine is different. For a more detailed look at how many watts your specific appliance requires, you’ll need to look at the box that your appliance came in. It should also be listed in the owner’s manual, and it will probably be on the appliance itself. 

As you can see, most of the above-listed appliances will easily run on a 4000 watt generator. But combining machines to run simultaneously can get a bit tricky. So here’s how you do it. 

  1. Figure out the starting and running watts that your generator can provide.  For example, a 4000 watt generator can supply 4000 continuous watts of power. The number of starting watts will vary by generator. 
  2. Write down the starting and running watts of all of the appliances you would like to run simultaneously. 
  3. Add up the starting watts of each appliance. 
  4. Add up the running watts of each appliance. 
  5. If the running watts are less than 4000 and the starting watts are less than what your generator can provide, then you can run all of those appliances together. 
  6. If any of those numbers are higher than what your appliance can provide, you’ll have to reduce the watts needed by running fewer appliances simultaneously. 

Examples of Running Multiple Appliances on a 4000 Watt Generator

For example, it’s the weekend, and the power goes out due to a bad storm. You want to charge three cell phones, run two lights, make coffee, and watch a movie that you downloaded to your laptop. 

To decide if your 4000 watt generator can manage all of that at once, you’ll need to understand the wattage requirements of each one and then add them together. None of these appliances require extra startup watts, so we’ll just focus on continuous or running watts. 

  • 2 75 watt lights 
  • 3 25 watt Cell phone chargers
  • Coffeemaker 1000
  • Laptop 60

We need to add up all of the watts required by all of the items: (75×2) + (25×3)+1000+60=1285. 

In this example, the total watts needed to run these items come to 1285, so your 4000 watt generator will be able to supply that number of watts. 

However, you will probably also want to run your refrigerator, so your food doesn’t spoil. A typical fridge is going to require 2200 surge watts and roughly 700 running watts. Good news! You can still run everything you desire. 

Of course, if there are other appliances you want to tack on, such as a window air conditioner, you might not be able to do it. But you can alternate running the air conditioner with the coffee maker to manage the number of watts you need at any given time. 

What Can’t a 4000 Watt Generator Run? 

It is great that a 4000 watt generator can run most household appliances. Even better, it can run several appliances simultaneously. However, there are a few things it might not be able to run. 

For example, your generator might cover both the well pump and the washing machine simultaneously if you have enough surge watts available, but it won’t be able to run the hot water heater. 

Clothes dryers, central air conditioners, and electric ranges also require more watts than a 4000 watt generator can supply. Your generator will not be able to run any of those. 

If you try to run any items that require more watts than your generator can create, it could cause safety issues. You could damage the appliances, the generator and even start a fire. 

Related Questions 

Can I use a 4000 watt generator at a worksite? 

Your 4000 watt generator can be used at a worksite to power items such as an electric drill, pressure washer, air compressor, and circular saw. Just make sure that you don’t run too many devices at once. Just like in the examples above, you’ll need to figure out the starting and running watts of all of the items you want to run. 

Can I use a 4000 watt generator for camping? 

A 4000 watt generator is an ideal size for RV camping because it can easily run your camp-size refrigerator and other small appliances. 4000 watt generators offer lots of electricity for their size, making them great for camping.

David

Hi! I’m David. For most of my life I have been interested in emergency preparedness. Over the many years things have changed a great deal. From freeze dried food, to LED lanterns, preparing for an emergency has never been easier. The continual research I have done over the years have become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness. Read More

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