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How to Power a Refrigerator by Generator

Patrick Nelson

Generators have a maximum load that they can handle. It's not possible to run equipment that's rated higher than the generator's ability to deliver the power required. Either the equipment -- such as the refrigerator -- won't run properly, or the generator and cables will fail. Usually, a generator will have at least two receptacles that split the rated output. Sometimes the receptacles will be of differing voltages and amperages. Powering a refrigerator with a generator involves verifying that the equipment is within the parameters and then making connections.

A refrigerator generally runs at 800 watts and has a startup surge wattage of 1,600 watts.
  1. Identify the power required by the refrigerator that you'd like to use. The specifications are often on a label affixed to the cabinet inside, or listed in the operator's manual that was supplied with the refrigerator. A typical one-door refrigerator with a top-level freezer compartment and ice maker will be rated 6.5 amps at 60 hertz and a voltage of 110 to 127 volt alternating current. A refrigerator generally runs at 800 watts and has a startup surge wattage of 1,600 watts.

  2. Identify the amount of power your generator's receptacle can deliver. A typical receptacle on a generator may deliver 20 amps, 60 hertz at 120 volts, which would put it within the parameters.

  3. Add up any other equipment you are powering from the same generator, and be sure that you don't exceed the wattage load of the generator. The wattage is often part of the model designation. For example, a 3,000-watt total output generator is acceptable for this application because it can handle the 800 watts running and the 1,600 watts starting surge delivering 2,400 watts, leaving 600 watts spare for other equipment, in another receptacle.

  4. Let the generator's engine stabilize and warm up. Then plug in the refrigerator, and turn it on.