57 BEST Tips What Size Generator To Run Portable AC (Facts)

William T Johnson Sep 20, 2023
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What Size Generator To Run Portable AC
Table of Contents
  1. What Size Generator to Run Portable AC
  2. Factors to Consider When Choosing Generator Size
  3. Calculating Generator Size
    1. Step 1: Calculate Total Power Consumption
    2. Step 2: Consider Additional Power Requirements
    3. Step 3: Calculate Total Power Requirement
    4. Step 4: Select the Appropriate Generator Size
  4. Additional Tips and Considerations
  5. Generator Size Recommendations for Different Portable AC Units
    1. 1. Small to Medium Portable AC Units (5,000 - 8,000 BTU/hr)
    2. 2. Medium to Large Portable AC Units (8,000 - 14,000 BTU/hr)
    3. 3. Multiple AC Units or Higher BTU Ratings
  6. Ensuring Compatibility and Efficiency
  7. Fuel Type and Runtime Considerations
  8. Noise Levels and Portability
  9. Safety Features and Compliance
  10. Budget Considerations
  11. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
  12. Please note

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. 

What Size Generator to Run Portable AC


Portable air conditioners are a great solution for cooling small spaces or areas without traditional central air conditioning.


These units offer flexibility and convenience, but they require a power source to operate effectively.


If you're considering using a portable AC unit in situations where there is no access to conventional power outlets, such as during camping trips or in remote locations, you'll need to determine what size generator is suitable to power your portable AC unit.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore different aspects and factors to consider when choosing the right generator size.


Factors to Consider When Choosing Generator Size

Power Consumption of Your Portable AC Unit:

The first step in determining the generator size is to understand the power consumption requirements of your portable AC unit. This information can usually be found in the product specifications or the user manual.

Look for the unit's rated power consumption in watts (W) or British thermal units per hour (BTU/hr). Most portable AC units range from 5,000 to 14,000 BTU/hr.

Higher BTU ratings generally imply higher power consumption, so it's important to know the specific power requirements of your unit.

Starting vs. Running Wattage:

Portable AC units often have a higher starting wattage compared to their running wattage.

The starting wattage is the power required to start the unit, while the running wattage is the power required to keep the unit running.

Make sure to check both the starting and running wattage of your portable AC unit, as this will impact the generator size needed.

Generator Types and Capacities:

Generators come in various types and capacities, including inverter generators, conventional generators, and standby generators.

Inverter generators are known for their quiet operation and clean power output. They are typically more fuel-efficient but may have a lower overall power output compared to conventional generators.

Conventional generators are the most common type and offer a wide range of power outputs. They are generally less expensive but may be louder and produce less stable power.

Standby generators are permanent fixtures that can provide power during extended outages.

These generators offer high power capacities but may not be suitable for portable AC units due to their larger size and installation requirements.


Calculating Generator Size

To determine the appropriate generator size for your portable AC unit, follow these steps:

Step 1: Calculate Total Power Consumption

Identify the running wattage of your portable AC unit.

Determine the starting wattage of your portable AC unit.


Step 2: Consider Additional Power Requirements

Consider any additional devices or appliances you plan to run simultaneously with your portable AC unit.

Determine the power consumption (in watts) of each additional device/appliance.


Step 3: Calculate Total Power Requirement

Sum up the running wattage of the portable AC unit and any additional devices/appliances.

Add the starting wattage of the portable AC unit to the total from step 1.


Step 4: Select the Appropriate Generator Size

Once you have the total power requirement, choose a generator with a power output slightly higher than the calculated value.

It's generally recommended to go for a generator with at least 20% more power than the total requirement to accommodate any power spikes or fluctuations.


Additional Tips and Considerations

  • Fuel Efficiency: If you anticipate long periods of use, consider a generator with better fuel efficiency to minimize the need for refueling.

  • Noise Level: If noise is a concern, opt for an inverter generator, which is typically quieter.

  • Portability: Consider the weight and size of the generator, especially if you plan to move it frequently.

  • Generator Safety: Follow all safety guidelines and ensure proper ventilation when operating a generator.


Generator Size Recommendations for Different Portable AC Units

1. Small to Medium Portable AC Units (5,000 - 8,000 BTU/hr)

For smaller portable AC units, you can generally opt for a generator with a power output ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 watts. Ensure that the starting wattage of the AC unit is within the generator's capacity.

The lower end of this range may be suitable if you only plan to run the AC unit without any additional devices.

If you have other appliances or devices to power simultaneously, consider selecting a generator with a higher power output.


2. Medium to Large Portable AC Units (8,000 - 14,000 BTU/hr)

For medium to large portable AC units, you will likely require a more powerful generator. In this case, consider generators with a power output ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 watts.

Again, take into account the starting wattage of the AC unit and any additional devices/appliances you plan to run simultaneously.


3. Multiple AC Units or Higher BTU Ratings

If you have multiple portable AC units to power or if your AC unit has a high BTU rating (over 14,000 BTU/hr), you may need a generator with a higher power output.

Look for generators in the range of 4,000 to 7,000 watts or more, depending on your specific requirements.


Remember, these are general recommendations, and it's essential to refer to the manufacturer's guidelines and specifications for your specific portable AC unit.

Additionally, keep in mind that different generators may have varying capacities, and it's crucial to select one that matches your power requirements.


Ensuring Compatibility and Efficiency

Consider the Generator's Outlets: Check if the generator has the appropriate outlets to accommodate the power cord of your portable AC unit. This ensures a secure and reliable connection.

Check the Generator's Power Quality: Some sensitive electronic devices, including certain portable AC units, require clean power with stable voltage and frequency. In such cases, an inverter generator is often recommended due to its ability to produce high-quality power.

Calculate Total Power Load: If you plan to run multiple appliances or devices along with your portable AC unit, calculate the total power consumption of all devices to ensure it doesn't exceed the generator's capacity.

Consider Altitude and Temperature: Generators typically have reduced power output at higher altitudes and in extreme temperatures. If you plan to use the generator in such conditions, check for any derating specifications provided by the manufacturer.

Fuel Type and Runtime Considerations

When selecting a generator for your portable AC unit, consider the fuel type and runtime. Generators can typically be powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel.

Gasoline generators are widely available and offer decent power output, but they may require more frequent refueling.

Propane generators are cleaner-burning and have longer shelf life, making them a good choice for long-term use.

Diesel generators provide excellent fuel efficiency and are often preferred for heavy-duty applications, but they can be noisier.

Additionally, check the generator's runtime, which refers to how long it can operate on a full tank of fuel. Consider the estimated runtime of the generator and ensure that it aligns with your usage requirements.

For example, if you plan to run your portable AC unit for extended periods without access to refueling, look for a generator with a longer runtime.


Noise Levels and Portability

Noise levels can be an important consideration, especially if you plan to use your portable AC unit in quiet environments or during nighttime.

Generators typically produce noise while operating, and some models may be louder than others.

Look for generators that offer lower noise levels, usually measured in decibels (dB). Manufacturers often provide information about noise levels at different load capacities, so be sure to check these specifications.

Portability is another factor to consider, especially if you plan to move your portable AC unit frequently.

Look for generators that are lightweight, compact, and equipped with convenient handles or wheels for easy transportation.


Safety Features and Compliance

When purchasing a generator, prioritize safety features and compliance with relevant regulations.

Look for models that have features like low-oil shutdown, which automatically turns off the generator if the oil level is too low, preventing engine damage. Other safety features to consider include circuit breakers and overload protection to prevent damage to connected devices.

Ensure that the generator meets safety standards and regulations, such as those set by organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Compliance with these standards ensures that the generator is designed and manufactured with safety in mind.


Budget Considerations

Lastly, consider your budget when selecting a generator for your portable AC unit. Generators come in various price ranges, depending on their power output, features, and brand.

It's essential to strike a balance between your power requirements and budget constraints. While cost may be a factor, it's important not to compromise on quality and reliability.

Research various generator models, compare prices, and read customer reviews to determine the best value for your money. Consider long-term costs such as maintenance, fuel consumption, and potential repairs when evaluating your budget.

By taking all these factors into account, you can make an informed decision and select a generator that perfectly matches your portable AC unit's power requirements, runtime needs, noise preferences, portability, safety considerations, and budget constraints.

Remember to always consult the manufacturer's guidelines and specifications for your specific portable AC unit and generator.

Additionally, if you have any doubts or need further assistance, it's recommended to seek advice from a professional electrician or generator expert.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


1. What factors should I consider when choosing the size of a generator for my portable AC unit?

When choosing the size of a generator for your portable AC unit, consider factors such as the power consumption of the AC unit, the starting and running wattage, additional devices you plan to run simultaneously, and the type of generator.


2. How do I determine the power consumption of my portable AC unit?

You can find the power consumption information in the product specifications or user manual of your portable AC unit. Look for the rated power consumption in watts (W) or British thermal units per hour (BTU/hr).


3. Should I consider the starting wattage or running wattage of my portable AC unit when choosing a generator size?

Both starting wattage and running wattage are important considerations. The starting wattage is required to start the AC unit, while the running wattage is the power needed to keep it running. Consider both to ensure the generator can handle the initial surge in power.


4. What types of generators are suitable for running portable AC units?

Inverter generators and conventional generators are commonly used to power portable AC units. Inverter generators provide clean power and are often more fuel-efficient, while conventional generators offer a wider range of power outputs.


5. Can I use a standby generator to run my portable AC unit?

Standby generators, which are typically larger and permanent fixtures, are not usually recommended for powering portable AC units. They are designed for whole-house backup power during extended outages.


6. What generator size do I need for a small to medium portable AC unit (5,000 - 8,000 BTU/hr)?

For smaller portable AC units, a generator with a power output ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 watts is generally sufficient. Ensure the starting wattage of the AC unit is within the generator's capacity.


7. What generator size do I need for a medium to large portable AC unit (8,000 - 14,000 BTU/hr)?

Medium to large portable AC units typically require generators with a power output ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 watts. Consider the starting wattage and any additional devices you plan to run simultaneously.


8. Do I need a larger generator for multiple AC units or higher BTU ratings?

Yes, if you have multiple AC units or if your AC unit has a high BTU rating (over 14,000 BTU/hr), you may need a generator with a higher power output. Look for generators ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 watts or more.


9. How do I calculate the total power requirement for my portable AC unit and other devices?

Add the running wattage of the portable AC unit to the running wattage of any additional devices you plan to run simultaneously. Then, add the starting wattage of the AC unit to get the total power requirement.


10. Should I choose a generator with a power output slightly higher than my total power requirement?

It's generally recommended to select a generator with at least 20% more power than your total power requirement. This allows for power spikes or fluctuations and ensures smooth operation.


11. Can I use a gasoline-powered generator for my portable AC unit?

Yes, gasoline-powered generators are commonly used to power portable AC units. However, be mindful of the generator's runtime and consider factors such as fuel availability and storage safety.


12. Are propane generators suitable for powering portable AC units?

Yes, propane generators can be used to power portable AC units. They offer cleaner-burning fuel and longer shelf life compared to gasoline generators. Propane is also a common fuel type for RVs and camping.


13. Are diesel generators a good choice for running a portable AC unit?

Diesel generators are efficient and offer good fuel economy. They can be suitable for running portable AC units but tend to be louder compared to inverter or propane generators.


14. How do I ensure the generator's outlets are compatible with my portable AC unit?

Check if the generator has the appropriate outlets to accommodate the power cord of your portable AC unit. Look for outlets that match the plug configuration of your AC unit to ensure a secure connection.


15. Do I need to consider the power quality of the generator for my portable AC unit?

If your portable AC unit is sensitive to fluctuations in voltage and frequency, it's recommended to choose an inverter generator. Inverter generators provide clean power, ensuring stable voltage and frequency output.


16. What should I consider in terms of noise levels when selecting a generator for my portable AC unit?

If noise is a concern, opt for generators with lower noise levels. Look for models with noise-reduction features or consider an inverter generator, which is known for its quieter operation.


17. How do I determine the noise level of a generator?

Manufacturers usually provide information about the noise level of their generators. Look for the decibel (dB) rating, which indicates the noise output. Lower dB ratings represent quieter generators.


18. Can I move my portable AC unit and generator to different locations?

Yes, both portable AC units and generators are designed for mobility. Ensure that your generator has handles or wheels for easy transportation, and securely move both units to your desired location.


19. What safety features should I look for in a generator?

Important safety features to consider include low-oil shutdown, circuit breakers, and overload protection. These features help prevent damage to the generator and connected devices in case of low oil levels or excessive power usage.


20. Are there any regulations or standards I should consider when choosing a generator for my portable AC unit?

Ensure that the generator complies with relevant safety regulations and standards set by organizations such as OSHA and the EPA. Compliance ensures that the generator meets safety requirements and environmental guidelines.


21. Can I use a generator to power my portable AC unit during a power outage?

Yes, portable AC units can be powered by generators during power outages. However, ensure that you follow safety guidelines and manufacturer instructions for proper operation.


22. Is it necessary to consult an electrician or generator expert before purchasing a generator for my portable AC unit?

While not mandatory, consulting an electrician or generator expert can provide valuable insights and guidance specific to your setup.

They can help determine the appropriate generator size and offer advice on installation and safety precautions.


23. Can I use a generator indoors to power my portable AC unit?

It is generally not recommended to use a generator indoors, including garages, basements, or enclosed spaces.

Generators produce carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can be harmful or fatal if inhaled. Always operate generators in well-ventilated outdoor areas.


24. Can I run my portable AC unit off a power inverter connected to my vehicle's battery?

It is possible to run a portable AC unit off a power inverter connected to a vehicle's battery. However, be cautious of the power requirements of the AC unit and ensure that your vehicle's electrical system can handle the load.


25. How do I calculate the runtime of a generator for my portable AC unit?

The runtime of a generator depends on its fuel capacity and the power consumption of your AC unit. Calculate the average fuel consumption rate of the generator and divide it by the power consumption of the AC unit to estimate the runtime.


26. Can I connect my portable AC unit directly to a generator without using an extension cord?

Yes, you can connect your portable AC unit directly to a generator using the appropriate power cord. Ensure that the generator's outlets match the plug configuration of your AC unit for a secure connection.


27. Is it possible to use solar panels to power a portable AC unit instead of a generator?

Yes, it is possible to use solar panels to power a portable AC unit. However, the power output and storage capacity of solar panels may require additional equipment such as batteries and inverters to meet the AC unit's power demand.


28. Can I use a generator to power other household appliances along with my portable AC unit?

Yes, generators can power multiple devices simultaneously. Calculate the total power requirement of all appliances and devices you plan to run to ensure it does not exceed the generator's capacity.


29. Can I use a portable generator for long-term use instead of a standby generator?

While portable generators can be used for extended periods, they are not designed for continuous operation like standby generators.

Consider the runtime, maintenance requirements, and overall durability when evaluating long-term use.


30. Are there any risks involved in using a generator to power a portable AC unit?

Using generators improperly or in unsafe conditions can pose risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning, electrical hazards, and fuel-related accidents.

Always follow safety guidelines, read the manufacturer's instructions, and operate generators in well-ventilated outdoor areas.


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Conclusion

Choosing the right generator size to run your portable AC unit is crucial for optimal performance and efficient power supply.

By considering factors such as power consumption, starting wattage, and additional power requirements, you can make an informed decision.

Remember to calculate the total power requirement and select a generator with a slightly higher power output to ensure smooth operation.

With the right generator, you can enjoy the cooling comfort of your portable AC unit even in remote locations or during power outages.

Table of Contents
  1. What Size Generator to Run Portable AC
  2. Factors to Consider When Choosing Generator Size
  3. Calculating Generator Size
    1. Step 1: Calculate Total Power Consumption
    2. Step 2: Consider Additional Power Requirements
    3. Step 3: Calculate Total Power Requirement
    4. Step 4: Select the Appropriate Generator Size
  4. Additional Tips and Considerations
  5. Generator Size Recommendations for Different Portable AC Units
    1. 1. Small to Medium Portable AC Units (5,000 - 8,000 BTU/hr)
    2. 2. Medium to Large Portable AC Units (8,000 - 14,000 BTU/hr)
    3. 3. Multiple AC Units or Higher BTU Ratings
  6. Ensuring Compatibility and Efficiency
  7. Fuel Type and Runtime Considerations
  8. Noise Levels and Portability
  9. Safety Features and Compliance
  10. Budget Considerations
  11. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
  12. Please note

Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only.