No, a 5000-watt generator is not an appropriate choice to run central air. You can power your air conditioner with it, but not your central air system.
A 5000W generator does have a lot to offer when you need a serious amount of power. This is a heavy-duty class of generators to cater to your basic needs.
Apart from that, you can use this generator capacity to run your power tools at your worksite as well. Moreover, this unit is a good option for powering your recreational vehicle up. But if it is so capable, why can’t it power your central air?
In this guide, we will find all about it, so keep reading.
Understanding Your Generator Wattage
Before we talk about the wattage rating of your central air, let’s discuss the wattage rating of a 5000W generator. All generators come with two different wattage ratings. They are just like any other device that runs on electricity. One is the surge or starting wattage rating, and the other is the running wattage rating.
Surge or starting wattage rating tells you about the maximum power input required to run an appliance. For a generator, this is the maximum amount of output that your genny can put out.
Now, your generator can only sustain this high amount of output for a specific time (a few seconds). In the meanwhile, any appliances with motors can start. They need even more power to run.
You have to consider the surge wattage rating, especially that of heavy-duty appliances. This is because their surge wattage rating is more than their running wattage rating.
If you want to run more appliances, your generator’s surge wattage will be the primary limitation.
Right after those few initial seconds of max power, you are limited to the running wattage of your genny. This is the power that your unit can put out for hours at a consistent rate.
Furthermore, if you try to run your unit at a wattage level higher than its running wattage but lower than its surge wattage, you will overload your genny’s engine.
Therefore, the sum of the running wattages of all your appliances and tools that you are planning to connect with your generator must remain less than the running wattage rating of your generator.
Wattage Requirements of A Central Air System
The best way to size your genny is to check your central air conditioning system’s wattage rating. Your central air is the significantly largest consumer of electricity in your home.
Your regular air conditioners will not demand much from your generator. An average-sized air conditioner might come with a surge wattage rating of 1800W and the running wattage rating of 1500W. Some bigger units for larger rooms will come with much greater numbers than that.
But central HVAC systems come with running wattage of around 5000W and a surge wattage rating of over 8000W. But the ratings largely depend upon the overall size of the HVAC system you have in your house.
So, your central air system consumes a lot of power, similar to other significant appliances like a well pump, sump pump, space heater, and electric stove. And this is especially the case if you consider their surge wattage. However, when you take these factors into account, you will notice that you can run your central air on your 5000W generator.
Even if you want to dedicate your generator to running just the central air system, it will not be enough. However, you can power other appliances like your window AC, stove, etc., with this generator.
Just for a hunch!
Go for the owner’s manual of your central air system and look for its amperage, BTUs, or tons. If you can’t find these numbers, look at the breaker of the central air system in the circuit panel.
There will be details whether it is a 30, 40, or 50 amp system, etc. To give you an idea, a 3-ton air conditioner is rated 36,000 BTU and 30 amps, and it will need a 14,000W (14 kW) generator to run.
A 4-ton central air system is rated 48,000 BTU and 40 amps, and it will need a 17,000W (17kW) generator to work. At the same time, a 5-ton central air system is rated 60,000 BTU and 50 amps and will require a 20,000W (20 kW) generator to run.
As you can see from these estimates, a 5000W generator is no match for these central air systems, and we haven’t talked anything about those larger HVAC units for bigger homes.
Proper Sizing Guide
As you can see, we have already established that a 5000W generator will not be enough to power your central air system. But then how big of a generator would you need to power your central air?
You have to be a little meticulous in determining the total power consumption of not only your central air but everything else you intend to connect with your generator. For instance, if you have to power a 3-ton central air system that will be rated 36,000 BTUs and 30 amps, it will need a 14,000W generator
After starting up, the wattage requirement will go down, and your central air will need much less running wattage to continue its operation. This is the time when you can add more appliances and connect them with your generator.
Now you need to keep in mind that the running wattage of all those appliances together should be handled by your genny along with the central air. So, now, pick the suitable generator unit based on what you will connect it with along with your central air, and everything will run smoothly.
You can always increase the total capacity of your generator if it’s a small one by connecting it with a bigger, more powerful generator.
This way, you will provide the entire system with more surge and running watts and connect more appliances. So, focus on your high-priority devices along with your central air system.
On average, what is the running wattage rating of a central air system?
The average running wattage rating of the central air system is around 3800W. This might indicate that you can run this unit with your 5000W generator, but that is not the case.
Such a central air system also comes with an average surge wattage rating ranging between 8000W to 10,000W. So, eventually, your 5000W genny won’t be able to power it up at all.
Can a 5000W generator power any air conditioning system?
Yes, it can power a window air conditioning system. But you need to keep in mind that the running and surge wattage ratings should be right so you can connect some other appliances that use your generator as well.
In most cases, a window AC will come with a running wattage rating of 1500W and a surge wattage rating of 1800W, which are perfectly fine to use with your 5000W generator.
How many watts do I need to run my 4-ton central air system?
Accurate estimates will depend upon the model and make of your central air system and how often you run it. But according to a safe estimation, it will take around 14,000W or 14 kW. But it would be better for you to go for a 17kW generator for this system to have enough power to connect other appliances.
Your 5000W generator unit doesn’t have enough juice to power your central air system. It can power a smooch smaller window air conditioning system but not your central air system.
For that, you will need a much bigger genny, or you can connect a bigger unit to increase the output and then join your central air to the circuitry. Make sure you make the right estimates of the total running watts you need to avoid later problems.