What Can You Run on a 5000-Watt Generator? [Includes List]

Several appliances including a refrigerator, dryer, stove, and microwave.

Generators are useful energy sources for emergencies, backups, or areas without access to electricity. Choosing the best size generator for your needs will depend on what you plan to use the energy for.

Each appliance or item you power with a generator will have a specific wattage. The generator will need to accommodate those energy requirements. 

What can you run with a 5,000-watt generator?

5,000-watt generators can power nearly all small appliances and sometimes multiple. Looking at the appliance’s requirements, use the ‘starting wattage’ to ensure the generator can accommodate the wattage in use. This generator cannot power an entire home but is usable for individual appliances.   

5,000-watt generators are best for isolated or smaller-scale use. Keep reading to see how you can use a 5000-watt generator to your benefit and the wattage requirements for many common appliances.

This will help you to determine if 5,000 watts will be powerful enough to keep essential devices running. 

Generator Wattage Basics 

Wattage in a generator will determine how many devices or appliances you can run at a time. Generators come in a wide range of wattages, allowing you to use them for everything from outdoor activities to powering an entire home or construction site.

The projects you work on and your power needs will dictate how many watts you should look for in a generator. 

These are the basic principles you should be aware of with generator wattage: 

Starting Wattage

An appliance manual will provide you with a ‘running wattage’ to tell you how much power it uses. You also need to account for ‘starting wattage,’ which requires more energy to start the motor.

To allow for proper starting, multiply the running wattage by 3. The generator should meet or exceed this starting wattage.  

Surge Wattage

In addition to starting wattage, you should also identify the surge wattage. Some appliances may use more power above their running wattage, such as a blender pulsing or a saw while making contact with wood.

Consider these additional surges, which may be included in the starting wattage measurement in some manuals. 

Use Max Power in Moderation

A generator should not run at its maximum wattage for extended periods. This can lead to premature burnout, malfunction, or potential damage to appliances. Instead, you should operate at the ‘rated power’ (typically 90% of the generator’s power) to maintain consistent power and sustain usage. 

If you plan to run multiple appliances at once, you should also add the highest starting wattage on top of the combined running wattages. This will ensure that you have enough power to start your appliances properly.

You can use the running wattage for items that do not have an electric motor or surge watts. This would include things such as a light bulb or a coffee maker. 

Check out this calculator so you can determine what wattage you’ll need for all the appliances you plan to run. You can also use this calculator for recreational and professional use. 

Wattage Requirements for Many Common Appliances 

We have collected the wattage requirements for many common appliances to make it easier to determine what size generator you’ll need.

By adding up the starting or surge wattage, you can see how many devices you can run simultaneously and if a 5,000-watt generator will be sufficient. Keep in mind that these are general wattage measurements and they may not be specific to your appliances.

Always check the manual or back of the appliance to confirm its wattage requirements.

If there is a value in the running and added surge watts on this chart, add numbers together to find the wattage required for starting. ‘E’ notes ‘electric’ while ‘G’ symbolizes ‘gas.’ 

Here you’ll find the wattage requirements for many common appliances: 

Appliance Running Watts Added Surge Watts Important Notes
Refrigerator  700W 2200W Add values for starting wattage 
Dish Washer 1500W 1500W Add values for starting wattage 
Washing Machine  1150W 2250W Add values for starting wattage 
Clothes Dryer (E) 5400W 6750W Electric uses significantly more power
Clothes Dryer (G) 700W 1800W Gas dryers use less power
Lights Bulbs 10-90W Wattage will be on the packaging 
Water Heater (E) 4000W Based on electric water heaters 
Space Heater  1800W A low-power alternative heat source
Central AC  1500/3800W 4500/11400W Varies by BTU measurement 
Microwave  625W Varies by wattage 
Coffee Maker  1000W – 
Toaster  850W
TV 500W
Stove (E) 2100W
Stereo System 450W
Garage Door  875W 2350W For automatic opening 
Hair Dryer  1250W
Curling Iron 1500W
Electric Drill 600W 900W Dependent on amp measurement
Circular Saw  1400W 2300W
Air Compressor  975W 1600W For ¼ horsepower tool 
Computer  800W – 
Electric Grill 1600W Use for recreational activity 
Radio 100
Fans  200

If you add up all your running wattages, you should also add the highest value “added surge watts” to ensure that the generator can accommodate the appliances you plan to run together.

Some of these appliances will need to be run individually if you do choose to use your 5,000-watt generator. This is especially true for many of your motor-driven appliances. 

Is a 5000-Watt Generator Enough Power? 

Having enough power is highly individual and will be dependent on your need for it. A 5000-watt generator is perfectly suitable for those needing to power their RV, use power tools on a job site, or keep essential appliances up and running during a power outage.

Examining our list of appliances and their required wattage is a great starting point for choosing enough wattage. 

If you need to run multiple appliances that will exceed 5000 watts, including the buffer wattage, you may need to invest in a larger generator.

If you only want a generator for power outages or operating smaller appliances away from an electrical grid, a smaller generator will be less expensive and easier to manage. 

Here are some additional considerations to make in choosing generator power: 

  • Do you have frequent power outages? If you live in a region that loses power frequently or consistently during certain parts of the year, a 5,000-watt generator may not have enough power. You want to be able to rely on this backup energy to keep multiple high-powered appliances working. 
  • Do you only need it as a rare backup power source? 5,000 watts should allow you to keep the power on for your basic appliances, especially during a power outage. This includes your refrigerator and lighting. Most air conditioners and heating systems will use too much power to plug into the 5,000-watt as well. 
  • Do you need power away from electrical sources? If you are an avid camper or need to work on projects away from a power source, a generator is necessary. For most needs, a 5,000-watt generator should allow you to use camping or outdoor appliances and power tools. 
  • Do you use solar energy? Generators are needed backups for solar energy, especially in the winter. If you are in a location with year-round sun, a smaller generator may be all you need in the event of bad weather or emergency use. 

For reference, a home typically uses 10,000-20,000 watts to power all appliances simultaneously.

If you want to use multiple devices at once, consider a higher wattage. For isolated use, 5,000 watts will get the job done, especially with smaller appliances and power tools. 

Running a 5,000-Watt Generator 

We recommend using a 5,000-watt generator to power individual tools or appliances rather than rely on it for total energy. It is a great solution to take on camping trips or operate power tools away from a power source.

If you need to power a home or run many appliances, you should consider a much more powerful generator.