Generators Powerful Enough to Run Central Air Conditioning

Often when people think about using generators – particularly quiet generators – they think about camping and other such uses. One of the primary uses ( and needs ) for a quality generator is be used during times of an extended power outage which can be caused for a variety of reasons – from natural disaster to a major problem with the power company.

If you live in a hot climate – the need to be able to power you central air conditioning system may be as important as a person living in a cold climate’s need to power their heating system.  In areas like Arizona where the daytime temperatures can easily climb well above a 100 degrees – keeping your air conditioning unit running can be of the utmost importance.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what types of generators are best for this task and the basics of buying on for your home needs.  There are three considerations to plan on when figuring out your power needs – Continious Power ( running ) Surge Capacity  and Peak Power Draws.

Power Requirements.

AC Units are one of the biggest power hogs in your home – and can require up to 5000 watts of power to get started ( called surge power ) and then another 50 amps to maintain operation.   Most units also require a dedicated 220 to 240 volt circuit for operation.   These factors alone rule out most smaller portable generator units.

Typically if you are planning on running your entire house as normal in a power outage – including your air conditioning system – you are going to need about 15,000 watts of power which is a good sized generator bordering on commercial size.  These in most cases are called “Standby” generators and will run you anywhere from $2000 to $6000.   To get an idea of what they look like and their prices, check out this page at

By the way, An excellent article on the subject of how much power you need to run your whole home is located here

If you are just looking for something to run your central AC unit though, you are going to need a unit a minimum of 8500 watts of power – 10,000 to 15,000 is best.  There will be a power plate / power requirement sticker on your AC Unit that will show you what you need with peak / surge power you biggest consideration which should be 1.75 times your running power.   In other words if your AC unit uses 5500 watts, then you will need to have a generator capable of withstanding a start up surge draw of 9600 watts.  Most units of this size will have a 220 plug on them but be sure to check for your specific needs.

Warning:  Most AC Systems are hard wired into your home’s electrical system and should only be modified by a qualified electrician.  When dealing with high voltage appliances such as a central AC unit, serious injury or even death can occur if you are to electrocute yourself.   

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