What Household Appliances Will a 5500-Watt Generator Run?

No matter where you live, in any country, there is always a danger of losing your electrical service for minutes, hours or even days in extreme cases. Wind storms, floods and ice storms can all cause disruptions of service. For this reason, many people choose to purchase a backup electrical generator, for use in case of emergency. Generators are available in many different power levels, and not all of them will be able to run all household appliances. If you are choosing to purchase a backup generator, then you should consider the 5500-watt variety, which is capable of running any common household appliance.

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Store keeper selling power generators


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Couple examine refrigerators at appliance trade show

The refrigerator is the appliance many homeowners are most concerned about running. If it loses power then it warms up, and the food it is preserving spoils rapidly. A standard 16 cubic foot refrigerator uses 725 watts, if it is kept free of frost. (Frost buildup impairs its efficiency.) Note that refrigerators actually only run at full power about five percent of the time.

Microwave Oven

Steel oven with microwave in kitchen
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Microwave oven above stove in kitchen

Microwave ovens use between 750 and 1100 watts, depending on the make and model. They are of a low-enough wattage that you can run them at the same time as a refrigerator and a few other low-wattage appliances, using a 5500 watt generator.


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Televisions use surprisingly little power. A 19-inch television can use as little as 65 watts. Even a 61-inch projection-screen TV uses only 170 watts.

Water Heater

Man checking water heater
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Man inspecting water heater in basement

Water heaters use a lot of electricity. A standard 40-gallon water heating system consumes between 4500 and 5500 watts. A 5500 watt generator will run your water heater, but that is the only job it will be able to do.


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Laptop computer on table

The standard home computer uses 270 watts of power while it is in use. When it is in sleep mode it uses 60 watts or less. Laptops only use 50 watts.


Old electric fan
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Vintage electric fan

Cooling a whole house with fans can use between 240 and 750 watts, depending on the size of the house and make and model of the fans.


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Stereo system, close-up view

A stereo system radio can use between 70 and 400 watts, depending on the brands. Note that this is actually a bigger drain on the generator than many televisions.

VCR / DVD Player

Home entertainment center with remote controls
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Home entertainment system and remote controls

VCRs use between 17 and 21 watts. DVD players use between 20 to 25 watts. Running a TV and DVD player together will not be a problem for a 5500 watt genera(See References 1 & 2)

Jason Thompson

Jason Thompson has been self-employed as a freelance writer since 2007. He has written advertisements, book and video game reviews, technical articles and thesis papers. He started working with Mechanical Turk and then started contracting with individuals and companies directly via the Web.