Home HVAC Systems and Generators – What You Need to Know

Home HVAC Systems and Generators – What You Need to Know

With so many generators on the market, how do you choose? Learn how to select the best generator for your Clearwater home so you can be prepared for the next power outage in your FL neighborhood.

How to Choose the Best Generator to Run Your Home AC

A recent Associated Press study found that hurricanes, wildfires, and ice storms have doubled the number of U.S. power outages over the past 20 years. And in 2020, the last year for which data is available, the average outage increased to 8 hours, from 4 hours in 2013. Hurricanes in the Gulf and Atlantic are largely to blame, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports1.

It’s no surprise, then, that most Florida residents know what it’s like to be without power in their home. And with the recent hurricane Ian fresh in our minds, many of our Air Care HVAC customers may be considering how to best prepare their Clearwater or Tampa Bay area home when severe weather strikes again in the future.

A generator can be a “life-saver” when you want to keep your air conditioning (AC), heat pump, lights, Wi-Fi, TV, and electronics running during and after a storm. But with so many generators on the market, how do you choose? What factors should you consider?

Today, we’ll share how to select the ideal size, type, and model so you can be better prepared for the next power outage in your neighborhood. And of course, since we’re heating and cooling professionals—we’ll focus on how to run your home HVAC system on a generator, too.

Need assistance with AC repairs, maintenance, or replacement? Contact Air Care today.


What Size Generator Will Run Your Air Conditioner?

Generators provide power to spaces and devices inside your home during an outage or blackout when standard electrical service isn’t available. Generators typically range from 800 watts to over 500,000 watts, and there are different types of generators for every need2.

Determining the size of a generator requires some research on your part to ensure it’s the right fit. To help you decide the type of generator to rent or buy from your home, consider a few things first3:

  • Running wattage: Most HVAC systems and window units have a label that lists the wattage requirements. For example, a standard window AC unit might require 1,000 watts of power to run the air conditioning for a certain amount of time. On the other hand, a central heating and cooling system might require 10,000 watts of power to run the AC for the same amount of time—and this will greatly impact the size and type of generator you need.
  • Start-up wattage: The start-up wattage is the amount of power required to get the AC unit started. The wattage requirements can be found on the AC unit or in the owner’s manual. Start-up is usually much higher than the running wattage—sometimes even three times as high.
  • Surge wattage: The surge wattage is the amount of power required to run the HVAC system or window AC unit at a higher level for a short interval. Surge wattage is usually only needed for a few seconds and is not necessary for continuous operation.
  • Other appliances: Consider the other appliances or electronics you plan to run off your generator. Then, look for the required watts of power each requires to run. Depending on the requirements, you may need a larger generator to power multiple appliances, including your AC.


How Much Generator Power Do You Need?


Leverage the video above and this General Wattage Guide on HomeDepot.com to get started.

According to Home Depot, below is an example of approximate HVAC system and other relevant wattage needs to run a generator for your home:

  • Central Air Conditioning: 2000 – 4000
  • Window Air Conditioner: 600 – 1500
  • Heater (radiant): 1300
  • Water Heater: 3000 – 4500

(Note: The power requirements in this guide are general examples and should not be used to calculate specific requirements. Refer to the user manuals that came with your appliances and tools for manufacturer-provided power requirements.)

Once you know all of the wattage requirements of your HVAC system, you can select a generator that supports that amount of power. For example, a standard window air conditioner might require 1,000 watts—and you would need a generator that provides at least 1,000 watts of power3.

If you plan to run the generator only a few hours a day, you may be able to get away with a smaller generator that supports half of the power. However, if you plan to run your AC unit continuously—especially during a long-term power outage—your generator needs to meet your system’s wattage requirements.

For example, if you plan to use your unit eight hours a day, and it requires 1,000 watts of power, you will need a generator with at least 2,000 watts of power to support the start-up and continuous running wattage3.


The Best Type of Generators to Run Your AC

Generators come in several different wattage sizes. There are basically three kinds of generators to choose from2:

  • Whole house generators provide a backup for your home’s power needs in case of a blackout or storm and are hardwired to your home. It can quickly provide the power your home needs in case of an interruption to your regular power grid, whether through automatic generator transfer switches or manual generator transfer switches.
  • Portable generators are powerful enough to provide electricity for outdoor activities (like camping, tailgating, and other events). It’s easy to take just about anywhere and relatively affordable. They can also provide emergency power in the event of a blackout or storm.
  • Inverter generators provide electricity, but with less noise and more fuel efficiency than other generators. Inverters also convert their AC power to DC power, making them ideal for RVs and battery-operated devices.

The wattage you need to power your home and devices will determine the type of equipment you need to run.


How Do Generators Run?

Most generators are powered by gasoline, diesel, and propane fuels.

Gasoline generators are the most common, typically used in emergencies since this type is easy to use and portable. Gasoline generators can also power an AC system or window unit. But the downside is they can be noisy and risk producing harmful fumes. (See our safety precautions section below*.)

A less-popular option is a solar-powered generator. While safer than gas, propane or diesel-run generators—and also the most environmentally friendly option—this type can be more expensive and require more maintenance than the alternatives.


Where to Buy or Rent Generators

Ready to find the right generator for your home? Well, as we mentioned above, be sure to do your research before deciding whether to rent or buy a specific size or type of generator—there are a lot of factors at stake.

If you decide to purchase a whole-house generator, be sure to purchase the equipment from a trustworthy vendor. You should also hire experienced professionals to install the generator equipment outside your home. (To get an idea of the costs of installation, click here.)

If you decide to rent a generator, check with your local home improvement stores (like Home Depot or Lowe’s in Clearwater) for portable generator options available in-store.

*Safety Precautions: Always use a generator outside, a minimum of 20 feet from your home, with the exhaust directed away from the house. Be sure your house is also outfitted with working carbon monoxide alarms outside each bedroom and on every level of your home before you start up a generator1.

To learn more about generator safety, click here.


What are the best ways to prepare your Clearwater home and AC for a power outage?

Well, we’ve got you covered. See our checklist of what to do before, during, and after severe weather strikes in your neighborhood in this recent Air Care blog post.

Need help with your HVAC system? Call Air Care today.




Trust Your Clearwater AC Pros When Your Home AC Stops Working

When electrical service is unavailable in your neighborhood, the power in your home will shut off—along with your AC equipment. Once the power comes back on, it’s important to check all of your electronics and devices, especially your AC system. Sometimes a system shut-off can damage your HVAC unit or cause the system to malfunction, further causing AC issues down the road.

If you need to replace, repair, or tune-up your HVAC system, our team at Air Care is here to help. We’re also here to answer questions about preparing your HVAC system for hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as dealing with the aftermath of severe weather across the Tampa Bay area.

“I have lived in Pinellas Park most of my adult life, and I am very used to using certain companies for different problems now. I have, for instance, used Air Care in Clearwater for my air conditioning repair services and new AC units as a customer for almost 25 years or more. Every time I need them, they are always very prompt and very good service. I would recommend them to anyone who is having ac problems and needs a reliable company to work with.” — Mrs. F of Pinellas Park, Florida

Call Air Care at 727-449-2699 today. We proudly serve Pinellas, western Hillsborough and southern Pasco County.



[1] Consumer Reports: Generator Buying Guide

[2] Home Depot: Choosing the Right Size Generator

[3] Home Air Advisor: What Size Generator to Run an Air Conditioner