Can a Portable Generator Power my House?

Losing your power unexpectedly is never something fun to go through. This holds true even more if you are in the middle of a natural disaster like a hurricane, severe storm, or blizzard. When this event does occur many folks are left wondering if a portable generator will be the answer to all of their problems. Will the portable generator get them up and running? Or, will there be appliances/items in the home that will not be able to be powered until electricity is restored?

In this article we are going to explore if it is possible to power your entire home using a portable generator. In order to answer this question though we need to determine a couple of things. The first is how long do you expect your power to be out? Keep in mind that portable generators are not meant to run for days on end. If you are looking at an extended power loss, or you live in an area that is prone to these extended timelines, then it may make sense to look at a stationary generator.

The second point to mention here is how big is your home? Is it a moderate size of a thousand square feet up to say eighteen hundred? Or, is it much larger? Does your home have a central air conditioner? Multiple refrigerators? A furnace? Dehumidifier? All of these factors add complexity to our original question. Each one of these can add more watts to your home’s total power requirement. On top of that some of these appliances are hardwired into your homes circuit breaker. What that means is that they are not simply plugged in.

Normally when you run a portable generator you run extension cords from the generator into your home so that your appliances can be plugged in. This works for your refrigerator, freezer, computers, phone chargers, etc. However, how does this work with your furnace? There is no way for you to plug your furnace in. This is where it gets a bit complicated. A standard sized portable generator is not going to work.

There is however the option to have a manual transfer switch installed in your breaker box. What this will do is it will allow you to flip your home’s power source away from the city’s power and over to your generator’s power. This is the ONLY way to do this. You may hear stories of some folks backfeeding their generators into their homes… but this is a huge mistake. Having a manual transfer switch installed by a professional is the only way to go.

With manual transfer switches you will now be able to power some of the hardwired appliances in your home like the furnace. The downside here is that your portable generator will need to be more powerful then your standard camping generator. In cases where you want to power your furnace and other large appliances you will need ten-thousand watts or more. When you get to this size your choices are limited. There are only so many portable generators at this wattage size and their price is significantly higher then your standard units.


Ok folks, it boils down to two main points here. The first is if you want to have lights in your home, the refrigerator running, and maybe your phone charging then a portable generator is the best bet. You don’t even need to go with the big dogs ten-thousand watt units. You should be fine to hover between a six to nine-thousand watt size, but it is always safest to calculate the total wattage you will need. Remember as well the manual transfer switch can help you prevent moving and plugging in extension cords everywhere, but these are best to be installed by professionals.

The second point is if you truly wish to power everything in your home then I would suggest going with a stationary generator. Yes a stationary generator is going to cost you more… but in the long run it is the best decision. It gives you longevity, efficiency, and my favorite part… automation. If the power does go out then it can flicker right back on once your standby turns on automatically. No having to roll out the portable unit, get it setup, and go through that whole ordeal.

So, to answer your question… no. I would state that a portable generator cannot power your entire home. It can however provide you a good alternative and power some larger appliances enough to get you buy.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson



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