How to Choose a Generator for a Cabin or Camp

13 Jun 2021 Cool Stuff

generator for a cottage
A generator is an essential piece of equipment to buy for an off-grid cabin, cottage, or camp. It is also a good idea to have a generator for back-up power at a cottage that has electricity, especially when the cabin serves as your home for several months of the year.

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Best generator types and sizes for off-grid and on-grid cabins

Generators range from permanent installations that are wired right into your home or cottage electrical panel to small portable generators that are suitable for an off-grid site.

The best generator to buy depends on how long you might need the power, how many appliances you intend to connect, and how easy it is to move the generator to the cabin and around the property.

Permanent standby or full-home generator

This is the most expensive generator option and requires the installation of a permanent fuel supply, which is normally a large propane tank. In areas where the property is served by natural gas, the generator can connect to your natural gas service.

The standby generator is a good choice for cottages that serve as permanent homes or businesses. It automatically turns on when the power goes out and will allow you to continue living in the building as usual during a storm outage or other power interruption. The generator has the capacity to provide all the electricity needed to keep the appliances and heating system running.

Check it out at: Permanent Standby Generator for a Cottage

If you want a 100% guaranteed source of electricity 24/7 this is the way to go.

Portable generators

A portable generator is handy for off-grid or island cabins that need power once in a while to run tools or other small pieces of equipment. It is also a good option for cottages with electricity that might lose power a couple of times a year due to storms.

The smallest generators are the lightest and easiest to transport, but they also have low wattage. For example, a 1500-watt generator might be good for the modem, a couple of lights, the computers, and maybe the TV.

At a minimum, you probably want a generator with 3500 or 4000 watts. This will also keep a small fridge going and can run the water pump. It is powerful enough for tools and equipment used around the property for construction projects, as well.

Check them out at: Portable Gas Generators for a Cottage

Once you get to this size, or larger, the units start to get heavy and they are difficult to move around. Keep this in mind if your property is not flat.

The standard portable generators run on gasoline or diesel fuel. They are noisy and produce smelly exhaust. It is important to ensure the generator is run in the open air and at the recommended distance from the building.

Inverter generators

Inverter generators are common for RVs, camping, and boat trips. These light-weight units are designed to provide power for a few small appliances. Inverter generators are quieter than the standard portable generators and have the benefit of being able to produce DC power, which can be stored. They normally run on propane.

Check them out at: Dual Fuel Inverter Generators

Appliance Wattage Chart

Here are some examples of the wattage required to run certain appliances. These are minimum amounts to use as a guide. Large fridges, pumps, or heaters will require more power.

When choosing the size of the generator, you have to add up all the appliances you intend to run at the same time to determine the amount of wattage needed. In most cases, you simply want to cover the basics for a minimum period of time.

In addition, there is a difference between the starting power (surge power) required to get an appliance going and the running power it requires. For example, a fridge might need 1000 starting watts but only 150 running watts. If the generator does not have the ability to handle the surge when an appliance starts you might need to use the appliances in stages or consider buying a larger generator.

Appliance Wattage
Smart Phone 3
Tablet 5
Laptop 20
Lights 100
Small fridge 200
Fan 200
TV 200
Freezer 500
Hot plate 1000
Space heater 1500
Water pump 1500
Electric chainsaw 1500
Circular saw 1500
Water heater (40 gal) 4500

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