Can a Whole House Generator Run Air Conditioner? Get the Facts

By Alex McGill

Picture this: a scorching summer day, the sun relentless in its pursuit of discomfort, and suddenly, the power goes out. In the midst of the rising temperature, your only refuge is a dependable whole-house generator. Now, the burning question arises: Can a whole house generator run air conditioner, providing you with a cool haven amidst the blackout chaos?

In the face of sweltering heat, we delve into the intricacies of generator capabilities, unraveling the potential to not just keep the lights on but to ensure your entire home, including that cherished air conditioner, remains a sanctuary of comfort when the power takes an unexpected hiatus.

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Critical Insights

  • The size and type of whole house generator needed for air conditioner depends on power requirement.
  • Different fuel sources, such as natural gas, propane, or diesel, can be used for whole house generators.
  • Regular service checks and tune-ups are required for proper maintenance of whole house generators.
  • Proper sizing and knowing generator capacity is key for powering appliances and ensuring reliable backup power for essential devices.

What is a Whole House Generator?

You may be wondering what a whole house generator is; it is a powerful source of energy that can provide electrical power to an entire home. The cost of installing one depends on the size and type of generator you choose, as well as the complexity of the installation process. 

For example, if you opt for a larger unit with more complex wiring needs, it will likely be more expensive than a smaller model with simpler wiring requirements. Installation also involves hooking up the generator to your home’s existing electric system and running tests to make sure everything is working properly.

When selecting a whole house generator, it’s important to consider your budget and how much power you need in order for it to effectively run all your appliances. Different models vary in terms of wattage output, so be sure to evaluate your needs before making any decisions.

You should also factor in maintenance costs over time since generators require regular service checks and tune-ups in order to remain efficient and effective.

Knowing how much electricity you need for all your appliances will help ensure that you purchase the right size generator for your home’s particular needs. This will enable you to make an informed decision regarding which type of unit is best suited for keeping your home powered when needed—and whether or not it can handle running an air conditioner.

Moving on from here, let’s take a look at how exactly does a whole house generator work?

How Does a Whole House Generator Work?

A whole-home generator powers up when the power goes out, so you won’t have to sweat it. A whole-home generator is able to generate its own power and store it in a battery bank using various fuel sources such as natural gas, propane, or diesel. 

Depending on the size of the generator, it can provide enough power output to keep your essential appliances running during a blackout. The generator will also be able to automatically kick in if there is a sudden loss of power from the main grid.

Whole home generators come with numerous safety features that ensure they operate safely and efficiently. For example, they are equipped with sensors that detect any changes in voltage or load and will shut off automatically if necessary. They also feature automatic transfer switches which switch between utility power and generator power seamlessly without disruption.

Additionally, many of these systems have advanced monitoring systems that allow you to keep track of fuel levels and other data regarding your system’s performance remotely via smartphone apps or web interfaces.

With all these features put together, you can rest assured knowing that your home will stay powered even during an unexpected blackout due to heavy storms or other events beyond your control. All this means that you’ll never have to worry about coming home to find yourself powerless ever again!

Can A Whole House Generator Run Air Conditioner

Can a Whole House Generator Run Air Conditioner?

Standby generators offer a reliable solution for uninterrupted power supply during outages, but their ability to handle specific appliances, such as air conditioners, depends on various factors.

  • Generator Capacity:
    • The capacity of the whole house generator is a key determinant. Larger generators with higher power output are generally equipped to handle the demands of running an air conditioner.
    • Check the generator’s capacity against the power requirements of your air conditioning unit to ensure compatibility.
  • Load Management:
    • Whole house generators employ load management systems to prioritize power distribution during high-demand situations. This helps prevent overload and ensures essential appliances, like air conditioners, receive adequate power.
  • Consider Other Appliances:
    • Assess the total load on the generator, considering other appliances running simultaneously. It’s crucial to maintain a balance to avoid exceeding the generator’s capacity.
  • Professional Consultation:
    • For precise information regarding your specific generator and air conditioner setup, it’s advisable to seek professional consultation. Electricians or generator experts can assess your system and provide tailored recommendations.
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While many whole house generators can indeed run air conditioners, careful consideration of generator capacity and load management is essential to ensure a seamless and reliable power supply during both routine use and unexpected outages.

Can A Whole House Generator Run Air Conditioner

How to Choose a Whole House Generator that can Run an Air Conditioner?

Selecting a whole house generator capable of powering an air conditioner is a critical decision for homeowners seeking uninterrupted comfort during power outages. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the right choice.

Generator Size and Capacity

1. Evaluate Your Overall Power Needs

Determining the total power needs of your home is a critical step in selecting the right generator size. Start by creating a comprehensive list of all the electrical devices and appliances you consider essential during a power outage. This should include not only the air conditioner but also lights, refrigerators, freezers, sump pumps, security systems, and any other appliances you cannot do without.

Consideration Checklist:
  • Appliances: Identify the wattage requirements of each appliance.
  • Lighting: Account for the wattage of both indoor and outdoor lighting.
  • Electronics: Include the power needs of devices like computers, TVs, and chargers.
  • HVAC Systems: Factor in the wattage of heating and cooling systems.

2. Understand the Difference Between Running and Starting Wattage

Generators are rated for both running wattage and starting wattage. It’s crucial to comprehend the distinction between the two to ensure your generator can handle the initial power surge when appliances, especially the air conditioner, start.

Running Wattage

This is the continuous power required to keep appliances running once they’ve started. It represents the standard operational power consumption of the device.

Starting Wattage

Starting wattage, also known as surge wattage, is the additional power needed to kick-start certain appliances, particularly those with electric motors like refrigerators and air conditioners. This surge is temporary but essential for the initial moments of operation.

Example Scenario

If your air conditioner has a running wattage of 1,500W and a starting wattage of 3,000W, your generator must be capable of providing at least 3,000W during the startup phase. Failing to account for starting wattage could lead to overload issues and potential damage to both the generator and connected appliances.

3. Selecting the Right Generator Capacity

Once you have a clear understanding of your overall power needs and the difference between running and starting wattage, you can select a generator with the appropriate capacity. Ensure that the generator’s rated output comfortably exceeds the total wattage requirements of all essential appliances and devices.

Consider Safety Margins

It’s advisable to choose a generator with a slightly higher capacity than your calculated needs. This provides a safety margin, preventing the generator from operating at its maximum limit and ensuring optimal performance and longevity.

By thoroughly evaluating your power needs and understanding the nuances of running and starting wattage, you can confidently choose a generator size that meets the demands of your entire home during power outages.

Fuel Type and Availability

1. Assess Fuel Availability

When choosing a whole house generator, the first crucial step is to assess the availability of different fuel types in your area. The three primary fuel options for generators are natural gas, propane, and diesel. The availability of these fuels can vary depending on your geographical location and local infrastructure.

  • Natural Gas: If your home is connected to a natural gas line, this can be a convenient and uninterrupted fuel source. Natural gas generators are directly connected to the utility gas line, ensuring a continuous supply during power outages. Check with your local utility provider to confirm the availability of natural gas in your area.
  • Propane: Propane generators are versatile and suitable for areas without natural gas infrastructure. Propane is often stored in large tanks on the property, providing a readily available fuel source. Ensure that propane suppliers are accessible, and the delivery process is reliable in your region.
  • Diesel: Diesel generators are known for their fuel efficiency and durability. They are an excellent choice in areas where natural gas and propane might be less accessible. Ensure there are nearby diesel fuel providers or stations, and check the regulations regarding diesel storage in your locality.

2. Determine Runtime

Once you’ve identified the most suitable fuel type based on availability, the next step is to determine the runtime of the generator. The runtime is influenced by the generator’s fuel capacity, which is determined by the size of its fuel tank.

  • Fuel Tank Size: Check the specifications of the generator to find the size of its fuel tank. Larger fuel tanks generally allow for longer runtimes without the need for frequent refueling.
  • Fuel Consumption Rate: Assess the fuel consumption rate of the generator, usually measured in gallons per hour (GPH) or liters per hour. This information helps estimate how much fuel the generator consumes during operation.

By understanding the fuel availability and considering the runtime factors, you can make an informed decision on the most suitable fuel type and generator size for your needs. This ensures that your generator not only meets the power requirements of your air conditioner but also provides sustained power during extended outages.

Automatic Transfer Switch Compatibility

An Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) is a critical component in a standby generator system. Its primary function is to automatically transfer power supply from the main electrical grid to the generator in the event of a power outage. This seamless transition ensures that your home, including your air conditioner and other appliances, remains powered without any manual intervention.

1. How ATS Works?

a) Detection of Power Outage

When the ATS detects a disruption in the main power supply, it swiftly initiates the transfer process. This is crucial for ensuring a continuous and uninterrupted power supply to your home.

b) Automatic Switching to Generator Power

The ATS, connected to both the utility power and the generator, automatically disconnects your home from the grid and connects it to the generator. This process occurs within seconds, minimizing downtime and ensuring a smooth transition.

2. Benefits of ATS Compatibility

a) Convenience and Reliability

Investing in a generator with ATS compatibility offers unparalleled convenience. During a power outage, you don’t need to manually switch over to generator power; the ATS handles the process seamlessly.

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b) Protecting Sensitive Electronics

The instantaneous transfer provided by the ATS is particularly beneficial for sensitive electronics and appliances. Sudden power interruptions can damage these devices, but the ATS ensures a stable and controlled switch, protecting your equipment.

c) Uninterrupted Air Conditioner Operation

For those specifically concerned about running an air conditioner during a power outage, ATS compatibility is essential. The air conditioner continues to receive a steady power supply, maintaining a comfortable indoor environment.

3. Considerations When Choosing an ATS

a) Size and Capacity

Ensure that the ATS is appropriately sized to handle the load of your entire home, including the air conditioner. ATS units come in various sizes, so selecting one that matches your generator’s capacity is crucial.

b) Professional Installation

Given the critical role of the ATS, it’s advisable to have it installed by a certified electrician. Professional installation ensures proper wiring and configuration, minimizing the risk of malfunctions.

4. Integration with Smart Home Systems

Some ATS units come with modern features, such as integration with smart home systems. This allows for remote monitoring and control, adding an extra layer of convenience to your backup power system.

In summary, the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) is a key element in ensuring a smooth and automatic transition from the main power supply to generator power during an outage. Its compatibility with your generator is essential for hassle-free, reliable, and uninterrupted power supply to your entire home, including your air conditioner and other critical appliances.

Noise Levels and Local Regulations

1. Check Local Noise Regulations

When selecting a whole house generator, it’s crucial to be mindful of the noise it generates, particularly if you reside in an area with stringent noise regulations. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), and different generators produce varying amounts of sound during operation.

  • Decibel Ratings: Generators with lower decibel ratings are generally quieter. Consider generators designed for residential use, as they often prioritize quieter operation. Some modern generators come equipped with sound-dampening technology to minimize disturbance.
  • Quiet Operation Benefits: A generator with low noise levels is advantageous, especially in residential neighborhoods. This ensures that your generator won’t be a source of disturbance to you, your neighbors, or the community at large.

2. Comply with Local Regulations

Local regulations play a pivotal role in the installation and use of standby generators. It’s essential to understand and adhere to these regulations to avoid potential legal and safety issues. Here’s a closer look at what this entails:

  • Permit Requirements: Some municipalities may require permits for the installation of standby generators. Check with your local government to determine if a permit is necessary and, if so, ensure that you obtain the required documentation before installation.
  • Zoning Restrictions: Local zoning ordinances may dictate where you can place your generator on your property. Ensure compliance with these regulations to prevent conflicts with local authorities.
  • Noise Ordinances: In addition to general regulations, some areas may have specific noise ordinances that limit the permissible noise levels during certain hours. This may impact the timing of generator operation, particularly during nighttime hours when noise restrictions tend to be stricter.
  • Safety Compliance: Local regulations often incorporate safety standards for generator installation. Ensuring compliance not only keeps you on the right side of the law but also contributes to the safe and efficient operation of your generator.

By thoroughly investigating and understanding both the noise landscape and local regulations, you can make informed decisions about your generator purchase, installation, and operation. This proactive approach ensures a seamless integration of your standby generator into your home while respecting the legal and acoustic considerations of your community.

Professional Installation and Maintenance

1. Hire a Certified Electrician

When it comes to installing a whole house generator, the expertise of a certified electrician is invaluable. Here’s why:

a) Expertise and Experience

Certified electricians have the necessary knowledge and experience to install generators safely and efficiently. They understand electrical codes, load requirements, and ensure proper wiring to protect your home and appliances.

b) Compliance with Local Regulations

Electricians are well-versed in local regulations, ensuring that the generator installation complies with safety standards and legal requirements. This is essential to prevent potential hazards and ensure the system is approved for use.

c) Seamless Integration

Professional electricians can seamlessly integrate the generator with your home’s electrical system. This includes installing the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS), which automates the transfer of power from the main grid to the generator, ensuring a smooth transition during power outages.

2. Schedule Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping your generator in optimal condition. Consider the following aspects of generator maintenance:

a) Adherence to Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance schedules and tasks. This may include regular oil changes, filter replacements, and overall system checks. Adhering to these guidelines is crucial for warranty compliance and efficient operation.

b) Inspection of Critical Components

Regular maintenance involves a thorough inspection of critical components such as the engine, fuel system, and electrical connections. Identifying and addressing issues promptly can prevent major malfunctions and extend the lifespan of the generator.

c) Professional Service

While some maintenance tasks can be performed by homeowners, certain procedures require the expertise of a professional. Schedule periodic professional maintenance to ensure in-depth checks and necessary repairs are conducted by qualified technicians.

d) Emergency Readiness

Regular maintenance enhances the generator’s reliability during emergencies. It ensures that the system is ready to kick in seamlessly when needed, providing continuous power to your air conditioner and other essential appliances.

Will a 7000 watt Generator Run Central Air Conditioner?

In determining whether a 7000-watt generator can power a central air conditioner, it’s crucial to consider the power requirements of both the generator and the AC unit. A 7000-watt generator, with its capacity to deliver 7000 watts of power, is generally robust enough to handle a variety of household appliances and tools. However, central air conditioners tend to be power-hungry appliances, and their starting wattage can be significantly higher than their running wattage.

Central air conditioners often have a starting wattage requirement that surpasses their continuous running wattage. The starting wattage is the power needed to kickstart the AC unit, and it can be notably higher than the power required to keep it running. A 7000-watt generator may be able to handle the continuous running of a moderate-sized central air conditioner, but it’s crucial to check the specific power requirements of both the generator and the AC unit.

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Before attempting to power your central air conditioner with a 7000-watt generator, carefully review the manufacturer’s specifications for both the generator and the AC unit. Check the starting wattage of the air conditioner and ensure that the generator’s surge or starting capacity is sufficient to accommodate this initial power demand. Additionally, consider the overall load on the generator, factoring in other appliances and devices that may be in use simultaneously.

While a 7000-watt generator can indeed provide substantial power, it’s essential to exercise caution and ensure that the combined power needs of your appliances, including the central air conditioner, do not exceed the generator’s rated capacity. Inadequate power supply can lead to inefficient operation, potential damage to the generator or appliances, and may compromise the longevity of the equipment. Always prioritize safety and adhere to the guidelines outlined in the equipment manuals to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

If you want to know how long can you run a generator you can read our guide here. Moreover, you can also learn about the usage of generators during power outages here.

Pros and Cons of a Whole House Generators


  • Whole house generators provide uninterrupted power to your entire home during outages.
  • Automatic activation ensures immediate power without manual intervention.
  • Installing a whole house generator can enhance the resale value of your home.
  • These generators can run for extended periods with a constant fuel source.


  • Initial setup expenses can be relatively high.
  • Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure optimal performance.
  • The runtime is limited by the generator’s fuel source.
  • Whole house generators may require significant installation space.

How to Connect Your AC to Your Generator?

Connecting your AC unit to your generator is a crucial step in ensuring comfort during power outages. Follow these steps for a seamless connection:

  • Ensure the generator is turned off and disconnected from any power source.
  • Use the appropriate power cord and ensure it matches the voltage requirements of your AC unit.
  • Connect the power cord to the generator’s AC outlet and the corresponding power input on your AC unit.
  • Check for a secure fit and use extension cords if necessary, ensuring they can handle the power load of your AC unit.
  • Power on the generator and then turn on your AC unit.
  • Monitor the generator’s load capacity to prevent overloading, ensuring optimal performance.
  • Always prioritize safety by following manufacturer guidelines and local electrical codes.

Connecting your AC unit to your generator provides a reliable source of cooling during unexpected power disruptions.

Generator Safety Tips

Generators are essential tools for providing backup power during outages, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety when using them. Follow these generator safety tips to ensure safe and efficient operation.

  • Location:
    • Place the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated area, away from windows, doors, and vents to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Fuel Handling:
    • Store fuel in approved containers in a cool, well-ventilated area, and never refuel the generator while it’s running.
  • Electrical Connection:
    • Use heavy-duty extension cords designed for outdoor use and connect appliances directly to the generator or use a transfer switch.
  • Avoid Overloading:
    • Calculate the power needs and avoid overloading the generator, which can damage appliances and the generator itself.
  • Regular Maintenance:
    • Perform routine maintenance as per the manufacturer’s guidelines, including oil changes and air filter replacements.
  • Cooling Time:
    • Allow the generator to cool before refueling and store it in a dry location to prevent damage.
  • Grounding:
    • Ensure the generator is properly grounded to prevent electrical shock hazards.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions:
    • Adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, usage, and maintenance to maximize safety and performance.

Remember, generator safety is paramount to prevent accidents and ensure a reliable power supply during emergencies.


You’ve now learned can a whole house generator run air conditioner. It’s clear that having a generator can be a great asset during a power outage, providing comfort and peace of mind. While there are some drawbacks associated with owning one, such as the cost and maintenance, these can be easily managed by taking the proper precautions.

Overall, having a whole house generator is an excellent way to safeguard your home from unexpected events. So if you’re worried about losing power in the future, investing in one may be the right decision for you.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a whole house generator cost?

The cost of a whole house generator varies depending on its fuel efficiency and power output. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

What types of fuel do whole house generators use?

You may be wondering what types of fuel whole house generators use. Generally, they run on diesel or natural gas, which offer good fuel efficiency and low emission levels.

What size generator is needed to run an air conditioner?

To power an air conditioner, you’ll need a generator that can provide enough energy to meet the unit’s power needs. Consider alternative fuel sources such as natural gas and propane for efficient operation.

How often should a whole house generator be maintained?

You should have your generator serviced every year and fuel storage checked regularly. This will ensure optimal functioning of your whole house generator.

What safety features should I look for when purchasing a whole house generator?

When purchasing a whole house generator, look for features that ensure safety. Check the noise levels and power output to make sure they meet your needs. Make sure the generator is properly installed and maintained for optimal performance.

How big of a generator do I need to run my home air conditioner?

To power a 3-ton (30-Amp, 36,000 BTUs) air conditioner, a generator of at least 14 KW is necessary. For a 4-ton (40-Amp, 48,000 BTUs) unit, a minimum 17 KW generator is required, and for a 5-ton (50-Amp, 60,000 BTUs) air conditioner, a generator of at least 20 KW is recommended.

Will a 7500 watt generator run my air conditioner?

With 9375 starting watts and 7500 running watts, a 7500 watt generator can handle various power needs during an outage. This includes lights, refrigerator, modem/router, security system, window AC, furnace blower, TV, computer, phone charger, and more.

Can a Generac generator run an air conditioner?

Generac portable generators ensure essential items like lights, refrigerators, freezers, sump pumps, space heaters, and window air conditioners remain operational during power outages. This helps minimize disruptions to one’s lifestyle.

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