Air Conditioning

Can A Portable Generator Run a Central Air Conditioner?

Can A Portable Generator Run a Central Air Conditioner


Central air conditioning is an effective means of maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. However, during situations such as storm surges or local power failures, the utility system may become unreliable. While home generators can ensure the operation of water pumps, the question arises: what about the air conditioner? Given the substantial energy consumption of central air conditioning systems, we delved into whether portable generators can adequately power them, aiming to provide a comprehensive answer.

Using Portable Generators to Power Central Air Conditioners:

Portable generators can indeed power central air conditioners, offering more than just the capability to run small appliances. They can sustain your home’s central air conditioning system during power outages, provided you choose a generator with sufficient power to run not only the air conditioner but also other critical systems connected to it.

If you’re wondering about the specifics of using a portable generator to power your central air conditioner during a power outage, this article has all the information you need. Read on to discover the right generator size for your central air conditioner during such situations.

How Does It Work?

During power outages, portable generators are commonly used to supply electricity to small, low-power devices. Their primary purpose is to keep essential home systems operational when there’s an electrical outage. Generators come in various types, distinguished mainly by their power generation capacity and battery life. The wattage of a generator determines its output, and the general rule is to choose a generator with slightly higher wattage than what the air conditioner requires.

Determining the Right Generator Size:

The wattage requirements of your cooling system dictate the generator size needed to power the central air conditioner. While the size of a generator can indicate its output, it’s not a foolproof indicator of its power. Always adhere to the proper wattage requirements and never rely solely on estimates or personal assumptions. Overloading the generator can lead to malfunctions, damage to the cooling system, or even the generator catching fire.

For a 2-ton or 12,000 BTU air conditioner, it is recommended to use a 10,000-watt generator. It is advisable to err on the side of caution and choose a generator with higher capacity to avoid potential harm to your central air conditioning system.

Power Consumption of Central Air Conditioning Systems:

Several factors influence the power consumption of a central air conditioner. Older, less energy-efficient units consume less energy than newer models. The BTU (British Thermal Unit) required to cool the living space is a critical factor in determining the wattage of the air conditioning system. Larger refrigeration areas necessitate more energy to circulate air effectively and maintain a stable temperature. On average, a typical central air conditioner uses around 3,500 watts or 12,000 BTUs per hour.

When selecting a portable generator, aim for one with a power output between 6,000 to 6,500 watts to meet this standard. Wall-mounted air conditioners, being more energy-efficient, are also suitable for power from a portable generator due to their lower power consumption.

Can a 6500-Watt Generator Run a Central Air Conditioner?

Yes, a 6500-watt generator is capable of powering a central air conditioner. Typically, any space requiring cooling and air circulation will require more than 2,000 watts of electrical output per hour.


In conclusion, a portable generator can be a valuable asset in alleviating stress during unforeseen power outages. Investing in a powerful generator that can sustain critical systems in your home is invaluable. It’s essential to carefully consider your power needs, conduct research, and plan ahead to select the best portable generator for emergency situations. With the right information and preparation, you can ensure a cool and comfortable environment even in the face of unexpected challenges.


1. Can you run central AC on a portable generator?
Yes, a portable generator can power your central air conditioner, allowing it to operate during power outages.

2. Will a 5000-watt generator run central air?
While it could potentially run a small, energy-efficient central air conditioner, it is advisable to use an emergency window air conditioner as 5000-watt generators may lack sufficient starting power.

3. Will a 7500-watt generator run central air?
Yes, a 7500-watt generator is capable of operating a central heating or cooling system.

4. How many watts does it take to run a central air conditioner?
Central air conditioners consume around 1,000 watts per ton of cooling capacity. For a standard 2,000-square-foot home requiring 3.5 tons of cooling capacity, a generator with 6,000 to 6,500 watts is recommended.

5. What’s the difference between an inverter generator and a normal generator?
While conventional generators produce alternating current (AC) directly, inverter generators convert AC power to direct current (DC) before inverting it back to AC power using a microprocessor, resulting in more stable electricity.

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About the author


I am Ben , a seasoned HVAC specialist with over 6 of experience in the HVAC industry. I holds HVAC Certification and has a proven track record in providing expert advice on HVAC systems.

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