Generator to run a fridge?

Looks like I need 2000 watts. Or should I spend more and get 3000? I am in hurricane country and we had 1 bad hit and several close calls.

I have a Honda 4000 W, 120 V/240 V generator. I use it to power the whole house when the electric goes out. We have two full-size refrigerators, and they both works fine when we’re on the generator.

But I do disable a few things when I run the house from the generator: central AC, microwave ovens, range, and electric dryer.

Did you have to get a switch installed to plug into the circuit breaker? I have to run extension cords to my generator, and run individual things from it. I don’t plug in coffee makers, space heaters, microwaves, etc. - they just draw too much.

I used a Honda EU2000 2000 Surge Watts. 1600 Rated Watts. Tiny little thing. Weighs 35lbs.

My Fridge, 2 lamps & phone charger were always connected. I connected my coffee pot, toaster, or hot plate as needed. But, only one at a time! Make coffee and unplug then pour in thermos. Fry eggs on hot plate, unplug. Make toast and unplug.

Yeah it got tiresome, but I ate hot food. :wink:

The tv or computer got plugged in when I was preparing a meal.

I eventually got a Generac whole house 16KW gen. The Honda and all those extension cords are at the deer camp. We’re thankful to have any electricity at the camp.

I have a 3K generator I use to power both the refrigerator and freezer. The key is to not plug everything in at once. The two devices will rarely kick their compressors on at the same moment while they’re just maintaining their temperatures.

It’s surprising just how much a small generator can carry. It will trip a breaker if overloaded. That never happened to me.

A fridge doesn’t us much wattage except when the compressor starts. That could trip the generator breaker if you were using a hot plate at the same.

You can gamble and start the hotplate. Hoping the fridge won’t decide it wants the compressor. Or unplug the fridge for a few minutes while you cook.

I felt it wasn’t a big deal if the gen tripped a breaker. I left the fridge on and took my chances.

It’s surprising just how much a small generator can carry. It will trip a breaker if overloaded. That never happened to me.

A fridge doesn’t use much wattage except when the compressor starts. That could trip the generator breaker if you were using a hot plate at the same.

You can gamble and start the hotplate. Hoping the fridge won’t decide it wants the compressor. Or unplug the fridge for a few minutes while you cook.

I felt it wasn’t a big deal if the gen tripped a breaker. I left the fridge on and took my chances.

I’m not sure if modern fridges with computer chips are more fragile. They may not like surges from a gen shutdown. I haven’t researched it.


I installed a 240 V, 50 A circuit breaker in the main service panel, a 50 A receptacle (240 V with neutral and ground) in the basement near an outside door, and then connected them using 6/3 wiring. I then made a 25 foot extension cable with a male plug on each end: one end connects to the generator, and the other end connects to the receptacle in the basement. Highly “illegal,” but it works well for me. :slight_smile:

So when the electric grid goes out, I turn off the main panel’s 200 A circuit breaker and hook the generator to the house. I built a custom box that monitor the voltage and current of each leg to ensure I am not overloading the generator. The box also has a buzzer and switch that is connected to the output of the house’s electric meter, but before the main 200 A circuit breaker. This allows me to know when the electric grid is back on.

Hondas are more expensive than other brands but I guess people are willing to pay the extra cost. I might but I will look around first.

Smaller, lightweight generators often cost more. I bought the Honda because it got carried back and forth from home and deer camp. I didn’t want to risk injury lugging it around.

Otherwise there’s bulkier and cheaper generators that will do a great job. Weight doesn’t matter as much if the generator lives in the garage. Drag it out during a power failure.

Not the poster you asked this of, but… I hired an electrician to install a transfer switch for my 6KW portable* generator. The switch is a clever mechanical setup that physically limits setting both generator input and main breaker to “On” (at the same time). He also installed a connector so the generator provides full 240V to the breaker box, and I choose which subset of household circuits to leave on. I can power all the lights, fridge, and small appliances at the same time with no extension cords. It can also run exactly one large appliance (stove, dryer, etc.). I have small window ACs in the bedrooms that it can power as well, but the large central ACs are too much for it. I built a crude enclosure out of cinder blocks and wood to protect the gennie from the elements and isolate some of the sound.

*Portable is a relative term. I move it using my chain hoist or engine hoist. I can barely move it myself even though it has wheels on one end.

I’m not sure if this is the best way to do things, but it occurs to me that you are burning gasoline to create electricity, then using the electricity to run the refrigerator, and there are inefficiencies at each stag, resulting in a lot of waste heat.

You could reduce the inefficiencies by not going through so many stages. There are propane-powered refrigerators that run direcrtly off the propane, and don’t require you to generate electricity as an intermediate step. These aren’t systems with built-in generators – they work in a different fashion. They’re widely used in RVs and vacation homes off the electrical grid.

You can buy them from Amazon

Or elsewhere

Ok, wow. That’s impressive. Like I said - when the power goes out, I drag my gennie outside, start it up, and plug a bunch of extension cords in and run them through the house.

But I obviously need to learn more. Our power goes out pretty often (old neighborhood with lots of trees, and our spot on the grid means we’re usually the last in the city to get service restored). I should start a list of things that we usually plug in, and how much power they’re drawing. I know our generator is capable of taking on much more than we usually plug in, and it would be nice to have a better idea of where we are.

We’re not interested in getting a whole house generator (those are running ~$8k these days), but I wouldn’t be opposed to a half-measure solution that allows me to plug my generator into the service panel and get maybe 1/2 service. I know I’m not going to get the HVAC going, but it would be nice to add the stove to the list if I can.

I thought about “doing it right” and installing a whole house generator & transfer switch. But it would have been a big, expensive ordeal. Plus our grid power usually doesn’t go out for long periods of time, so I really don’t need a whole house generator.

One bit of advice: if you’re going to take my approach, I would advise against buying too big of a generator. Sure, a bigger generator can power more stuff. But there are some disadvantages to them:

  1. The more power they put out, the more expensive they are, all else being equal.

  2. They’re heavy and difficult to wheel around.

  3. While it’s true they can supply more power, they consume more fuel for low and moderate power levels.

#3 is significant. Let’s say I turn off non-essential loads (central AC, range, electric clothes dryer, microwave ovens, electric heaters, etc.) and my peak power is around 2000 W to 2500 W. A 4000 W generator will have better fuel economy supplying this power vs. a 6000 W generator. A true “whole house” generator would have even worse economy.

So if you don’t mind temporarily turning off non-essential loads, you can probably get by with a 4000 W generator. (This assumes your home’s heating system is non-electric, e.g. NG, oil, or propane.) They’re pretty easy to wheel around and they get pretty good fuel economy. But first do the math, of course.

2000 should be fine for the fridge. It should require something like 800 watts to get going, then fall under 300 to run. I have a 5000 Watt gen which doesn’t notice the fridge at all (yes i know it’s a lot more then what you are considering), the 15000 BTU a/c and the 400 ft well pump are the biggies, but it only struggles a bit with the well pump. We have lots of gas appliances too, so not much in terms of 220V items, actually I think the only 220V is the well pump.

The reason I mention the above is if you are just planning to power the fridge, you might consider spending a little more so you can power the house, or most of it (we can power everything). There is not that big a difference in cost to get most everything running, especially if you are considering electric work to do it right and factor in that cost. However if you are considering a inverter generator, it’s a different story cost wise. They go up steeply in price as the power rating increases.

Oh, and don’t make the mistake my coworker made.

He got a “good deal” on a brand new but no-name 4000 W generator. He was in the process of hooking it up to his house using a similar approach to what I did. He then discovered his generator supplies 120 V and not 120 V / 240 V. :smack: To get around this he has to tie Phase A and Phase B together in his electric panel when using the generator. Yea, this works, but he can’t power his 240 V loads. Which is not a problem for him since all of his 240 V loads are high power devices (clothes dryer, etc.) and he would have disabled them anyway. But it would be a problem for me since my well pump - which is essential - runs on 240 V.

Have you considered going legal & safe and getting a lockout device for your breaker box? Much cheaper then the transfer switch option and does pass code. It’s annoying to pay $80 for a couple of small pieces of metal, and it does require the generator breaker be in a certain position, but it really works well and provides peace of mind.

Well, if an inspector looked at my system right now they would say it meets code. From the inspector’s POV, I simply installed a 50 A receptacle in my basement. There’s nothing wrong with that. The “illegal” thing I’m doing is using a 25 foot cable with a male connector on each end; it goes between the wall receptacle and the generator. I only have it plugged in when I’m using the generator, which is once or twice a year.

Commonly called a ‘suicide cord’. For good reason, as an experienced EMT can tell you. It’s usually not a handyman like Crafter Man that finds that out, too late – it’s his spouse or kids or neighbor.

I really wouldn’t advise this.

Yes, I would never recommend this setup to anyone. It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. None-the-less, I know a number of people who power their home through the clothes dryer receptacle, which is similar to my setup.