Letter Re: Sizing a Retreat AC Power Generator

Mr. Rawles:
In attempting to size an emergency generator for my home, I have run across some interesting questions that I hope you and/or your other readers will be able to help me with. I lived through the blizzards of the 1990s here in the southern West Virginia coal camps, and I will never forget us and all of our neighbors being without power and unable to get out of our own driveways for 23+ days in 1993.

It marked the very beginnings of my awakening to the necessity of being properly prepared. With that in mind, I am attempting to set my home up with the ability to keep a bare minimum level of electrical appliances running in the case of a long-term outage; namely 2 refrigerators w/ freezers, a chest freezer, and an upright freezer (all just a few years old, so fairly energy efficient).

I am gauging the power being used by these appliances using a Kill-A-Watt. And, honestly, I’m afraid that I am doing something wrong. My number seem awfully low.

The first test I ran was on my chest freezer; after two hours of measurement, the freezer had consumed just 0.05 KWH or 50 watts of power at 25 watts per hour. I was surprised, but not terribly because the lid was not opened during the span of the test.

Next, I tested the refrigerator in my kitchen. It is a an Energy Star compliant Whirlpool brand 25.55 cu. ft. model with water and ice in the door. As a result of the chest freezer coming in lower than I expected, I purposely skewed the refrigerator experiment with the hopes of over-estimating the true usage. To that end, I was sure to be a bad boy and do things such as holding the door open and staring in like a goober for five minutes. I also refilled the dog’s water bowl from the door (forcing the pump into action) and virtually emptied the ice bin as crushed ice through the door (a big cup of ice water is yum!) to force the ice maker to have to run and make more. But, even with all that, my two hour test yielded a cumulative KWH usage of just 0.13. A measly 130 watts at 65 watts per hour.

Researching this online, I’m finding sites that estimate the typical household fridge uses between 150-250 watts per hour with peaks upward of 700+ watts. Am I doing really well on efficiency or am I missing something? I’ll wait to hear back before I run the remaining tests. Thanks! – JSC