Can You Run a Space Heater on a Generator?

It may not happen often, but there will be times in the winter months when it gets super cold in your home and the power’s out. What should you do in those moments? Do you wait in the cold for power to be restored, or do you figure out a way to connect your space heater to a generator? Can and should you even attempt to run a space heater on a generator?

Yes, you can run a space heater on a generator if the generator is powerful enough. Any gas-powered generator with an outlet will power a space heater. Not all electric generators will power a space heater, but in general the larger heavier backup models will. Check the power ratings to be sure.

After determining these, you also need to understand the precautions before attempting to run your space heater on your generator. This article will dive deep into the world of space heaters and everything there is to know about running space heaters with generators.

What Size Generator is Right for Your Space Heater?

Portable electric generator

To determine the right size of generator that’s perfect for your space heater, you need to first determine two things:

  • The size of the space heater you want to get.
  • The size of the space you’re looking to heat up.

These two factors are interconnected as the size of your space will be the main factor that influences the size of space heater you get and, consequently, the size of the generator that’s perfect for that space heater.

Room Space

So before we talk generator size, let’s talk space.

A simple approach to determining the size of the space heater to get for your space is to relate the square foot of the room you’re looking to heat to the watts of the space heater needed to heat that space. Here’s how that works:

Typically, 10 watts will sufficiently power one square foot area in your room, while 20 watts will power two square feet area in your room.

Hence, if you’re looking to power a 200 sq. ft. space (the size of an average room), you will need a space heater of nothing less than 2500 watts.

Consequently, the size of the generator you will choose must have a watt rating above 2500 watts.

What size generator do you need to run a space heater?

A 2000-watt generator will sufficiently power a portable electric space heater of 500 to 1000 watts. However, much bigger space heaters will require larger generators to meet the wattage demands.

To most accurately determine the size of generator needed to run your space heater, take a look at the label inside the product packaging. This will include the maximum amp required for the space heater to operate. Usually, the maximum ‘amp’ allowed by code is 15 amp.

  1. Convert the watts on the space heater to amps (at the standard outlet by dividing by 120V).
  1. Multiply the result by 15 amps.

Let’s take an example real quick:

A 2000-watts space heater has a maximum amp column of 15. Hence, the minimum power of the gen required to run the space heater can be obtained by converting 2000 watts to amps, then multiplying by 15.

Since 2000 watts = 16.67 amps, the minimum power required from the generator would be 16.67 multiplied by 15. So that would give about 1800 watts.

Best Generators for Powering a Space Heater

The best generators are indoor battery-powered generators. Since you’ll be using the space heater in your home, battery-powered generators, also known as portable battery power stations, prove to be the safest options and work so quietly you can almost hear a pin drop when they’re working.

If you’re looking for some of the best generators to run your space heater, you can start by focusing on the most reputable brands in the market, which include:

  • Jackery
  • Westinghouse
  • Goal Zero
  • Bluetti
  • Energizer

Let’s take a look at some of them.

  • ECOFLOW River Mini (on Amazon): The ECOFLOW River Mini is one of the most portable battery generators out there. It weighs only 6 pounds and powers from 300W to 800W. Compared with other remarkable brands, the ECOFLOW River Mini charges remarkably fast, completing charges from 0% to 100% in 1.5 hours, and can power up to 8 devices at once.
  • iGen 300s (on Amazon): If you’re looking for the cheapest, budget-friendly battery-powered generator out there, then iGen 300s is your best bet. The iGen 300s features a hybrid charging system that easily switches between AC charging (through grid power outlets) and DC (through solar panels). It provides 750 watts of continuous charging power with a surge output of 1200 watts.
  • ECOFLOW River PRO (on Amazon): The ECOFLOW River Pro is compatible with over 80% of home appliances, including the space heater. Like the ECOFLOW River Mini, the ECOFLOW River Pro goes from 0% to 80% in less than an hour and completes its charge in 1.6 hours. Therefore, it is ideal for powering small space heaters of around 400W.

Some other good inverters include:

  • Jackery Portable 110V/500W AC Outlet Power Station (ideal for 250 watts’ space heaters).
  • LIPOWER 750W Peak Portable Power Station (most suitable for 500 watts’ space heaters).
  • Generac 1200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator (suitable for 1000 watts’ space heaters).
  • Briggs & Stratton P2200 Smart Inverter Generator (ideal for 1500 watts’ space heaters).
  • Powermate 3000 Watt Gas Inverter Generator (ideal for 3000 watts’ space heaters).
  • Westinghouse Super Quiet 4500 Peak Watts Inverter Generator (ideal for 4000 watts’ space heaters).

Should You Use a Solar Generator?

What if you don’t like battery-powered generators? Can you exploit other options? Yes, you can.

Odds are, if you’re looking to power your space with a space heater, you’re also probably conscious of the carbon footprint we’re leaving in the atmosphere (at least, we hope you are), and you’re contemplating whether to opt for a solar generator over a gas generator.

But you also need to know if a solar generator can power your space heater and the potential benefits of using one. In this section, we place both Solar Generators and Gas Generators side by side and help you decide which you should use and why.

Solar Generator Vs. Gas Generator

And now, the standoff! But before deciding which comes out victorious, let’s look at how each works.

Solar Generators

A solar generator consists of four unique elements:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) panels.
  • A charge regulator.
  • Batteries.
  • An inverter.

The PV panels are the most prominent parts of the solar generator. They receive and convert sunlight into electricity, then send that electricity off to the next element on the solar generator: the charge regulator.

The charge regulator pumps the stored energy to the batteries, and of course, because it’s a regulator, it stops pumping electricity when the batteries are fully charged. So now the PV Panels collect direct current from the sun, but you need alternating current to power your space heater.

The inverter comes to the rescue by converting the direct current from your PV Panels to alternating current.

Tada, that was your basic crash course on solar generators; now, let’s move to why they could be the best option for your space heater.

Benefits of a Solar Generator

  • Serenity: There’s this ambient calm that comes with the winter months. Who doesn’t want to enjoy that? However, a diesel-powered machine can easily get in the way of that ambiance with the noise it generates. Solar generators, on the other hand, are silent and have no moving parts. So it’s one point for them there.
  • Low Maintenance: Once your solar generator is set up, it’s ready to roll. You don’t need to pull a special switch before the sun comes out in the morning or go into the clouds to service the sun. In addition, the generators have no moving parts, so it doesn’t wear out fast. Looks like another big win here for solar generators.
  • Safer Options: Besides the serenity that comes with solar generators, they are also safer. You deal with no greenhouse gases like you would have if you used a generator that depended on fossil fuels to power your space heater.
  • Cost Efficient: You need to fill gas generators up with gas occasionally. Otherwise, they won’t work, and gas costs money. This seems like a pretty fair deal in exchange for warmth, but why even deal when you can use a generator that doesn’t require a dime (excluding maintenance) from you after the initial setup?

Your solar generator runs day and night, preserving energy during the day and consuming stored energy at night only to recharge it by morning.

Gas Generators

Unlike solar generators, gas generators convert chemical energy (from gasoline) to mechanical energy and then convert this mechanical energy to electrical energy.

It has two main elements:

  • An engine.
  • An alternator.

The engine combusts the gas and then uses this energy to turn the rotor in the alternator. The rotor, essentially a coil of copper wire, spins past stationary magnets.

The trick here is the speed and the spin. As the coil spins fast over the magnets, the magnets produce a significant amount of moving parts.

Okay, maybe not as simple as solar generators, but you get the point here. For one, you can tell there are a few moving parts. But while this may be a disadvantage in some ways, let’s look at some of the benefits of using a gas generator to power your space heater.

Benefits of a Gas Generator

  • Control: You can’t control how much the sun shines on a cold winter morning, and neither can you swipe off the clouds with a brush of your left palm, but you can walk down to the gas station and get yourself some gas, fill up your gen with gas and bring warmth to your home.
  • Ease of Use: Starting your gas generator is as simple as pressing the starter button. As long as you have gas in it, you can have it running as soon as the power goes out.
  • Compact: You can easily transport your gas generator during any outdoor event.

Moment of Truth

Selecting the right generator for your space heater begins with understanding the amount of power needed to power your space heater and the different scenarios where one may work over the other.

For example, in the case of life-threatening emergencies like hurricanes and blizzards, a solar generator may not work efficiently, and the panels may get destroyed. However, a gas generator in the basement could save the day.

In a more settled clime (like family summer camps), a solar generator may be the best option to power your space heater.

Safety Advice for Space Heaters and Generators

So, you’ve selected a generator for your space heater. Great! But that’s not the end of everything. To get a true happily ever after, you need to know how to use it right.

Generators can be pretty handy but hazardous. Hence, before finally powering on your generator, consider these safety tips and rules for using your space heater with your generator.

Safety Precautions for using your Space Heater with your Generator

Different electric heaters near light grey wall indoors
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety codes specific to your space heater and generator before using them independently or together.
  • Always get your generator up and running before connecting your space heater.
  • Always check the wattage of your space heater before connecting your space heater. This will help you determine if you can place other electrical loads on your generator without exceeding the limit on the gen. For example, a 2,000-watt solar generator will sufficiently power a 1,500-watt space heater, but it won’t power your lights, fridge, and other appliances around your house. A 5000-watt generator, on the other hand, will conveniently power a 1,500-watt space heater and a few other appliances. As much as you can, do not use a generator of fewer than 2000 watts to power your space heater even when you know it can.
  • Don’t use extension cords with your heater or your generator. Extension cords tend to overheat, damage your space heater, or even start a fire.
  • Always check the area around your space heater for flammable materials like carpet, cardboard, or curtains.
  • Keep your space heater within three feet of other objects. Avoid placing your space heater in high-traffic areas in your home.
  • Always keep your space heater in sight. If you’re stepping out of the house, put it off.
  • Always ensure your space is well ventilated before running your generator and space heater. Never use your generators indoors to avoid poisoning yourself with carbon monoxide fumes. Instead, keep the generator outside and far away from your vents, windows, and doors.