Can a Portable Generator power a TV? – What you need to know

There are times when you really want to have a working television and your generator is the best or the only option to power it.

You wouldn’t want to be in that position only to find that your generator was overloaded!

This post will help you understand generators and televisions and how they work (or don’t work) together. 

How Much Watts Does a TV Consume?

The reason it can be hard to say whether or not a particular television and a particular generator will work together is because there is a lot of variety.

To answer whether a portable generator can power your TV, you need to know how many watts it consumes.

There is a huge variety here, depending on the size of the screen, the type of television (LCD, Plasma, etc.), and whether or not it is energy-efficient.

  • A smaller screen size will always have a lower wattage.
  • Plasma TVs take more power than LCDs.
  • Energy Star-labeled TVs use around 30% less energy than non-efficient TVs.

Those are some basic guidelines but the only way to know how many watts your television consumes is to look it up.

This information is easy to find in the TV’s manual or you can easily find it online or from a retailer.

Typically, a television's wattage will be somewhere from 80 to 350 watts.

Starting Watts versus Running Watts

When buying a portable generator, you’ll always see them discussed in terms of both starting or surge watts and running or rated watts.

Many things require an extra boost of power when starting up and less continuous power when in use.

This mostly applies to tools and appliances with motors.

Your dishwasher would use that extra surge of wattage but your television does not.

You only need to pay attention to the wattage listed for your particular model of television.

As long as this number comes in lower than the running watts the generator is rated for, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Is the TV Sharing the Load?

Since most TVs have a small enough wattage, they will typically be easily powered by even a lower-power portable generator.

However, it’s unlikely that the television is the only thing you’ll be powering.

You always have to add up the total wattage of everything you have connected to the generator (Click here to check out our total wattage calculator to estimate your needs).

If you don’t do this and you try to power more than the generator can handle, it will overload.

Why you need an "inverter" for your tv screen

With electronics, it’s pretty vital that you have an inverter generator.

Inverter technology protects your sensitive electronics by keeping the energy clean and steady.

When the voltage is stable without big fluctuations, your electronics aren’t at risk for serious and permanent damage.

If your generator is not an inverter, the answer to whether or not it can power your TV is no.

It might be able to power the television, but it would be putting the TV at great risk.

The Noise Factor

Another thing to consider is the noise factor.

Some generators get quite loud, especially when running a heavy load.

You don’t want to have to compete for the television volume with the generator volume.

If you’re running a generator and blasting a television, there’s a good chance you’re going to start to annoy your neighbors or anyone nearby.

This is something to think about when you’re buying a generator.

The good news is that portable generators continue to get quieter.

Many great models are on the market that are only about as loud as normal conversation (Click here to see our top 10 quietest generators list).

Portable Generators to Power a TV - My recommendations

Even the smallest portable inverter generators should be able to handle powering a TV.

Since you more than likely will want to power other things with the generator at the same time, though, it’s a good idea to choose a generator with a bit more power, at least 1600 watts

The Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is one good option (Click here to check the latest price on Amazon). It’s rated for 1600 watts, it uses inverter technology, and it’s known for consistent performance and durability. It’s also extremely quiet.

If your total wattage needs are quite a bit higher, the Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 is worth looking at.

It has four AC outlets and is rated for 2600 watts.

The noise level is a bit higher on this generator but it will only reach that “too loud to hear the TV” level if you’re operating a max-capacity load with a lot of additional things plugged in as well as the television.

If you want to settle in and watch some movies without having to stop to refuel too often, you might want to look at the Champion Dual Fuel Inverter.

At a 500-watt load (more than enough to cover a television and a DVD player), it will last for nearly 12 hours.

It’s also rated for 3400 watts and you can use either gasoline or propane for fuel.

Like the Briggs & Stratton model, this generator has the potential to be fairly loud but the noise level should still be within the realm of reason.

Wrapping it up

It’s usually possible to power a TV with a portable generator but it’s important to understand the wattage needs to know if your generator can handle it.

In addition to finding out how much wattage your TV requires, you need to take into account the total wattage of everything you are powering.

To safely power your TV with a portable generator, it’s important that the generator is an inverter.

Have you ever powered a TV with a generator? How was the noise factor?

Do you have any questions about generators and TVs that we didn’t cover?

Let us know in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Can a Portable Generator power a TV? – What you need to know”

  1. Could you comment of what to do for those of us that have a non-inverter generator and a LED TV? Surely there must be many of us in that situation.

  2. When using my TV powered by a Predator 3500 watt quiet generator/inverter in an RV the picture has interference, is there anything I can do??

    • It might also be the generator itself, most use a simple magneto for the sparkplug and normally they don’t use a resistive wire to the plug, so the simplest thing to do is like generatorgrid said use a AC RFI/EMI filter unit and move the generator as far away from the TV / Antenna as you can, also if you know any ham radio operators they could more then likely help you fix this pretty quick, as it’s a common problem for them as well, and the older hams I know love the challange of finding incidental radio freqency emitters.

    • Yes but it’s not simple, the easiest is to use a large computer server power supply to switch the 120 down to 12 volts DC and then a good quility sine wave inverter to step it back upto 120 but it will cost you more in fuel as they are both going to waste power, and by the time you figure out the costs it’s normally cheaper to just get an inverter genset if your really need one. Honestly there is only a few loads that really need an inverter genset.

      What are you trying to power ?

  3. Hi,
    it may sound a bit stupid, but I would like to have a tv outdoor. The tv is a led 10w and I´m looking to a 500w portable generator with inverter. How many hours can the tv be turned on? I´m looking from 6 to 8hours .
    What is the formula you use to calculate time?
    thank you!

    • if the TV uses 10 watts and your genset is 500 watts the TV will stay running until you run out of fuel assuming its a gas unit, but since there is no one making units in gas that size, well not for like the last 30 years or so. I’m guessing genset is a battery unit so you simply divide the watts used by the watt hours of the battery unit so 50 hours, but then there is Peukets Law in the math but to simplify it 45 hours if the batteries are new and about 40 hours if they a older and 8 hours if you forgot to charge it from the last 8 hours of useage.

  4. Hey Matt, I have a gasoline powered generator that powers house through a transfer switch. Is there anything available to clean the power for running the mini splits that would connect at the 30Amp twistlock?

  5. IF YOUR TV STOPS WORKING DUE TO A GENERATOR THEN WHAT NEEDS TO BE REPLACED ON THE TV FOR IT TO BE IN WORKING ORDER?

    • You only need to replace the magic smoke, once you let that out of the TV it’s very hard to put it back in, really in modern TV’s it might be something simple like a fuse if you can locate them, it’s might be the entire circuit board, and often buying a new TV might be cheaper, some TV’s have modular board so you might get lucky and maybe you can just replace one board, some TV’s only have one board, so without knowing what TV you have it’s really a tough question, and you might have better luck on a TV repair type forum.

      If your just asking because your worried the generator might damage your TV, consider getting a cheap used TV, your can find smaller flat screens in places like Value Village / Kijiji / local barging finder/ garage sales for $10 to $20 to see if they work with your generator and doing this at least you won’t be out a +$1000 TV if things go wrong.

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