What Size Generator Do I Need in My Food Truck?

 This year the number of food trucks and trailers to hit the road is expected to grow exponentially. Whether you are an entrepreneurial DIY-er, a restaurant, or a catering company seeking a custom high-end food truck or trailer, this article will be helpful when you’re asking yourself… What Size Generator Do I Need in My Food Truck?

As we analyze each aspect of the food truck build process, everyone can agree that generators are pricey. However, nothing seems to plummet your food truck business as quickly as not having the correct generator to operate your mobile business. Without power to your food truck, you have no business. High-end fabricators, like APEX Specialty Vehicles, have an in-house design and engineering team that spends a significant amount of time calculating the generator size needed for each food truck built.

An APEX engineer elaborates on their standard procedure, “Generators are sized based on the electrical requirements in the food truck or trailer. Our engineering team adds up the max loads of the equipment and then adds 20% to size the generator. This allows additional unaccounted items to be plugged in, like a phone charger, and still have enough electricity to prevent tripping breakers.”

Concession Nation commentates the importance of having an operable and efficient generator with the following: “if power is lost at an event or festival, the price of a generator would pay for itself in about 3 hours. Food truck generators are certainly a good choice for those trying to find out how to power a food truck conveniently.”

Before calculating the size of the generator you need for your food truck, it’s important to understand what appliances (and how much power) you will be running daily. Understanding how your equipment will function when powered by a generator is important to prevent your food truck operations from stalling. Some appliances need a higher starting wattage (required power to start up) compared to its running wattage. You need to know the kind of load your generator will be powering so you can calculate how much power (and the size of generator) you will need.

There are two kinds of loads:

Resistive loads require the same amount of power to start up and run. Examples include items that heat or produce heat like light bulbs, coffee makers, toasters, and microwave ovens.

Reactive loads – require additional power to start but consumes less once it is running. Examples include appliances that contain an electric motor like refrigerators, bean grinders, blenders, and air conditioners.

A generator can only produce a certain amount of electricity so it’s crucial that your generator can handle your daily power needs. We cannot speak for other builders, but APEX Specialty Vehicles has a standard generator size in their base food truck units, 12kW, with an option to increase based on the electrical needs. The 12kW is higher than the industry standard, and comes with a higher price tag. However, APEX customers understand the importance of operating the food truck correctly and most efficiently, without electrical issues, down time and having to invest in more money on a larger generator a few months down the road.

Here’s how to calculate the power requirements of appliances:

You can also determine the power required for an appliance by checking the bottom or side for a stamp, its nameplate, or the data tag found on electric motors. Manuals also contain this information. Power requirements of appliances are usually listed in amps while most generators list power outputs in watts so a bit of conversion might be required.

Conversions:
Watts = Volts x Amps
Amps = Watts / Volts

To calculate: Add the power requirements of the appliances you will use at a given time. This will give you the minimum amount of power your generator should have. If the load is reactive, calculate using starting wattage, which is typically 3 times the running wattage.

Example calculation: (using estimated power requirements):
Coffee maker – starting wattage: 600; running wattage: 600
Refrigerator (Energy Star) – starting wattage: 1200; running wattage: 192
5 Lights bulbs – starting wattage: 300; running wattage: 300
Blender – starting wattage: 850; running wattage: 400
Total: 2950W

You will need a generator with a power output of at least 2950 watts. Getting a generator with a slightly higher wattage output than your requirement is recommended; some appliances increase their need for energy as they age and become less efficient. The chart below shows some common power requirements that may be helpful.

Are you ready to speak with an experienced team to ensure your generator needs are met? APEX’s design and engineering team is here to help! Contact us through the quoter tool – https://apexspecialtyvehicles.com/quoter/ – or call 800-259-4804