Unlike restaurants that have a fixed connection to the grid for all their electricity needs, mobile food vendors require reliable power that can travel with them from point A to point B. This makes generators an essential part of any food truck today. Choosing the right generator to power your appliances is a very important decision that have lasting implications to your business if not considered carefully.
How to Buy a Generator?
Access to portable electricity is not cheap, which is why food truck owners should consider certain things before choosing your power source. Answering the following questions can serve as a starting point and give you a picture of what to look for in selecting a generator.
What appliances will you use at a given day?
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. These are appliances usually involved in heating or produces heat like light bulbs, coffee makers, toasters, and microwave ovens.
Reactive loads – require additional power to start but consumes less once it is running. These are appliances that contain an electric motor like refrigerators, bean grinders, blenders, and air conditioners.
How much power do you need?
A generator can only produce a certain amount of electricity so make sure to choose a model that will be able to cover your food truck’s power requirements.
To know how much power your generator should have, calculate the power requirements of all the appliances you will be using at the same time. You can determine the power required by an appliance by checking the bottom or side for a stamp, its nameplate, or the data tag found on electric motors. Manuals also contain these 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.
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 amount of power your generator should at least 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
You will need a generator with 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.
In addition, generators are advertised with “maximum power” and “rated power.” Maximum power is the highest wattage a generator can produce and usually available for up to 30 minutes. Rated power is the power a generator can produce for extended periods of time, which is typically 90% of maximum power. Use rated power in determining whether a generator will be able to provide your food truck with enough energy to operate your equipment.
What type of generator should you choose?
Conventional vs Inverter Generators
There is a wide variety of generators for mobile food vendors to choose from but models fall into two categories: conventional generators and inverter generators.
- basic concept has remained essentially unchanged
- uses a motor attached to an alternator producing AC power
- requires a constant speed (usually 3600 rpm); fluctuation in engine speed affects energy flow
- greater power output
- extended run time
- cannot be used in parallel operation
- larger and heavier than inverter generators
- less expensive than inverter generators
- relatively recent development
- uses advance circuitry to convert multi-phase AC power to DC power then inverts to “cleaner” AC power
- can adjusts engine speed depending on load requirement
- smoother electrical signal; safer for sensitive equipment (laptops and phones)
- fuel efficient
- adequate run time despite compact size
- portable and lightweight
- produces less noise and vibration
- capable of parallel operation with multiple units
- more expensive than conventional generators
Both types of generators use fossil fuel (usually gas, diesel, or propane) to produce electricity. Many food truck operators prefer to use inverter generators for the smoother energy output, portability, fuel efficiency, and quiet operation despite the higher price compared to conventional generators.
There are many different models of generators out on the market today. Some of the most popular and recommended models are made by Generac and Honda. Generac and Honda offer their generators at low prices, and both are completely reliable brands that offer a range of low watt generators to high watt generators to fit your needs.
Some of the best mobile generators by Generac are the MLG series. They range from 8,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 25,000 watts. They are inverter generators run on diesel. They will hold enough fuel to run for 48 hours straight. However the generators come with their own trailer so they must be pulled from behind the truck.
Generac also has portable generators that don’t need to be pulled from behind. The most reliable of them would be the XP series. This series has models ranging from 4,000, 6,500, 8,000, and 10,000 Watts. They are inverter generators run on diesel and has a 9 gallon tank. These generators will last about 9 hours at a time.
Generac has a very wide array of generators to fit all your food truck needs and all their generators are extremely reliable, very durable, and will last a whole days use.
Honda doesn’t have a very wide selection of generators but they are extremely reliable and durable. Their best generators are their EB series. These generators range from 5,000, 6,500, and 10,000 watts. They are inverter generators. The generators hold 6.2-8.2 gallons of gasoline fuel. They will run for 7.2 hours to 10.1 hours at a time.
We sent out a tweet asking our food truck followers what generators they were using and what they would recommend to other food trucks. We also asked if they were having any problems with their current generator.
— Food on a Truck (@FoodOnATruck) June 1, 2015
Of course, our followers came through and gave us a couple excellent recommendations for generators that meet all their needs.
@FoodOnATruck Honda ie3000 …best investment
— New Wrap Order (@NewWrapOrder) June 1, 2015
One follower recommended the Honda EU3000i. It is very quiet, offers 3,000 watts, weighs about 46 lbs., and will last 8.1 hours on 1 gallon of gasoline fuel. There another very handy model that offers the same features as the Honda EU3000i but it is only 2,000 watts. Honda also offers generators that give less watts and are smaller.
@FoodOnATruck Onan Marquis Gold 7000. Definitely recommend as it is very quiet.
— Pimansfoodtrailer (@Pimansfoodtrail) June 1, 2015
Another generator that was recommended by our followers is the Onan Marquis Gold 7000. If you don’t want to get a Generac or Honda generator this is a very highly recommend model that will meet all your needs. It produces 7,000 Watts and runs on gasoline fuel. It is extremely quiet and will last a whole day’s work.