“I purchased a 5000W portable generator for use at my home when I need emergency power. I will be plugging in my extension cords directly to the (2) 15A, 120V outlets listed on the generator’s outlet panel.
It seems like I am not getting full power from the generator, and it doesn’t want to run all of my appliances, even though I am using below the rated 5000W. What’s going on?”
Thank you for asking this question, as it seems like it is a very common one! The first thing you should do is become familiar with your generator by reading the owners manual, this will show you the specs of your generator and how it is wired. You can also read our quick article: The Basic Parts of an Electric Generator, to become familiar with some of the terms and parts of a typical generator.
Now lets assume your generator is much like the majority of ones sold on the market. It will most likely come with 2 windings (What are windings?) that both contribute power up to the generators Watt rating. The 120V, 15A outlets that you want to plug your extension cords into will only be connected to one of those windings, allowing you to only pull up to 2500W! When you use too much power from these outlets, over time you can melt / destroy the windings in the generator.
What you want to do is spread the load evenly over both windings by using the larger 240V outlet available on your generator with a Power Splitter. The 240V outlet is wired to both windings on the generator, so that means you can get more power.
This splitting action evenly distributes the power to both legs, utilizing the generator’s full power. You may also use a triple tap and the end of these outlets to open up more outlets.
Just grab yourself a splitter similar to this one and you’ll be set. No more damage to the generator, and full power ahoy! If you would like a detailed explanation to this question please see: How to Split Your Generator’s 240V Power to 2 120V Outlets.