When connecting a generator to a home through the service panel, most people often forget to check or consider the service rating. Ideally, portable generators will work with 100 amp and 200 amp service panels. However, some standby generators won’t. So, what size generator is ideal for a 200 amp service?
A 200 amp service can handle a generator delivering maximum power of 48kW, and a 100 amp service can handle a generator delivering 24kW of power. That means a 200 amp service is ideal for any generator producing rated power anywhere between 24kW and 48kW at 240 volts, with a few assumptions.
Most modern and some old larger homes use 150 or 200 amp service panels, a necessary type or size for multiple high-power electrical appliances, including AC or heating equipment. Sizing your generator right will prevent you from overloading the system as that would cause the wiring to overheat and create a fire hazard.
How to Know the Ideal Size Generator for 200 Amp Service?
Even though most electricians never mention it, when adding an appliance to your home, you want to make sure your service panel’s main breaker can support the extra look before connecting it to the wall outlet. The same applies when powering the house using a generator through the service panel.
The size generator to use is based on the type of appliances and equipment you’ll connect to the generator.
A 200 amp service panel receiving 3-phase 240-volts of power can power approximately 140 – 160 amps of 240-volt load when operating simultaneously.
Only the larger appliances such as a water heater, electric dryer, pool heat pump, and electric heater will use the 240-volt system. The small appliances and devices will use 120-volt power. It’d be imperative that you consider the difference when estimating the load to draw from the generator.
For example, suppose you’ll be using a generator to run your 2400 watt (20 amps x 120 volts) refrigerator, 2400 watt (20 amps x 120 volts) freezer, 2400 watt (20 amps x 120 volts) washer, 7200 watt (30 amps x 240 volts) electrical hot dryer and 7200 watt (30 amps x 240 volts) central air conditioner all at the same time. In that case, you need approximately 21,600 watts to meet their breaker requirements.
Ideally, the breakers are oversized by 10-15% for safety and considering these appliances will not run all their peak wattage at the same time. So, you should be able to use a 19kW (19,000 watts) generator.
A 200 amp should be able to handle most residential standby generators. You don’t have to worry much. However, if you want to set up a generator for your commercial building or an apartment, consider the maximum of a 48kW generator with loads that add up to 200 amps.
It’s worth noting that the power rating of all the appliances you have in your home can help determine the amperage rating required from the generator.
However, suppose you’re at a job site and using a Genset capable of powering appliances connected to a 200 amp service. In that case, the generator must deliver 48kW of power at most. Anything above this value can risk overloading your circuit, causing damages to your appliances and machines or even the generator itself.
Generally, if you have a 100 amp service panel, you can safely use a generator providing up to 24kW at 120 volts. If you have a 240 volts system and a 200 amp service, consider using a generator delivering 48kW of power at 240 volts.
How Many Watts are 200 Amps?
If you’re interested in knowing the number of watts that can pass through your 200 amp service, you will want to understand the type of power entering it. Is your mains a single-phase (120-volt) line or a 3-phase (240-volt) line?
You have 24,000 watts (120 volts x 200 amps) of power if yours is a single-phase system and 48,000 watts (240 volts x 200 amps) if yours is a 3-phase system. That’s the amount of power available for the consumption of all the connected appliances.
Can You Overload a 200 Amp Service?
Yes! It’s possible to overload your 200 amp service. You can do this when you supply the service panel with more than 200 amps and draw it at once by connecting appliances whose total amperage draw is over this number.
And you know what; if that was to happen, a lot could go wrong. Your breakers could get damages, and the wiring can overheat, creating a fire hazard. Normally, the individual breakers and the main breaker should shut down the system when overloaded.
However, overloading the service panel can damage the breakers preventing them from tripping. When that happens, the following could happen:
1) Damage to Your Appliances
When you overload your 200 amp service, it’ll supply more current than it’s rated to provide. It means your appliances and electrical devices will receive more current than their ratings. The extra current can induce heat on the devices destroying their internal components such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors.
2) Increased Electrocution and Fire Risk
Besides damaging your appliances, overloading the panel can increase the risk of getting electrocuted when you touch the overloaded components.
When there is a current overload, the wire gauge won’t handle the extra current. As a result, it’ll overheat. If it takes longer for the main breaker to detect the overload, the insulation might meltdown and cause a short circuit when the live wires touch, the potential of creating fire.
The same could happen with some appliances capable of tolerating the extra current for a short period. If the overload current was allowed to flow for an extended period, appliances such as refrigerator, dryer, toaster, microwave, and dishwasher can overheat and cause a fire.
3) Damage to Your Entire Panel
Normally, the panel is designed to detect overload and trip when the wiring receives excess power that it can’t handle.
The main breaker, however, is susceptible to damages if the overloading occurs frequently. If the breaker was to get damaged so that it continues to allow the power to pass through, then there is no way of stopping the excess power from destroying the entire panel.
How to Tell When the 200 Amp Service Is Overloaded
1) Lights Dim When You Start an Appliance
If your lights dim, blink or flicker when you connect a high-power appliance, there is a chance the device or equipment is drawing more power than what the service can deliver. Mostly, this can happen when running appliances that need high rated power during startups, such as an Air Conditioner and a refrigerator. It will drain power from other electrical devices and appliances such as the lights to get enough to start causing the temporal dimming.
2) Heated Wall Plates
As I mentioned before, a 200 amp service uses specific wires rated for the current. If the generator delivers more power, there is the chance of the wiring starting to burn and causing discoloration to the main breaker. There might also be some smell of burning rubber as the wiring insulation wear off from the overheating.
Typically, you will see some smoke on the wall plates as a sign of the excessive heat created by the overloaded current. The components in the service panel might also become warm to touch as they too are susceptible to generating heat.
3) Frequently Tripped Breakers or Blown Fuses
Normally, the breakers will detect power surges and current overload. When the current is too much, fuse breakers will blow, causing an explosive sound. For the modern breakers, there might be sparks emanating from the service panel as the breaker trips.
If you see any of these signs, shut off the generator and call an electrician right away.
Is a 200 Amp Service Enough for a House
Yes, of course. A 200 Amp service can meet the needs of a 2000 sq. ft. house and more with appliances drawing less than 180 amps when running simultaneously. Normally, a 3000 sq. ft. house with high-power appliances can be serviced by a 100 Amp service panel. However, for an apartment with huge appliances or heavy equipment like an elevator, the ideal size is more than 400 Amp service. You can use a 200-amp service to power appliances such as:
- 120-Volt Lighting System
- Common 120/240-Volt Household Appliances including Washing Machines, Dryers, Dishwashers, Refrigerators, and more.
- Small Devices such as Computers, Laptops, Tablets, and Phones
- 120/240-Volt Heating and Cooling System
- Some 120/240-Volt Power Tools such as table saws, jigsaws, circular saws, and sanders.
How much does it cost to upgrade to a 200 amp service?
If you have a 100 Amp Service and wish to upgrade it to 200 Amp Service to accommodate some extra power draw, be prepared to spend $1,300 – $3,000. The upgrading will cater for the service itself and the professional installation service fee. A 200 Amp Panel costs $100 – $300. The rest is the electrician’s labor cost depending on where you live.