You have your dream business: a food truck catering to those who love food, festivals, and fun as much as you do. You get your rig together, permits in place, and the final piece is finding a generator to power everything you need.
What Are the Power Requirements for a Food Truck?
When looking at a generator, you need to consider what specific power requirements you need for your food truck. Considerations include how many appliances you’ll be running, if you want to run an AC unit, and if you need to run items such as lights and themed decor.
According to Apex, a specialty vehicle manufacturer, you need at least 2900 watts of power to run everything in your food truck. They also point out that there are two different kinds of electric load types, resistive loads and reactive loads.
They state that resistive loads are electronics that take the same amount of power to run as they do to startup, things such as:
- Light bulbs
- Microwave ovens
- Coffee makers.
Reactive loads need more power on the initial startup, but once they begin running, they use less energy. A couple of examples of reactive load electronics are appliances such as:
- Air conditioners
Apex includes on their site a handy list of electronics and what their power needs are. Take a look at their list here.
Best Generator For Food Truck
When looking for a generator for your food trailer / truck, you need something that is efficient, long-lasting, and has enough power to run all your appliances and keep you in business. There are many generator options out on the market, but not all are created equal. Here is a list of our top choices.
1. Westinghouse WGen7500 Food Truck Generator
The Westinghouse WGen7500 is a small but mighty portable generator. With 9500 peak watts and 7500 running watts, you have plenty of energy to run your food truck.
The automatic unit has a push-button start and is delivered ready to go with:
- It has a four-stroke overhead-valve engine, which gives you maximum power
- It has 120/240 volt outlets
- The generator’s fuel tank holds 6.6 gallons of fuel, which provides it with a longer run time
- The larger fuel tank allows the generator to run at 50% of capacity for 10 hours
- The digital fuel gauge will enable you to check the fuel level at a glance
- This generator is also fuel-conscious and can start at low temperatures
- Built-in mufflers to keep the noise level at 64 decibels
- Surrounded by a protective steel cage to keep all the vital parts secure
- Cast iron sleeve secures the gas tank
Safety was top of mind for Westinghouse with built-in features such as a spark arrestor, and two GFCI receptacles to protect against overloading. The twist and lock receptacle ensure that the cord is securely in place and will not rattle loose.
All of the outlets also have rubber covers to protect from any debris getting in. The oil reservoir has a low oil indicator and will auto-shut off if it detects levels are too low or if the oil has reached the maximum allowed temperature. It also has an easy to access gas shutoff.
- Remote start
- Included initial can of oil with an oil funnel
- Easy to read manual
- EPA, CSA, and CARB certified
- A limited 3-year service, parts, and labor warranty through the manufacturer
2. Honda Generator EU7000iS – Super Quiet Generator For Food Truck
If you want to operate in whisper mode, this is the generator for you. The Honda Inverter Generator Eu7000is has an enclosed motor that allows it to be a quieter unit. Its sound comes in between 52 to 58 decibels.
- It is 5500 watts running with 7000 watts at peak
- Gas-powered with an electric start. Insert the key, press the start button, and you are ready to go
- Exhaust and radiator cooling in the rear of the generator
- 1 gallons gas tank
- Enough fuel to run about 18 hours on low capacity
- The inverter allows it to provide a stable power source without fear of surges harming your electronics or sensitive equipment
- It also has built-in circuit breakers to prevent the generator from being overloaded
- Fuel gauge for consistent fuel monitoring
- USDA approved spark arrestors
- Built-in switch to select 120 volts stand-alone, or you can choose to use both 120 volts and 240 volts
The generator also has many safety features, including the two GFCI outlets. Each of these outlets is 20 amps. There also are 120-volt duplex outlets. It features an auto-shutoff when it detects that the engine oil is low.
This Honda generator has a monitoring system that allows you to keep track of run hours, running watts, and engine speed. This digital monitoring system also allows for easy diagnostics if you need to take your generator in for dealer servicing or maintenance.
- Handles for ease of mobility that can also be folded for storage
- Pull cord backup
- Mufflers to ensure the unit is quiet during use
- Attachable wheels for more effortless movement
- 3-year residential and commercial manufacturer warranty
- Meets ETL and NEC requirements
- Can add-on a parallel kit to combine two of the EU7000is’ if you need upwards of 14000 watts of power
3. Westinghouse iGen4500DF
If you want to keep your fuel options open, you may want to look into the Westinghouse iGen 4500DF. This machine can be used with gas or propane without the need for a conversion kit. Just flip a switch on the back of your generator, and you can choose your preferred fuel.
- It powers at 3700 watts and 4500 peak Watts
- 18-hour estimated runtime with a 3.4-gallon gas tank
- Fuel-Efficient model
- It also is a quieter generator running at 52 decibels
- It has 20 amp and 30 amp circuit breakers
- 120 volts outlets that come with covers to protect them from debris getting inside
- It also has 120 volt 30 amp outlets that have protective covers as well
For safety features, it has a low oil indicator as well as an overload indicator. The generator does have a button reset conveniently located on the back if it does become overloaded.
- It is a remote start that is electronically powered
- It also has a recoil start back up
- Light to alert you to when the generator is ready to start
- LED control panel to monitor fuel level, power output, runtime, and voltage output
- Control panel also allows you to monitor the lifetime hours of your generator
- A convenient feature on this model is the two USB ports on the backside
- EPA, USFS, and CARB compliant
- A limited 3-year warranty that covers labor parts and services nationwide
4. DuroMax XP – Super Large Generator For Food Trucks
The DuroMax XP is a sturdy unit with a reliable engine. This 18 horsepower engine can run off of gas or propane, giving you more flexibility.
- 18 horsepower 457cc over-hand valve engine
- 12,000 watts on startup and runs at 9500 watts will provide a significant amount of power for refrigeration, lights, and high amp electronics
- The unit is complete metal construction with windings made of copper
- Its tank can hold up to 8.3 gallons of gas
- There is a heavy-duty 120/240 volt outlet rated for 50 amps
- Two 30 amp twist locks, one for both 120/240 volts, and the other for 120 volts
- Two outlets at 120 volts 20 amp
- The unit weighs around 235 lb fully assembled
- Measures 30 inches by 27 and 1/2 inches tall
The DuroMax also features a control panel that has indicators to measure your volts and alert you when your oil is low. The panel also has circuit breakers, a control for your idle, and the MX2 switch, which is specific to the DuraMax brand.
- Propane fuel option makes it cleaner burning and more fuel-efficient
- Propane also has a longer shelf life and is easier on the carburetor
- Noise limiting muffler and a spark arrestor built-in to promote a smoother and quieter runtime
- The DuroMax can be used in all 50 states as it is EPA and CARB certified
- It also has a 3-year manufacturer warranty
What Features Should You Consider?
Generators have many features. Some fall into the must-have category while others are firmly in the nice to have category but not necessary for operation. Having features like remote start and dual fuel flexibility can be very helpful.
Conventional generators have the following features:
- They are your primary generator
- They have a motor and an alternator which are used to produce power
- They need constant RPM, and any fluctuation will affect energy flow to your appliances
- They tend to have a higher amount of energy output
- They do run for a more extended amount of time
- You cannot use them and that parallel operation
- These generators are larger and weigh more than inverter generators
- The price tag on conventional generators is also lower
Inverter generators have these key features:
- They are newer on the market
- They use multiphase power and advanced circuitry
- They are more fuel-efficient
- You can adjust their engine speed based on how much energy your running
- They are generally lighter in weight and more portable
- They are quieter and with less vibration
- Inverter generators have a decent run time for their size
- The price tag is much higher than conventional generators
Both of these run off either gas, diesel, or propane to produce your energy.
Noise level is also a feature to take into consideration. If your generator is too loud, it may be challenging to do business with your customers.
If this is a pressure point for you, you will want to search specifically for generators that run at a low decibel output. That way, the environment of your food truck is comfortable for both you and your clientele. Some cities are even requiring food trucks to have a specific decibel level. Make sure you check with yours to see if there are any noise level requirements before you purchase your unit.
Energy efficiency is also an essential factor. You will want to have a unit that provides you with the most amount of power and will take up the smallest amount of space. It is space prohibitive to carry extra fuel tanks around, especially when you would rather use your storage space for additional products. When looking at generators, search for a unit that will give you the max amount of runtime without needing to have backup fuel.
Dual fuel options are convenient because it gives you the ability to choose between gas and propane depending on your preferences and set up for the day. Propane is a more efficient fuel and is generally less expensive. If your generator has a carburetor, propane is gentler on the generators system. Remote starts are also nice to have for a quick set up. Most electric start generators have a remote option.
Other Factors to Consider
You also need to take into consideration the rules for the state and counties that you plan on operating in. Many states have their own set of rules in regards to generators and what features they need for you to be compliant. In these areas, if you are not compliant, you can face a hefty fine. On top of a fine, you can also risk getting shut down for the day and not being allowed to operate until you comply.
Before buying your generator, look at it’s EPA ratings, it’s CARB ratings, and it’s emission standards. All of those can be critical factors in your generator choice, especially since many areas have green initiatives in place. It is best to have all those pieces squared away before you click that buy button.
Another thing to keep into consideration is where you are going to install your generator. If your food truck has a compartment already built-in for storage, you will need to know its exact measurements and ensure that your top pick will fit. if you do not have a built-in compartment in your truck, you may need to look into modifying space to install your generator
Making sure that your generator is adequately ventilated is also essential not only for the proper functionality of your generator but for the safety of yourself and your customers.
It is wise to make sure that you have your generator installed by a professional.
Professionals can make sure that all of the electrical wirework and mechanics are connected correctly and that the machine will function properly. Electricians are easy to find, and many have a lot of experience with generator installation. A permit also may be required to install your generator in your food truck. A professional is an excellent resource to lean on to make sure you have all those extra pieces in place too.
An electrician will also be able to give you an idea if the model you are looking at is capable of fulfilling all your requirements in your truck. Many will also help you choose the correct model. They will also ensure that you know how to operate it properly and should be able to answer any questions you may have.
You will also want to look at if any maintenance needs arise if you need to take your unit to a licensed mechanic who is certified to operate on that particular generator. It may be prudent to know ahead of time if there are any license dealers in your area to save you on time and additional travel in case any maintenance and service issues arise.
Concession Nation suggests that you make sure you are familiar with the generators operating procedures and ensure that everyone who works in your truck knows how to manage the generator as well correctly.
Improper use can affect the overall performance of the generator and shorten its lifespan. Also, make sure to keep a maintenance schedule and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This prolongs the life of your unit and will generally keep your warranty intact. Make sure you thoroughly read and understand a manufacturer’s warranty.
Remember that your generator is not completely weatherproof. If it is not in a compartment within your food truck, it will need a cover, especially if there is heavy rain. This way, your vehicle will still function at max power, and you will not have to worry about your unit breaking down on you. You may want to consider having the unit inside your food truck in a compartment for the weather, safety, and ease of use.
Generators are heavy no matter which model they are and can be challenging to load and unload regularly. Having a model that you can put into a compartment in your truck and or create a space for may be well worth the price tag.
Frequently Asked Questions
Making a purchase as large and specific as a generator brings a lot of questions. Here are a few FAQ’s
Can The Generator be Fully Enclosed?
Generators need airflow to function correctly. As a general rule, there should be airflow on at least two sides of your generator to prevent overheating and engine failure. This also may void your warranty.
Can I Mount it on My Trailer Tongue?
There are a few different factors to take into consideration. According to Concession Nation, you can secure it to your tongue. You will need to calculate the added weight to see if you need a heavier-duty support jack.
How Much Oil Will the Generator Need?
Use your dipstick to check your oil levels to give you a better idea of how much oil your model needs. If your generator does not have a dipstick, there should be a fill like inside the oil tank, which you will see when you take the lid off.
Does the Generator Require a Specific Oil?
According to Concession Nation, you should always consult your user manual for oil specifics.
However, based on operation temperature, they recommend:
- SAE 30 is rated for 40°F and up and is an excellent standard oil
- 10W-30 is better when you have a variable outside temperature, but tends to increase oil consumption
- Synthetic 5W-30 is a decent option for variable temperatures that will not quickly consume oil
- 5W-30 is excellent for use during the winter
When choosing your generator for your food truck, make sure you do your homework on what the requirements are for your area. Also, make a list of all the electronics you need to run to get an exact count of the watts you will need. When you get those requirements in place, then you can narrow down your options to those that will make your food truck operation smoother.
Remember that the initial cost of getting a generator may seem expensive. However, it may be far less than the lost revenue you could have if you did not have the proper generator, and you had to close up shop. Always err on the side of caution and choose a model that has more power than you need instead of getting a model that has just enough.