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The 411 on Generator Power for Food Trucks

The 411 on Generator Power for Food Trucks

An element of a successful food truck business is crucial and often overlooked is generator power. Although the thought of powering your food truck doesn't seem to be the most exciting aspect of the design and build process, it is in fact one of the most important decisions you'll make. APEX is the national go-to designer, engineer, and fabricator for the top national restaurants, brands, and entrepreneurs. The aspect that sets APEX apart from the others is the process of ensuring your food truck is designed and engineered properly. This article will provide you with The 411 on Generator Power for Food Trucks to put you ahead of the game (and your competitors) and keep you on the road generating profits! 

While establishing your business plan, some food truck owners are under the impression that getting the least expensive generator will save some bucks up front, and won't have much of a difference. Besides, why invest in something nobody sees? Wrong. Although many festivals, events, and catering gigs offer onsite power, many will not. This means you will rely on your own power supply (generator) to run your food truck the entire duration of the event. Nothing seems to plummet your food truck business as quickly as not having the correct sized generator to operate your business! Without power, it's obvious that you will not be operating. No operation = no revenue. justifies the importance of have 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."Food Truck Generator Power 101

Questions to Consider - The 411 on Generator Power for Food Trucks

As you are researching and choosing an experienced food truck builders, it's important to do your homework, especially when it comes to generators. Not all specialty food truck builders are comparable in their equipment. You simply cannot compare apples to apples when looking at different builders and their build estimates. One builder may include a small generator that is unable to power your food truck to keep your project price down. What good does that do if you cannot run an efficient business with power? It's important that the food truck owner and operator understand generator basics so you can determine if your equipment needs will be met. Below is a list of a few questions to ask yourself (and the builder) when discussing power needs [content referenced from] :

What appliances will be used 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. The engineers at APEX can certainly help you and guide you through this process!

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 it's crucial that your generator can handle your daily power needs. As we cannot speak for other builders, APEX has a standard of including a 12kW in our food trucks, with the option to increase based on the customers' needs. APEX will always inform the customer of the needed power for operating their food truck. The 12kW is higher than the industry standard, which comes with a higher price tag, however our customers understand the importance of operating the food truck correctly and most efficiently, without stalling and having to invest in more money on a larger generator a few months down the road.

APEX's in-house design and engineering team can assist you with determining how much power your generator needs by calculating the power requirements of all the appliances you will be using at the same time. 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 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
Total: 2950W

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. The chart to the right shows some common power requirements that may be helpful.

The generator is truly the heartbeat of the truck! Hopefully you found this article on The 411 on Generator Power for Food Trucks helpful as you continue your process for owning and operating a successful food truck. APEX Specialty Vehicles has an onsite engineering and design team that is here to answer any questions. Feel free to give us a call at 800-259-4804 or fill out this quote request form and we'll be in touch!