Will a 2000 Watt Generator Run An Air Compressor?

If you own a 2000 watt generator and are considering buying an air compressor, it’s essential to consider whether or not your power demands match up. Are there air compressors with higher energy demands than others? More importantly, will a 2000 watt generator run an air compressor in the first place?

Yes, a 2000 watt generator will run an air compressor. However, this power generator is likely to run smaller to medium compressors, meaning you will need a bigger unit for more demanding machines.

As always, it’s important to check the finer details with your manufacturer, or at least in your operations manual, before you get started. That goes for both your generator and your air compressor, no matter which way around you purchase them!

Let’s dig a little more into the types of air compressor you are likely to be able to run on a 2000W generator, why it’s important to match up, and how you can calculate the power you need.


2000 watt generators and air compressors – the lowdown

A 2000 watt generator will easily run the best smaller air compressors available. This means you are going to need to consider compressors with less than 1 HP (horsepower), often 0.25 or 0.5 HP to be safe.

That’s because air compressors use ‘starting’ and ‘running’ watts. It takes more watts to start and break in an air compressor than it does to continuously run one. For example, a 1 HP air compressor is likely to need around 4500W to start up. However, it’s going to need 1600W to run, and to keep running.

Therefore, the math should be fairly simple. A 2000W generator will easily run a 1 HP air compressor, but it won’t start the compressor. You need to ideally invest in an air compressor with a starting wattage of less than 2000W to be on the safe side.

A 2000 watt generator will run an air compressor, but you may be limited in terms of how much power you get back in return.

Why is it important to get the wattage right?

Forcing a 2000W generator to start a 1 HP air compressor at 4500W is a recipe for disaster. That’s over double the power capacity it can muster, and therefore, you are at risk of overloading and even destroying your generator in the process.

Just as you wouldn’t overload a circuit in your home, you shouldn’t overload a generator. Generators can be expensive to repair and replace, and while they are amazingly useful and versatile, they can easily break down if you fail to balance the wattage correctly. They can only do so much!

What else can a 2000 watt generator run?

2000W generators can actually run quite a few different machines and appliances – just not the biggest of air compressors.

For example, the running wattage demands of most of your everyday kitchen appliances will likely fall below 1000W. A toaster, for instance, is barely going to squeeze more than 900W out of your generator. Your washing machine will likely demand a little over 1150W, either.

However, these are multiple demands on the same generator. The fact is, your 2000W generator will only be able to power up to that magic total – 2000W – combined. So, whether you are running a whole kitchen on your generator, or an air compressor and a handful of other devices, you’re going to need to do the math beforehand.

If you know you are going to use a heavy-duty air compressor or at least larger than the average, you must invest in a generator strong enough to run the unit.

How to calculate the wattage you need

If you are unsure how many running watts your air compressor needs, there is a simple formula you can use in almost all scenarios. It’s simply a case of multiplying the volts, or V, by the amps, or A, demanded by your compressor. 

So, the basic formula looks like this:

W = V x A

Don’t panic – as the vast majority of the time, your manufacturer should inform you of the running wattage demand on your machine. They should also inform you of the starting wattage, too.

However, if you’re using an older compressor and only have the volts and amps data available, this is a useful equation to keep in mind. It’s always worth looking into how many amps an air compressor uses, at least, before you plug in for the first time.

That said, do keep in mind that this will only help you calculate the running watts you need. It won’t help you calculate the starting watts, and that can be where a lot of people experience trouble.

The starting wattage for an air compressor running on 0.5 HP is likely to be somewhere in the region of 1600W. However, its running wattage is 975W.

Compared with an air compressor of 1 HP, you’re using 4500W to start up, and 1600W to run. Therefore, as you can see, there is no set equation to help you calculate the exact starting wattage from the running data.


Will a 2000 watt generator run an air compressor? Yes, but that all depends on the type and size of air compressor you need to run. The bigger the compressor, the bigger the generator – that’s the rule.

Ultimately, you can rest assured that an air compressor of 0.5 HP or less will likely run on a 2000W generator. That’s because the starting wattage is likely to fall below its maximum power capacity.

However, you also need to be very careful not to add additional demands to your generator if this is the case. A 2000W generator may easily run lighting or kitchen appliances in your home, but an air compressor is a powerful machine – perhaps more powerful than you imagine!

If you’d rather look for heavier, more powerful air compressors for your garage, then you’re going to need more than 2000W in generator power. Otherwise, you’re at risk of damaging and potentially destroying your generator – and everything connected to it. Be careful!