Why Do I Need a Generator for My Food Truck?
Food trucks are all the rage right now for all sorts of restaurants. If you are looking at running your own food truck for your restaurant, you will need to have some sort of power source for it. Since your truck will need to travel all over the country with you, that means you need portable power that doesn’t rely on another business to host you.
That means you need a generator, and a good one. This buyers guide will help you find the perfect generator for your food truck and help bring your food to the people who want it.
Terms to Watch For:
The level of sound that your generator produces is measured in decibels. These units are notated as dB or dBA. dBA is used when the noise level is measured at a particular distance – usually from 7 meters or 23 feet away from the generator.
Running vs. Starting Watts:
Generators offer two different levels of wattage – a starting wattage that is designed for when you are starting up appliances and the running wattage which is what you should be using while you run your food truck.
The most important wattage for your purposes as a food truck operator is the running wattage. This will be the lower of the two numbers on the label.
However, the starting wattage is also important. If you have appliances that require a lot of heat quickly, like a coffee maker or something like that, these will require a lot of starting watts. Each appliance label should be able to tell you how many starting watts you will need to operate it.
Standby vs. Portable
There are two different types of generator – standby generators and portable generators. Standby generators are usually built into the truck or home that they are designed to service. Portable generators can be picked up at any building supply store or online to suit any purpose.
However, portable generators are generally much cheaper than standby units and easier to get repaired if something happens to them.
One problem with the standby generators is that if your generator needs repairing, your entire truck is out of commission until it’s repaired. With a portable unit, you can send the unit off to be repaired and use a backup unit to keep your business running.
Conventional v. Inverter
There are two major categories of engines inside generators – conventional generators and inverter generators.
Conventional generators are your typical combustion engines. Inverter generators take at typical combustion engine and invert the power that it creates into DC power and then inverts it back into AC power, making the power cleaner and more stable for your sensitive electronics.
Inverter generators tend to be a little bit more expensive because of the additional engine requirements, but they also tend to run more economically and be more environmentally friendly.
What to Look For When Buying a Food Truck Generator:
You are going to be traveling all over the place serving food to the hungry masses. That means that you need to be able to find fuel no matter where you are.
As mentioned above, you want your generator to be as quiet as possible. Make sure that when you are comparing the noise levels of each generator that you are also looking at the level of power that they produce.
You will also want to make sure that your generator has an option for eco-mode or throttling.
Depending on where you live, there are three different emission certificates that you may need – the Environmental Protection Agency’s certificate, the California Air Resources Board or the Canadian Standards Association.
If you intend to ever operate in California, you will have to have the CARB certificate.
Food truck generators are also required to meet Environmental Protection Agency’s evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems standards. These are common in all new vehicles since the early 1970s and allows a fuel tank to maintain stable pressure without letting the fuel vapors escape out of the tank.
If your food truck does not meet these standards and you are caught on an inspection, fines of $39,000 or more are possible. Don’t let that be you.
How Much Power do I Need?
The absolute minimum of power that you might need would be 2000 running watts to ensure that you can power your lights and whatever appliances you need to cook the food that you serve. If you aren’t sure, Honda offers a very useful calculator.
I would recommend going no lower than 5000 running watts for your generator because of all the work that you need it to do.
How do I Find A Reliable Generator?
Is it safe to use a generator in the truck if it is raining or snowing?
If your generator is not built into your food truck or enclosed in some way, it is not safe to operate a generator in the rain or snow. Generators produce a lot of power, and because of the way they are built, it could lead to electrocution, explosions or permanent damage to your generator or food truck.
Luckily, it is fairly easy to purchase a waterproof tent for your generator. It’s a little bit more expensive to build a steel enclosure, and it’s a little less portable for your purposes, but it’s totally possible to do.
You should also make sure that there is still airflow for the generator to make sure that it doesn’t overheat while you are using it under the tent
Building an enclosure or tent for your generator will make sure that you can serve food to your customers no matter what the weather is outside.
How do I control the exhaust and ventilation?
Do I need to hire a professional to install it?
It is not a requirement that you get a professional to install your generator. However, it will be significantly better for you in the long run. Your generator and it set up will have to pass inspection the same way it would for any other large truck and having a special install it will make that process significantly easier for you in the long run.
What is the Best Place to Set Up my Generator In my Truck?
The only way to put a generator in your truck permanently is to build or use the generator compartment. This compartment should not be connected to the interior of your food truck except for connecting it to the outlet for your truck. If you do not have this compartment, you will need to set your generator up outside of the food truck to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning for your employees.
Best High Powered Portable Generator
Caterpillar is known for having great customer service and service centers.