What does KVA mean when buying a generator?

Ok, so the electrician is expressing your need in Kilowatts and the generator sales & servicing company is talking about KVA.
A little confused, we will try to explain.

A KVA is equal to 1,000 volt amps. A volt is electrical pressure. An amp is electrical current. Referred to as apparent power (the absolute value of complex power, S) and thus equal to the total product of the volts and amps.

A KW is equal to 1000 watts. A watt is a measurement of real power (the amount of actual power that can be drawn).
Together the voltage and current (real power) is equal to the apparent power. However, as current and voltage coincide less, less real power is transferred, even though the circuit is still carrying current. Differences between real and apparent power are because of inefficiencies in electrical transmission.
The inefficiency of electrical transmission can be measured and is called the power factor. The power factor is a ratio of real power and apparent power. In the case of most industrial generators a power factor 0.8 (out of a total of 1) would be normal and therefore, a 100kVA generator would produce 80KW of power.

Example
Our generators we have for sale, have a power factor of 0.8 (MULTIPLY THE KVA BY 0.8 POWER FACTOR) so the following ratings apply:
20KVA = 16KW, 40KVA = 32KW, 100KVA = 80KW, 200KVA = 160KW ETC.
Not all generators have the same Power Factor, it is worth checking with the generator manufacturers before committing to a purchase.

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