Shopping for a generator can be overwhelming. There are so many options and different types of generator that can be difficult to figure out which one is the right one for you. You’re in luck, as we are here to help you find the best portable generator for you, your family, and your power needs
Terms To Watch For:
Types of Emissions Certificates:
– EPA –
This is named after the environmental protection agency because it is their certification. This certifies that the generator’s emissions fall within an acceptable range for 49 out of the 50 states.
– CARB –
This certificate is from the California air resources Board. If a generator has this certificate as well as the EPA certificate, it is likely to be a cleaner and more efficient then a generator that only has the EPA certificate.
The certificate is from the Canadian standards Association, and is necessary if you live in Canada. It is a bout as stringent as the EPA certificate.
Areas To Compare:
The number of watts that a generator puts out is probably the most important factor when it comes to picking a generator. You need a certain amount of power to do everything that you need to do, and wattage is the only way to measure that. The larger an appliance, the more power it is going to need.
Cell phones and laptops take minimal power, while air-conditioners and refrigerators take significantly more energy. You can only run as many appliances as you have available wattage.
When looking at a generator, you want to make sure that you will be able to move it. Some generators get extremely heavy, especially once you put fuel in them. In general, the higher the power output, the heavier a generator will be. This is because the more power you need, the larger an engine you will need to produce it. Generators tend to start at about 45 pounds and can range upwards of 300. If you are looking at a heavier generator see if it comes with a wheel kit or handles to make it easier to handle. Some of the smaller and midrange generators offer these as add-ons, so if that something that you know you’ll need keep that in mind when you’re factoring in the price.
– Fuel Type
Gasoline – gasoline is the most common type of fuel for generators, because it’s the easiest to access for most people. You just have to go to the gas station and fill up a container like you would your normal car’s gas tank.
Propane/ Natural Gas – Propane is shelf stable and cleaner to run then gasoline, but doesn’t offer as much in the way of power generation. You won’t get quite as much power out of propane as you would out of gasoline, sometimes to the tune of 400 or 500 watts. However, it’s very useful if you are not a regular user of a generator, because you can use any propane tank including the one from your grill if you need to. Propane can sit on your shelf for as long as you need it to and will still be good to use in your generator.
Diesel – diesel fuel gives you a little bit more bang your buck when it comes to a fuel source, but it’s pretty hefty. Generators that use diesel fuel tend to be designed to run hard and fast – meaning you get a lot of power but it uses the fuel pretty quickly. Diesel generators are often used on construction sites and other job sites that require heavy duty power.
While price is not necessarily correlated to quality, you do want to make sure that you are getting the best generator that you can for your money. Compare all of the other areas and see which generator is the best for you within your price range. You should expect to spend about $1000 for anything more than 1000 W.
– Noise Level
Noise is one of the biggest concerns that many people have with generators. As you might expect, an engine that produces the power you need to run your house can be pretty noisy. That noise level is measured in decibels- notated dB.
Generators tend to range between 48 dB and 70 dB – which is a pretty wide difference. If you see a number that is much lower or much higher, check what distance they’re measuring that noise level at.
Because sound is measured at a distance, you want to check the decibel levels as well as what distance they’re measured at. A typical measurement is 7 meters or 23 feet.
Fuel efficiency is important to a generator. If you’re constantly having to refill the generator, you’re going to be a lot less happy with it in the long run. So, you should look at the estimated runtime when you’re trying to buy a generator. This will be measured by the time that’s run on a certain amount of fuel. It is also often measured by what percentage of the load it is running at that time.
– Warranty & Customer Service
The warranty and customer service options are one place where the name brand comes into play. In general, the more well-known brand name, the better the customer service and warranty options. Most generator warranties are limited, and last for 2 to 3 years. They will also often require you to keep the maintenance log based on the run time of your generator, to prove that you haven’t been neglecting it.
Does the Brand of my Portable Generator Matter?
Yes and no. While there are some great generators from non-name brands, the reliability and customer service that comes along with the name brands are often incredibly helpful.
Both of these brands have been in the business for a long time. Both are known for having great customer service and actually usable warranties. Since most generators cost upwards of $1000, this is incredibly important.
You want your generator to work when you need to use it, which makes having a good warranty and useful customer support one of the key reasons to choose a Honda or Champion generator.
Best Oil for Portable Generator
This recommendation is going to change depending on the type of generator you have. Most generator companies suggest using their name brand of oil, which is understandable since in theory, it’s designed specifically for the type of engine that they have. Honda and Briggs & Stratton offer great oils, no matter which generator you buy.
What’s The Best Generator For Me?
Because people’s needs for generators are so different, I can’t tell you exactly which generator is perfect for you. However, if you have an idea of what you want, you’ll probably be able to find it on the buyer’s guide below.
Best Quiet Portable Generator
If you’re looking for a quiet generator that you can easily move around, you’re going to find most of those in the 2000 and 3000 W range.
If you don’t need that much in the way of wattage, the Champion Power Equipment 73536i offers 1700 running watts at a 53 dB noise level when you’re running at 25 percent of the load. The champion is also a good chunk less expensive than the Honda generator, but doesn’t offer as long of a warranty.
Best Portable Inverter Generator
When you buy a generator, you want it to be sturdy and you want it to run well whenever you need to use it. If you are looking for an inverter generator that will work for you wherever you need it to go, the Honda EU2000i is perfect generator for you.
Because of the brand name, it’s a little more expensive than its competitors, but the warranty and general longevity make it worth it. It’s durably constructed and supported by a nationwide network of repairman.
Best Portable Propane Generator
If you are an infrequent generator needer, then propane is likely to be the best fuel type for you. Propane’s shelf stability makes it perfect to last forever on the same tank, without causing damage to your generator.
If this is what you want, the Champion 3800 Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator could be perfect for you.
This generator offers 4275 starting watts and 3420 running watts that are as stable as any other inverter generator. The never flat tires and folding handle design make it easy to travel with and lift out of weird places in your garage. It also comes with a voltage guard, which will help in case of spikes of voltage. This is also a great choice because of the three-year warranty and lifetime technical support that Champion offers for all their generators.
Best Portable Generator for RVs
If you travel a lot in your RV, you are going to need a generator that can keep up with you. Luckily, there are a lot of options for you. We’ve broken this category down into two – living in an RV and camping in an RV.
– For Living in an RV
This dual fuel generator has a 1.6 gallon gas tank and can run for up to 14 hours on a 20 pound tank of propane. Because it can use both gasoline and propane, this makes it ideal for long trips that you need to pack for. Since this generator is EPA and CARB compliance, it can go anywhere and not cause a problem. If you know you’re gonna have higher power needs, you can hook it up to another generator and parallel run it for as long as you need to. It comes with a built in RV ready TT-30 plug, as well as household outlets and USB ports, allowing you to plug in whatever you need to plug in.
Rated for 3100 running watts, this generator can do nearly everything that you needed to do. However, it’s pretty heavy and the carrying handles are not as strong as they should be.
– For Camping in an RV
If you are a regular RV camper, your power needs are going to be a little bit different than someone who is living in their RV. With that in mind, I recommend the Yamaha EF2400ISHC Portable Inverter Generator.
This generator is rated for 2000 running watts, which means that it can run your RV air conditioner as well as your microwaves and miscellaneous devices. It is both EPA and carb compliant, making it perfect to take anywhere. It’s also relatively quiet, only reaching 60 dB at a full load. One of the useful features on this generator is that it has a fuel gauge and low fuel shut off, so you will be able to keep track of how much fuel is in the 1.6 gallon gas tank and make sure that your generator does not get damaged. It can be a little difficult to do oil changes on this generator, but it is worth it in the long run.
Best Portable Diesel Generator
The DuroStar DS7000Q offers all of the features that you need, plus some extra ones like a remote starter. It weighs around 300 pounds, so it’s a little difficult to move if you have to lift it. However, it comes with its own wheel kit. Because this runs on diesel fuel, it has a fairly high fuel efficiency. It runs for about 12 hours at 50 percent of its rated 5500 watt load, and has a pretty large fuel tank, making it easy to use at remote locations.
Best Reviewed Portable Home Generator
The Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator has the best reviews of any generator, and you can tell why when you look at the specs.
It can get pretty loud at 64 dB, but it also offers one of the highest running wattages and the most durability of any similar generator. It’s easy to use, it’s durable and it’s efficient. You won’t regret buying this generator for backing up your home power needs.
Best Dual Fuel Portable Generator
The Champion 7500W Duel Fuel Generator gets a little bit loud, but it is worth all of the noise. This generator has rave reviews, a great warranty, lifetime customer support from technical experts, and it’s sturdy enough to last a lifetime.
This generator is huge – both in power output and weight. It puts out 7500 W of power and weighs 218 pounds when it’s dry. This is not the heaviest that similarly rated generators run to, but it’s up there.
This champion generator also offers a third protector built right into the exterior, allowing you to have peace of mind about whatever appliances you have plugged into this generator, no matter how sensitive.
Best Small Portable Generator
The generator that offers the most bang for very small bucks is the WEN 56200i.
It’s relatively quiet, relatively light and relatively well-powered. With the small price tag, you can’t beat this generator.
Best Generator for Home Backup
If you are looking to power your entire house, the Generac 5735 GP17500E is the perfect model for you. This generator has 16 different circuits and a 16 gallon fuel tank.
This generator is huge at 390 pounds, but if you live in an area that has regular power outages and you need your house to have power, this is the perfect backup for you. It’s hard to damage and offers a two-year warranty that most users do not ever have to use.
Best Portable Gas Generator
– Heavy Duty
If you need a lot of power, the Westinghouse WGen 7500 Portable Generator with Remote Electric Start is the best option for your money. This generator offers 7500 running watts, making it incredibly useful for large loads.
It is EPA, CARB and CSA compliant, which means that you can basically use this generator anywhere without any issue.
– Light Duty
If you are less worried about having a ton of power, and just want something that will work to power the essentials, the Honda EU2200i is a great choice.
It’s low on noise, it’s light and it’s got pretty good fuel efficiency. However, the brand name comes with a price.
Best 10,000 Watt Portable Generator
If you need a generator that will power nearly everything in your home, the DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Generator is the way to go – as long as you don’t live in California.
This can run off of gasoline or propane, making it very easy to find fuel, no matter where you are. DuroMax isn’t well known for having high quality customer service, however, so keep that in mind.