Find The Best Generators: Reviews & Buyers Guides
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Looking for a back-up generator for your home or a smaller portable generator for camping or work sites? A generator is not something you should buy on an impulse. The wrong generator can be hazardous so it is important to get all the specifications right.
Below is a list of the best reviewed generators. This list includes several generator types. Use the above guide to decide which one is right for you.
Last update on 2020-02-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. Briggs & Stratton P2200 – Most Power in the Smallest Package
The advantage of inverter generators is that they have better control over power surges. This is why they are safer for your electrical devices. This model by Briggs & Stratton has the added advantage of impressive power for its compact size.
2. Westinghouse WGen 7500 Portable Generator – Editor’s Choice
Westinghouse delivers a good heavy-duty portable generator of amazing quality. This powerhouse is easy to use thanks to its wireless start, push start, transfer switch ready outlet, fuel gauge and low fuel shutoff. Another useful feature is the dual tank that lets you choose whether to use propane or gasoline. This model also happens to be EPA, CARB and CSA compliant, which means it can be shipped to California and is just better for the environment overall.
3. Aeiusny Solar Powered Battery – Most Environmental Option
This impressive tiny portable generator runs on solar power but you can also recharge the batteries from your home. The run time depends on the connected devices with an energy efficient 296 wh. This is a great environmentally friendly portable generator option. The solar panel is not included so you can choose your own panel model.
4. Champion Power Equipment 100302 Digital Hybrid – Efficient Inverter
- Running Wattage: 3,500 watts
- Surge Wattage: 4,000 watts
- Runtime: 17 hrs @ 1/4 load
- Tank Capacity: 2.9 gal
- Noise Level: 64 dBA
- Weight: 81 lbs
More Features: RV ready with Economy Mode for maximum fuel and engine life efficiency. No GFCI outlets. 3 year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support from Champion. No voltmeter or automatic voltage regulation.
This is the best inverter generator when you are looking for power. You can double the 4000 watts starting power and 3500 watts running power with the parallel kit. It has an impressive run time of 17 hours at 25% load. Despite the power it is still reasonably quiet with 64 dB at 23 feet. It also comes RV-ready, which is a huge plus for anyone looking to take some extra power on their next trip.
5. Briggs & Stratton 40346 – Best Standby Model
This model by Briggs & Stratton is 50% quieter than most portable generators making it a good option for home use. This model can be placed near to the house so smaller gardens are not an issue. It connects to your home’s gas supply and is transfer switch ready.
6. Generac 7043 Home Standby – Most High Tech
- Max Continuous Power Rating: 22,000 (LP) / 19,500 (NG)
- Fuel Type(s): Liquid Propane (LP), Natural Gas (NG)
- Transfer Switch: NEMA 3 indoor / outdoor rated
- Rated Voltage: 240 Volts
- Noise Level: 67 dB
- Harmonic Distortion: <5%
- Warranty: 5 year limited
More features: Easy maintenance made possible by (3) removable sides.
This a good home standby generator option for the tech savvy. The Mobile Link Remote Monitoring gives you information about the generator from anywhere in the world. Its design is durable and needs minimal maintenance.
7. DuroMax XP4400E – Best Outdoor Model
When you need a portable generator for work sites then this is a good bet. It has a powerful 4400 watts starting power and 3500 watts running power. The design is sturdy with its metal frame and rough track wheels but it still portable thanks to its design and reasonable weight.
What Type of Generator Should You Buy?
There are three main types of generators. These are the portable generator, inverter generator and home standby generator. Which one is most suitable for you depends on where and how it is used. Read more about these generator types below.
The most versatile generator type. Portable generators can be used both as a backup generator for the home or on outdoor work sites.
Portable generators generally run on gasoline which means that it releases fumes when operating. This is why portable generators must be placed outdoors and at least 20 feet away from any buildings. This is to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Portable generators should be kept dry at all times. Store it in a cool dry place or covered when it is not running. Remember to never run the generator in an enclosed space.
Portable generators connect to your home’s circuit panel via a cable. You need to install a transfer switch to prevent any electrical issues.
There are three ways to start a portable generator. A pull start and push start are standard features. A push start can be added by installing a battery. Some models also have a wireless remote start.
In terms of power, a portable generator lies somewhere between a small inverter generator and home standby generator. An average portable generator can generally carry 7000 watts but this differs with size.
HOME STANDBY GENERATORS
Once installed properly, a home standby generator is the easiest generator to have. This generator switches on automatically when there is a power outage and switches off again when the electricity is back on.
Minimize risks by choosing a standby generator that runs on natural gas instead of gasoline or propane. You can connect the standby generator to the home’s gas supply so that you always have access to fuel for the generator.
Similar to a portable generator, the home standby generator needs to be placed outdoors. Depending on the fuel and design, a home standby generator can usually be placed closer to buildings. Most home standby generators already have a safe waterproof covering but it is advised to place it on a raised plane of gravel or concrete, as well.
A standard standby generator is designed to power an entire house so it holds the most power. An average standby generator likely carries 20,000 watts.
Inverter generators generally have a smaller capacity than standby generators and portable generators. The smaller capacity is sometimes paired with a portable size and design but there are also heavier more powerful inverter generators. Inverter generators are a good option for when you don’t need a lot of power.
The biggest advantage of inverter generators is that they are quieter and release fewer fumes compared to the other generator types. However, there are still safety precautions to be taken in terms of distance to buildings and release of dangerous fumes.
How much power an inverter generator has really depends on the size. A smaller inverter generator might handle around 2000 watts while a large model can reach around 7000 watts.
You've Decided What Type to Get...Now What?
After you have chosen the type of generator that will best suite your project, you still have a couple more decisions to make.
The most important of which is probably going to be deciding what level of power you need from your unit. Then you will want to look at things like the fuel it uses, what options it comes with, and much more to finally determine what generator is best for you.
We’ll discuss all that and more below.
HOW MUCH POWER SHOULD YOU GET?
How much power your generator needs depends on its task. This is the easiest way to calculate the required power.
- List all the devices you want running on the generator e.g. fridge, lights, air conditioning etc.
- Check their power use in watts and note this down on the list.
- In case the watts are not mentioned, calculate them yourself: watts = amps x volts
- Add up the watts. This is the minimum required power of the generator.
- In addition to the minimum, add a couple of hundred extra watts. This is to ensure that the generator can handle any power fluctuations or additional needs in the future.
Note that generators use more power when starting but have a lower running power. Choose a generator with a running power that is higher than the watts required for the appliances.
TRANSFER SWITCH VS. INTERLOCK DEVICE
There are two ways to connect the generator to a home electrical panel; via a transfer switch or with an interlock device.
The transfer switch is a single cable. With standby generators the switch goes on/off automatically. With a portable generator switching to generator electricity needs to be done manually. Note down the correct order of flipping switches to prevent any mistakes and hazards. It is a precise order.
An interlock device is a simpler way to prevent having the generator run while the electricity is still on. An interlock device blocks the buildings main cutoff switch.
HOW MANY OUTLETS DO YOU NEED
Having several outlets spreads the load better which makes your generator more energy efficient. However, using all available outlets can cause it to be overloaded.
Only use all the outlets at the same time with low energy appliances or for a short time period in emergencies.
For outdoor use, it is useful to have a generator with USB outlets. This lets you connect devices directly to the generator without extra cables.
WHAT FUEL TYPE IS BEST?
Most portable generators run on gasoline but natural gas, diesel and propane are also available. In most cases, the type of fuel a generator uses will be based on what kind of generator it actually is. For example, standby generators will generally run off of natural gas or liquid propane, while portable generators usually run off of regular gas.
The cleanest and safest fuel option is solar-power. The only disadvantage of solar powered generators is that their capacity tends to be lower than the alternative fuels.
Think of these four points when deciding what type of fuel to use for the generator.
- Type of generator you need (will usually just determine the fuel type for you)
- Potential hazards
- Running cost
- Availability of fuel
- How well the fuel stores
- Safety and environmentally friendly labels (CARB, CSA, EPA)
FUEL GAUGE AND LOW-FUEL SHUTOFF
Having a fuel gauge on your generator is recommended. This makes it easier for you to check how much fuel is still inside. This way you have some warning to stock more fuel before there is a power outage.
A standby generator connected to the building’s gas supply does not require a fuel gauge since there is a constant fuel supply.
Another handy feat is a low-fuel shutoff. This automatic feature shuts down the generator when it is too low on fuel. Shutting down before the tank is completely empty protects the generator from damage.
PUSH START, PULL START OR AUTOMATIC START?
Standby generators have an automatic start when electricity shuts down. These are the best option for home use.
A portable generator starts with either a pull start or an electrical start with the push of a button. Both work fine.
You can convert portable generators with a pull start into a push start. This requires the addition of a battery which a generator technician can install for you.