5 Best Whole House Generators – Reviews & Buyers Guide

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A whole house generator is the safest and most hassle free way to keep all your electrical essentials running during a power outage. If you live in an area where winter storms and hurricanes are common then a home standby generator is a smart investment.

What should you look for in home standby generator? You want a powerful and dependable generator with the capacity to run more than the basic household appliances, just in case of emergencies.

Also, think about what type of fuel it runs on. Many standby generators are connected to your home’s natural gas supply which is a reliable fuel source but you may also want a model that can run on gasoline, diesel or even solar power as a backup measure.

Keep these things in mind as you check out our top picks for the best whole house generators. These models were chosen based on expert reviews, consumer ratings and a comparison of their specs.

1. Generac 7043 Guardian Series – Best Overall Pick

Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator 22kW/19.5kW Air Cooled with Whole House 200 Amp Transfer Switch, Aluminum

Features

  • 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: All-weather aluminum enclosure with 3 removable sides for easy maintenance & access.

The Generac 7043 tops many best generator lists and for good reason. It is powerful, reliable and comes with a 5 year limited warranty and 24-hour customer service.

This model has the biggest capacity with an impressive 22,000 watts when running on liquid propane and 19500 watts when connected to your home’s natural gas supply. This amount of power is enough for large homes with lots of electrical appliances.

Unique to Generac is the multilingual LCD display that you can use for close monitoring of the battery and when it is time for the next routine maintenance. You can also keep an eye on the functioning of the generator from a distance using their Mobile Link Remote Monitory System.

This is a sturdy design featuring RhinoCoat powder coated finish and a G-Force engine. Combined with the automatic self-test, this standby generator will be ready to go in a matter of seconds with the next power outage.

Pros

  • Runs on two types of fuel
  • Low THD
  • Mobile link remote monitoring system
  • Weather-resist + easy access design
  • Multilingual LCD control panel
  • Quiet self-test mode

Cons

  • Excludes battery
  • Warranty does not always include spare parts (check for this)

2. Generac 7033 Guardian Series 11kW/10kW – Best Pick for Less Capacity

Generac 7033 Guardian Series 11kW/10kW Air Cooled Home Standby Generator with Whole House 200 Amp Transfer Switch (not CUL)

Features

  • Max Continuous Power Rating: 11,000 (LP) / 10,000 (NG)
  • Fuel Type(s): Liquid Propane (LP), Natural Gas (NG)
  • Transfer Switch: NEMA 3 indoor / outdoor rated
  • Rated Voltage: 240 Volts
  • Noise Level: 64 dB
  • Harmonic Distortion: <5%
  • Warranty: 5 year limited

More features: Mobile Link Remote Monitoring lets you monitor generator status from computer, phone or tablet.

The Generac 7033 is essentially the same as the 7043 model but with a smaller capacity so it is more suitable for smaller homes. This version has a maximum continuous power rating of 11,000 watts on liquid propane and 10,000 watts when running on natural gas.

This version has all the Guardian Series features that you are looking for like the multilingual LCD display, RhinoCoat powder coated finish, remote monitoring and G-force engine.

Since the capacity is lower, you get all these trusted features at a more affordable price. So, if you have lower power requirements or are okay with running fewer electrical appliances during a power outage, this smaller size generator is friendlier for your wallet.

Don’t expect the 7033 to take up less space than the Generac 7043, though. The dimensions are identical with the only difference being that the Generac 7033 is about 100 lbs lighter but this being a stationary generator the weight is not a significant factor.

Pros

  • Run on 2 types of fuel
  • Low THD
  • Mobile Link Remote Monitoring
  • Quiet self-test mode
  • Durable and weather-resistant design
  • Multilingual LCD control panel

Cons

  • Excludes circuit breakers for switch features
  • Excludes battery

3. Champion Power Equipment 100294 14KW – Most Fuel Efficient

Champion Power Equipment 100294 Home Standby Generator

Features

  • Max Continuous Power Rating: 14,000 (LP) / 12,500 (NG)
  • Fuel Type(s): Liquid Propane (LP), Natural Gas (NG)
  • Transfer Switch: Ats200
  • Rated Voltage: 120/240 Volts
  • Noise Level: 63.5 dB
  • Harmonic Distortion: <5%
  • Warranty: 10 year limited

More features: 24V starting system operates between -22F and 104F. Performs weekly self-diagnostic tests.

If you are worried about the fuel consumption of these large home standby generators then take a look at the more efficient Champion 100294 model. This 14,000 watt generator has an average fuel consumption of only 2.6 gallons per hour at a 100% load and 1.6 gallons per hour at 50% load.

Most people prefer having the home standby generator hooked up to the main natural gas supply since this cuts out the need for refueling and is more affordable. However, if this is not possible or not a reliable fuel source for you then this Champion generator is an economical choice.

This generator has a midsize capacity which should be enough for most small and medium-sized homes. This smart generator will monitor when it is close to overloading and automatically stop the power supply to the non-essential circuits so that the vital appliances can run continuously.

Another cool feature is that this generator is very resistant to a range of temperatures. For temperatures between -22° F – 104° F it does not require a warming kit so this is a very suitable model for areas with extreme temperatures.

Pros

  • Reliable start with no warming kit required
  • Gull-wing style enclosure for easy access
  • Low THD
  • Lengthy warranty period
  • Mounting pad included
  • Fuel efficient

Cons

  • Some users report automatic start issues

4. Kohler 20RESCL w. Commercial Grade Engine – Best for Long Operation

Kohler 20RESCL-100LC16 Air-Cooled Standby Generator with 100 Amp Transfer Switch Single Phase, 20,000-Watt

Features

  • Max Continuous Power Rating: 20,000 (LP) / 18,000 (NG)
  • Fuel Type(s): Liquid Propane (LP), Natural Gas (NG)
  • Transfer Switch: RXT
  • Rated Voltage: 120/240 Volts
  • Noise Level: 69 dB
  • Harmonic Distortion: <5%
  • Warranty: 5 year /2,000 hour limited

More features: Includes 100 amp 16-circuit automatic transfer switch. 100% corrosion-proof enclosure.

The Kohler 20RESCL has been on the market for several years but it is still one of the most trusted standby generators for commercial purposes like hospitals and airports. What makes this model so dependable is its commercial grade engine that is specifically designed for long operation hours and so can run for days.

It only takes 10 seconds for this generator to reach full running mode after the power cuts out. The energy is also clean energy with less than 5% Total Harmonic Distortion so it is completely safe for any sensitive devices such as computers.

The design is of high quality with a corrosion-proof casing that can withstand any kind of extreme weather conditions. Also, there is not need to install a concrete pad since the generator already has a polymer base for direct installation.

Like the Generac models, this Kohler generator has online monitoring possibilities and the system will even send you text alerts for maintenance reminders. This high capacity standby generator is great for commercial use and perfectly reliable for large homes.

Pros

  • Designed for long operation
  • PowerBoost Technology
  • 10-second response time
  • Corrosion-proof casing
  • Online monitoring system

Cons

  • Users report subpar local customer service

5. Briggs & Stratton 40396 – Closest Placement to House

Briggs & Stratton 40396 20000-Watt Home Standby Generator System with Dual 200 Amp/Split 400 Amp Automatic Transfer Switch

Features

    • Max Continuous Power Rating: 20,000 (LP) / 18,000 (NG)
    • Fuel Type(s): Liquid Propane (LP), Natural Gas (NG)
    • Transfer Switch: Customizable
    • Rated Voltage: 120/240 Volts
    • Noise Level: N/A
    • Harmonic Distortion: <5%
    • Warranty: 5 year limited

    More features: Includes 200 amp transfer switch with flexible indoor/outdoor installation. Placement up to 18 in. from home per NFPA 37 standard.

This is one of the most reliable models on our best home standby generator list. The Briggs & Stratton 40396 is so safe for use that the National Fire Protection Agency approves its placement as close as 18 inches from your house.

This is another high capacity generator but considering its maximum continuous power of 20,000 watts you would be surprised that users call it relatively quiet. This is a very welcome feature when you consider how close it can be placed to your house.

Do not worry about the exhaust fumes possibly entering your house. Briggs & Stratton minimizes the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning with front air ventilation on the generator that sends the fumes away from your building. However, if you live on a tight lot then check where the fumes will flow towards instead because you do not want to put your neighbours at risk, either.

Another useful feature of this home standby generator is that Briggs & Stratton gives you a choice of type of transfer switch. This makes this model a more flexible design than the other generators.

Pros

  • Highly dependable engine and design
  • Close placement makes it good for small lots
  • Rust-free enclosure
  • Remote monitoring and automatic start

Cons

  • Setup requires professional
  • Engine starter may need regular replacement

Standby Home Generator Buying Guide

Not familiar with this type of generator yet? Read through these facts and tips to decide whether this is the better alternative to a portable generator.

STANDBY GENERATORS VS. PORTABLE GENERATORS

The difference is already quite clear from their names. A home standby generator is a stationary backup electrical supply while a portable generator can be moved.

It is possible to install a portable generator in a way that it starts automatically when power cuts out. However, many recommend against this because of fire hazards and the risk of a reverse current flow.

Getting a generator started can take quite some time and is a precise series of steps. So, a standby generator is the more user-friendly option.

Also, for commercial purposes the quick reaction of a standby generator is essential. In hospitals and power plants, for example, a power cut of only a few seconds can already prove disastrous.

Another big difference is the capacity of these generator types. A portable generator is rarely as powerful as home standby generator.

Finally, most home standby generators are directly connected to the natural gas supply of the building so that there is a constant flow of fuel at a more affordable price. This is rarely possible with portable generators since most run on either gasoline or diesel so the running costs are higher.

Pros & Cons of Standby Generators

Pros

  • Easy automatic start and stop when main power switches off and on
  • Higher power output compared to other generator types
  • Less frequent maintenance
  • Weather-resistant
  • Longer runtime than other types of generators
  • Generally more quiet than other generators
  • Many standby generators perform auto self-tests
  • Lower running costs

Cons

  • More expensive compared to other generator types
  • Maintenance tends to be more expensive and often requires a professional
  • Complicated installation often requires a professional
  • May impact building permits and taxes

Home Generator Buying Checklist

Check Off The Following

  • Power requirements: Which appliances do you want to keep running during a power outage and how many watts do you need for this?
  • State Laws on Stationary Generators: How will installing a permanent stationary generator affect your taxes, building code and environmental laws in your area?
  • Liquid Propane and Natural Gas Supply: Are your fuel sources compatible with the chosen generator?
  • Installation Pad: Does the model need one and if so, where will you place the concrete pad?
  • Service Centers: Are there physical service centers nearby and what is their availability?
  • Noise & Fumes: How noisy is the generator? How will the fumes spread? How do these noise levels and exhaust fumes affect my neighbors?
  • Budget: What is your cash budget? Is it worth it to buy the generator on credit or opt for the payment schemes that the manufacturer offers?
  • Accessories: Do you need to purchase any accessories like a warming kit, battery or transfer switch?

Final Thoughts

Getting a home standby generator is a good investment if you live in an area with frequent power cuts. They are also more suitable for longer operation so if the power cuts in your area tend to last several days then this is the safer generator option.

However, they are pricey machines so take into the account how much more they will cost compared to a smaller portable generator.