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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Portable Generator Reviewed

We rate the top brands in generators for home use, camping trips or to take on the job site.

by JohnL

Unless you’re a fan of living in the Stone Age, it’s never fun to experience a power outage. Not only is a lack of power inconvenient, but it can also be extremely dangerous. Fumbling around in the dark increases the chance of accidents, and homes can quickly stray from safe temperatures when the power goes out.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution to keep these things from happening: invest in the best portable generator on the market. Portable generators are small enough to easily store and transport, but powerful enough to provide you with electricity during power outages, camping excursions, and RV road trips.

No matter how you choose to use a portable generator, purchasing an alternative power source is a smart investment. We have reviewed the best portable generators on the market to simplify the buying process.

Image

Product

Runtime

Power Output

Check Price

Westinghouse iGen4500 Super Quiet Portable...

Westinghouse iGen4500

Up to 18 hrs

4500W, 3700W

WEN 56200i 2000-Watt Gas Powered Portable Inverter...

WEN 56200i

Up to 6 hrs

2000W, 1600W

No products found.

Honda EU2200i

Up to 8.1 hrs

2200W, 1800W

Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator with...

Westinghouse WGen7500

Up to 16 hrs

9500W, 7500W

Generac 7117 Gp2200I W 50St Inverter, Orange

Generac 7117 GP2200i

Up to 10.75 hrs

2200W, 1700W

Rainier R12000DF Dual Fuel (Gas and Propane)...

Rainier R12000DF

Up to 17 hrs

12000W, 9500W

MAXOAK Portable Power Station BLUETTI EB150 1500Wh...

MAXOAK BLUETTI EB150 1500Wh

Up to 10 hrs

1000W

Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator 22kW/19.5kW...

Generac 7043

Unlimited

22000W

Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting...

Generac 6864

Up to 32.4 hrs

5500W, 5000W

No products found.

Sportsman GEN4000LP

Up to 10 hrs

4000W, 3250W

How Do Portable Generators Work

Whether you choose a portable propane generator or a generator that runs on solar energy, the first thing to know is that a generator always requires some type of fuel or another. Once fueled up with propane, solar energy, gasoline, or diesel, the generator will be able to provide you and your family with power. The exact amount of power it can provide is determined by the machine's power output or wattage.

Although all generators serve the same purpose, they all function in unique ways depending on design, fuel type, and power output. In most cases, portable generators for home, RV, or camping function by adding the compatible fuel type and using the power outlets located on the generator’s control panel to power large appliances and small electronics.


Advantages of Having Backup Portable Generators

No matter if you’re buying a portable generator for safety reasons or the added convenience of electricity while camping/RVing, there are certain advantages to owning a backup generator. The best generator products provide reliable power, so you'll never have to go without electricity, even in the event of a citywide power outage.

Here are a few more advantages to owning a backup power source:

  • It provides a fuel-efficient method for bringing power to the home, RV, or travel trailer.
  • It is lightweight and portable, making it easy to store and transport.
  • Top-rated portable generators are easy to assemble and easy to use.
  • It can provide you with power in the event of a natural disaster or inclement weather.
  • It makes camping and RVing a much more enjoyable, comfortable experience.

Choosing a High-Quality Portable Generator

Power Needs

The main thing keeping people from purchasing a portable power source is the assumption that portable generators don't provide a sufficient amount of power compared to a permanent generator. This may be the case for some generators, but it's certainly not true of all of them. Every generator provides a different amount of power, which is measured in watts.

It is up to you to calculate your power needs before deciding on a portable generator. To do this, first think about what you’ll be using this generator for. Are you in the market for the best portable generator for RV camping, or will this backup generator only be used for emergency power needs?

Then, consider which appliances and devices you plan on powering with the generator. By doing this, you can get a good idea of the exact wattage you’ll be needing from your generator (the higher the wattage, the more power it will provide).

Generator Type

This guide to the best portable generator reviews is focused on portable products, but there are several types of generators to choose from. Some generators function as standby units that automatically turn on when the power goes out, but not many portable units serve as standalone generators.

When power is needed, you’ll need to fuel up the machine and make the proper electrical connections with your portable backup generator. Others are inverter generators that produce the cleanest energy imaginable, keeping your small electronics (phones, laptops, handheld GPS devices, etc.) safe from fluctuations in energy. 

Many buyers opt for inverter generators rather than conventional models, and not just because they produce cleaner energy. These are also much quieter than traditional generators, making them the perfect power solution for camping and RV trips.

Generator Size

A generator's size has a significant impact on its portability. For instance, a large backup generator that has a power output of 10,000 watts will be much less portable than a compact 3,000-watt generator. But even if you know that you’ll be needing a generator with lots of power, that doesn’t you have to give up on the idea of portability altogether.

Even bulky, heavy generators can be highly portable as long as they come with the right features. Look for a generator that is equipped with a carrying handle, rolling wheels, maybe even a suitcase-style design that allows for easy transport and storage.

Fuel Options

Even though it's fourth on the list of buying considerations, deciding on fuel type should be your priority. Every generator needs fuel to run, but the type of fuel is entirely up to you. Most portable generators run on gasoline since it is easily accessible, gas is relatively affordable, and provides efficient power to generator machines.

Liquid propane gas, or LPG, is another popular generator fuel type. Although it's not quite as efficient as gasoline or diesel, propane burns much more cleanly, so it emits fewer toxins into the air. For those of you who aren't set on the gas vs. propane debate, the alternative is to choose a dual fuel model that operates with either type of fuel.

Fuel Efficiency

A generator's fuel efficiency doesn't just dictate how often you'll need to refill on fuel; it also determines the average cost you'll be paying for each tank of gas/diesel or each bottle of propane. Ideally, you’ll want to find a portable generator that has a long run time on a small amount of fuel.

To make this more feasible, some manufacturers add an “Eco” setting to their products, allowing the generator to save on fuel whenever possible. To get an idea of a generator's fuel efficiency, look at each product's average run time for a full tank of gas. Also, consider terms like "half load" and "quarter load," which refers to the amount of electrical load that is placed on the generator.

Noise Level

Even if your new generator delivers on power performance, chances are you'll want to return the product if you can't even hear yourself think while it's running. The best way to keep your sanity and keep your neighbors from complaining is to choose a generator that has a low noise level. Sound is measured in decibels (dB), and fewer decibels means less noise.

Inverter generators are the quietest when it comes to noise, often as quiet as 52 decibels (about the same volume as a normal conversation). Conventional diesel and gas-powered generators tend to be a bit noisier, ranging anywhere from 62 to 78 decibels. If you’re stuck between two similar models, always choose the one with the lower dB rating.

Extra Features

There is a long list of additional features that come in handy when operating a portable generator. Some extra features are strictly for added convenience, like a remote start function that allows a user to start the generator from a remote location. Others are for easing maintenance, like low-oil shutoff and maintenance alerts. Other features are for improving safety, like automatic CO shutoff.

Price & Warranty

The price of a generator is determined by many things, like size, power output, efficiency, and extra features. You can count on a 3,000-watt generator being more affordable than a 7,000-watt generator. Set your budget ahead of time, but don't be too frugal when it comes to spending on added safety features.

Every product on this list of best portable generator reviews comes with warranty coverage. Just like any product category, the pricier generators often come with longer warranty periods. Low-cost models are likely to come with 1 year of warranty coverage, and the mid to high price range typically come with 3 or more years of coverage. 


10 Best Portable Generators Reviewed

1. Westinghouse iGen4500

Best Home Portable Inverter Generator

Engine Type

Gasoline

Runtime

Up to 18 hrs

Fuel Capacity

3.4 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

4500W, 3700W

Size

24.5” x 17.5 x 20.5”

Warranty

3 years

For the best portable inverter generator that is small yet powerful, no generator compares to the Westinghouse iGen4500. It has a peak power rating of 4500 watts, a running wattage of 3700, and it is compact for easy handling. It is extremely quiet and extremely fuel-efficient, running up to 18 hours on a full tank of gas. To experience this long run time, fill up the 3.4-gallon gas tank and set the generator on "Efficiency Mode."

This device is completely RV and camper van ready thanks to its 120V 30A outlet. It also comes with a 20A outlet and two USB ports for directly charging your small electronics. It's strong enough to run all of your essentials, but try to remember that a 3700 running wattage isn't adequate for running multiple major appliances at one time, like a full-size fridge and AC unit. So what do we love most about the Westinghouse generator? That would be the inverter technology, which not only produces cleaner-than-average electricity but also keeps operation at a whisper-quiet level.

Westinghouse Generators says that it produces

“significantly less noise than a conventional generator...The iGen4500 runs at a volume that is perfect for camping, tailgating and situations where you need less disruption.”

The iGen4500 makes it easier than ever to track your power needs and usage. The control panel is equipped with a rotating digital display that shows fuel level, power output, remaining run time, voltage output, and lifetime hours. For those of you who are looking for the best portable generator for house, RV, or camper, this is it. The only complaint is that this generator struggles to power multiple large appliances at one time, which is to be expected from a 4500/3700W generator.

Pros

  • Remote start
  • Lightweight & compact
  • Rotating LED display
  • Efficient mode for extended run time
  • RV & camper ready

Cons

  • Struggles with several large appliances

2. WEN 56200i

Best Small Portable Generator

Engine Type

Gasoline

Runtime

Up to 6 hrs

Fuel Capacity

1 gallon

Wattage/Power Output

2000W, 1600W

Size

18” x 11” x 18”

Warranty

2 years

Are you looking for a small portable generator to serve as an emergency backup or campground power source? Wen has manufactured a top-rated portable electric generator that is ideal for camping, construction sites, tailgating, and more. Some people say that this is the best portable generator for camping since it’ extremely quiet - it can be compared to the sound of a normal conversation.

The engine of this portable inverter generator is small, so don’t expect to power the whole house with this device. There are a few different options for wattage, but the most popular is the 2000-watt 56200i. It has a peak wattage of 2000W and a running wattage of 1600, but there are other wattages to choose from (1250W and 2250W).

As the best small portable generator to make our list, you can count on the Wen generator to be lightweight, compact, and easy to store/transport. It weighs less than 50 pounds and comes with a carrying handle on top.

Wen says that

 “the lightweight design makes for easy portability while the ultra-efficient one-gallon tank provides over 6 hours of half-load run time.”

Since this is such a small generator, there is one downside. The fuel tank is only one gallon in size, so you won’t experience a long 18-hour run time. At its peak performance, you can expect to get 6 solid hours of power from 50% load capacity. This is plenty of time for charging small electronics like phones, laptops, and tablets, but it’s not the ideal choice for powering larger devices and appliances.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Minimal harmonic distortion
  • Versatile control panel
  • Quiet 51 dB operation
  • Parallel connection capable

Cons

  • Small engine
  • Not enough power for some

3. Honda EU2200i

No products found.

Best Quiet Portable Generator

Engine Type

Gasoline

Runtime

Up to 8.1 hrs

Fuel Capacity

0.95 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

2200W, 1800W

Size

20.0" x 11.4" x 16.7"

Warranty

3 years

So far, we've covered two very quiet generators that both utilize inverter technology for whisper-level operation. But nothing compares to the Honda EU2200i if quiet power is what you're after. This quiet portable generator operates at as little as 48 dB, which is unheard of. The low end of the generator sound level typically fluctuates between 52 and 54 dB.

Honda portable generators have always been known for their outstanding quality and amazing power, and the EU2200i is no exception. It features a starting wattage of 2200, a running wattage of 1800, and an engine displacement of 121cc. Compared to the previous Honda portable generator, the EU2000i, this one comes with more power, but it's all contained within the same compact package.

Honda says that the impressive power is thanks to the generator's engine: 

"The EU2200i is powered by the Honda GXR120 Commercial Series engine...At 121cc, the GXR120 is at the top of its class - ensuring the EU2200i always produces the power you need to get the job done. Originally developed for heavy-duty construction equipment, the GXR120 also delivers superb durability and reliability."

Another thing we love about the EU2200i is its amazing fuel efficiency. On a full tank, it can produce power for over 8 hours, and this is on less than 1 gallon of gasoline. The inverter technology ensures that only stable, clean energy is produced, so you won't ever have to worry about powering up your sensitive electronics. There have been a few complaints relating to a recent recall of the EU2200i fuel valve, but Honda has taken measures to fix these issues.

Pros

  • Commercial grade reliability
  • Powerful enough for AC
  • Super quiet (48 dB)
  • Easy starting every time
  • Advanced inverter technology

Cons

  • Recent recall on the fuel valve

4. Westinghouse WGen7500

Best Generator for RV

Engine Type

Gasoline

Runtime

Up to 16 hrs

Fuel Capacity

6.6 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

9500W, 7500W

Size

27.2” x 26.5” x 26”

Warranty

3 years

Our top pick for the best portable generator for RV is another Westinghouse product, but this one offers but more power than the iGen4500. The WGen 7500 features a 7500W running power and a 9500W starting power, making it much more capable of powering all of your major appliances at once. It has a large 6.6-gallon fuel tank that can last for up to 16 hours.

Even though this generator looks a bit more complicated than the others covered so far, it’s actually very easy to use. It comes with both a remote start and electric start button, allowing you to turn on the power from near or far. Everything you need to get the generator up and running is in the box, and the WGen7500 requires very little assembly.

The 420cc produces enough power to keep your RV’s electricity running for as long as you need it. The only drawback of choosing a larger, more powerful engine is that it produces more noise than a compact generator. The operational volume of this generator is 73 dB, which is much louder than the other generators we’ve covered. 73 dB compares to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, so this certainly isn’t a whisper-quiet generator.

But if you can get over the louder-than-average operation, you won’t be disappointed with the WGen7500. This is especially true for RV owners who are looking to power their on-the-road homes with reliable, clean, and efficient energy. This generator is compliant with the EPA as well as CARB, so California residents are in the clear for purchasing the WGen7500.

Pros

  • Push-button/remote start
  • Powerful 420cc engine
  • Long run time
  • EPA, CARB, & CSA compliant

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy design
  • Loud operation

5. Generac 7117 GP2200i

Best Value for the Money

Engine Type

Gasoline

Runtime

Up to 10.75 hrs

Fuel Capacity

1.2 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

2200W, 1700W

Size

19” x 11” x 17”

Warranty

2 years

It can be challenging to find a source of reliable power that fits your budget. High-quality portable generators aren't known for their budget-friendliness, but the Generac 7117 GP2200i is changing that. This Generac portable generator is all about providing its users with a reliable, safe, and easy to use an alternative power source that doesn't break the bank. So if you're wondering what is the best portable generator to fit your budget, there’s a good chance that the GP2200i fits the bill.

With a starting wattage of 2200 and running power of 1700 watts, this generator is the go-to choice of outdoor enthusiasts. Whether the intended use is for weekends in the woods, football tailgating, or emergency power, the 2200i was designed for all occasions. Just keep in mind that a 2200 wattage isn't much, so this is not a suitable choice if you plan on continuously running your large AC unit. It is, however, perfect for small and medium-sized electronics.

According to Generac,

 “using TruePower Technology, the GP2200i produces the clean power required by a variety of sensitive electronics, tools and appliances. Compact and fully-enclosed, its lightweight design makes transportation easy, and its Economy mode feature also reduces fuel consumption rates and noise emissions to operate quietly for extended periods of time.”

The chief complaint regarding the GP2200i is that it lacks power, but there's an easy solution to this. Like most Generac products, this generator is parallel capable, which means that you can connect two identical models for twice the power. And since this is a budget-friendly product, investing in two might still be within your budget. But even with just one GP2200i, you’ll be able to enjoy nearly 11 hours of run time on a full tank.

Pros

  • Clear LED indicators
  • TruePower technology
  • Parallel capable
  • Great value for cost
  • Fully enclosed design

Cons

  • Parallel kit sold separately

6. Rainier R12000DF

Best Dual Fuel Portable Generator

Engine Type

Dual Fuel (Gasoline & Propane)

Runtime

Up to 17 hrs

Fuel Capacity

6.6 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

12000W, 9500W

Size

27.2” x 26.1” x 26”

Warranty

3 years

So far, each of the best portable generators reviewed has been compatible with just one type of fuel - gasoline. But what if you want a more versatile power source, one that is compatible with multiple fuel types? If fuel versatility is a feature that you've added to your portable generator bucket list, you'll want to invest in the best dual fuel portable generator, like the Rainier R12000DF.  Not only is this ranked as the best portable propane generator on the market, but it’s also known for its efficient gasoline operation.

The Rainier company says that this is

 "a dual fuel electric start portable generator to provide your home or work area a source of reliable energy. With heavy-duty features, you can count on this robust, yet versatile workhorse to power your air conditioner, sump pump, kitchen appliances, tools, and other small electronics at once…"

The dual-fuel capability isn't the only thing that the R12000DF has going for it. It's convenient and easy to use with a reliable one-touch electric start button. The full control panel has all the outlets you could ever need, including one L5-30R 120V 30A outlet, one TT-30R 120V 30A outlet, and two grounding ports. It also comes with a VFT display that shows volts, frequency, and lifetime hours of the generator.

The engine is powerful, to say the least; it has a displacement of 457cc and up to 17 hours of runtime on quarter-load capacity. The operational volume is a bit loud - 72 decibels - but this is to be expected from such a powerful engine. If you want something quieter, you'll want to choose an inverter generator like the Westinghouse iGen4500. But if power and versatility are your main priorities, you can't go wrong with the Rainier R12000DF.

Pros

  • EPA & CARB compliant
  • RV ready
  • Wheels & handles for added convenience
  • High performance, high wattage

Cons

  • Bulky 200-lb design
  • Loud operation

7. MAXOAK BLUETTI EB150 1500Wh

Best Portable Solar Generator

Engine Type

Lithium-Ion

Runtime

Up to 10 hrs

Fuel Capacity

N/A

Wattage/Power Output

1000W

Size

14.6” x 6.5” x 14.4”

Warranty

1 year

Using the power of the sun is the best way to stay eco-friendly with your alternative power needs. Choosing the best portable solar generator might not provide the most power, but it will ensure that you’re using the cleanest form of energy possible. To do this, you’ll want to purchase the Maxoak Bluetti EB150. This portable solar power generator doubles as a high-capacity power station that can be charged in multiple ways, including solar or AC outlet.

Out of all the best rated portable generators, this is the only one that is capable of powering your sensitive electronics with stored solar energy. It is capable of handling 1000 watts of power, which can power a wide variety of household electronics, including TVs, laptops, mini-fridges, laptops, and cell phones. Unfortunately, it's not strong enough to handle major appliances, but it is one of the few portable ozone generator models that is strong enough to power a hairdryer.

Whether you choose to power this generator with AC or solar energy, it takes about 10 hours for the battery to fully charge. If you do decide to take advantage of the sunny weather, you'll need to invest in a solar panel (it's not included with the Maxoak Bluetti purchase). The generator weighs less than 40 pounds, which is another major perk for those in need of portable alternative energy.

Although this is an amazing choice for environmentalists in need of an eco-friendly battery station, it’s not the best in terms of power. In other words, it won’t be capable of powering your entire RV or camper van. But it will serve as a safe and reliable power source for all of your electronics during camping trips or power outages.

Pros

  • Perfect for outdoor adventures
  • 2-way charging
  • Top-brand LG battery
  • Eco-friendly power

Cons

  • Solar panel not included
  • Minimal power output

8. Generac 7043

Best Whole House Standby Generator

Engine Type

Natural Gas

Runtime

Unlimited

Fuel Capacity

N/A

Wattage/Power Output

22000W

Size

48” x 25” x 29”

Warranty

5 years

We’ve covered some top-rated portable generators so far, but most of them are incapable of powering a whole house. If you’re looking for more than just a charging solution for electronics, consider the Generac 7043. This has been dubbed the best portable generator for home use for many reasons, but mainly because it is perfectly capable of powering an entire house.

Whether or not you can use the term portable for the Generac 7043 is up for debate, but considering that this is much smaller than the average whole-house generator, we'll let that slide. The Generac G-Force engine is more powerful than any we've seen in a portable generator. It is purpose-built and pressure-lubricated, which results in more reliable power and less maintenance. 

Aside from its impressive max power of 22,000 watts, we love the 7043's special features, especially the MobileLink function.

"Mobile Link Remote Monitoring FREE with every Guardian Series Home standby generator Allows you to monitor the status of your generator from anywhere in the world using a smartphone, tablet, or PC," 

says Generac.

The only issue, according to Generac customers, has to do with the difficult task of how to hook up a portable generator to a house. It's not an easy process, so it is suggested that you hire a professional to help with installing this portable generator for house use. Professional installation of this type of generator doesn’t come cheap, but it is worth the added expense. If you choose to undergo DIY installation and mistakes are made, there’s a chance that the 5-year warranty will be voided.

Pros

  • Reliable standby power
  • Strong 5-year warranty
  • TruePower technology
  • Remote mobile monitoring
  • Powerful G-Force engine

Cons

  • High cost
  • Professional installation required

9. Generac 6864

Best Portable Diesel Generator

Engine Type

Diesel

Runtime

Up to 32.4 hrs

Fuel Capacity

12 gallons

Wattage/Power Output

5500W, 5000W

Size

33.1” x 22.5” x 25.6”

Warranty

2 years

It’s easy to see that Generac is a well-respected name when it comes to delivering portable power. This is the third Generac product to make our list, and compared to all the Generac portable generator reviews we’ve covered so far, the company’s 6864 portable diesel generator stays true to Generac’s quality, reliability, safety, and performance.

The 6864 is the best portable diesel generator for too many reasons to count. It uses the signature Generac TruePower technology, which provides less than 5% total harmonic distortion for clean, smooth operation. This keeps all of your sensitive electronics safe from voltage dips and spikes, but instead of using gasoline to make this happen, it uses more efficient diesel fuel.

The 6864 comes with a large 12-gallon capacity diesel tank, which allows for a run time of more than 32 continuous hours with a 50% load.

Generac says that 

“the sturdy steel frame features an integrated lifting eye for easy transport and on-site security.”

So if you’re looking for something heavy-duty and powerful, there’s no comparison. But with power comes noise, so even though this is the best diesel generator, it’s definitely not the best quiet portable generator on the market. Diesel generators are by no means quiet, so if a close-to-silent operation is something you're looking for, consider the Generac inverter generator instead.

But if you have your heart set on a diesel generator, it's possible to minimize the machine's sound by building or investing in a portable generator sound enclosure. The only other downside to the 6864 is that the portability kit is sold separately. This kit is worth the extra purchase, though; it includes handles and wheels to enhance the 6864's portability.

Pros

  • Durable steel frame
  • TruePower technology
  • Less maintenance w/ diesel
  • Better fuel efficiency
  • 32 hours of run time

Cons

  • Portability kit sold separately
  • Loud operation

10. Sportsman GEN4000LP

No products found.

Best Portable Propane Generator

Engine Type

Propane

Runtime

Up to 10 hrs

Fuel Capacity

>20 lbs

Wattage/Power Output

4000W, 3250W

Size

33.1” x 22.5” x 25.6”

Warranty

1 year

Portable gas generators have a lot of positive attributes, but propane generators come out on top when it comes to clean fuel burning.

When comparing propane vs. gas, the US Department of Energy says that using propane

 “increases energy security, can provide the convenience of onsite refueling economically, and reduces air pollution and the environmental impacts of vehicles.”

There aren’t many top rated portable generators that use propane as the main fuel source, but this is starting to change. Portable generators that use propane, like the Sportsman GEN4000LP, burn fuel at a much cleaner rate than gasoline generators. This specific model offers 10 hours of continuous run time on a 50% capacity, and it has a power output of 3250 watts (running wattage).

The 7 horsepower engine is protected by features like recoil start, circuit protection, overheat protection, auto fuel shut off safety valve, and auto low-oil shut down. One thing that Sportsman customers love is the simplicity of this generator; the layout of the control panel is far from overcrowded - it just contains all the necessary outputs (two 120V AC outlets, a 12V DC outlet, and an RV-ready plug).

Whether you plan on staying on-the-grid or heading off-the-grid, the Sportsman generator will provide you with the power that you need. Just be aware that this is not intended for use in high altitudes. If you plan on traveling higher than 3,000 feet above sea level, the Sportsman is not recommended. The only other downside is that this generator comes with a short warranty period compared to the others, but aside from that, we have nothing bad to say about the GEN4000LP.

Pros

  • Powerful 7 HP engine
  • Cleaner fuel burning
  • Simple control panel
  • 40% fewer CO emissions

Cons

  • Not for high altitudes
  • Short warranty

Types of Generators Explained

By Design

Inverter - An inverter generator goes through an extra energy conversion process, which creates cleaner energy than a conventional generator. Inverters are better for powering sensitive electronics like phones, laptops, turntables, and speakers. 

Portable - Portable generators are the best choice if you need an alternative power source for on-road adventures, like camping and RVing. They are designed to make transport and storage as easy as possible through lightweight design and extra features (carrying handle, rolling wheels, etc.)

Standby - A standby generator is a system that will automatically kick-on as soon as your home experiences a power outage. These are not designed for portability, but they are a great choice if you live in an area that is prone to power outages or natural disasters.

By Use

RV - Not all RV parks give visitors access to a power source, which is where an RV-ready generator will come in handy. Before deciding on an RV generator, consider how much power you'll be using in your recreational vehicle to decide on an appropriate wattage.

Camping - Using a portable generator for camping is the best way to experience the great outdoors without having to give up on modern-day comforts. For camping, most people can get by with a small power station or generator that maxes out at 3,500 watts.

Whole House - A whole house generator is designed to provide power to the entire home, so these are much larger than generators used for camping or RVs. In most cases, installing a whole house generator requires the help of a professional electrician.

By Fuel

Solar - Using a solar panel to charge a portable solar generator is the most eco-friendly method of generator use. The downside is that solar-powered generators aren’t as powerful as those that use gas, diesel, or propane.

Dual-Fuel - The most versatile generators allow users to choose between two different fuel types, propane and gasoline. Some dual-fuel generators will enable you to seamlessly transition between fuel types without cutting off generator power.

Diesel - CK Power says that when comparing diesel vs. gasoline, diesel has its pros and cons. Diesel generators are more powerful and require less maintenance, but the average cost of diesel is much higher than gasoline. On top of that, diesel generators tend to be the loudest.

Propane (LPG) - Propane generators are easy to use; just hook up the propane tank to the generator, and you're good to go. Propane is less efficient than gas, but it burns much cleaner, making it a better choice for the environment.


Determining Basic Home Power Needs

Learning your home power needs is a lot easier than you might think. Every large appliance and small device uses a certain amount of power per hour, which is measured in watts. For example, the standard 60-watt light bulb uses 60 watts of power per hour. So if you have the light on for 5 hours in one day, that's a total of 300 watts (unless, of course, it contains more than one bulb).

This is how you would go about calculating your exact power needs, but you would do this for all of your electronics and appliances. While doing your calculations, just be sure to look at each device’s starting power, which will be slightly higher than its running power. This extra wattage needed for the initial device startup needs to be taken into account when deciding on generator power.

Here are a few additional considerations that need to be made when calculating your home’s power needs:

  • Do you use city or well water?
  • Is your heating system electric, heat pump, or gas or oil-forced air?
  • Is your hot water heater electric, gas or oil-fired?

Importance of a Generator Transfer Switch

The purpose of a transfer switch for a portable generator is to trade your home's energy supply to the energy provided by a backup generator. This means as soon as the power goes out, you'll be able to switch over to the generator without a hitch. Having a transfer switch is required by National Electric Code if you’re using your generator as a backup power source. There are two transfer switch types to choose from: automatic and manual.

With a manual transfer switch, you are responsible for flipping the switch as soon as there's a power outage. Using a manual transfer switch for portable generators is common, but for a whole-house system, most people opt for an automatic switch.

This means as soon as the power goes out, you'll be in the dark for a matter of seconds before the electricity turns back on. The main perk of going manual is that installation is much simpler, not to mention much cheaper.  But the downside is that you’ll have to locate the switch to turn it on.

HomeAdvisor says that the average cost of installing an automatic transfer switch is about $300, and "it will take an electrician three to four hours to install."

Installing & Using a Portable Generator Safely

When installing your new portable generator, the #1 concern is safety. Follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions for hooking up your generator, and stay aware of the suggested safety precautions. Always secure the generator in an outdoor location that is at least 20 feet from the house, RV, or camping tent.

Once you've removed the generator from the box, the first step after assembly is to add the compatible oil (generators are never shipped with oil). After the oil has been added, connect a high-quality extension cord from the generator's control panel to your home or RVs electrical panel.

If you’re connecting a generator directly to your home's electrical panel, Honda says that “a professionally installed transfer switch makes using your generator easy and safe...A licensed electrician will install the transfer switch into your home and connect it with the main breaker box.”


Frequently Asked Questions

Do portable generators have to be grounded?
Many portable generators already come with grounding mechanisms.

Generator Advisor says that

 "the answer is either 'Yes' or 'No,' depending on the model of the generator...Not all portable generators need grounding to be completely safe.” This is because “a lot of modern generators are configured in a way that eliminates the need for grounding.”

Will rain ruin a portable generator?
Generators are not intended for rainy or snowy weather since they are designed to create electricity, and we know that water and electricity do not pair well together. But that doesn't eliminate the possibility of using the generator when rain is falling. It's possible to buy or build a portable generator shelter to keep the machine safe from the rain.

SFGate says that you can protect your generator from the rain by using 

“a pop-up canopy over the generator. These are available in a variety of sizes, from 8-foot by 8-foot square to 10-foot by 15-foot square. Many of these have adjustable legs so you can lower the height of the canopy over the generator to add extra protection.”

You can also use a portable generator enclosure made from steel.
How long do these portable generators last?
There’s no definitive answer on this since the lifespan of your generator depends on many things. One thing is for sure, though, and this is that you can extend your generator’s life significantly by taking the proper maintenance steps. If you fail to change the oil or improperly store your generator, the machine will lose its ability to create clean energy sooner rather than later.
Are portable generators safe to use?
Yes, portable generators have been dubbed 100% safe as long as you follow the steps for use provided by the manufacturer. Only when you stray from these steps does generator use become unsafe. The primary safety concern is related to carbon monoxide poisoning, but this can be avoided by only operating the generator outdoors and keeping it far from your home’s windows and vents.
How much does it cost to run a house on a generator?
There is no set answer on how much it will cost to run your generator. The answer depends on your specific habits as well as the type of generator you've chosen. Every fuel type (gasoline, diesel, propane) all come with a unique price tag, and every generator consumes fuel at a different rate. Assurance Power uses a standard 5,000-watt gasoline generator to give an idea of generator costs:

"A standard 5-kilowatt generator will typically consume about 0.75 gallons per hour. As of July 2018, the average price for gasoline is $2.89 a gallon in the United States. If you run the portable generator for a day, that would consume about 18 gallons, meaning the cost to run the generator would be around $52 a day."

Is buying a cheap generator worth it?
To be completely honest, it's usually not worth it to buy a cheap portable generator. Although it's not necessary to spend your entire life's savings on a high-quality generator, this isn't an investment you should be stingy about. For clean, reliable, safe power, you need to be willing to spend a bit more on a high-quality generator from a reputable manufacturer.
Should I hire a professional electrician to install a transfer switch?
If you have no electrical knowledge whatsoever, then yes, you should hire a professional to install your generator’s transfer switch. Fixr says that the average cost to install a portable generator depends on the generator’s size (power output) and whether you choose to install an automatic or a manual transfer switch. Installation of a 3,000-watt generator with an automatic switch averages out to $1000, but installation costs of a 15kw portable generator will be higher.

Conclusion

After covering the top 10 portable generator reviews, the verdict is that the iGen4500 from Westinghouse is the #1 pick. But why? Westinghouse has gone above and beyond to create a compact yet powerful alternative power source for any occasion. It is the ideal solution for homeowners, campers, and RV owners, even those living in California (yes, the iGen4500 is CARB compliant).

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