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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Standby Generators Reviewed

Choose from one of the top brands and be sure to have fast and automatic emergency power for your home.

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Just when you thought this thunderstorm couldn’t get worse, your in-home power suddenly cuts out. Now, you'll have to live with a power outage until a service team can come out and repair the power lines. That is unless you have a standby generator connected to your home.

These novel appliances provide your home and your family with the peace of mind they need when it comes to protecting your home’s electric grid. Even if your in-line electrical service is on the fritz, a standby generator can kick on automatically and provide your entertainment and medical equipment with much-needed energy.

But as you might expect, standby generators available today come with varying capabilities and price tags. As such, it is critical to identify the model that fits both your home’s needs and your budget from the get-go. This guide – with its reviews for the best standby generators – will help you do just that by teaching you what you need to look for in an outstanding standby generator.

How Standby Generators Work

Standby generators are pretty easy to understand when it comes to operation. Essentially, these relatively large units are installed near your home and connected to its power grid. Then, when it senses that your home is experiencing an outage, it flips on automatically and begins to provide energy created by burning its own fuel. This process can go on for several hours up to several days, depending on the size and capability of the generator.


Benefits of Having Backup Stationary Generators

Installing a standby generator can provide any home with peace of mind, even if they don't experience power outages regularly. This is especially true if there are several important pieces of electronic equipment spread throughout the home, including computers and climate control equipment, that must remain in operation at all times.

Along the same lines, a standby generator allows you to continue your life as usual when a scheduled or unscheduled power outage strikes. Today’s generators even do this while producing half as much noise as past models, allowing you to use them in suburban environments with ease.


Buying a High-Quality Standby Generator

Dimensions

All standby generators are sizable appliances, thus requiring you to take their physical dimensions into account. This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of space between the side of your home and a neighbor’s property line. Standby generators should always be placed several feet away from your home and any fences, too, to decrease fire risks.

Home Power Needs

Before ever shopping for a standby generator, you should take some time and appraise your home’s power needs. This includes any appliances that you deem “absolutely necessary,” such as medical equipment, a climate control system, or a sump pump. If they are available, check how much electricity those appliances regularly draw to operate and combine that sum to determine your home’s power needs.

Fuel Type & Operating Cost

Today's standby generators operate on one of two primary fuel source – propane or natural gas. Propane is reasonably safe to store, so you are able conveniently able to keep a fuel reserve in case your generator’s first tank-full runs dry. However, natural gas models have also become increasingly popular while that fuel source remains cheap in many areas.

Transfer Switch

This is an essential component of your chosen standby generator. When triggered, this component automatically (or manually, if so desired) cuts off your circuit breaker during an outage and engages your standby generator in turn. Without it, utility workers may be put in danger when they come to repair your home’s in-line connection, not to mention the fact that it puts your in-home appliances at risk of enduring a surge.

Noise Level

Standby generators always produce a noticeable level of noise while in operation. However, you’ll want to pick out a model that handles its own noise production efficiently. This is most often accomplished through internal sound deadening, which helps keep your standby generator from bothering neighbors while in use.

Durability

Naturally, you’ll want to select a standby generator that can take the wear and tear of the elements year after year. This may come in the form of a unit with an enclosure made from a particularly resilient material. Ideally, such an enclosure should be able to stand up to impacts effectively while preventing corrosion from ever taking hold of your generator’s internal components.

Price & Warranty

Only purchase a standby generator when you know that you’re getting a good deal on it. Usually, you’ll know that you’re getting the best price if you compare it to the prices offered by popular online retailers. These price comparisons should account for the added value of a warranty as well because such a policy can save you some serious money down the line.


8 Best Standby Generators Reviewed

1. Generac 7043

Our Top Pick!

Fuel Type

Propane or Natural gas

Dimensions

48 x 25 x 29 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

22

Max Noise Level

Moderate

Transfer Switch

Yes, 200 watts

Warranty

Yes, 5-year

“Have only had the unit for a few weeks, but have already had one power outage. The system started up and entire house was running with electric in a matter of seconds.” 

Hands down, the Generac 7043 is the best standby generator you’ll find on the market today. That’s because this affordable model manages to remain kind to your wallet while providing some of the best features of any model in its mid-range class. This includes a quiet test mode that will end the days of bothering your neighbors with weekly testing.

In terms of core performance, this model’s 200-watt transfer switch always comes through in a pinch. At that point, the Generac 7043's patented G-Force engine begins to burn natural gas (or propane, alternatively) efficiently.

Both you and your chosen maintenance team will also be able to keep track of this unit’s performance stats remotely from either a mobile or desktop platform – all without needing to go and lift the lid on this unit’s durable powder-coated all-aluminum enclosure.

Pros

  • Quiet test mode allows for unobtrusive maintenance
  • Powder-coated all-aluminum enclosure resists all weather-related corrosion
  • Can be monitored by the user or an authorized dealer through an app
  • Patented G-Force engine utilized natural gas fuel source efficiently

Cons

  • Become more inefficient and hotter after 24 hours of use
  • Built-in battery charger does not work when supplying power to a home

2. Briggs & Stratton 40346

Runner Up

Fuel Type

Propane or Natural gas

Dimensions

48 x 34 x 31 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

20 kw

Max Noise Level

Low (64 dB)

Transfer Switch

Yes, 200 watts

Warranty

Yes, 5 year

“We were looking for a whole house generator. I'm disabled and in need of medical electronic equipment I need to make sure that the electricity to my home isn't interrupted, and by researching I found that Briggs & Stratton was highly recommended by others in the situation that I'm in. It's a great product and so far has worked flawlessly, it has been such a relief for us to know that we will always have electricity for our home, WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!” 

When it comes to the best home backup generator, you need not look further than the Briggs & Stratton 40346. Though its kilowatt output is a little lower than expected, it goes beyond expectations when it comes to its maximum noise level of only 64 dB.

Both are the direct result of this unit’s V-Twin commercial-grade Vanguard engine, which dramatically reduces inefficiency and excessive noise when paired with this model's Symphony II power management system.

Speaking of the Briggs & Stratton 40346’s quiet operation, this standby generator’s automotive-style exhaust system and sound dampening technology both play an important role that cannot be ignored.

The same goes for this unit’s post-manufacturing testing, which meets rigorous National Fire Protection Agency standards for installation. As such, you’ll be able to place this unit as close as 18” away from your home.

Pros

  • Symphony II power management system efficiently burns propane or natural gas
  • V-Twin commercial-grade Vanguard engine can produce 20,000 watts when fully engaged
  • Automotive-style exhaust system and sound dampening technology allow for 64 dB operation
  • Can be placed as close as 18” to a structure

Cons

  • Loud when self-testing
  • Built-in transfer switch may need replacement sooner than entire unit

3. Generac 70321 Optimus

Best 11kw Home Standby Generator

Fuel Type

Natural gas

Dimensions

48 x 25 x 29 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

11 kw

Max Noise Level

Minimal (63 dB)

Transfer Switch

Yes, 16 circuit

Warranty

Yes, 5 year

“Had unit installed two years ago--past weekend we had a 101/2 hr. power failure due to high winds--unit performed 100% the whole time--we were only house on block with power the whole time---so glad so very glad we purchased.”

– Jim K.

Those who are looking for a slightly smaller standby generator option might be interested in the Generac 70321 Optimus, which is fully deserving of the “best 11kW home standby generator” moniker. That’s because this compact unit produces surprisingly little noise - 63 dB to be precise - for an 11kW generator. Even this model’s G-Force engine is easy to handle and only requires re-oiling once every two years.

Unlike some larger generators, the Generac 70321 Optimus utilizes a Direct-To-Dirt composite mounting pad that allows for more installation flexibility. Once it's up and running, you can expect this model's NEMA 3R outdoor aluminum enclosure to resist everything from the elements to hard impacts.

During a storm, you won't need to go out and inspect this generator’s control panel, either, so long as you take advantage of this model’s Mobile Link wi-fi remote monitoring compatibility.

Pros

  • Compatible with Mobile Link wi-fi remote monitoring system
  • NEMA 3R outdoor aluminum enclosure resists the elements as well as hard impacts
  • G-Force engine’s oil only needs to be replaced every two years
  • Direct-To-Dirt composite mounting pad allows for hassle-free installation

Cons

  • Not currently in production, so customer service is hit and miss
  • Can only handle a few appliances at once

4. Generac Guardian 7030 Optimus

Best 9kw Small Standby Generator

Fuel Type

Natural gas

Dimensions

48 x 25 x 29 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

9 kw

Max Noise Level

Minimal (66 dB)

Transfer Switch

Yes, 100 watts

Warranty

Yes, 5 year

On the smaller end of the spectrum, the best 9kW small standby generator remains the Generac Guardian 7030 Optimus. This unit makes the most of its minimized operational capacity by only requiring a 100-watt transfer switch (which it comes pre-packaged with). Better yet, its core operations only result in less than 5% total harmonic distortion, thus proving its fuel efficiency while utilizing natural gas.

The Generac Guardian 7030 Optimus’ Evolution digital controller is also a prime example of what all other standby generators large and small should look and operate like. First off, its programmable-exerciser allows you to easily schedule weekly tests without any of the hassle. Meanwhile, this digital controller’s 2-Line LCD display is multilingual, allowing all users to interface with it without confusion.

Pros

  • New Evolution digital controller with programmable-exerciser makes it easy to keep track of unit’s operations
  • 2-Line LCD display is multilingual
  • All-aluminum sound attenuated enclosure decreases sound to a gentle 63 dB
  • Less than 5% total harmonic distortion increases fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Recently discontinued, so supplies may be limited
  • Transfer switch does not come pre-wired

5. Generac RG03015ANAX Protector Series

Best Diesel Standby Generator

Fuel Type

Diesel

Dimensions

62.9 x 29 x 29.7 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

30 kw

Max Noise Level

Moderate (73 dB)

Transfer Switch

No

Warranty

Yes, 5 years

If diesel fuel is going to be your go-to fuel source, then you should certainly pick up the best diesel standby generator, otherwise known as the Generac RG03015ANAX.

As a part of this brand’s trusted Protector series, you can expect this unit to provide you with 30,000 watts of power when you need it most. Though its 4-cylinder engine is a little louder than most, you can also expect it to last several decades due to its liquid-cooled heat management system.

Also, not everything about this generator is “loud" per se. In fact, its weekly tests whisper on by at only 59 dB. This model’s immense weight should be a clear indicator of the Generac RG03015ANAX’s durability, though. This derives from this model’s corrosion-resistant reinforced aluminum enclosure, which is coincidently the very best in its class when it comes to resisting seawater.

Pros

  • Quiet-Test mode allows for weekly tests at 59 dB
  • 4-cylinder engine is liquid-cooled for extra resilience
  • Corrosion-resistant is particularly able to resist seawater
  • 30,000-watt capacity is ideal for large homes

Cons

  • Bulky and very heavy
  • Doesn’t come with a transfer switch

6. Champion 8.5-kW

Best Budget Standby Generator

Fuel Type

Propane or natural gas

Dimensions

52.4 x 33.5 x 32.1 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

8.5 kw

Max Noise Level

Minimal (59 dB)

Transfer Switch

Yes, 50 amps

Warranty

Yes, 10 year

If you’re trying to save a bit of money while protecting your home, then you won’t go wrong with the Champion 8.5-kW. As the best budget standby generator on the market today, you should be fully satisfied with this model’s numerous improvements over older cheap generators, including its incredibly soft 59 dB operational noise level. This model’s extended 10-year warranty is also a significant improvement over even more expensive units in this collection.

At its core, the Champion 8.5-kW’s 39cc OHV engine does more than just output enough electricity to power a couple of appliances concurrently. In fact, it includes a 24-volt auto-start module and a low oil shutdown function that will allow this generator to almost entirely control itself. This generator is also among the best for folks living in variable climates as it has been tested to reliably operate at between -22° F and 104° F.

Pros

  • 39cc Champion OHV engine utilizes both an auto-start and low oil shutdown function
  • Safely and reliably operates at between -22° F and 104° F
  • Gull-wing design doors allows for easy access to control panel
  • Impressive 10-year warranty

Cons

  • Steel enclosure only a NEMA 1 rating
  • Transfer switch is not outdoor rated

7. Briggs & Stratton 76107

Best 25kw Standby Generator

Fuel Type

Natural gas

Dimensions

119.8 x 35.9 x 43.7 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

25 kw

Max Noise Level

Moderate

Transfer Switch

Yes, 200/400 amp

Warranty

Yes, 5 year

The Briggs & Stratton 76107 is undoubtedly among the beefier options in this collection and may well be the best 25kW standby generator available now. Though it is easily among the largest residential-class standby generators, you'll certainly find room for this unit on your property after learning that it can manage up to two 5-ton central air conditioners at once. Also, this unit can be easily integrated into almost any home’s electric grid due to its dual 200/400 amp transfer switch compatibility.

You might catch some sticker shock after checking out the expensive Briggs & Stratton 76107. But you should know that this high price is well worth paying when it comes to this model’s longevity. For example, this model will remain structurally sound when its competitors rust away thanks to its galvanneal steel and automotive rust proofing paint enclosure. This model also comes with a built-in battery charger, which most other manufacturers require you to buy separately.

Pros

  • ATS load prioritization and shedding to increase efficiency at max capacity
  • Can manage demands of up to two 5-ton central air conditioners at once
  • Galvanneal steel with automotive rust proofing paint prevents almost all corrosion
  • Comes with automatic battery charger

Cons

  • Very large and very expensive
  • Not qualified as an emergency generator

8. Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS

Best Propane Powered Model

Fuel Type

Propane

Dimensions

48 x 26.2 x 29 inches

Wattage

(in kilowatts)

20

Max Noise Level

Moderate (69 dB)

Transfer Switch

Yes, 200 amp

Warranty

Yes, 5-year/2000-hour

Finally, for propane fans out there, here’s the best propane powered standby generator available today – the Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS. This modern-looking unit is exceptionally efficient when it comes to turning standard liquid propane into 20,000 watts of power in no time at all.

This model has one of the quickest initiation response times of any residential-grade generator, that of a mere 10 seconds. You'll know this generator is working, too, because it tends to roar up to 69 dB.

Fortunately, you won’t need to go near this generator while it is engaged. That’s because the Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS is fully compatible with the OnCue Plus wireless generator management system. Alternatively, when the weather is good, you’ll be able to check this unit’s LCD screen interface to find not confusing codes, but instead clear readouts for statistics such as the real-time power status.

Pros

  • Compatible with OnCue Plus wireless generator management system
  • LCD interface doesn’t use codes and provides real-time power status
  • PowerBoost technology allows for 10 second response time
  • +/-1% voltage regulation protects sensitive electronics

Cons

  • High maintenance costs
  • Replacement parts are only compatible with certain units

Top Brands of Standby Generators Compared

Right now, several major standby generator brands are dominating the market – Kohler, Generac, Briggs & Stratton, and Champion, just to name a few. Though certain models from each brand may cost more or less than the other, each offers different sized models that can easily fit any budget.

The "best" brand among these can be evaluated based upon what features their generators include, though, with a reliable transfer switch being the most important overall.


Home Generator Fuel Options

Diesel

Diesel has long been the go-to for generator makers and users alike. While it burns efficiently when it comes to power generation, some homeowners won't use it now because of the dangers associated with storing extra fuel canisters.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is another viable option, particularly in areas where an in-line hook up is readily available. Natural gas is fairly cheap in most parts of the US, though it burns slightly less efficiently than other fuels.

Liquid Propane

Propane is the liquid fuel source of choice for today’s standby generator owners. While it burns with comparable efficiency to diesel, it is far safer to store in bulk. Also, liquid propane-burning units tend to run slightly quieter as well.

Bi-Fuel/Dual Fuel Systems

Some high-end units are capable of using more than one fuel to facilitate electricity generation. These models are ideal as they allow you to have a primary and backup fuel source depending on the circumstances of your home’s power outage.


Determining Basic Home Power Needs

To purchase a standby generator that is appropriate for your home, you must first evaluate your home's power needs. This should include appraising how much power your "essential" appliances (including medical equipment, sump pumps, and climate control units) draw while in use. Also, if your heating or hot water uses a fuel source other than electricity than you should account for this absence accordingly.


How to Install and Run a New Generator

Generally speaking, installing a new standby generator should be left to the professionals. Because of the immense amount of electricity that they output, only a professional electrician or generator installation team should be trusted to connect your unit to your home's electric grid properly. However, this video guide can give you an idea of the steps involved in this process.

Meanwhile, operating your generator safely is of the utmost importance. Safe operation begins at the installation step, though, as your unit should never operate in an enclosed space due to the risk of dangerous gas build-ups. Also, placement in proximity to your home can make a major difference when it comes to fire hazard reduction. This video guide will provide you with further insights on this front.


Frequently Asked Questions

What type of maintenance is needed for standby generators?
Often, the company that installed your standby generator can also provide it with maintenance. This includes evaluating its fuel system and checking its enclosure for undesirable corrosion. This guide can give you a general idea of what to ask for on this front, as well as how often you’ll need to schedule maintenance.
How do I ensure that my generator will not bother my neighbors?
Try to find a standby generator that produces as little noise as possible while in operation. This is especially true if you’ll need to install your generator in some proximity to your neighbor’s home, such as near a property line or fence.
What is the importance of a generator transfer switch?
A transfer switch plays a vital role when it comes to safely initiating your generator when a power outage occurs. Without it, your in-home appliances may experience a dangerous power surge when the generator kicks on. Utility repair teams may also be at risk in the future if a transfer switch is not available. Read this guide as it will explain this importance in greater detail.
How do I correctly size a home generator?
“Sizing” your home generator comes down chiefly to your home’s power needs. Essentially, your chosen generator should be able to supply more than enough power to all of your home’s essential electric appliances. Consumer Reports can take you through this evaluation process as well as provide suggestions for appliances that you may consider essential.
How much should I budget for a standby generator?
Based upon today's market values, you can expect to pay anywhere as low as a couple thousand dollars or as high as $11,000 for a fully-capable standby generator. However, those looking to budget for a standby generator should also factor in installation costs, which may add several hundred more dollars to the final price tag.
What safety precautions should I undertake when running a generator?
Specific safety precautions will differ from unit to unit, depending on their size and fuel source. However, all generator owners should adhere to the recommendations of their generator’s manufacturer before utilizing it for the first time. Storm preparation information can provide you with more specifics on this front.

Conclusion

If you didn’t know before, then it should be clear now – a standby generator is the best way to keep your home well-lit and climate-controlled when a power outage strikes your neighborhood. You now know what to look for in a top-performing standby generator, too, so you should be ready to pick out a model for immediate installation next to your home.

But if you still need a final recommendation, then you should definitely go with the Generac 7043. This affordable model is sized to fit into almost any installation environment and still manages to provide one of the most reliable mid-range wattage outputs on the market today.

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