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Best Portable Generator Reviews – Ultimate Guide 2019

The best portable generator can power up your caravan, home, or job site. But finding the best model on the market is hard if you’re not sure what to look for.

Power generators come in multiple styles, sizes, and power ratings.

To make things even more complicated, each application has its requirements. Powering up your home or business requires more watts than an RV. 

Here's a list of Portable Generators on the Market

Then, you must consider the generator’s power source, its runtime, and a few other essential features.

The quantity of things to consider and the number of generators to choose from are overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. We roamed the market for you, found and rated the best portable generators. Check out our top picks below, then read our guide and learn how to pick the one that best suits your needs.


Top 10 Best Portable Generator Reviews

Our exclusive guide features heavy- and light-duty portable generators for backup or recreational use. Scroll down to read our best portable generator reviews, check our comparison tables and guide.


Best Heavy-Duty Portable Generator Reviews

Starting watts - 12,000

Running watts -   9,500

Starting watts – 10,000

 Running watts -   8,000

Starting watts – 10,000

 Running watts -   8,000

Starting watts – 10,000

 Running watts -   8,000

Starting watts - 5,250

 Running watts - 4,250

Fuel type - Gasoline/Propane Tank capacity – 8.3 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 8 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 6.6 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 8.3 gallons

Fuel type – Gasoline/Propane

Tank capacity – 4 gallons

Run time @ 50% load - 10 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 12 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 16 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 10 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load – 12 hrs.

Noise level – 72 dB

Noise level – 77 dB

Noise level – 73 dB

Noise level – 72 dB

Noise level – 78 dB

Weight – 340 lbs.

Weight – 204 lbs.

Weight - 192 lbs.

Weight – 260 lbs.

Weight – 115 lbs.

Warranty – 3-year residential

Warranty – 1-year limited

Warranty - 3-year limited

Warranty – 3-year residential

Warranty - 1-year limited

Price - $$$$$

Price - $$$$

Price - $$$

Price - $$

Price - $


1. DuroMax XP12000EH

The DuroMax XP12000EH guarantees maximum versatility and operation freedom to residential and commercial users alike. It runs on both gasoline and propane, and the manufacturer is renowned for its components built to last.

The first thing that stands out is the robust frame which incorporates four-point fully isolated motor mounts designed for quiet operation. An intuitive control panel appeals even to the less experienced users, while a series of add-ons, including a circuit breaker and volt meter, boost safety and prolong the unit’s lifespan.

DuroMax XP10000EH

This power generator is ideal for heavy-duty use, either as a home backup system or on a job site. It outputs a running power of 9,500 watts and 12,000 surge watts, sufficient for powering up a large household or commercial premises.

Another thing we liked is the generous runtime of up to 10 hours at 50% load on gasoline, which doubles if you choose to run the unit on propane.

Sturdy all-terrain wheels, a folding handle and well-balanced center of gravity also ensure an easy transport from one place to another, despite the unit’s weight. Intuitive to use, capable of running for over 30 hours, and durable, the XP12000EH deliver all you could wish from a best-in-class pick.

PROS

  • This workhorse is powered by a 457cc OHV engine capable of outputting up to 12,000 surge watts.
  • Individual breakers prevent overloading and keep the system safe.
  • An electric start and recoil backup ensure an easy start of the unit regardless of the environmental conditions.
  • A low noise level and noise-reducing muffler make the generator safe to use in the US National Parks.
  • Multiple receptacles ensure suitability for a wide range of applications.

CONS

  • The no-flat tires are less resistant than advertised.

DuroMax XP12000EH Video Review


2. Pulsar PG10000

Capable of outputting up to 15 horsepower and 10,000 surge watts, the Pulsar PG10000 is one of those portable generators constructed to handle heavy-duty applications on a job site or at home. It runs on gasoline, and the 8-gallon tank can hold sufficient fuel for up to twelve hours of uninterrupted operation on a 50% load.

Like most portable generators, this beast serves many purposes. You can use it as a backup system for your home, or connect it to your RV for recreational applications.

Pulsar PG10000

An assortment of receptacles allows you to use the unit on 30 and 50-amp circuits for powering up 120V and 240V tools and appliances or recharging 12V direct current batteries.Besides the technical capabilities, the unit is also easy to use, thanks to the intuitive control panel.

A three-in-one digital meter helps monitor the runtime and load, while safety features include a circuit breaker and low oil indicator.

Ideal for most users, the unit also offers a great balance between value and money. It can power up to five big appliances at a time; it has a keyless electric start and a dual handle for enhanced mobility. Furthermore, the no-flat tires will give you peace of mind on all terrains.

Slightly weaker than our favorite pick but still capable of powering up a large household in case of an outage, the Pulsar PG10000 brings no doubt the best value for money.

PROS

  • 420cc engine outputs up to 15 horsepower and continuous running power of up to 8,000 watts.
  • Multiple receptacles and RV outlets ensure suitability for all projects and applications.
  • Easy to use and easy to transport thanks to the dual handle design and no-flat tires.
  • The keyless electric start comes with a maintenance-free battery for hassle-free installation and ready to use right out of the box.
  • Available in sizes from 2,000 to 10,000 watts.

CONS

  • This generator is not CARB compliant and doesn’t hold an energy start certificate.
  • The instructions manual is incomplete.

Pulsar PGB10000 Video Review


3. Westinghouse WGen7500

Like the PG10000 above, the WGen7500 is powered by a 420cc engine capable of outputting up to 9,500 watts of surge power. With 7,500 running watts, this generator is ideal to use as a backup system or for work or recreational purposes.

Durable construction provides reliability in all circumstances. The unit comes with two ground fault circuit interrupters and covered outlets for added safety, while the plug-and-play design incorporates a remote start key fob for added convenience.

This power generator is ideal for heavy-duty use, either as a home backup system or on a job site.

Westinghouse WGen7500

It outputs a running power of 9,500 watts and 12,000 surge watts, sufficient for powering up a large household or commercial premises.

Another thing we liked is the generous runtime of up to 10 hours at 50% load on gasoline, which doubles if you choose to run the unit on propane.

Sturdy all-terrain wheels, a folding handle and well-balanced center of gravity also ensure an easy transport from one place to another, despite the unit’s weight. Intuitive to use, capable of running for over 30 hours, and durable, the XP12000EH deliver all you could wish from a best-in-class pick.

PROS

  • This workhorse is powered by a 457cc OHV engine capable of outputting up to 12,000 surge watts.
  • Individual breakers prevent overloading and keep the system safe.
  • An electric start and recoil backup ensure an easy start of the unit regardless of the environmental conditions.
  • A low noise level and noise-reducing muffler make the generator safe to use in the US National Parks.
  • Multiple receptacles ensure suitability for a wide range of applications.

CONS

  • The no-flat tires are less resistant than advertised.

Westinghouse WGen7500 Video Review


4. Durostar DS10000E

EPA-approved but not CARB compliant, the Durostar DS10000E is a dependable power generator to consider for your home or business needs. It runs on gasoline and holds up to 8.3 gallons of fuel, sufficient for powering your tools or appliances for up to ten hours at 50% load.

Designed with the residential user in mind, this generator boasts a fairly low noise level and outputs up to 8,000 continuous watts. The 10,000 watts of surge power makes it ideal for heavy appliances, while the incorporated safety features make it ideal for beginners and experienced users alike.

Durostar DS10000E

Among them, we can mention the circuit breaker and oil warning light; furthermore, the unit has a volt meter and sufficient power outlets to withstand most applications.

Like the power generators above, the DS10000E has an RV receptacle and is ideal to use for recreational purposes, outdoor parties, or events. The heavy-duty frame and 4-point isolated motor mounts are two other things that appeal to consumers.

Powerful, easy to use, and well balanced, this is another great generator to consider for heavy-duty use.

PROS

  • This portable generator is safe and easy to operate. It comes with a low oil shutoff and built-in spark arrestor.
  • 50-amp heavy-duty outlet allows using the generator with an RV and heavy duty tools and appliances.
  • Four-point isolated motor mounts keep the engine stable and reduce the level of vibrations.
  • A quiet exhaust system reduces the overall noise level. However, this machine is still louder than average.

CONS

  • The instructions are incomplete and lack clarity.

DuroStar DS10000E Video Review


5. Pulsar PG5250B

The smallest portable generator in our heavy-duty category is the Pulsar PG5250B, a dual fuel generator running on propane and gasoline. The unit has a maximum output of 5,250 watts on gasoline and a rated power of 4,250 watts, sufficient for powering up a job site, workshop, or small household.

Like all heavy-duty generators in this list, the PG5250B comes with an RV port and multiple receptacles for 120V and 240V appliances and tools. Furthermore, a 12V DC outlet even allows you to charge your batteries.

Pulsar PG5250B

Fold-Down handle design and 10-inch never-flat wheels ensure mobility and easy storage, and despite the unit’s weight, the balanced center of gravity makes it easy to move it from one place to another.

But the greatest feature this generator comes with is the Switch & Go technology which allows you to turn from gasoline to propane with a simple switch of a knob and without turning off the unit.

This means you can prolong the run time to over 24 hours by using both fuels. The four-gallon gasoline tank holds sufficient fuel for up to 12 hours of continuous operation at 50% load.

Besides all the above, the unit also comes with a three-in-one digital meter, a low oil indicator and low oil shutdown for hassle-free operation.

PROS

  • Powder-coated steel frame resists weather and elements, guaranteeing durability and reliability.
  • Patented Switch & Go technology allows transitioning from gasoline to LPG without turning off the generator.
  • Box includes a convenient propane hose and all accessories needed for safe operation.
  • Powered by 224cc OHV air-cooled engine.
  • Intuitive control panel and safety features make it easy to use even by the novice.

CONS

  • The generator has a recoil pull start only.
  • Loud operation

Pulsar PG5250B Video Review


Best Light-Duty Portable Generator Reviews

Starting watts - 2,200

Running watts – 1,800 

Starting watts – 2,000

 Running watts – 1,600

Starting watts – 4,000

Running watts – 3,500

Starting watts – 4,400

Running watts – 3,500

Starting watts – 3,000

Running watts – 2,600

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity - .95 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 1 gallon

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 3.8 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 4 gallons

Fuel type - Gasoline

Tank capacity – 1.5 gallons

Run time @ 50% load - 6.4 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 5 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 11 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load - 8 hrs.

Run time @ 50% load – 5 hrs.

Noise level – 57 dB

Noise level – 52 dB

Noise level – 68 dB

Noise level – 69 dB

Noise level – 59 dB

Weight – 46.5 lbs.

Weight – 47.41 lbs.

Weight - 124.6 lbs.

Weight – 130 lbs.

Weight – 85 lbs.

Warranty – 3-year limited

Warranty – 1-year limite2

Warranty - 3-year limited

Warranty – 3-year residential

Warranty - 2-year residential

Price - $$$$$

Price - $$$

Price - $$

Price - $

Price - $$$$


6. Honda EU2200i

When a heavy-duty power generator is too much, the Honda EU2200i could be the best alternative. This compact generator is ideal to use as a backup system for sensitive appliances, for recreational purposes, or to power up a couple of power tools on a job site.

The unit is quieter than a vacuum cleaner and perfect to use in all areas. It comes with a reliable Honda engine capable of outputting 2,200 surge watts and 1,800 continuous power, while the RV port makes it ideal for camping and outdoor parties.

Honda EU2200i

Designed with fuel efficiency in mind, this unit comes with an Eco-throttle system which increases the fuel efficiency. The generator can run up to 9.6 hours on a single tank and is great to use as a night backup system.

The inverter technology also ensures a stable energy production. This generator is perfect for sensitive appliances and can serve as a backup system for life-supporting devices. Other devices, such as your PC or game console may also benefit from this technology.

Small, lightweight, and easy to handle, the EU2200i is also compatible to run in parallel with another generator. If you need more power, just connect two Honda EU2200i with a cable and enjoy up to 4,400 surge watts.

PROS

  • Small fuel tank keeps the generator’s weight low, while the eco-throttle technology maximizes fuel efficiency.
  • Quiet operation ensures suitability to use in all areas and neighborhoods, including the national parks.
  • Reliable inverter technology outputs a constant flow of energy. This unit can power sensitive appliances.
  • Available in the standard design or camouflage finish for the outdoor enthusiasts.
  • CARB compliant model can be used in all 50 states.

CONS

  • The lack of a fuel gauge makes it hard to know when to refill the tank.
  • Although reliable, this generator is expensive.

Honda EU2200 Video Review


7. Atima AY2000i

A little smaller than the Honda generator above but also cheaper, the Atima AY2000i is a great alternative for the occasional user who’s looking for a generator for a small workshop, a few devices, or an RV.

Just like the Honda, this power generator has a parallel ready capacity which allows boosting the 2,000 surge watts capacity to 4,000. The running watts output by the unit reach 1,600, just what it takes to power up your TV, a laptop, or a life-supporting device.

Ideal for camping or home use, this portable generator is also lightweight and easy to transport. A convenient handle allows you to take it from one place to another.

Atima AY2000i

Its industrial design ensures durability and reliability in the long run. The body is made of aluminum alloy, while ergonomic details distinguish the unit from the mass. Furthermore, the unit incorporates the inverter technology, providing constant electricity for your sensitive appliances.

Besides all the above, we must also mention the extended runtime which gives you plenty of time to enjoy recreational activities or finish your work. This unit can run up to 10 hours on 25% load, while the quiet operation allows you to enjoy your activities.

PROS

  • High start-up load allows covering a wide variety of electronics. You can use this generator to power up an energy efficient refrigerator or TV, to name just a few.
  • Stylish design makes the unit perfect to integrate into your home or office. This generator is also perfect for a workshop or RV.
  • Available in 2,000 and 3,000 surge watts options, for smaller or larger applications.
  • Inverter technology allows using this unit with sensitive appliances.

CONS

  • Easy to overload.

Atima AY2000i Video Review


8. Champion 46539

Somewhere mid-way between light- and a heavy-duty generator, the Champion 46539 addresses most consumers. This unit is powerful enough to handle a job site and most home appliances, yet compact enough to transport and use with ease.

From an aesthetic point of view, the generator resembles its biggest heavy-duty counterparts. It consists of a heavy-duty powder-coated steel frame that houses a 196cc single-cylinder OHV engine manufactured by the same company.

Champion 46539

Outputting 3,500 running watts, the generator is powerful enough to handle two RV air conditioners of 15,000 BTU each, while the 4,000 surge power is sufficient for most heavy-duty appliances.

Ideal for a small household, workshop, or job site, this generator is also easy to transport despite its heavier heft.

A useful mobility kit with no-flat tires and a foldable handle makes it easy to push or pull the unit as needed, while the electric start with recoil backup makes starting the unit a breeze.

Like most heavy-duty generators, this unit comes with an intuitive control panel and plenty receptacles. It can handle multiple appliances or power tools at once and comes with safety features including a circuit breaker and overload shutoff, to name just a few.

PROS

  • Built-in volt guard prevents overloads and keeps the equipment safe in case of current fluctuations.
  • Comes with four 120-volt outlets, including an RV outlet and two household outlets.
  • Easy to transport and use, is ideal for camping and outdoor partying events, and more.
  • A low-oil shutoff sensor prolongs the motor’s lifespan and prevents it from overheating if the unit runs out of oil.
  • CARB compliant unit.

CONS

  • This generator needs constant maintenance.

Champion 46539 Video Review


9. Durostar DS4400E

The Durostar DS4400E is another great generator for light and medium-duty use you can employ instead of the unit above. It has a higher surge power, which provides you with the perfect start wattage for heavier duty appliances, and outputs 3,500 running watts, sufficient for powering a few appliances or power tools.

Build-wise, the generator is similar to the unit above. It has a heavy-duty construction which makes it ideal for a job site or workshop. Perfect to use for a wide range of applications; the unit comes with multiple outlets and a quiet exhaust with built-in spark arrestor.

Durostar DS4400E

A heavy-duty frame protects the engine and holds it firmly thanks to the 4-point fully isolated mounts.

Furthermore, we also liked the low oil indicator lamp and shutoff. The control panel is intuitive and easy to use, while the frame is well balanced, promoting mobility. Included are also a pair of all-terrain wheels and a folding handle.

PROS

  • An electric start makes the unit easy to use by anyone, while the recoil backup ensures you’ll be able to start the generator even without a battery.
  • The unit runs for up to 8 hours at 50% load.
  • Safety features include a low-oil shutoff and overload shutoff.
  • Quiet muffler reduces the noise level; at the same time, the unit is full EPA and CARB compliant.

CONS

  • Despite the quiet muffler, this generator is very loud.

10. Briggs & Stratton 30545

Compact and smart, the Briggs & Stratton generator is ideal for recreational use yet powerful enough to run a few appliances. It outputs 3,000 watts surge power and 2,600 running watts, just perfect for a backyard workshop or an RV.

Running on gasoline, the unit boasts a reliable engine manufactured by the industry’s giant. This means the components are built to last, and your generator won’t let you down when you most need it.

Able to run up to 10 hours on 25% load, the Briggs & Stratton also impresses with a 1.5-gallon fuel tank.

Briggs & Stratton 30545

 An LCD screen allows you to monitor the runtime and fuel level, while the smart remote start allows you to operate the unit from a distance.

Multiple receptacles ensure suitability for a host of applications. This generator comes with an RV adaptor, DC charging station, and a convenient USB port.

We also like the telescopic luggage-style handle and 6-inch all-terrain wheels which ensure easy transportation to the campsite or tailgate. Furthermore, the unit even incorporates the inverter technology and is perfect to use as a backup power source at the office.

PROS

  • Compact design is easy to transport and store. It comes with all-terrain wheels and a handle.
  • Last-generation engine runs quietly and boasts fuel consumption management and minimum emissions.
  • Parallel port compatibility allows you to run two generators at the same time, to maximize power.
  • Although compact, the unit boasts four household outlets for 120V appliances, a 12V DC outlet, and a USB port.
  • Powered by a 171cc Briggs & Stratton engine. The unit is CARB compliant and can be used in all states.

CONS

  • This unit incorporates some plastic elements which make it look flimsy.
  • The unit doesn’t have an electric start. Nonetheless, it starts instantly when the recoil rope is pulled.

Briggs & Stratton 30545 Video Review


Why Invest In a Portable Generator?

When choosing the outage backup system for a home or business, most people think of the full-size, fixed generators to install in their premises. But a portable generator could be a more versatile solution.

Besides backing up your home or business in case of a blackout, a portable generator may serve you for recreational purposes, or to power up a job site. Below, a few of the most popular uses.

1. Backup Power System

Whether it’s your home or business, when the main power supply goes off you’ll need a backup system to deal with your energy needs. In the lack of it, your house could overheat, fresh supplies in your fridge or freezer could go bad, and you won’t be able to stay connected with the world due to the lack of connectivity.

The same could happen in a business. Whether it’s a restaurant in need to keep ingredients fresh or an office relying on internet connection, the lack of electricity could seriously damage your source of income.

But the best portable generator can keep you safe from all this. When a blackout strikes, just power up your backup system, and you’re good to go. Heavy-duty generators can output over 12,000 running watts, and some of them even provide 15,000 running watts or more.

These figures are typically sufficient for powering up loads of appliances and devices, power tools, and even life-supporting machines.

A portable backup system also comes in handy in remote areas. The generator is typically easy to transport. Most machines run on either gasoline, diesel, or propane. Some have dual fuel capabilities, and some can even be connected to a natural gas pipe.

So, if bad weather causes a shortage in your main power supply, the generator can heat your mountain cabin during winter, and keep your appliances running during bad weather, storms, or calamities.

2. Business Power Supply

Not all businesses are connected to the main power supply. For instance, you can be a contractor working on job sites with no access to the main electricity. Or perhaps you have a food truck you drive from place to place in search of new clients.

These are just two types of businesses that could benefit from a portable generator.

Other examples include food stalls and other temporary structures, including those set up for events or weddings. If your business needs power on the go, a portable generator gives you the best way to provide that power to your business.

3. Recreational Power Supply

Perhaps the greatest use for a portable generator is to provide power to a recreational vehicle or campsite. But there are many other recreational activities that require energy. For instance, you can use a generator to power up your electric grill, if you live in a condo where barbecuing on a charcoal or propane grill is forbidden.

If you like road trips, a portable generator can give you the necessary power to operate a slow-cook pot or a coffee maker. You’ll be able to use your RV’s air conditioning system to chill off on the hottest days.

On the contrary, if you like going camping, you can use a portable generator to charge your electronic devices, or to power a small tent light.

As you can see, a portable power generator has multiple purposes, and you can use it all year round, even when there are no outages. If you’re now convinced such a machine is for you, have an in-depth look at the various styles you could consider.


Types of Portable Generators

Portable generators run on either fossil fuel or solar batteries. A few models may be powered by rechargeable batteries, but these are often a rarity. In general terms, we can define the six types of generators below.

Gas-Powered Generators

Perhaps the most popular, gas-powered generators run on gasoline. They come in various styles and sizes, from small generators outputting around 2,000 maximum watts, to heavy-duty units that can generate over 15,000 running watts.

Various generator sizes vary widely in design, from compact and lightweight to cumbersome and heavy. However, all well-build gas generators are portable. The heavier units typically come with mobility kits consisting of wheels and collapsible handles that ensure an easy transport from one place to another.

Smaller units are usually equipped with carrying handles, and most models are lightweight enough to carry by hand.

The main advantage of these units is fuel availability. Gasoline has a rather short life but is readily available at the gas station. You’ll only have to fill the fuel tank and start the generator.

On the downside, these generators emit noxious gases and are not environmentally friendly. They are also hard to start in cold climates and require constant maintenance.

Diesel-Powered Generators

Diesel-powered generators are similar in design with their heavy-duty gas-powered counterparts. However, they are usually more powerful, and the fuel used is less flammable, which means it’s less hazardous to store.

Diesel generators are known for their long lifespan and output capabilities, yet they are less popular for two reasons.

On the one hand, these generators emit even more noxious fumes than the gas-powered. Their daily use should be limited to only a few hours, and most diesel generators are not CARB-compliant.

On the other hand, diesel generators are much more expensive. The price is often justified by the longer lifespan, but most homeowners find these machines prohibitively priced. On the bright side, such a generator is more suitable for powering up a busy job site or very large household.

Propane-Powered Generators

Propane generators come as an alternative to both gas and diesel. They are the cheapest to buy and run but come with adjacent hazards and downsides.

To start with the positive traits, propane generators are affordable. You can run them in all weathers, and they typically do well in cold temperatures. Propane also burns slower, which means these machines are fuel-efficient.

In fact, most propane generators can run for almost twice as long than a gas or diesel generator, which is a big advantage in case of calamities.

On the downside, propane is a highly flammable fuel that comes in pressurized tanks. It is easy to procure, but the tank can explode in extreme conditions. Another downside is the complexity of these systems.

They don’t have a fuel tank but a system of tubes you’ll have to connect to the propane tank.

This poses further hazards to the less experienced users, as propane could leak and burst into flames.

Subject to frequent failure and weaker than the other two types of generators, the propane generators are perhaps the less popular.

Dual-Powered Generators

This style of generators run on both gasoline and propane and are typically preferred by those aiming to keep the unit running without interruptions for as long as possible. These machines have particular engines that burn both types of fuel, and most of them can run for over 24 hours without refueling.

Some dual fuel generators even have the capability to connect to a natural gas supply. Although these machines are rare, if you’re aiming to use a generator as the main power source - perhaps if you’re living in a remote area - connecting your generator to a natural gas pipe could be the most cost-effective solution in the long run.

Solar-Powered Generators

As their name suggests, solar power generators use solar energy to produce electricity. They work more or less like the solar panels, and most come with rechargeable batteries you can recharge via USB or directly from the main outlet.

These generators are typically small and rarely produce over 5,000 peak watts. They are ideal for camping and recreational purposes, but you can also use them to back up a PC or laptop, either at home or at the office.

The best part of the solar generators is their portability. Solar-powered generators are compact and lightweight. They often fit in a suitcase and are easy to transport by hand. Some of them have wheels and telescopic handles, and many can connect to most appliances and even to the RVs.

Inverter Generators

A special category of generators includes the inverters. These machines run on either fossil fuel or solar energy and technically do the same thing as any other power generator. The main difference consists in how the direct current is converted into alternating current.

Last generation inverters convert DC into a smooth sine wave that limits the harmonic distortion and protects sensitive appliances from current fluctuations.

These generators are ideal to use for all sensitive appliances, including life-supporting devices. They are often used as emergency generators in healthcare facilities, but can also serve into an office.

Most inverters are compact and often produce up to 5,000 surge watts, although there are some exceptions.


Essential Guide to Choosing the Best Portable Power Generator

You now know what to use a portable generator for and which types of generators you can choose from. But the hard part is about to begin. You might have decided the use and perhaps the type of generator that most interests you, but is it truly the best portable generator for your needs?

Besides personal considerations, there are also a few objective criteria to account for when picking the right unit. From power requirements to budget and warranty, here is all you need to know.

Power

Assessing power is perhaps the most difficult step in choosing the best portable generator. The market offers a bountiful range of models, from small generators that can only power up a laptop or mobile device to full-size units capable of powering a very large household or a job site.

It is easy to understand that different applications require different powers. A small unit is typically enough for recreational purposes but insufficient as a backup system. To determine which is the right unit for you, you’ll have to calculate your real power needs as shown below.

How much power do I need?

We have talked above about the main uses of a power generator. For the sake of consistency, we’re going to use the same system to talk about your power needs.

1. Backup Power System

Most households and businesses have similar backup power requirements, but choosing the adequate model requires you to consider how many and which appliances or devices you want to run at a time.

Most homeowners need a generator powerful enough to supply energy to at least a refrigerator, TV, and either a heater or A/C system. For these energy needs, a portable generator capable of outputting around 5,000 watts is sufficient.

If you’re using a pump to draw water from a well and still power all the appliances above contemporarily, you’ll need a generator capable of outputting at least 7,500 watts. In broad terms, the most popular appliances need.

  • 1,400 watts – fridge/freezer
  • 200 watts – plasma TV
  • 3,800 watts – 24,000 BTU air conditioner
  • 1,500 watts – space heater
  • 4,500 watts – electric water heater
  • 100 watts – laptop

To assess your power needs, sum up the watts of all appliances you want to use, considering their maximum (surge) wattage requirements and see what size of generator you need.

Don’t forget to add to the final count the wattage requirements of any light bulbs you might want to use.

Obviously, the easiest way to maximize fuel efficiency and run as many appliances as you want at a time is to invest in energy efficient appliances.

2. Business Power Supply

If you’re running a food business or powering up an event, assessing your power needs is similar to the above. Consider what appliances and devices you want to run contemporarily, sum up their surge watt requirements, and decide which is the best portable generator for you.

Things are slightly different if you need a portable generator for a job site.

Power tools have different watt requirements, and most manufacturers don’t disclose this information in the product’s manual.

Luckily, there is a simple formula you can use to assess your tool’s wattage. Manufacturers always disclose the product’s amperage and voltage. Multiply the two figures, and you’ve got the tool’s wattage.

Now, you’ll only have to do the same thing for each power tool you own and want to operate at the same time. Smaller job sites and workshops might not need a generator bigger than 7,500 watts, but for heavy-duty operations, we recommend at least 10,000 watts.

3. Recreational Power Supply

The outdoorsy type might need a portable generator for their tent, or to power up an RV. In the former case, a small solar generator could suffice. Fossil-fuel-powered generators up to 3,000 watts are also a great alternative.

These units are usually sufficient for powering your light bulbs, a kettle, and maybe a grill or slow cooker.

RVs, however, require more energy. A vehicle’s air conditioner can consume up to 3,000 watts on its own. Then, you’ll have appliances and devices that need power. In this case, we recommend a bigger unit capable of outputting at least 4,500 surge watts.

Run Time

Portable generator manufacturers typically express the runtime at either 50% or 25% load. In other words, if a manufacturer says the generator can run up to 10 hours on a 50% load, it will run for only 5 hours if you load it at full capacity, or for longer if you apply an even smaller load.

When choosing the right generator for you, it is important to assess the desired runtime, which determines how long the generator can run before you have to refuel.

If you’re looking for a home or backup system, you want to choose a generator with a long runtime. This because in case of calamities, it could be difficult to source any fuel unless you already have it.

Our advice is to invest in a dual-fuel generator that can run uninterruptedly for at least 24 hours.

Recreational and business applications don’t require such a long runtime, though. In this case, you must sit and think for how long you want the generator to run, then search a suitable unit.  

Two factors that influence the runtime are the fuel tank size and fuel efficiency.

Fuel tank size

Portable generators come with tanks of all sizes, from 1-gallon or under to 10-gallon or over. It’s obvious that the larger the tank, the longer the motor will run before requiring a refill. However, a large tank isn’t necessarily better in terms of mobility.

Most portable generators have steel tanks. The choice of material is justified by its durability, but its weight can put a heavy burden on the mobility features. If you have a slim constitution and lack physical force, a big tank usually means your portable generator is not portable for you.

There aren’t many things to do, and you’ll just have to find the best compromise between tank size and weight.

Fuel efficiency 

A fuel efficient generator with a smaller tank can run as long as a generator with a big tank that is not fuel efficient.

We’re not going to talk about the type of fuel. It was already established that some fuels are more efficient than others. But some generators have fuel efficiency features, such as the idle throttle which reduces the fuel consumption if the generator is running without a load.

Some technologically advanced units can even modulate the fuel consumption based on the loads applied.

Supported Loads

Deciding how many watts you need and the runtime is not enough. You must also assess how many and what type of receptacles you need.

Again, the more receptacles you have, the more appliances you can plug into the generator.

Most heavy-duty generators have at least four 120V outlets, one of which is almost always dedicated to the RV. 120V/240V twist-and-lock receptacles are also frequently employed by manufacturers, while 12V DC ports are typically the norm.

Some generators even have dedicated 240V ports, although this is encountered less frequently.

Smaller generators come with 120V, 12V DC and RV receptacles, but only a few have 240V capabilities.

When choosing the right number and type of receptacles, remember that it’s not recommended to use all of them. For instance, if you want to run three appliances, it is wiser to invest in a generator with at least five outlets.

Things are different for the small generators used for recreational purposes. Most devices have low wattage requirements, so you’ll be able to employ all receptacles at the same time without overloading the circuit.

Build

It is now time to assess the overall quality of the build. Small portable generators are often made of aluminum, a lightweight yet resistant material, easier to transport by hand.

Heavier-duty units are usually made of steel. Since this material is prone to rust, it is essential to pick a powder-coated unit that is treated with an anti-rust coating. It is equally essential to check the joints and make sure they are smooth and well covered by the paint.

The motor is often fixed to the frame with screws. We recommend investing in a unit with a four-point mounted motor, as these generators tend to be quieter.

Two important features to check when picking the right generator are the control panel and the mobility features.

Controls

Regardless of how accustomed you are to handle a portable generator, it is essential to invest in a unit that is easy to use. The control panel must be intuitive and easily accessible. If it’s placed in an awkward position, hard to reach, or complicated, move on and search another generator.

The ease of use is important especially if you’re buying the unit for home use because some members of your family could not know how to operate a generator.

Experts advise to only invest in a unit that can be operated by a kid.

Fossil fuel generators with electric start come with more advantages over those with recoil start only, as they are easier to ignite in cold weather.

Mobility features

Undoubtedly, the most important feature of a portable generator is mobility. Heavier duty generators are a heavy and cumbersome machine, but mobility is often unrelated to their weight and size.

The important feature is the unit’s balance. A well-balanced generator weighing 200 pounds is easier to maneuver than a 100-pound generator that is imbalanced.

You must also check the wheels and handle/s. No-flat wheels equip most generators, but they aren’t necessarily your best bet. These wheels go flat despite their name, but you won’t be able to fix them with a tire repair kit.

If you want to use the generator in an area with rocky terrain, conventional tires could be a better choice. Otherwise, you will have to change the tires each time they go flat.

Safety

Lastly, another thing to consider is safety. Choose a portable generator with overload shutoff and circuit breaker. The first protects the engine, prolonging its lifespan, the later protects the appliances, preventing any damage caused by current fluctuations.

Another important feature is the low oil shutoff, another feature designed to protect the generator’s motor.

Additional Features

The best portable generators come with additional features meant to improve your user experience. They are not a must-have, and there are many generators lacking them that are perfect choices in terms of quality, durability, and performance.

Yet, we really like the generators that also feature:

  • Remote control: Some high-end models come with remote controls that allow you to start and stop the unit from a distance. This feature allows you to ignite the unit from the comfort of your home instead of getting out in the blizzard to power up your home.
  • Remote monitoring: Portable generators with remote monitoring are even better than those with remote control only. These machines communicate with dedicated apps and transmit you important data regarding their load, fuel consumption, runtime, and overall efficiency.
  • Fuel and oil gauge: You can be the most experienced user of generators, chances are you may miss refilling the oil or forget to add fuel. But dedicated gauges can help you monitor the fuel and oil levels to prevent surprises.

What Else To Have In Mind?

You now know how to choose a portable generator, but is that it? Apparently, no! There are a few other things to have in mind, such as the emissions and suitability for using it in the area where you live, the availability of the customer service, the warranty, and finally, your budget.

Emissions

All portable generators running on fossil fuel are responsible for greenhouse-gases emission. The government regulates the standards manufacturers have to follow when making their generators, and incompliances may result in you getting a hefty fine for using a generator you couldn’t have used.

An EPA certificate is the minimum you need, and all generators selling in the US must be EPA certified.

If you live in California, things are even more complicated, as you can’t use a generator that is not CARB-compliant. Check the manual or specifications of the model you like before investing, to avoid surprises.

The only generators that use green energy are the solar generators, and we highly recommend investing in one if you have low power requirements and care about the environment.

Customer service

Most consumers neglect the existence of customer service when buying a new product, but this is one of the most important things to check.

Problems can happen, and if you don’t know who to contact regarding warranty, you might as well invest in a new unit.

Typically, the portable generators manufactured by reputable brands benefit from solid customer support which includes assistance and service as needed. Also, check if the manufacturer support ends when the warranty expires. Ideally, invest in a unit that comes with lifetime customer service.

Warranty

Most manufacturers offer different types of warranties for residential, commercial, and industrial use. Given the price of these machines, the minimum warranty you want for residential use is three years, but make sure to read the fine print and see what’s included. Commercial warranties usually cover 24 months.

A handful of models come with longer warranties that can exceed three years.

Budget

Last but not least, you’ll have to consider your budget. A pricy generator isn’t necessarily the best, but the most powerful ones will no doubts cost you some bucks. The best thing to do is to assess your needs and find the right balance between value and money. If you don’t know what to choose, know that we picked all generators featured in this list following exactly this criteria.


Bottom Line

There are many circumstances when a portable power supply comes in handy. We know that finding the best portable generator is no easy task, but hopefully this guide can help you find the right model for you.

Our best portable generator reviews feature only reliable models manufactured by well-established brands. They are all praised for their durability and performance, and many of them are both EPA and CARB compliant.

Besides analyzing the features and benefits of the proposed models, we also showed you what to look for when picking the best unit for you. You should now know which are the best portable generators and how to pick the right one for your needs.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!


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