Whether you are preparing for an impending hurricane or looking to make camping trips a little more comfortable, a portable generator is an excellent investment. A portable generator can help keep your home nice and toasty in the winter or cool as a cucumber in the summer. This item can also make sure you can still cook meals or charge your phone.
With the sheer number of portable generators available on today’s market, finding the best one may seem utterly impossible. We reviewed the top models and came up with ten offerings to keep you out of the dark. We have also created a buyer’s guide to help you understand the important details about generators, allowing you to make an informed decision about which portable generator is the best for your needs.
Selecting the Best Portable Generators in January, 2020
Champion RV Ready
22.8 x 22 x 30.7 inches
Champion Power Equipment
20 x 11.4 x 16.7 inches
19.7 x 11.4 x 17.9 inches
|Briggs & Stratton 30651|
22.4 x 14.4 x 19.9 inches
Briggs & Stratton
18 x 11 x 18 inches
7.9 x 6.5 x 5.7 inches
17.7 x 9.4 x 14.9 inches
20.3 x 12.5 x 17.8 inches
23 x 18 x 17.5 inches
36 x 24 x 24 inches
1. Champion RV Ready : Most Versatile Power Sources
While marketed towards RV owners for camping and glamping, it would also work perfectly during a storm, a power outage, or tailgating.
With enough power to run for 9 hours on gas or 10.5 hours on propane, you’ll be able to use and enjoy your appliances quickly and easily.
2. Honda EU2200i : Most Quiet Option
The Honda EU2200i makes less noise than your average conversation at just 48 to 57 dBA.
This option features the Honda GXR120 engine.
Its capable of running 2,200 watts and will be heavy on power while being low on sound.
3. Generac 7117 : Easiest to Use
With a built-in handle to make transportation of the generator a breeze and an integrated knob that is used to turn the unit off, on (run), or choke, it is a simpler set up.
Our testing team felt that this generator was the most user-friendly and best for those who are new to using portable generators.
4. Briggs & Stratton 30651 : Best for Sensitive Electronics Like Laptops or Gaming Consoles
This is thanks to its production of less than 3 percent total harmonic distortion.
One member of our testing team was able to use this generator to safely operate his Xbox One without any issues, overloading, or damage to the gaming console.
5. WEN 56200i : Best for Environmentally Conscious Shoppers
With 2,000 starting watts and 1,600 running watts, you’ll be sitting pretty in an emergency or while camping.
It runs at just 51 dBA to minimize noise disturbances to neighbors or wildlife, and limits total harmonic distortion to under one-third of one percent to keep your electronics safer.
6. Anker PowerHouse : Lightweight Option
This generator has 160 watts, so it is best suited for smaller jobs.
It can fully recharge your laptop 15 times or power a 15-volt light for well over 100 hours.
7. Yamaha EF1000iS : Long Lasting and Powerful Choice
This portable generator runs on 1,000 starting watts and can stay powered for up to 12 hours continuously.
It also features maximized fuel energy.
8. Westinghouse WH2200iXLT : Best All Around Choice
It is pretty quiet as well with only 52 dBA.
Our testing team was shocked at our silent this unit is considering its power and ability to run heavy-duty appliances.
9. DuroStar DS4000S : Awesome Budget Choice
It’s smaller than many other generators at just 1 ½ by 2 feet.
Don’t let the size fool you though because this generator runs at 3,300 watts.
10. DuroMax XP4400E : Most Versatile Option
It starts with an electric key.
This model features a super sturdy steel constructed frame and has two large tires to make transporting easy.
Best Portable Generators – Buyer’s Guide
Portable generators are an item that is often purchased just before or after a big storm, like a hurricane. Once you get it home, you’ll need to work quickly to get it up and running, most likely by candlelight or a flashlight. These conditions are less than optimal, for many reasons.
Our advice is to plan ahead before there’s an emergency or when you know you will need a portable generator for camping or a beach trip. Read through our reviews and this guide to learn what the essential points are in purchasing a portable generator. The best time to select one is before you need it and are rushed into a desperate decision.
What Do Portable Generators Do?
A portable generator offers a way to power items like your tv, lights, small appliances, or even a sump pump. You can use it at your home in case of a blackout or while camping. You could use it while tailgating to cook awesome brats and hamburgers for your fellow sports loving compadres. The possibilities are nearly limitless.
How Do Portable Generators Work?
The majority of portable generators run on liquid propane or gasoline. As technology has improved, solar powered options have also become available and are able to charge in as little as 6 hours by solar panel or around 18 hours when plugged in for charging through an AC plug. Since the state of the environment continues to be an ongoing concern, we expect more solar powered options to hit the market since they do not create emissions, making them safe to run in enclosed spaces or while camping in a forest.
If you plan to purchase a portable gas-powered generator, you will also need to purchase and use a fuel stabilizer if you will store it with gas inside. This will prevent corrosion, rusting, and other issues that could impede the use and performance. You should regularly clean, maintain, and test your portable generator to ensure it is ready when you need it. Most manufacturers recommend running the generator once a month to keep it in proper working order.
Portable generators are manufactured and sold based on their power output, which is measured in watts. The amount of power that a generator can deliver will be the determining factor of what you can supply power to. To power the basic appliances, you should plan on approximately 5,000 watts.
A great way to figure out what your power needs are is to write down a list of your essential appliances that you want to use if the power is out. Then, add up the total watts needed to get an idea of the wattage you will need the portable generator to provide. For reference, refrigerators require about 600 watts, a portable heater needs 1,500 watts, lights can use between 60 and 600 watts, a window air conditioning unit runs about 1,000 watts, and a computer uses between 60 and 300 watts. You should double check your appliance’s watt use to be one hundred percent confident in your needed usage.
What Are the Key Features of Portable Generators?
Portable generators come in a vast array of sizes and features. Some key features you may want to be sure your selection has included are:
- Outlets protected by circuit breakers which will help to prevent the generator overloading
- Fuel tanks in larger sizes to allow for longer use times
- Fuel gauges that are integrated to quell any interruptions in power
- Specially designed generators that offer safer power to keep your sensitive electronics such as your Android or iPhone, a laptop, a tablet, or desktop computer from being harmed
- Quiet mufflers that tone down the typically loud noise a generator produces while in use
- Easy transport with fold-down handles and wheels that move smoothly
You should take a few minutes to read the owner’s manual and instructions for your portable generator. Most companies also include online pdf copies that you can download directly to your cloud or store on your phone, tablet, or computer for safe keeping. In addition to the safety tips and procedures outlined in your manual, here are a few helpful tips.
The exhaust from a portable generator contains carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas that cannot be seen or smelled. To ensure that you and your loved ones are not in any danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, never run the generator indoors or in a partially enclosed area like a garage or shed. Instead, position it outside away from any windows, doors, crawl spaces, or vents. Place it somewhere where there is adequate ventilation. You can also use a fan to help disperse any carbon monoxide as an extra precaution. You may also want to install carbon monoxide alarms within your home, camper, or RV to stay safe.
Gas, Fuel, and Burn Prevention
Gas is by its very nature an extremely flammable and explosive substance. When filling the tank, take care to leave room for the fuel to expand. Do not overfill the tank as the fuel could leach into the engine and catch fire or cause an explosion. You should never attempt to add more fuel while the unit is running or hot as this can also cause accidents. Stored generators should be empty with no fuel since they could emit vapors that could potentially explode if there is an open flame, a spark, or if it is near a pilot light. You should also avoid smoking or use lighters, candles, or any products that flame nearby. Most portable generators have parts that get extremely hot. As a result, be careful not to touch hot surfaces as you could be afflicted with a serious burn.
You will also need to take care to avoid electrocution or electrical shocks. Using your household wiring to connect the portable generator can result in back feed which could injure you, your home, your neighbors, or even utility works. This also applies to plugging it into a normal household outlet. Always start and stop your portable generator when there aren’t any electrical loads connected.
Overloading the generator could cause irreparable damage to your electronics and appliances, so never overload it. Prioritize which appliances are most important and do not try to connect too many items. You will also need to purchase and use the proper cords to power your appliances. Selecting outdoor rated, heavy-duty power cords with a wire gauge that is adequate for the appliance load to avoid any potential issues like overloading or accidental fires.
You should never attempt to run your portable generator in the snow, rain, or any wet weather without ensuring first that it is properly protected from any elements. The generator must be properly grounded. If you fail to ground it correctly, it could result in electrocution. It’s also a good idea to double check on federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding the use of generators and grounding to avoid any pesky visits from law enforcement.
The Placement and Operation of Your Generator
- Keep kids and pets away from the generator at all times, whether it is currently in use or not
- Keep five feet of clearance surrounding your generator any time it is in use
- While the generator can be used in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions, you will need to shield it from wet weather and other elements to extend its life by preventing rusting or shorting
- Use it outside only, never indoors
- Regularly inspect the unit and contact the manufacturer or a nearby dealer for any parts that need to be repaired or replaced
- Use the generator on level surfaces where it is not in danger of coming into contact with too much moisture, dust, dirt, or vapors that may lead to corrosion
- Disconnect the spark plug and place it somewhere safe, away from the unit when not in use or during transport to prevent accidental starting
To recap, know how many watts you need by prioritizing which appliances are most important to run in case of an emergency or by what you need to use while camping or tailgating. Always follow proper safety instructions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Plan ahead since you can never be too prepared in case of an emergency situation.
We hope our reviews and buying guide were enlightening to help keep you out of the dark with a new portable generator. Keeping your power needs in mind will assist you in finding the perfect model. Don’t forget to leave us a comment below with your ideas and any stories about times you needed to use or used a portable generator.