ByMorgan Greenwald. Select is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time.
Whether you’re in an area that’s still getting hit by winter storms or you want to prepare for hurricane season, a portable generator is a great emergency tool worth investing in.
An emergency generator can produce enough power to keep your gadgets juiced and appliances running, even if you aren’t near a working outlet.
SKIP AHEAD Generators to shop | How to use a generator safely. Generators can run the gamut from small models that’ll power a few personal items to larger models that’ll keep your whole house powered without skipping a beat — if you aren’t well-versed in the latest generator tech, sifting through what’s available can be a lot.
Ultimately, experts said that you should figure out which electronics you want to power in order to determine the best portable generator for your needs.
Best for Hot Climates:Generac Protector QS 22 kW Standby Generator, Model RG022
Portable generators to shop in 2022
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Best Battery:Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station
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What is a portable generator?
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Best Budget:Generac PowerPact 7,500 Watt Standby Generator, Model 69981
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What to Look for in a Generator
Why Trust The Spruce?
“The end user needs to confirm what they want to be energized during a power outage and add up the watts to the best of their ability,” explained Angelo Cristofolo, manager of residential electrical sales and installations at Air Group, LLC.
We spoke to experts in the electrical industry about the different types of portable generators. We also rounded up some highly rated portable generators across various price points and wattages, and we consulted safety guidance from the U.S.
Department of Energy and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to outline how to safely use a generator. These days, there are two main types of portable generators: conventional generators and inverter generators, both of which can run on gasoline, propane or diesel fuels.
Propane isn’t as energy efficient as gasoline, but it performs better in colder weather and typically creates less engine maintenance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Neither portable generator should ever be used inside the house, as they can cause fires and produce potentially odorless and deadly carbon monoxide gas, the U.S.
Champion 9375/7500-Watt Electric Start Gas Portable Generator
- Department of Energy says. Conventional generators are the larger, louder and more powerful type of portable generator.
- They’re typically strong enough to power larger electronics and appliances like refrigerators and televisions.
- Inverter generators are smaller and less powerful than conventional generators, but they also provide cleaner energy and their engines power up or down depending on demand.
- “Most inverter generators are small so they are limited [in] what you can power up, but [they are] convenient, lightweight and efficient for small appliances and devices,” Cristofolo explained.
- Because inverter generators maintain a more consistent current, they also tend to be more expensive.
- Both conventional generators and inverter generators require refueling after a certain amount of time — often eight to 10 hours, depending on the load — so even with a few backup cans of gas, they’re ideal for shorter periods of time.
- That said, both types of generators vary in how much power they can put out.
- So, as you shop for the best generator for you, tally up how many watts of power you’ll need and buy accordingly.
- This chart from Lowe’s is a good starting point if you aren’t sure how much wattage you need.
- Some devices — like refrigerators and window AC units — have both running watts and starting watts to consider.
Best Standby:Champion 12.5-kW Home Standby Generator with 100-Amp Transfer Switch
Cristofolo explained that the starting watts are “that initial burst of power needed to start the [device],” while the running watts are what’s needed to keep the device powered.
The experts we spoke to said that conventional generators can be useful for powering an entire portion of the house, while inverter generators provide the clean energy needed for more sensitive electronics like cell phones.
Since portable generators often weigh hundreds of pounds, all of the options below either come with wheels or have the option to purchase a wheel kit separately. Each option also has a low oil shutdown feature that automatically turns the machine off when it senses that it’s running out of fuel.
Below, we rounded up highly rated options across both types of portable generators, all of which clearly state their maximum running wattage and starting wattage — we top off each recommendation with pertinent takeaways to help your decision.
- Wattage: 10,500 running watts, 13,000 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline or propane | Tank size: 8.3 gallons | Start type: Electric switch, recoil start | Weight: 236 pounds.
- The Duromax 10500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Home Power Generator features an idle control that will lower the RPMs of the generator when it’s not being used in order to preserve fuel and reduce noise levels, according to the brand.
- With a 4.4-star average rating from more than 2,500 reviews, this Duromax generator is a bestseller at Home Depot.
- Wattage: 7,500 running watts, 9,375 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 5.7 gallons | Start type: Electric switch, recoil start | Weight: 199 pounds.
- This portable generator from Champion uses Cold Start Technology to get the machine up and running quickly in cold weather, according to the brand.
- Another popular pick at Home Depot, the Champion Portable Generator has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 2,300 reviews.
- Wattage: 7,250 running watts, 9,000 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 8 gallons | Start type: Electric switch, recoil start | Weight: 201 pounds.
- According to Predator, the 9000-Watt Gas Powered Portable Generator can run for up to 13 hours at 50 percent load.
- It has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 2,100 reviews on Harbor Freight.
- Wattage: 4,000 running watts, 4,500 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 3.4 gallons | Start type: Manual, recoil start | Weight: 123 pounds.
Best Overall:Generac Guardian 24kW Standby Generator, Model 7209
Though this portable generator from DEWALT is one of the smallest options on our list, the brand says it offers up to 10 hours of runtime at 50 percent load.
This is also the only portable generator on our list with CO Protect technology — the machine will shut off automatically if it detects poisonous carbon monoxide in the air, according to the brand.
This generator from DEWALT has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 400 reviews at Home Depot. Wattage: 2,800 running watts, 3,000 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 3.4 gallons | Start type: Electric, recoil start | Weight: 134 pounds.
The Honda EU300iS Portable Inverter Generator runs at a quiet 50 decibels (dB) at a 25 percent load — according to the experts at The Generator Store, anywhere from 49 to 60 decibels is “no louder than normal speech.” This inverter generator features CO Minder to monitor carbon monoxide levels and automatically shut off if there are harmful levels of the gas in the air.
The Honda EU300iS boasts a 4.7-star average rating from more than 280 reviews at Northern Tool. This inverter generator doesn’t have wheels, but you can buy a 2-wheel kit separately.
Wattage: 7,000 running watts, 8,750 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 4.2 gallons | Start type: Electric switch, recoil start | Weight: 155 pounds.
RYOBI 4000-Watt Gasoline Powered Digital Inverter Generator
- This inverter generator from Champion can run for up to 10 ½ hours at 25 percent load, according to the brand.
- It’s slightly noisier than other inverter generators at 72 dB, but it’s also more powerful than most inverter generators and quieter than most portable generators with similar wattage levels.
- This inverter generator has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 3,700 reviews on Amazon.
- If you’re looking for a quieter and less powerful model with a longer runtime, Champion sells another inverter generator that can run for up to 22 hours on gas at 25 percent load and runs at 64 dB.
- Wattage: 3,400 running watts, 4,000 starting watts | Fuel type: Gasoline | Tank size: 3.2 gallons | Start type: Electric switch, recoil start | Weight: 85 pounds.
- At 85 pounds, this inverter generator from RYOBI is the lightest option on our list.
- According to the brand, it can run for up to 12 hours at 50 percent load, and it features CODetect shutoff technology that automatically turns the machine off if it detects dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the air.
- This generator has a 4.3-star average rating from more than 600 reviews at Home Depot.
- Because portable generators are powered by gas, the exhaust emits carbon monoxide — and if a portable generator is positioned too close to an enclosed space, it can emit enough gas to become deadly.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission is working on regulating portable generators more closely due to this hazard: In February, the U.S.
How to use a portable generator safely
agency released a report recommending a new mandatory standard to equip portable generators with automatic shut-off features when the machines detect carbon monoxide at an unsafe level.
Whether the portable generator you buy has an auto shut-off feature, OSHA offers general safety guidance to help people avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:.
Never use a generator indoors or in an enclosed space like a garage or a basement. Make sure a generator has 3 to 4 feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
Do not use a generator anywhere near doors, windows and vents where carbon monoxide might filter in.
- Generators can also be an electrocution hazard if you don’t use them properly.
- OSHA and the U.S.
- Department of Energy offer the following guidance to help avoid shock and electrocution:.
- Never attach a generator directly to the electrical system of a structure unless an electrician has installed the generator with a transfer switch.
- Plug electrical appliances directly into the generator using the manufacturer’s supplied cords or extension cords that are grounded (3-pronged).
- Never use frayed or damaged extension cords.
- Only use extension cords that are appropriately rated in watts or amps.
- Keep your generator dry and under an open structure.
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- Morgan Greenwald is a senior editor for Select on NBC News.
Best Backup:Generac Guardian 10KW Home Backup Generator, Model 71710
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A home generator serves as the backup power source you need to keep your appliances, heating and cooling systems, and lighting running during a power outage.
We researched dozens of generators, considering size, wattage, fuel source, battery life, and maintenance. Our top overall pick, the Generac Guardian 24kW Standby Generator (Model 7209), is Wi-Fi enabled for easy monitoring and is one of the largest air-cooled generators on the market.
Here are the top home generators. In This Article. Standout Features. Courtesy of Lowe's. Dimensions: 48 x 25 x 29 inches | Weight: 514 pounds | Material: Aluminum | Power Output: 24,000 watts (LP)/21,000 watts (NG) | Fuel Type: Propane or natural gas | Warranty: 5 years.
What We LikeLargest air-cooled generator availableQuiet weekly self-test mode. Largest air-cooled generator available. Quiet weekly self-test mode. What We Don't LikeSignificantly lower power output when using natural gasTransfer switch is not included.
- Significantly lower power output when using natural gas.
- Transfer switch is not included.
- Air-cooled generators are the typical choice for backup residential power.
- This type of generator offers simple maintenance and affordability.
- The Generac Guardian 24kW is the largest air-cooled generator available, providing up to 24,000 watts of power when connected to a propane fuel supply.
- Homeowners looking for a generator that can handle increased power demands will appreciate this capable unit.
- It also offers Wi-Fi capabilities so you can keep tabs on the unit’s operation from anywhere.
- This popular generator model maximizes power output but minimizes space requirements.
- The housing of the unit is 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, which is larger than the most compact generators available but on par with typical whole-home generators.
- Generac also equipped this unit with a Quiet-Test weekly self-test mode that operates at just 57 decibels.
The Generac Guardian 24kW Standby Generator (Model 7209) is our top pick
During regular operation, the generator is rated for 67 decibels, which is average operating noise but impressive for a generator of this power capacity. Keep in mind that this model doesn’t include a transfer switch, so you’ll need to purchase that separately. Courtesy of Lowe's.
Dimensions: 36 x 27 x 25 inches | Weight: 280 pounds | Material: Aluminum | Power Output: 7,500 watt (LP)/6,000 watt (NG) | Fuel Type: Propane, natural gas | Warranty: 3 years. What We LikeIncludes 50-amp transfer switchUses 1.42 gallons of fuel per hour.
Includes 50-amp transfer switch. Uses 1.42 gallons of fuel per hour. What We Don't LikeNo engine hour meterLacks Wi-Fi monitoring. No engine hour meter. Lacks Wi-Fi monitoring. A basic but well-equipped home generator, the Generac PowerPact is an excellent budget buy.
Designed to serve as a backup generator for the most essential appliances, this model includes an automatic transfer switch that can cover up to eight circuits. It supplies up to 7,500 watts of power when using propane but can also operate on natural gas—however power output is limited to 6,000 watts.
As expected for a bare-bones generator, this model doesn’t have the ability for Wi-Fi monitoring.
It also lacks an engine hour meter, but an aftermarket meter can be installed to help you keep up with routine oil changes and maintenance.
To make maintenance and repairs easier, three sides of the aluminum enclosure are removable.
Courtesy of Amazon. Dimensions: 52.4 x 33.5 x 32.1 inches | Weight: 520 pounds | Material: Steel | Power Output: 12,500 watts (LP)/11,000 watts (NG) | Fuel Type: Propane or natural gas | Warranty: 10 years.
What We LikeNEMA 3R outdoor-rated transfer switchGullwing enclosure for easy maintenanceBattery tender to prevent dead batteries.
NEMA 3R outdoor-rated transfer switch. Gullwing enclosure for easy maintenance. Battery tender to prevent dead batteries. What We Don't LikeMust buy batteries separatelyFuses not easily accessible on the switch.
Must buy batteries separately. Fuses not easily accessible on the switch. A standby generator is ready at a moment’s notice to keep important systems running during a power outage.
DEWALT 4000-Watt Manual Start Gas-Powered Portable Generator
The Champion 12.5-kW Home Standby Generator is equipped with a NEMA 3R outdoor-rated 100-amp transfer switch that covers 12 circuits. Instead of setting up a portable generator and plugging in a network of cords in the aftermath of a power failure, this generator will automatically keep appliances and systems you deem most important running.
It can handle up to a 4-ton AC system. Regardless of what climate you live in or what season it is, this standby generator is equipped with a 24-volt starting system rated for use in temperatures ranging from -22 to 104.
A battery tender ensures that the onboard batteries will always be ready to provide starting power. Take note that you’ll need to buy the batteries separately. Courtesy of Amazon. Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.9 x 17.2 inches | Weight: 129.7 pounds | Material: Not available | Power Output: 6,000 watts | Fuel Type: Gasoline | Warranty: 2 years.
What We LikeTransfer switch-ready with a NEMA L5-30R outlet7.5 hours of runtime at half-load.
Transfer switch-ready with a NEMA L5-30R outlet. 7.5 hours of runtime at half-load.
What We Don't LikeGas tank only has 3.4-gallon capacityA bit noisier than expected.
Gas tank only has 3.4-gallon capacity. A bit noisier than expected.
For short-term and limited power needs, you can use a portable generator for your home.
The WEN GN6000 is a great option since it offers up to 6,000 surge watts of power and 5,000 running watts of power.
That’s enough to keep an air conditioner, television, sump pump, and lights running simultaneously.
Champion Power Equipment 100520 8750-Watt DH Series Inverter
It might not be enough power to keep major appliances or a central cooling system operational, but it will help to make short power outages more bearable.
The WEN GN6000 stands out among portable generators for being transfer switch-ready, thanks to a NEMA L5-30R outlet.
It has plenty of other outlets, too—including two 120V household outlets, a single 120V 30A RV receptacle, a 12V DC outlet, along with the previously mentioned 120/240V four-prong outlet.
With a half-load, you can expect this portable generator to run for up to 7.5 hours before it’s time to refill the 3.4-gallon gas tank.
The 7 Best Portable and Powerful Generators of 2022.
Courtesy of Amazon. Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 14 inches | Weight: 43 pounds | Material: Not available | Power Output: 1,500 watts | Fuel Type: Not applicable | Warranty: 24 months.
What We LikeFuel-free optionNo fumes; can be used indoors .
Fuel-free option. No fumes; can be used indoors . What We Don't LikeRequires recharging every 3 to 6 monthsLithium-ion batteries have limited lifecycles.
Requires recharging every 3 to 6 months. Lithium-ion batteries have limited lifecycles.
For an alternative to conventional home generators, consider using a portable power station. The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is equipped with a lithium-ion battery that can store up to 1,500 watts of power.
Predator 9000-Watt Gas Powered Portable Generator
While you might think that a portable power station lacks the juice to keep your home up and running in the event of a power failure, this top-of-the-line version from Goal Zero has enough power to operate a refrigerator for up to 28 hours.