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If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. 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.
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.
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.
What We LikeIncludes 50-amp transfer switchUses 1.42 gallons of fuel per hour.
Includes 50-amp transfer switch.
To make maintenance and repairs easier, three sides of the aluminum enclosure are removable.
Courtesy of Amazon.
A standby generator is ready at a moment’s notice to keep important systems running during a power outage.
The Champion 12.5-kW Home Standby Generator is equipped with a NEMA 3R outdoor-rated 100-amp transfer switch that covers 12 circuits.
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. 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.
Best Standby:Champion 12.5-kW Home Standby Generator with 100-Amp Transfer Switch
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.
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.
Best Home Generator FAQ
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Verdict and Our Recommendation For 2021
Charge it up by connecting it to a solar panel, wall charger, or 12V car charger. The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X isn’t equipped to replace a whole-home generator, but it can serve as a short-term power supply.
- There are no fuel gauges to monitor, maintenance to perform, or exhaust fumes to worry about. In the event of a power failure, plug your most important devices and appliances into the outlets of the Yeti 1500X, which includes a pair of 120V AC outlets or USB ports.
- Courtesy of ABT. Dimensions: 48 x 25 x 29 inches | Weight: 338 pounds | Material: Aluminum | Power Output: 10,000 watts (LP)/9,000 watts (NG) | Fuel Type: Propane, natural gas | Warranty: 5 years.
What We LikeQuiet weekly self-test modeEquipped for Wi-Fi monitoring. Quiet weekly self-test mode. Equipped for Wi-Fi monitoring. What We Don't LikeTransfer switch is not includedUnit relies on Wi-Fi too much.
Transfer switch is not included. Unit relies on Wi-Fi too much. If you want nearly instant power restoration for key systems in the event of a power failure, install a backup generator like the Generac Guardian.
This 10kW model offers Wi-Fi monitoring and is equipped for either natural gas or propane fuel sources. Pair it with a 100-amp, 16-circuit transfer switch or a 200-amp smart switch, depending on your needs. Weekly self-testing by the Generac Guardian Backup Generator ensures that it’s ready to supply power to the most important systems of your home.
This model conserves fuel and operates quietly, thanks to a short five-minute test cycle that operates at just 57 decibels. Courtesy of Lowe's. Dimensions: 62.2 x 30.6 x 38.6 inches | Weight: 905 pounds | Material: Aluminum |.
Power Output: 22,000 watts | Fuel Type: Propane, natural gas | Warranty: 5 years. What We LikeSuitable for hot weather climatesLCD control panel.
- Suitable for hot weather climates. LCD control panel. What We Don't LikeTransfer switch not includedExpensive. Transfer switch not included. A liquid-cooled generator offers a longer life expectancy for the unit, along with quieter operation. This type of generator is often recommended for hot weather climates and the Generac Protector QS is a popular model to consider.
- You will need to regularly inspect the system for coolant leaks and to ensure that fluids remain topped off. This whole home generator has a power output rating of 22,000 watts when using either natural gas or propane. For its size, it operates at a modest 71 decibels and performs a weekly self-test cycle using a low 1,800 RPM engine cycle that is quieter, more fuel-efficient, and means less wear on the engine and alternator.
- While the Generac Protector QS has more than enough power for an average home’s most essential systems, you’ll need to purchase a transfer switch separately for safe, automatic power restoration. If you're looking for a well-equipped generator for your most commonly used appliances and conveniences, the Generac Guardian 24kW Home Generator (view at AP Electric & Generators) is a great option.
- For a budget-friendly option, consider the Generac PowerPact 7,500 Watt Generator (view at Northern Tools). Power output is significantly reduced, but it can keep up with essential items in the event of a power failure. The watts produced by a generator measure the power the unit will have available to operate whatever is plugged into it. This is one of the most important things to know about any generator you’re considering.
- To know how many watts you’ll need in a generator, add up the wattage of the appliances or equipment you’re most likely to simultaneously operate. This will give you an idea of the load that your generator will need to be able to handle. Pay attention also to starting watts versus running watts.
Best for Hot Climates:Generac Protector QS 22 kW Standby Generator, Model RG022
Many appliances require a larger surge of power during start-up compared to their running energy consumption. If you don’t factor in the starting watts, you may overload the generator as you start up appliances or other items. Generally, you only need to add in the highest starting wattage to your total watts required—since you likely won’t be starting every appliance or device on your generator simultaneously. Increased watts of power will generally equate to an increased cost when shopping for a generator, but it is better to have adequate power than to be left in the dark or have to decide between running your refrigerator or keeping cool with a fan. Home generators require space for installation, so factor in the size of any model you're considering. The size of a generator ranges from compact units with a footprint less than 3 feet long to large liquid-cooled units that measure 5 feet or more in length. As a general rule, the more power capacity, the larger the generator will be.
Also, keep in mind that model specifications and local codes may dictate how much clearance is required between the generator and your home.
Some small generators require as little as 18 inches of clearance. Generators generally are powered by one of three fuel sources—gasoline, natural gas, or propane.
Gasoline-powered generators are the most common but also carry special cautions related to exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning. Always make sure to operate a gas generator outside of any enclosed structure (including your house or garage) where there is adequate ventilation.
- You’ll also need to take measures to keep gasoline stored properly for long periods of generator inactivity. A fuel stabilizer is one method of ensuring that the gasoline in your generator remains ready for use. Propane and natural gas are more commonly used for larger home standby generators. These fuels are generally also considered to be cleaner burning sources of fuel and provide an on-demand source of power.
- Alternatives to fuel-powered generators are solar or battery-powered models. The capabilities and run times of these machines vary greatly, but they may be the right match if you have more minimal power needs. Many battery-powered generators are also a safe indoor alternative for a supply of power. The investment you make in a generator is often backed by a manufacturer’s warranty.
- Most residential portable and inverter generators are protected by a two- or three-year warranty period that covers parts and labor. Standby generators, which are generally a larger investment, usually offer three- or five-year warranty periods. Some warranties will also cover travel costs for a technician to come and service the generator, but this varies by manufacturer and model so read the fine print closely to see what will be covered in this regard.
- Decide which type of generator is best for your needs: a standby (or backup) generator or a portable generator. For whole-home generators, a standby generator is the most common option since it offers power outputs between 10,000 and 24,000 watts on average. This type of generator is permanently installed outside the home and is connected to a propane fuel tank or natural gas line.
Best Budget:Generac PowerPact 7,500 Watt Standby Generator, Model 69981
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With the addition of a transfer switch, standby generators are ready to supply power for a few hours or a few days or more thanks to a readily available fuel supply and high wattages.
Within standby generators, you'll find air-cooled and liquid-cooled models. Residential homes with average power needs will be served well by an air-cooled unit, but in hot climates, a liquid-cooled generator may be a better choice. In addition, liquid-cooled generators generally offer a quieter operation.
Portable generators are temporary backup power solutions. They typically operate using gasoline as their fuel source. For this reason, it’s crucial that you never operate a portable generator inside an enclosed space—including your house, garage, or shed.
This type of generator is best suited for powering an appliance or two and smaller tools or electric-powered items, like fans or lights. The higher the watts of the generator, the more load it can support. In general, portable generators will make life more bearable but won’t support all the creature comforts you may be used to during a power outage—such as a central air conditioning system, water heater, and other large appliances.
Inverters are another type of portable generator that uses less fuel and offers quieter operation but has a higher price tag. Some whole home generators will automatically kick in when the power goes out. This automatic start feature enables the generator to start supplying power to your home’s electrical grid without the manual start-up process often associated with portable generators.
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Having a generator with an automatic start function may be especially valuable if you travel for long periods of time or have a second home.
- The peace of mind that comes with knowing your generator will automatically step in to keep vital systems functioning (like a sump pump and heating and cooling system) is worth the higher price tag that often comes with these systems.
- Note that this isn’t the same thing as an electronic start, which is the ability to start your generator with the push of a button rather than the recoil start typical of most small motor machines.
- In the case of a generator equipped with an electronic start, you’ll still need to manually start the generator to begin the flow of power.
- If your plan is to be able to use your generator to power hardwired appliances, then look for a machine that can be installed to work with a transfer switch.A professionally-installed transfer switch will safely disconnect your home from the power grid and supply power from your generator to designated circuits on your home’s electrical grid.
Never plug your generator into a standard electrical outlet—doing so can create electrical hazards, including back feed that can endanger utility workers that may be repairing power lines. How do you safely run a home generator?
A whole-home generator needs to be connected to a transfer switch—which will disconnect your circuit panel from the electrical grid before allowing power to flow from the generator through the circuits. Unlike portable generators which require you to manually initiate the power transfer, home standby generators equipped with automatic start and connected to a professionally installed transfer switch can make the transition happen seamlessly and usually respond within 10 to 15 seconds of a utility power failure.
Portable generators require different safety precautions, including the often-repeated advice to never operate the unit inside of the home or garage. You should also never plug hardwired appliances into a portable generator or plug your generator into a standard electrical outlet.
Can I Run My Generator All Night?
If you want to supply power to hardwired appliances, invest in having a transfer switch professionally installed by an electrician. You’ll need to manually flip a few switches to safely take your home off the power grid and switch to the generator’s power source, but this is the only safe way to supply power from a generator to your home’s electrical circuit and hardwired appliances.
Where is the best place to put your home generator? Since home generators produce exhaust fumes that contain carbon monoxide, choosing the right installation spot is important for health and safety reasons. Because of this, local codes and utility companies will typically dictate placement requirements.
Best Battery:Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station
Generally speaking, however, a generator should be installed at least 5 feet from windows and doors. Some generators can be installed as close as 18 inches to the house, but you'll still need the 5-feet of clearance from air intake locations on the house. Portable generators should never be used indoors, including in a garage. Even with doors and windows open, the fumes can be dangerous.
Perform a weekly self-test or run the generator for at least 30 minutes once per month.