We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. Learn more

Tools

Best Power Generator

Although contractors use generators to provide jobsite power at times, their main purpose is to provide emergency power in the case of a power outage. When the lights go out, people rely on firing a generator up to keep them going until the power comes back on. Used in this manner, they’re highly useful tools that everyone needs.

Generators vary greatly in size, configuration, type, and power output thus making picking the right generator a challenge. Most individual make a selection based on price without taking into consideration how much electrical power they really need to produce; this often leads to selecting a generator which isn't big enough to meet their needs.

Choosing the right generator means having a good idea of what your needs are and how the various generators on the market can meet said needs. To better understand, check out our power generator buyer's guide below.

Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator

This generator by Westinghouse provides a lot of power for the buck. Able to produce 7,500 continuous watts and 9,000 watts for starting appliances, it has enough power to run your major appliances, or even a sizeable air conditioner. The generator has a four-stroke 420cc overhead valve engine, which can be both electrically and manually started. It’d control panel has four 120 volt outlets and one 120/220 volt, along with a digital hour meter. A 6.6 gallon fuel tank is included, which will allow the generator to run 11 hours at 50 percent load.

Briggs & Stratton 30469, Gas Powered Generator

Although slightly smaller than the Westinghouse, this Briggs and Stratton provides 6,000 continuous watts, or 7,500 watts surges for motor starting. The 342cc overhead valve engine is supplied by a 7 gallon fuel tank, which will allow it to run 13 hours at 50 percent load. Like the Westinghouse, it has four 120 volt outlets and a 120/240 volt 30 amp locking outlet. The tires are a never-go-flat design. An hour meter is provided.

Generac 5939 GP5500, 389cc OHV Portable Gas Powered Generator

Generac is the largest provider of whole house generators on the market. They also produce a number of portable generators, including this 5,500 watt model. It will also provide 6,875 surge watts when needed. The generator is powered by a 389cc overhead valve engine, pulling fuel from a 72 gallon tank. The unit will run up to 10 hours at 50 percent load off that tank. It has four 120 volt power outlets and a single 120/240 volt connector, along with an hour meter.

Champion Power Equipment 41135, 338cc 4-stroke Gas Powered Portable Generator

This is the only CARB compliant generator on this list, for use in California. It provides 5,500 continuous watts, with a 6,800 watt surge capacity. The 338cc overhead valve engine has cast iron sleeves for long life. The 5.9 gallon tank will power the unit for up to 11 hours at 50 percent load. This unit also contains a fuel gauge, so that you can see how much fuel is left in the tank. It is equipped with four 120 volt and one 120/240 volt outlet for connecting your equipment.

DuroMax Elite MX4500E 4,500 Watt 7 HP OHV 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator With Wheel Kit & Electric Start

This 4,500 watt max generator will produce 3,500 watts continuous. The seven HP motor is fueled from a four gallon tank, which will allow it to run eight hours at a 50 percent load. This one is electric start, the only one on this list that is, other than the Westinghouse. The control panel includes two 120 volt electrical outlets and a 120/240 volt one; along with 12 volt terminals for battery charging. It also has a voltage meter to show the exact output the generator is providing.

Generac Guardian Series 5875, 20kw Air Cooled Standby Generator

Generac is the largest manufacturer of whole house generators, with the most extensive line. This generator will run off of both natural gas or liquid propane. Switching between the two types of fuel is a tool-free operation. It provides very clean power which is safe for use with sensitive electronics. All of Generac’s generators in this series are extremely quiet, using patented technology for low speed operation. The electronic controller ensures that the generator runs at maximum efficiency. The generator and its aluminum case are designed to withstand wind and fire. Comes with a 200 amp automatic transfer switch.

GE 20kw Home Generator System

GE 20kw Home Generator System

General Electric actually started out by making power generation equipment in the late 1800s. They are still one of the largest manufacturers of electrical generation equipment, making turbines used in hydroelectric plants and other power generation plants. Their generators are of the highest quality and highly reliable. They are the only company which provides an in-house wireless monitor for the generator, so that you can check on how it is doing, without having to go outside. Like the Generac, the commercial grade Vanguard engine in this generator will run off of both fuels. The base and enclosure are all steel so that it can withstand all temperatures. It also has the only internal thermal protection system of any whole house generator. Comes with a 200 amp automatic switch.

Kohler 20RESALm 20kw Air Cooled Standby Generator

Like the Generac unit, this one also provides dual-fuel capability, with simple changeover at your home. It has a built-in base, eliminating the need for a concrete mounting pad. Kohler claims that this generator will have full power available to your home within ten seconds from power loss. The engine is designed for heavy-duty usage, with hydraulic valve lifters for consistent operation, without having to be readjusted. It comes with a five year warranty, matching Generac for the longest of any generator on this list. The enclosure is fully corrosion proof. It comes with a 200 amp automatic switch.

Briggs & Stratton 040394 20000-Watt Home Standby Generator System with 100 Amp Automatic Transfer Switch

Briggs & Stratton have a reputation for the finest small engines on the market. Those same small engines are used in their whole house generators. They use a commercial grade engine, rather than a consumer grade one in their generators, for added reliability. This generator produces 20kw of power and comes with a rust-resistant galvanneal steel enclosure. This unit also comes with a 100 amp automatic transfer switch.

Yamaha EF6300iSDE, 6300 Watt CARB Compliant Inverter Generator

This inverter generator from Yamaha is one of the biggest around; providing 6300 max watts of power or 5500 continuous watts. A "smart throttle" regulates the engine speed to match power demand, saving you fuel and reducing total noise output. It is electric start and can also be stared from up to 66 feet away by remote control. A power meter on the control panel allows you to see how much power is being used and how much more is available. It comes with two standard 120 volt AC outlets and two 120/240 volt round outlets for appliances.

LIfan ESI 3600iER-CA, 3600 Watt Clean Digital Power Inverter Generator

With 3600 watts of quiet, clean energy, this generator will power plenty; with 3300 watt constant output and 3600 watt surge output. It has an electric starter, which can be accessed and uses remotely. It is also CARB compliant for use in California. In addition to the two standard 120 volt AC outlets and a 120/240 volt 20 amp round AC outlet, it also has a 12 volt dc outlet. The generator will run 7 hours at 50 percent load off its 5.56 gallon fuel tank

Champion Power Equipment 75531i, 3100 Watt Inverter Generator

Champion Power Equipment produces several models of inverter generators, including this 3100 watt peak model. It will provide 2800 watts of continuous power. The 1.59 gallon tank will run it for up to eight hours (at 25 percent load). Starting is with an easy-pull recoil starter, with a manual choke. Power connections include 2 standard 120 volt AC outlets, one 120/240 volt round AC outlet and a 12 volt DC outlet. An oil level indicator on the control panel helps protect the equipment from damage.

Powerhoue PH3100Ri, 3100 Watt CARB Compliant Inverter Generator

This is one of several models of inverter generators produced by Powerhouse. The well thought out control panel includes an hour meter, safety cutout switches and indicator lights. That’s in addition to the two standard 120 volt outlets, 120/240 volt outlet and a DC outlet. It produces a maximum of 3100 watts of power or 3000 watts of continuous power. This model also comes with a remote start switch.

Ryobi RYI2200, 2200 Watt Digital Inverter Generator

This compact unit from Ryobi produces 2200 watts of peak power or 1800 watts of surge power as needed. This unit is designed with an extra quiet engine, allowing you to actually speak over it, without having to raise your voice. It is also parallel-kit capable, so you can connect more than one together for cases where you need more power. It will run 2.5 hours on a gallon of gas, even at full load.

PhonoSolar 1800W Solar Generator

PhonoSolar 1800W Solar Generator

Of all the solar generators out there, this model from PhonoSolar provides the most power, both in its output and from the solar panel used to recharge the batteries. The battery stores up to 200 AH of power, which is supplied for use through an 1800 watt inverter, with a 28880 watt surge. A 140 watt solar panel recharges the system. The system is also expandable, allowing you to put up to four batteries and four solar panels on it. The systems controls include a transfer switch, which operates in less than 80 milliseconds, allowing the unit to be used as a UPS. All four AC receptacles are GFCI.

Goal Zero 39004, Yeti 1250 Solar Generator Kit

This kit is designed to be fully portable, with the generator mounted on a roll cart. The generator produces a maximum of 1250 watts in continual operating. The battery provides 100 AH of storage. This one produces a pure sine wave, rather than the modified sine wave that some units provide. The two solar panels total 60 watts of recharging power for the battery. In addition to three normal 120 volt AC receptacles, the generator has a variety of 12 volt connections and three 5 volt USB power connections.

Wagan EL2546 Solar e Cube 1500

Wagan produces a unique unit, for the maximum in portability. This generator has everything in one wheel mounted package, including the five solar panels. The inverter provides 1500 watts of AC power to two 120 volt AC outlets, as well as two DC outlets. It also includes two USB power ports. The reserve power on this unit is 55 AH, with a total of 80 watts of recharge power. A digital voltmeter allows you to check the battery status at all times. It even includes a hidden storage compartment.

UPG 87530 Ecotricity Portable Emergency Backup Power Solar Generator

This unit from Universal Power Group comes in two pieces, with the solar panel being wheel mounted and the generator/battery box being hand carried. It can provide 1440 watts of continuous power and 2600 watts of peak power, in a modified sine wave. This one also includes a transfer switch for use as a UPS, with a transfer time of less than 80ms. The solar panel provides 90 watts of power for recharging the battery. Reserve battery capacity is 60 AH.

Wagan 2548 E Power Case 450 Solar Power Panel Array With Inverter

For those that need something small and portable, and can get by with less power capacity, Wagan produces this 450 watt briefcase unit. Like their Solar e Cube, everything in this system folds up for portability. The inverter produces 450 watts of continuous power and 800 watts peak, in a modified sine wave. The internal battery reserve capacity is 26 AH, less than others, but this is more portable than them as well. The twin solar panels produce a total of 40 watts of recharge power, and can be increased to a total of 75 watts.

Aleko WG3KW, 3000 Watt Residential Wind Generator Kit

This kit, from Aleko, is a typical horizontal axis system. There are three blades, with a total diameter of 3.2 meters. It is rated at 2,000 watts, with a maximum output of 3,000 watts at 48 volts. The start-up wind speed is 3 m/s (meters per second) or about 7 miles per hour. For the price, it provides excellent value compared to other units. It comes as a complete power system, with the controller, dump load and the inverter. The only thing you will need to add is the batteries for the battery backup system and the mast to mount it.

Bergey Excel 1, 1kW Wind Turbine

Bergey Excel 1, 1kW Wind Turbine

Bergey has one of the best reputations for wind generators around. This unit, which is their smallest, rated at producing 1000 watts of power, with a peak of 2000 watts. It’s a three blade design with a start-up speed of 6.7 MPH. The overall diameter of those blades is 8.2 feet. Output is controlled by a multi-voltage charge controller, varying from 12 VDC to 48 VDC. Like most, it doesn’t come with a tower, batteries or a voltage inverter.

HelixWind S322 Wind Turbine

HelixWind S322 Wind Turbine

This is the smaller of two vertical axis wind generators that HelixWind produces, with the larger unit selling for 70 percent more. As a vertical axis wind generator it is extremely quiet. The rotors are made of aluminum alloy and have a total dimension of four feet. It produces 2000 watts peak power, starting at 11.1 MPH. The only thing wrong with it is that it is quite expensive.

CMS Magnetics 1500 Watt Do-It-Yourself Wind Turbine Kit

For those that want to save themselves some money, this kit from CMS Magnetics is a great deal. Please note that you will be building and winding the generator yourself, not just assembling the parts. However, the major parts you need are included, and sources for the rest are provided. The fiberglass blades are 61” long, giving you a total of 10.5’ rotor diameter. A “recipe book” guides you through finishing out your wind generator.

Windmax HY1000-5, 1000 Watt 24 Volt 5 Blade Residential Wind Generator Kit

The design of this horizontal axis wind generator is rather unique, in that it uses five blades, rather than the customary three. The generator comes complete with the charger/controller, but not the pole, batteries or inverter. The wind speed necessary for it to produce power is only 6.7 mph. The same company also produces a 2000 watt model.

Buyer's Guide

 

Power Generator Buyer's Guide

By definition, all generators produce electrical power; however, the amount of electrical power they produce and the fuel consumed to produce that power vary considerably. The vast majority of home generators still use fossil fuels but recent years have seen a rise in the use of renewable energy sources, especially solar power and wind power.

For most people, the limiting factor on a generator purchase is cost since installing enough solar panels to power your whole house is extremely expensive. However, it's important to figure in the return on that investment. Operating those solar panels costs almost nothing and the electrical power they generate is free. That makes it possible for the panels to eventually pay for themselves.

Since generators are used for multiple purposes, ultimately that purpose has to be what drives your purchase. Some generators work best in certain circumstances, while others are better suited for a totally different set of circumstances.

Short-Term Power

Individuals who are building a cabin in the mountains or those spending a weekend camping might find themselves needing short-term power. In such cases, it makes more sense to use a portable generator that burns fossil fuels, as it takes time and effort to erect a solar or wind powered generator. In these cases, inverter generators are more fuel efficient, more than making up for their higher cost.

Short-Term Emergency Power

A short-term emergency might be caused by a hurricane or storm blowing down power lines which leaves communities without power. Whole house generators have been designed with this scenario in mind as they kick on automatically with little to no disruption to normal activities.

For those who can't afford a whole house generator, portable generators will accomplish the same thing, albeit at a lower power level. Rather than being able to run the whole house, a portable generator provides power for only the most critical of systems. How much can be used depends on the power output of the generator.

Long-Term Emergency Power

While a whole house generator will provide the necessary power to make it through a storm, a long-term situation would require constant supplies of fuel which may not be possible in a long-term emergency situation. On top of that, the constant use of fuel in a whole house or portable generator would get expensive quickly.

For long-term emergency power, wind and solar generators are better. These systems are totally self-contained and require no fuel beyond what nature provides. As such, these generator systems provide electrical power through a major disaster, even one which shuts down the power grid permanently.

Off Grid Living

Living off the grid is becoming more and more popular. People choose this lifestyle either for financial reasons to save on their monthly electric bill or for the simple reasons of wanting to live independently. In these instances, wind and solar generators are the logical choice.

Typically, people making the transition to off grid living do so gradually, adding more solar panels or more wind turbines as their budget permits. Each addition allows them to produce more of their own electricity, reducing their dependence on the grid and their monthly energy costs. From there, money saved on energy bills can then be invested into further increasing their systems capabilities.

A combination of solar and wind power is the best as it helps ensure consistent power at all times, regardless of what the weather situation is. Of course, a battery backup system helps to ensure constant power, even when neither system is capable of generating power.

Selecting the Type of Generator

We can divide generators into five different categories, each of which is designed to be ideal for certain circumstances.

Portable Generators
Portable generators provide a reasonable amount of power for either an emergency or use in a remote location. A typical portable generator will produce from 4.5 to 6.5 kilowatt-hour (KwH) which is enough to power a room air conditioner. They work well for construction sites and camping. However, typical portable generator will consume about 1/2 gallon of fuel per hour making them somewhat fuel inefficient.

Inverter Generators
Inverter generators are a modified version of the portable generator. They produce power at 12 volts DC, rather than 120 volts AC and then use an inverter to boost the power to the higher voltage. This makes them much more energy efficient than portable generators are. A typical inverter generator will run on about two gallons of fuel per 24 hours of use. The limiting factors on these particular units are usually their size and cost.

Whole House Generators
Whole house generators are the portable generator's big brother. They’re designed to be permanently installed and connected to the home's electrical system, just before the breaker panel. An automatic switch starts the generator and disconnects the house from the grid in the event of a power outage. The same switch will shut down the generator and reconnect the house when power is restored.

These generators are available in a variety of sizes, with some topping 55 KwH. This allows you to select one that will provide all the power your home needs. The only problem with these units is they consume a lot of fuel, thus making them very expensive to operate.

Solar Generators
Solar generators consist of a bank of solar panels, connected together and run through a voltage inverter. This can either be connected to a battery backup system or run directly into the home's electrical system. The solar panels convert sunlight to electrical power, typically with an 18 to 20 volt output, hence the need for the voltage inverter.

Since solar generators need sunlight to operate, they don't produce any power at night. Overcast days reduce their power output which is why they have a higher voltage output than is needed to charge the batteries; when their output is lowered, they’re still able to provide enough power.

Wind Generators
Wind generators convert the kinetic power of the wind into electrical power. Like solar generators, they produce a higher voltage than is necessary to charge a 12 volt battery. That way, they can provide some power in lower wind situations. Typically, a wind generator needs 10 miles per hour of wind to work efficiently.

Because of the wind requirement, wind generators can't be used everywhere. Some areas don't have enough wind to make them cost effective. But in areas where there is sufficient wind, a wind generator is a very efficient means of producing power.

One problem with wind generators is that they can be noisy. For this reason, some municipalities do not allow them. Vertical axis wind generators, which are much rarer, produce much less noise.

Determining Generator Size
There are two ways of looking at what sized generator you would need for your home. One is to calculate your total power consumption and find a generator that will supply that amount of power. This means buying a whole house generator and having it permanently installed in your home. Since most people can't afford a whole home option, they buy some sort of portable generator.

When buying a portable generator, you still have to know how much power you need before making a purchase. That means defining what your critical systems are and how much power they’ll consume. For most people, the critical systems include their refrigerator, communications, and some basic lighting; in hotter climates, a one room air conditioner should be included. Other additions might include a computer and any medical equipment that a family member needs.

Most of equipment is rated in amps of power draw, rather than watts of power consumption. Although generators are rated in watts, the conversion from one to the other is actually rather simple.

- To convert watts to amps, divide the watts by the voltage (120)

- To convert amps to watts, multiply the amps by the voltage (120)

With that, you can calculate the amount of electrical power you need your generator to produce in order to meet your needs in an emergency situation

Bestcovery Staff
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related
Go to top