Whether you want reliable backup in case of power outage or to enjoy using modern electrically powered gadgets when you are camping, you will need a portable generator. There are several different types and numerous models from reputable brands so making a choice is not going to be easy.
Take advantage of this dedicated buying guide and the best portable generator reviews to take the best decision in the end.
Portable Generators by Type
Invertor Generators: Quiet and Small
These generators are compact and sufficiently light to be carried by hand. What makes them stand out is that they are safe to use for powering all types of electronic devices including more sensitive ones like computers thanks to their low total harmonic distortion (THD).
They are also quieter than their counterparts. They typically produce up to 3,000 watts of power with many models having smaller capabilities. They typically use gasoline to run.
Conventional Generators: Affordable for Home
The conventional portable generators usually run on gasoline or liquid propane. The engine is set inside a sturdy frame with two large wheels and a handle for portability. The power producing capacity varies greatly between generators, from 1,000 to 10,000 watts.
Professional Generators: High Performance
These generators have features comparable to those of their conventional counterparts and use the same types of fuel to run, but are much more powerful. Their power capacity is very high, usually well above 15,000 watts.
They are usually used to provide backup power on commercial premises. They can also be found on construction sites.
Portable Generators by Brand
Briggs & Stratton
Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is one of the staple names in the generator industry. The company makes conventional portable and standby generators plus inverter ones. They have special models for commercial use. You can select from a variety of capacities with this manufacturer.
This US-based manufacturer offers inverter and conventional portable generators for residential, commercial and recreational use. With the conventional ones, there are numerous capacity options ranging anywhere from 1,200 to 12,000 watts with the 3,500-watt and 5,000-watt being among the most popular.
You can select from models with pull, electric and wireless remote start and ones with gas, propane or dual fuel operation.
The Duromax portable generators come from a manufacturer called DuroPower. The company is based in California and makes the engines for the machines. Even though the brand’s range doesn’t boast with huge diversity, buyers can choose from single, double triple and four-cylinder engines.
Founded in 1959, this company is one of the oldest manufacturers of portable generators in the United States. They produce models for residential and business use. In their homeowner range, you can find both inverter and conventional generators.
They have more basic and more feature-rich models. Among the latest advanced technologies introduced by Generac is the patented OHVI engine offering superior performance.
This Japanese company, which is best known for making motorbikes, produces various types of power equipment including portable generators for home, business and recreational use. They make inverter, conventional and professional models.
One of their latest technologies is the Digital Automatic Voltage Regulator, known as DAVR for short. The fuel-power models equipped with it have high voltage stability to produce more consistent power.
This brand’s standby and portable generators fall into three categories – commercial, portable and home backup power. There are different capacities and fuel options to select from. This company is best known for its medium-sized models producing between 5,500 and 7,500 watts of power.
As one of the best-known Japanese manufacturers of portable generators, Yamaha has always been synonymous to quality. The brand offers both conventional and inverter generators, with the latter being much more popular. There is a large selection of models having different capacities and features.
Portable vs Standby Generators
When you plan to buy a generator to provide backup power in your house, you can choose between portable and standby models. The latter are installed outside on the property and are directly connected to the home’s power grid.
It is worth noting that this option is available with portable models too when a specially designed power switch is used. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of both options.
Glossary: Get Familiar with Common Terms
This is a thermal switch designed to provide damage protection in case excessive current passes through. All electric outlets of a portable generator have circuit breaker protection.
If the engine runs low on oil, this feature automatically shuts it down to protect it from damage and to prevent failure.
This is the amount of power which a portable generator can produce on an ongoing basis. It is often referred to as rated load.
Total Harmonic Distortion
This is a measure used for the quality of electricity. The amount of THD may influence the performance of electrically powered equipment. Portable generators with very low THD can be used for powering sensitive equipment.
Inverter vs Conventional Generators
If you are contemplating between an inverter generator and a traditional one using an engine, use this list for comparing the two options and making a final decision.
- Compact and fairly light – The smaller models, in particular, are designed to be carried by hand. The bigger ones have two wheels and a handle.
- No more than 3,000 watts of power – Most have running power between 1,000 and 2,000 watts.
- Low total harmonic distortion below 5 or 6% – The result is the production of “clean” electricity which is safe for powering sensitive electronic devices.
- Best suited for recreational uses – They can easily fit in a car, RV or boat and are often used at campsites for powering TV sets and small kitchen appliances.
Common Features in Portable Generators
The two options to pick from are gasoline and propane. While gasoline is readily available and usually easy to find and to stock on, it also tends to be pricy. Besides, you will need fuel stabilizer to keep it in good condition.
Propane comes in cylinders so it’s difficult to spill and has clean burning. You can store it for a very long time and it will still burn well. The drawbacks of propane generators include the more complex fuel system, the lower efficiency compared to gasoline and the fact that it won’t burn in very cold weather.
Wattage & Capacity
The running watts show you how much power the portable generator can produce on a continuous basis. They determine the unit’s capacity.
Most portable generators have noise levels between 47 dB and 75 dB. Usually, the greater the capacity is the noisier the unit is. The leading manufacturers are using more advanced technologies to prevent the noise levels from exceeding 60 dB.
Tips on Buying a Generator
Calculate how much power you will need to select the optimal capacity.
Decide which devices you’d want to power simultaneously including lights, appliances, electronics and so on. Check their running watts (you can use charts available online, but it’s best to check the actual items).
Sum all running watts and add the starting watts of the device which requires the most power to start. The total is the capacity which you need to look for. Choose a portable generator which has the same running watts as the total.
Check the type of start which the portable generator has.
The traditional pull cord start is usually reliable, especially when the temperature isn’t too low, but not very convenient to use. The electric start is usually faster and easier to use, but requires a battery. More advanced portable generators come with wireless remotes for super convenient start.
Find out what accessories are included in the package.
You will need a funnel for filling the tank with fuel, oil for keeping the engine in good shape and a power cord for connecting devices to the generator. In case of an electric start, you will also need a battery. A cover is necessary to protect the portable generator when it’s not in use.
You can now decide on the right type of portable generator for you. You can also select its capacity, features and accessories based on your individual needs. With the help of the best portable generator reviews, you will know exactly which model to pick.