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Portable Generator Reviews

Welcome to portablegeneratorguide.net, where you can find portable generator reviews, a glossary of important terminology, and lots of other helpful information to help you make a smart purchase. Even to savvy shoppers, the sheer number of products and variables can be overwhelming, so we are here to help you sort through the data and find the portable generator that’s right for your needs.

Why purchase a portable generator?

According to a report by insideenergy.org, in recent years the average number of outages over a five-year period has been doubling every five years! As our electrical infrastructure ages, the load we place on it mounts, and global climate changes, we can expect to see more blackouts as well as more severe ones, making a generator a wise purchase. Generators for backup power range from small ones that can supply just a couple of critical appliances all the way up to trailer-mounted generators that can supply an entire house for as much as two days.

Others use portable generators to power equipment at worksites. If this is you, you need no explanation for why you’d need a portable generator to get your job done! Power tools are power hogs, so choose wisely.

A third common use for portable generators is recreational activities, such as boating or camping. These generators are used to power lights, cooking equipment, or other creature comforts. Often, people choose to buy quieter generators (such as inverters) for these uses, and they don’t require the level of power that the previous uses do.

Once you have determined the uses you expect to put your generator to, you can begin to consider the factors that will help you choose which generator to purchase. Our portable generator reviews will help you understand which generator addresses the needs you determine.

Choosing a generator

Converter or inverter

Generators are often divided into two basic categories, converters or inverter-generators.

Converters have traditionally been the workhorses of the generator world, supplying lots of raw power for a substantial duration at relatively affordable prices. A large converter on wheels can theoretically supply the power needs of an entire house in case of a utility outage, and its large gas tank would keep those lights running for hours, if not days.

Inverter-generators, on the other hand, convert DC power to AC power. This is a smoother, more stable power supply, critical for sensitive equipment like computers or TVs, which may even be ruined by voltage fluctuations or power surges from a conventional generator. They are most beloved for their quiet operation. They are typically more fuel-efficient, being able to adjust their output based on their loads, as opposed to converters which must run at a constant RPM regardless of which appliances are plugged in. However, they are often double or triple the price of standard generators, and also tend to have shorter runtimes because of their smaller fuel tanks.

Generator Wattage Output

Wattage, or the number of watts you require your generator to output to power your electrical appliances, can be calculated fairly easily. Use the handy chart below to tally the number of watts you will need to run your various appliances. Because some appliances have startup “surges”, meaning a burst of high energy consumption when they are first plugged in, calculate your approximateg surge wattage by adding the running wattage of your most demanding appliance. In other words, if you plan to run an 800-watt sump pump, add an additional 800 watts to your estimated electrical load to determine your total surge wattage. Of course, this value is approximate, but it will help you get a ballpark estimate of your needs. If you need more exact numbers, check out…

Once you’ve reached a rough approximation of your power consumption needs, make sure to add some padding to allow for errors in calculation or the appliance that you overlooked but you just can’t live without. You want to over-purchase rather than under-purchase and discover when it’s too late that you don’t have the power you need; do bear in mind, though, that the generator’s cost will increase proportionally with its power output.

Fuel types

Gasoline is a fairly common fuel, and relatively easy to obtain under normal conditions, but bear in mind that gas stations need electricity to pump gas, so it’s too late to go shopping once the power outage hits; you’ll need to store some with your emergency supplies. Note that gas is highly flammable, making it hazardous to store; you also can’t store it for very long, one year at most.

Diesel fuel is much less flammable than gasoline, and can store for 50%-100% longer. Diesel-powered generators tend to be much louder than gasoline-powered ones.

Propane has the longest shelf-life, and also is the gentlest on the environment. You can buy it in convenient cylinders in 5- or 10-gallon sizes, which make it easy to store and hard to spill. Because it does not require electricity to pump, you can still buy propane during natural disasters or power outages. It is flammable, and can become dangerous if lines are disconnected. Propane fuel systems are more complex than gas, and thus more prone to failure, and more difficult to fix. Propane does not burn well in very cold weather.

Our portable generator reviews and sortable table have each generator’s fuel source clearly marked to enable you to check this important fact at a glance.

Some portable generators allow you to run more than one type of fuel–check out the dual and tri-fuel generators here.

Other features to consider

  • If you intend to use your generator as standby power for your home, it is critical to install a transfer switch. This shuts down the power flow from your utility wires and switches the load to your generator. These can be either automatic or manual and should be installed by a competent electrician.
  • If your generator is very large or heavy, consider getting a wheel kit to faciliate transporting it. For the very largest models, this is an absolute must.
  • An electric start allows you to fire up your generator with the touch of a button, instead of pulling a cord. Make sure that you have a manual backup, though, in case the electric start fails.
  • A manual fuel shut-off switch prevents fuel from remaining in the system and spoiling when the unit is not in use.
  • Because operating an engine with insufficient oil can destroy it, an automatic low-oil shut-off is a great idea. Bonus points for an indicator that shows the reason for the shut-off, so you aren’t left scratching your head.
  • A fuel gauge is important so that you will always know how close you are to needing a re-fuel.

Once you have considered which features are important to you, head over to our portable generator reviews for more in-depth information about your choices.

Portable Generator Safe Usage Tips

Despite their appeal to hardware geeks, generators are not toys and have pose serious hazards when handled improperly. Before you continue your research and choose the portable generator that best suits your needs, please do take some time to review these important safety tips.

  • Generators put out potentially lethal carbon monoxide fumes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill. NEVER operate your generator indoors, or outside near open doors or windows that can allow the vapors in.
  • The fuel you use for your portable generator is highly flammable (where do you think the electricity comes from?). Store it in an approved container, away from heat-generating appliances like furnaces, and check local ordinances for the quantity you may store and any other regulations . Make sure the generator is cool when you re-fill the tank, as spilled fuel on hot parts can ignite.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or into a heavy-duty extension cord that is sufficient for the load you intend it to power. If you want to use your generator to provide backup power for your house in case of an outage, make sure to have a transfer switch installed, as plugging the generator in without one can cause backfeeding that can electrocute utility workers.

About Our Portable Generator Reviews

Our portable generator reviews cover a number of key points to consider about each generator: its type (conventional or inverter), its fuel source, its power output, price point, cost to run, fuel capacity, and which extra features it has. Below is a convenient table showing a number of features of some of the most popular models at a glance.

ImageName and Model NumberPrice RangeGenerator TypeFuel Type50% Runtime (hrs)Running WattsWeight (lb)  
power_proPowerPro 56101 2-Stroke Generator, 1000-watt
$conventionalgas/oil mix590036
champion1Champion Power Equipment 42436 1500-Watt$$conventionalgas10120056