The 10 Best Portable Generators
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Not only will it supply power for your next camping trip or tailgating outing, but one of these portable generators will also ensure that you’re prepared for a potential outage in your neighborhood, as many of these units are capable of keeping your essential equipment up and running for many hours until service is restored. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best portable generator on Amazon.
The Many Uses Of A Portable Generator
Indeed, the primary reason many people choose to buy a generator is to mitigate the effects of a power outage.
With a decent generator, you can keep your fridge running, a lamp lit, and even an air conditioning unit or heater running all at the same time.
Anyone who thinks they will never have a need for a portable generator likely has a few misconceptions about generators, as well as about the unpredictable nature of life. The fact is that a portable generator may someday make the difference in your family's safety and security, or at least in a night spent in comfort.
Indeed, the primary reason many people choose to buy a generator is to mitigate the effects of a power outage. With a decent generator, you can keep your fridge running, a lamp lit, and even an air conditioning unit or heater running all at the same time. You can also use the generator to keep phones and computers charged, or even to keep sensitive medical equipment operational during a power outage. Opting for a portable generator means you can always get power where you need it during that blackout. Just make sure you also have a few gallons of gas on hand.
A portable generator is a regular fixture at worksites around the world, and using a generator instead of the power supply at an unfinished home or building (or one undergoing heavy renovations) can help workers avoid the dangers of exposed and/or potentially compromised wiring. Many portable generators put out as many as 3,000 watts of power at their higher settings, and that's enough power to run full-sized power tools such as a table saw or planer.
While you must be sure to first check the local laws and ordinances surrounding their use in the field, bringing a portable generator along when you go camping can lead to a truly luxurious outdoor experience, complete with the comforts of light, small appliances, and media devices even as you enjoy nature and fresh air. Just make sure to factor in the noise levels of the unit you're considering, as some portable generators are so loud they can damage the allure of a trip out into the woods or mountains.
Choosing The Right Portable Generator
Portable generators are not cheap. Even the lower priced models cost several hundred dollars, and many higher end units cost upwards of $1,000 or more. Monetary expectations aside, the two main factors to consider when choosing the right unit are size and power output.
Many weigh little more than fifty pounds, so this should not be too hard to accomplish.
Size is arguably the more important of the two factors when it comes to choosing a portable generator: if you buy a unit that's too large for you to easily move to wherever it needs to be (from the basement to the patio during a power outage or from the truck to the tent when you're camping, to name two examples), then your generator is not exactly portable, as far as you are concerned. Make sure to choose a unit you can actually move with relative ease. Many weigh little more than fifty pounds, so this should not be too hard to accomplish.
Once you know how large a generator you can comfortably move around, then look to the watts it produces. Many units can run for hours on end at their lower settings, which tend to put out around 1,000 watts of continuous power. These generators are ideal for use as backup power during an outage, when it's uncertain for how long you'll need to run an appliance or climate control device.
If you work with larger power tools, or if you anticipate the need to keep multiple devices running at the same time, then you will need to select a more powerful unit and accept the size and price tag that comes with it.
Also, do think about the volume associated with the generator you're considering. Some units create only about fifty decibels, allowing you to chat even while standing beside them. Others are so loud you will not be able to hear yourself think even when a dozen feet away.
Portable Generator Use And Safety
Always keep children and pets away from a working generator. That holds true even when the unit is not in operation, as it is likely to be filled with combustible gasoline. Used properly, a portable generator is a safe and reliable tool. Remember, generators involve both gasoline engines and large amounts of electricity, both of which can be extremely hazardous around youngsters or animals.
At worst, an overtaxed generator may burn itself out, leaving you with one very expensive, oversized paperweight.
Make sure to keep the kids supervised and the pets sequestered whenever a generator is in use, and make sure to store your portable generator in a safe, secure spot when it is idle. (Thankfully most portable units are small enough to tuck away in almost any garage, shed, basement, or even a closet, but be mindful of potential fumes prior to indoor storage.)
Make sure to carefully review your generator's manual prior to use, noting the necessity for any special types of fuel and for how much and how often it requires oil, if need be. It's also important to pay close attention to your portable generator's maximum load capacity and never try to pull more power than that for which it is rated. Overtaxing your generator will likely cause it to shut down, cutting the electricity to everything to which it is supplying power. At worst, an overtaxed generator may burn itself out, leaving you with one very expensive, oversized paperweight.
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