The 10 Best Portable Generators
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Not only can a portable generator supply power for your next camping trip or tailgating party, but having one handy will also ensure that you’re prepared for a potential outage in your neighborhood, as most of these units are capable of keeping essential equipment running for days until service is restored. Our picks ensure that you’ll always have a reliable source of backup power on-hand. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 10, 2020:
Traditionally when people think about generators they imagine a noisy, smelly engine pumping out fumes. Modern iterations however are now much smaller and lighter, making them portable, and much quieter giving them more versatility in their range of uses. In fact, with recent developments in technology, some are completely battery-powered and can even be recharged using solar panels.
In this update to the ranking, we switched several models for their most up-to-date counterparts, removed some older models that lacked functionality, and included a couple of battery-only options to reflect the latest innovations in technology. We swapped the Westinghouse WH2200i with the Westinghouse iGen2200, which now features two 120V 20A AC outlets, but instead of a cigarette lighter socket, this unit comes with two 5V DC USB ports that are dedicated to charging sensitive electronics like smartphones and tablets. Similarly, the new version of the Honda EU2200i carries the same name as the last model, however, this one utilizes Bluetooth technology to connect to Honda's smartphone app, allowing the user to monitor how many hours of run-time are left, receive service and oil change reminders, and turn it on and off. We also added the Generac iQ3500, which is part of the same range as the Generac 7117, a popular choice due to its efficiency and easy to use controls. This larger model has a 3500-watt output and has a fully enclosed steel casing, making it up to 40 percent quieter than others in its class. This along with a digital display that provides information on power usage, remaining run time, and fuel levels makes it a great all-round option with enough power to run most household appliances.
The two Battery-powered additions are the EGO Nexus, which uses four, 56-volt lithium-ion batteries to produce an output of 2000-watts. It is capable of powering any home appliance and can even run all your lights and TVs for several hours. The much smaller Meterk Power Station only produces 300-watts but is a great choice for camping trips or picnics as it can be recharged from a wall outlet, a car battery, or through a solar panel. It also features type A and C USB ports for charging your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
December 08, 2019:
For this update, I wanted to add some larger models that bordered the upper end of the portability scale (around 120-130 pounds), since generators with smaller capacities can easily be substituted with portable ac power supplies. As models become larger (in capacity), it becomes harder for ac supplies to match generators in capacity without getting very expensive, which means that these portable generators have a monopoly on the market, and we can highlight some unique models.
I updated the DuroMax XP4400E with the DuroMax XP4850EH; the latter is only 10 lbs heavier, but has a noticeably higher starting and running power rating. Unfortunately, I had to remove Anker Powerhouse as it really had no place in this list as such a low-capacity model. I removed the Briggs and Stratton 30651 and replaced it with the slightly cheaper Rainier R4400 which has about 5 times as much capacity (8 hours at 25% load (1700W) for the Briggs and Stratton vs. 18 hours at 25% load (3600W) for the Rainier). I also updated the Honda EU2000 to the newer Honda EU2200i – a more efficient model with an updated engine which gave it a slightly larger capacity and better ventilation and airflow among other benefits, which makes this already-reliable model even more reliable.
I still think that the Generac 7117 is the best model in terms of overall economy and while the Honda EU2200i probably slightly edges out the Generac 7117 in overall performance and reliability, its about twice as expensive. On the other hand, the Champion RV Ready has the largest capacity.
Goal Zero Offering portable power solutions and inspired by a respect for the planet, Goal Zero has developed its highest-capacity power station yet, the Yeti 6000X. Its lithium-ion battery is equipped with enough power to run a full-size fridge for up to four days, and is rechargeable from the sun with their portable solar panels, giving 800 watts of solar recharging capability. goalzero.com
The Many Uses Of A Portable Generator
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 and even the lower-powered models can be pricey. Monetary expectations aside, the two main factors to consider when choosing the right unit are size and power output.
Also, do think about the volume associated with the generator you're considering.
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.