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Compare the best portable generators

Have power whenever and wherever you need it.

Portable generators allow you to power appliances, tools and other items that require electricity during a power outage, while working on a remote job site or when camping. Unlike standby generators, portable generators aren’t hooked up all the time and are easy to move and store.

Compare some of the best portable generators

NameAverage priceTypeRunning watts/Starting wattsRun time at 50% load (hours)DecibelsWeight (pounds)Purchase
Honda EU1000i
Honda EU1000i
$800Inverter900/1000653–5928.7Buy now
Generac GP Series
Generac GP Series
$399Emergency3600/450012N/A123Buy now
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200
$500Inverter1700/220045954.6Buy now
Champion 3500-Watt
Champion 3500-Watt
$490Emergency3500/40001268124.6Buy now
Generac GP 17500
Generac GP 17500
$3,000Professional17500/2625010N/A390Buy now
Goal Zero Yeti 150
Goal Zero Yeti 150
$200Solar80/1604012Buy now
Data obtained May 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

How does a portable generator work?

Portable generators use a power source — such as gasoline, propane or solar energy — to run an internal engine. This engine powers what’s called the generator head, which generates electrical power. You can then plug items or extension cords into the outlets on the generator to temporarily power them.

Most portable generators contain these components:

  • Internal combustion engine
  • Alternator
  • Starter
  • Fuel tank
  • Outlets

Types of portable generators

You’ll likely come across a few different types of portable generators during your search. Use this chart to help you nail down which is best for your situation.

TypeDescriptionBest forProsCons
Solar-battery poweredUses solar energy to charge an internal batteryShort use times or powering small items like a phone charger
  • Doesn’t require fuel
  • Quiet
  • Not always reliable
  • Not as powerful as other options
Recreational inverterConverts AC power to DC, then back to a cleaner AC power; can be used at variable speedsTailgating or camping
  • Increased efficiency
  • Quiet
  • Expensive
  • Not as powerful
EmergencyGas-powered generators with larger gas tanks and engines than other models Power outages
  • Long run times
  • Can power large appliances
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Can be more difficult to start
ProfessionalPowerful, commercial-grade models designed to power large equipment or appliances for long periods of timeProfessional job sites
  • Most powerful options
  • Long run times
  • Expensive
  • Bulky

What size portable generator do I need?

The size you need will depend on what you’ll be using your generator for. If you’ll be using it for a few hours to tailgate or while camping, a smaller model should do the trick. But if you want to power your home during a power outage, consider the appliances and other devices you’ll want to plug in.

Medium emergency portable generators can generate 3,000 to 6,000 watts of power and can run several must-have appliances, such as your refrigerator, sump pump and furnace.

Large emergency generators with 6,000 to 9,000 watts can generally power several rooms in your home, excluding your central air-conditioning unit.

Extra-large emergency generators, capable of generating 10,000 or more watts, should be able to keep your entire home running — air conditioning included — during a power outage. While still portable, these models are bigger and bulkier than other smaller versions.

How to compare portable generators

Consider these features when comparing portable generators:

  • Price. Portable generators can range in price from around $100 for a small solar-powered model to $4,000 or more for larger inverter models. Consider what you’ll be using it for and how many devices you might want to power to decide which price range makes the most sense for you.
  • Size. The best size for you will depend on your planned use for your new generator. If you only plan to use it while camping, for example, a smaller, less expensive option could be plenty. For emergencies, having a larger generator on hand may be your best bet.
  • Noise level. Smaller solar-powered and inversion generators tend to be the quietest, although they’re usually less powerful than their gas-powered cousins. If relying on a generator for blackouts, the noise level may not be high up on your priority list. But when tailgating or camping, going for a quieter model might be worth it.
  • Start mechanism. Most portable generators need to be started manually, but some models do have an electric or autostart option.
  • Extra features. Some models may come with extra bells and whistles like wheels, easy-carry handles, an easy-access fuel gauge, Bluetooth connectivity and multiple outlets.

How to hook up a portable generator to your house

There are two main ways to hook up a portable generator to your home: plug each device into an extension cord that runs inside from the outside generator, or connect the generator to your home’s circuit panel using a transfer switch.

Using an extension cord or generator cord

This method will allow you to power any plugged-in device, but won’t power hardwired devices.

  1. Place the generator at least 15 feet away from your home, with the exhaust pointed away from doors, windows and vents.
  2. Run several extension cords from the generator to the appliances you want to power. Alternatively, you can run one generator cord from the generator to your home to power multiple devices.
  3. Start the generator.

Using a transfer switch

This is typically considered the safest method of powering your home with a portable generator. You’ll need a transfer switch installed in your home next to the electric panel.

  1. Place the generator at least 15 feet away from your home, with the exhaust pointed away from doors, windows and vents.
  2. Connect the generator to the transfer switch in your home using a generator cord.
  3. Start the generator.
  4. Flip the breaker in the transfer switch to generator power.
  5. Turn on the circuits you want to power, one at a time.

Storage and maintenance tips

Properly storing and maintaining your generator will help it to last longer and run more efficiently. To do so, follow these basic tips:

  • Read the user’s manual for your model, following all specific instructions.
  • Clean the generator off after each use, removing dirt and debris from the external components.
  • Store the generator with an empty fuel tank, or use a fuel stabilizer to help prevent clogs in the fuel system.
  • Check the generator’s oil before each use.
  • Regularly inspect parts like the carburetor, air filter, fuel filter and spark plug to make sure your generator will be in working order when you need it.

Bottom line

Portable generators can be helpful to have around the house or job site. Because they come in a wide range of sizes and price points, compare a few options before deciding on the best fit for you.

Ready to buy? Compare top portable generators

How did we choose these products?

To create our list of the best portable generators, we compared the type, size, power, noise level and overall features. We also took into account third-party product review to round out our research.

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