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The 5 Best Portable Generators (2022 Review)

A portable generator is a machine that you don’t appreciate until you really need it. In this review, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the five best portable generators on Amazon to help you find the product that’s right for you. The products included in this article are available at various retail stores, local home centers, and online retailers like Amazon.

DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator Courtesy DuroStar

For thunderstorms, hurricanes, and other emergencies, a generator helps with power outages. It’s also useful when you’re on a camping trip or doing a home improvement project. However, purchasing a portable generator comes with a big price tag. To help you decide what model is worth the investment, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the best portable generators on Amazon. Here are our recommendations.

Most Powerful Generator: Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment Portable Generator

Though expensive and heavy, this portable generator is built to last. It has a hardened steel frame with a foam handle and never-flat wheels. The 7,500-watt engine works with the 6.6-gallon fuel tank to run powerful devices and appliances for up to 11 hours.

Key Features

  • Gas power source
  • 6.6-gallon fuel tank
  • 7,500 running watts
  • 11-hour runtime
  • 196 pounds
  • Three-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Customers who liked this generator said that it was well-designed, came with easy-to-understand instructions, and ran for hours at a time. However, unhappy customers had a hard time getting the machine to move with the wheels.

Best Basic Generator: DuroStar Portable Generator

Sold at an affordable price, this generator offers 3,300 watts of power and 3.9 gallons of gas. From tools for a home improvement project to appliances during a power outage, this model can support your machines and devices for up to eight hours.

Key Features

  • Gas power source
  • 3.9-gallon fuel tank
  • 3,300 running watts
  • 12-hour runtime
  • 94 pounds
  • One-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Positive reviews said that this generator was durable, holding up for many years. Customers also found it to be easy to store and move. However, those who gave it negative reviews claimed that it was difficult to start.

Biggest Tank: Generac Portable Generator

This portable generator has a near eight-gallon fuel tank that provides 6,500 watts of power for over 10 hours. Though it weighs close to 180 pounds, you can move it around your yard, home, and garage using the two wheels and handles.

Key Features

  • Gas power source
  • 7.9-gallon fuel tank
  • 6,500 running watts
  • 10.5-hour runtime
  • 177 pounds
  • Three-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Satisfied customers found this generator to be made from quality materials, easy to assemble, and simple to operate. However, some customers said that its fuel tank was prone to gas and oil leaks.

Most Compact Gas Generator: Honda Portable Inverter Generator

This generator produces less noise than the average conversation, making it a viable option for those who are sensitive to noise, live close to their neighbors, or are going to be near the engine when it’s on. Its noise level combined with its compact frame make it unlike other gas generators that are heavy and loud.

Key Features

  • Gas power source
  • 0.95-gallon fuel tank
  • 2,200 running watts
  • 9.6-hour runtime
  • 46.5 pounds
  • Three-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Many customers left positive reviews, stating that the generator was easy to use, operated quietly, and supported a surprising number of devices at once. However, those who left negative reviews said that it was often difficult to get started.

Most Portable Generator: SereneLife Portable Generator

Ideal for carrying in your hand or fitting in your backpack, this compact generator weighs 3.5 pounds. It can power laptops, phones, lights, and other small devices when you’re camping or hiking in the wilderness.

Key Features

  • Electric power source
  • 180 running watts
  • Eight-hour runtime
  • 3.49 pounds
  • One-year warranty

What Customers Are Saying

Users were satisfied with this generator’s lightweight, quiet build. Several customers mentioned using it to power their CPAP machine on a camping trip. Others were disappointed with how short it lasted and how few volts it supported.

Buyer’s Guide

Keeping power, fuel source, and other factors in mind as you search for a portable generator can help you make an informed purchase. We explore these elements and more in our guide below.

Fuel Source

Many portable generators run on gasoline. Though powerful, these generators have inherent risks, including carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. They’re also heavy, expensive, and loud. For an alternative, consider solar or electric generators. They’re lighter, quieter, cheaper, and better for the environment, but they’re not as powerful.

Power

The wattage of a generator tells you how much power it has. There are two wattage ratings manufacturers provide—peak and running. Peak wattage measures the initial surge of power when the generator is first turned on. Running wattage measures the generator’s power level the rest of the time. Running wattage is a better indicator of power. Most portable gas generators produce 4,000–10,000 watts. Solar and electric generators produce less, usually around 1,000–2,000 watts.

Outlets

Portable generators have various outlets to accommodate your appliances, devices, and tools. You commonly see between two and 10 total USB ports, wall outlets, or cigarette lighters on a generator.

Noise Level

The average conversation is spoken at 60 decibels. Solar and electric generators produce around this much noise. Gas generators are louder, producing 70–100 decibels on average. If you will be next to your gas generator for an extended period, we recommend wearing ear protection.

Portability

There’s no point in purchasing a portable generator if you can’t load it in your car or move it around your home. Solar and electric generators typically weigh under 10 pounds and feature a built-in carrying handle. Gas generators can weigh anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds, so they’re often on wheels.

How To Use a Portable Gas Generator

Using a portable gas generator may be a foreign concept to you. However, by following the included instructions and considering the below tips, you’ll be able to power your home in case of an emergency or your campsite on the go.

Don’t use the generator inside

Don’t use a gas generator indoors or in a closed garage, as it releases deadly carbon monoxide. Once it’s off, you can store it in your garage or shed to protect it from the elements.

Don’t backfeed power into your home

Backfeeding refers to the practice of plugging your generator directly into an outlet in your home. It’s dangerous and often illegal because it causes unfiltered electricity to flow through circuits, which can electrocute workers on nearby power lines or overload your devices and appliances. To use your generator around your home, have a licensed electrician install a transfer switch.

Let the generator cool before refilling it

Trying to fill a hot generator with fuel is dangerous because the gas could ignite. Though it slows down your project, let the tank cool completely before refilling it and returning to work.

Maintain an adequate fuel supply

Keep enough gas and oil on hand to use and maintain your generator. This ensures that you’re prepared in case of a power outage.

Keep the generator dry

Water and electricity don’t mix. Don’t use your generator in rainy conditions or when your hands are wet. Also be sure to bring it inside if your area is expecting bad weather.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a portable generator work?

The generator’s engine uses the supplied fuel to turn the alternator. This produces energy as electricity, which is harnessed through the generator’s outlets.

How much is a portable generator?

Most portable generators range from $200 to over $1,000. It’s difficult to find a cheap generator without compromising quality. Although it’s certainly an investment, a portable generator still costs less than a permanent one, which starts at $4,000.

How many watts does a generator need to power a house?

It depends on the appliances and fixtures you have around your home. To get a sense of the needed power, get the peak wattage for each appliance and fixture you wish to run. For example, if you’re looking to power kitchen appliances with a combined peak wattage of 4,000 watts, you’ll need a portable generator with an output of at least that.

Why Trust The This Old House Reviews Team

This Old House has empowered homeowners for more than four decades with top-notch home improvement content in the form of television programs, print media, and digital content on its website and social media platforms. The This Old House Reviews Team focuses on creating in-depth product and service review content to help inform your purchasing decision for just about any item or resource that you might need for your home. The This Old House Reviews Team has written over 1,000 reviews on products in the home space, from cordless drills to kitchen trash cans, lawn mowers, and dining room decorations.

We recommend products in each review using an intensive research process, spending hours combing through the best available models on Amazon. For a product to make our list of top picks, it must hold a solid sales record on Amazon, have consistently positive customer reviews, and offer unique features, among other factors. After narrowing down our list of recommendations, we conduct additional research and sometimes in-person testing to ensure that the products meet our standards. Once we conclude the research phase, we craft a well-rounded, user-friendly article that includes our recommended products and additional information to help homeowners like you make the right purchase.

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