Going through a power outage is an annoying experience, especially for those who get their fair share of blackouts because of where they live (I feel your pain here living in South Florida). While not having power is frustrating, if you have poor quality or outdated portable generator – your next emergency or outage could be much worse.
Of course, there are plenty of choices in the market today, which is why I reviewed several products with my team of experts to give you a preference for the best portable generators for money.
- This popular model can operate a wi...
- So quiet, your neighbors will thank...
- Add a second EU2200i for additional...
- Features Two GFCI (Ground Fault Cir...
- Plug-and-Play: Comes with a Remote ...
- Powered by a 420cc Westinghouse 4-S...
- Dual Fuel – Operate your 3400-watt ...
- Convenient Electric Start with 3-Po...
- Ultra-Quiet Operation – 59 dBA is p...
- Dimensions: 19" x 11.5" x 18.2" | W...
- Noise Level: 53 dB operation
- EPA III and CARB Compliant 79.7 cc ...
- 🔥【298Wh Large Capacity Battery】Feat...
- 🔥【Super Multiple Ports】Prymax porta...
- 🔥【Run More Safely】2 pure sine wave ...
Who Needs a Portable Generator
We are so connected to the digital world today that it is hard to imagine a time without electricity, or our mobile devices connecting everything. Power outages are more prevalent in some areas more so than others, but in the event of an emergency or natural disaster, having backup power is essential.
Which is why every household needs a portable generator. Not just for those worst-case scenarios though, because the top portable generators also make for a fantastic luxury to take camping – I am a big fan of DIY glamping (glamorous camping) thanks to the luxury that my small generator provides.
Plus, my wife and I can enjoy more extended camping vacations now that we invested in a portable generator, which is excellent because she was not able to come if we were staying overnight due to problems she gets when sleeping without her sleep apnea machine (which we needed power for).
How Do Portable Generators Work
Portable generators work to create electricity by using an internal combustion engine powered by a fuel source like gasoline or propane turning an alternator over to produce energy. So, in more relatable terms, this means that a portable generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy through a process called electromagnetic induction.
Typically, portable generators consist of a steel frame or similarly durable plastic housing and include an internal combustion engine, an alternator, starter motor, fuel tank, and the necessary outlets.
When buying a portable generator make sure to think about how you will put your generator to work. This is because different units have a varying number of power outlets and power output (in watts) which will depend on the brand and model of generator.
How to Choose the Top Portable Generators in 2020
Firstly, it is crucial to start the portable generator decision process by considering what your power needs are, and what you intend on using your generator for. This might sound daunting, especially if you are inexperienced if so, check out this helpful power needs a guide to understanding better how many watts you will need – which is a big part of how you will choose the best portable generator.
Portable Generators are Not a One Size Fits All Solution
There is no one size fits all method when correctly choosing a portable generator to buy. It is common sense, what you use the generator for will impact the type of unit that you need to purchase.
Are you looking to use a generator on your job site? Portable generators are a great option because of the mobility and range in power output provides.
Up your tailgating or camping game? Portable inverter generators are a definite choice because they are the quietest of the gennies and feature clean energy with low Total Harmonic Distortion.
Are you worried about getting stuck between a rock and a hard place during a storm or emergency? A portable generator will do great for the necessities during an outage. However, you’d do good to consider hooking up two portable generators using a parallel kit for full coverage without the stress.
Portable Generator Buying Guide: Features
When it comes to picking the best portable generator for your needs, there may be several units which look like they will be perfect for the task – so how do you differentiate between multiple generators?
There will always be slight variations in the designs and features of different portable generators and these can make a big difference to the overall experience you have with a generator.
If you are stuck when comparing and buying a portable generator, consider these features:
- Portable generators with better quality control panels will include a display which has various functions, including, the ability to monitor the voltage output, frequency, and the number of hours that the model has been in operation.
- Units with LED’s which indicate when there is an overload situation
- Controls that enable you to easily differentiate between automatic power saving mode to performance mode
- Portability of your generator is important, if the unit is larger or heavier, think about how you would transport the generator – are there sufficient wheels or parts to grab or carry from
- Does the generator come with parallel cables as standard, or does it include any extras like a special spark plug wrench, cover for the generator, or a battery-charging cable
- Compare the noise levels of all models, but make sure that you are comparing them in the same circumstances. If a model was tested at 20 feet away, ensure that the model you are comparing with has similar data from that range
How to Use a Portable Generator Properly
A generator is important, yet a dangerous piece of machinery, which must always be handled with respect and care when operating. I cannot stress how important it is to read the owner’s manual and instructions carefully and take note of the warnings for safe operation
I’ve shared these great supplementary tips for running your portable generator (you’re welcome), but don’t be daft; these aren’t a reason to not read the manual.
- Never operate your portable generator indoors or in a semi-enclosed area such as a garage
- Only run your generator where there is appropriate ventilation, so, outdoors and ensure that the unit is a suitable distance from all windows, doors, vents, and crawl spaces
- Only operate the generator on level surfaces and away from any exposure to excessive dirt, moisture, dust, or corrosive vapor
- Always allow room in the fuel tank for fuel expansion
- Never add fuel while the unit is operating or hot, still allow it to cool first
- Never leave your unit with fuel in the tank
- Never connect your generator directly to the wiring of your home through the regular outlet – this can be deadly and risks back feeding into the power lines connecting your property
- Always ensure your generator is suitably grounded
- Leave a minimum of five feet of clearance on all sides of the unit when in operation
- Never overload your portable generator – be smart with the number of devices you connect and the power output of your generator
What are Inverter Generators
Whether you are in the market for a durable portable generator or a powerful unit to provide backup power to your home in the event of an emergency – there are a number of options to choose from.
Among these options of portable generators are models which include the latest technology which was coined with the term inverter generators, and have played a big part in making portable generators such an excellent investment.
While portable inverter generators have become a staple in the generator market today, these machines do command a premium price to support their much improved performance.
The inverter generator has allowed portable generators to produce cleaner and more efficient power, while boasting longer operating times and significantly quieter noise levels – but how do inverter generators actually work?
How Do Inverter Generators Work
A sophisticated microprocessor (think of this as the brain that oversees the parts of the generator) controls the entire process behind the inverter technology, taking the raw power produced by the generator and runs it through a back-and-forth process to convert the relatively unstable energy into a smoother and cleaner energy source.
The alternator in the generator produces a multiphase, high voltage AC (alternating current) power which is then converted into a DC (direct current) energy source by the inverter. The inverter then converts the newly created DC power back into AC, while smoothing out the stability of the energy and cleans the power (total harmonic distribution of less than 3%) to a more desired frequency and voltage.
This process creates clean power which effectively mimics the power that you receive in your outlets from the power companies.
The clean power that is created by the inverter generator is therefore safe to use with sensitive electronics that feature microprocessors (just about every piece of modern technology nowadays) which are sensitive to the quality of energy.
What are the Benefits of Inverter Generators
With the innovation of inverter generators, the technology has widely been accepted by many of the leading brands and included in most high-quality portable generator units. However, not all generators include inverter technology.
So, why should you need to consider opting for a portable inverter generator for your next investment? Check out some of the benefits of inverter generators below.
Improved Fuel Efficiency
The microprocessors which make the inverter process possible are also involved in the overall running of the system.
The engine is automatically adjusted to produce the amount of energy that is required for the load. So, if the load is low the engine speed will slow to meet the reduced output needs.
Because the engine is not running at full capacity to produce the power required, this allows for better operating times and improved fuel consumption – with some models boasting up to 40% reduced fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
Inverter generators run at a significantly quieter level than conventional generator models.
These quieter noise levels when operating are a result of the engine running at lower speeds because of the lower strain on the system to produce power levels.
The noise performance of inverter generators is typically boosted further thanks to the use of common sound dampening materials in the design of a generator, however, these will vary across different models and brands.
Parallel Connection Capabilities
One of the supplementary benefits of investing in a portable inverter generator is their capability of doubling your power output by linking two identical units with a special cable.
Running two units in parallel mode gives you the confidence of knowing you have that extra kick of power when you really need it, without having to fork out for one of the much higher priced and considerably heavier (defeats the purpose of portability!) generators.
With two parallel portable inverter generators you get the power without sacrificing any portability and efficiency.
Some inverter models today also come with a transfer switch, which is perfect for use in an RV when there is a preference for a 30 amp outlet.
Lighter & More Portable Units
The use of inverter technology in portable generators has allowed companies which manufacture and engineer these units to have more creativity when it comes to components of the build.
With a much more efficiently powered engine, there is no need for generators to pack as much punch into space with larger engine sizes – as was the case in the early days of portable generators.
Inverter generators therefore allow for much smaller and significantly lighter models, making the perfect option for a portable generator.
High-Quality Energy Output
This benefit is more important than ever in the modern age of technology.
With smartphones, laptops, games consoles, smartwatches, and just about every other piece of modern technology including microprocessors – clean and stable electricity is a requirement.
Inverter generators are able to create a stable and clean power source which mimics the power you receive at home. This means that you won’t need to risk your devices when charging and using these sensitive electronics while plugged into a portable inverter generator.
How to Look After Your Portable Generator
Portable generators are sophisticated pieces of machinery and technology, and how well you look after your unit can have an impact on how well it operates.
Therefore, it is important that when you invest in a generator, that you refer to the operating manual for the servicing and maintenance requirements.
While there are certain checks which should be completed each time you start your generator, and both before and after any substantial period of inactivity or storage. There are some basic maintenance checks that you should always consider with your new investment.
Portable Generator Maintenance
It is important to undertake a visual inspection of your portable generator before starting the motor.
Look for all general electric wiring and pipes to see whether they are in good working condition. Use your own judgment as to whether these components are in suitable condition, when in doubt – call out and ask for a second opinion from someone nearby.
Check the fuel and oil levels, there should be an oil inspection area or a dipstick that will identify the minimum and maximum oil levels. Always ensure that the oil level of your generator is between these two levels and never outside of either.
In the event that your generator requires oil to be added, remember to add just a little bit of oil each time and wait about five seconds for the oil to settle. Check the oil level after each pour and repeat if necessary.
Exceeding the maximum oil levels may build up too much oil pressure within the engine and is a serious danger to your health.
Servicing Your Portable Generator
You should service your generator at least once every 12-months, or once the recommended number of hours operating has occurred, whichever happens first.
Although manufacturers do recommend that you take your generator to an authorized servicing agent, anyone who feels comfortable in their ability can undertake the service themselves.
A typical portable generator service will include the following tasks:
- Drain and replace the engine sump oil
- Replace the oil filter
- Drain and flush the radiator and replace with coolant
- Drain and flush the gas tank and fuel lines
- Replace the fuel filter
- Replace the air filter
- Inspect and clear the oil crankcase breather by cleaning and removing any build-up of oil and foreign debris
- Inspect alternator connections
- Inspect the electrolyte levels in the battery
- Inspect and clean the terminal connectors on the battery
- Inspect the solenoid connections on the starter motor
- Inspect all electrical connections
- Inspect and clean the engine and alternator of any foreign debris
- Inspect and clean all ventilation or air grilles for foreign debris
- Test the generator under load checking the voltage and frequency
How to Store a Portable Generator
It is important that you take care of your portable generator before storing it for long periods of inactivity.
Prepare your generator for storage by draining all of the fuel from the carburetor. While some newer models have a drain valve, if yours does not, simply close the fuel valve and run the engine until it cuts off because of a lack of fuel.
You need to drain the fuel from the carburetor because leftover fuel will evaporate and leave a sticky residue that commonly blocks inlet jets.
If you are leaving fuel in your gas tank, add a fuel stabilizer to stop the fuel from breaking down over time. We recommend just draining your gas tank though.
For generators with electric starters, ensure that you disconnect the battery from all other components. This will stop the unit from discharging.
When storing your generator, always ensure that it is stored upright and is covered with some type of cover to stop dust from building up on the components.
What Is The Best Portable Generator Unit?
We researched many different products and selected five different models to provide detailed comparisons. Take a look through each of our summarized reviews and the pros & cons to find your best portable generator.
Champion 3400-Watt 100263 Dual Fuel Portable Inverter Generator
- Running Watts: 3100W (propane 2790W)
- Weight: 95.7 lb
- Noise: 59 dBA
- Fuel Capacity: 1.6 gal
This convenient electric start portable inverter generator is an excellent combination of durability and power, with the convenience of clean energy which means your expensive electronic devices have less chance of being damaged. The cold start technology that comes standard is just what you need to ensure that you aren’t standing around on those frigid mornings trying to get the power running!
We selected the Champion 3400-Watt 100263 portable generator as our Top Pick because as well as featuring a consistent power output, the dual-fuel engineering makes this model user-friendly for all backgrounds and the very quiet 59 dBA noise levels mean you won’t have any dramas trying to find somewhere suitable to set it up.
- Dual fuel right out of the box fueled by gasoline or propane
- Reduced noise levels at 59 dBA – as loud as a normal conversation
- Easily portable
- Scale to your power needs with the parallel kit and 50-amp RV ready outlet
- Economy mode for quieter operation, fuel efficiency, and extended engine life
- Reliable unit at a very affordable price-point
- EPA & CARB/50 State Certified
- Pulling the unit with wheels requires holding at an uncomfortable angle
- Handles are ok – but not many people will lift 96 pounds
- Decent power but take note that running watts are 3100W
Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator
- Running Watts: 1800W
- Weight: 46.5 lb
- Noise: 48 dBA
- Fuel Capacity: 95 gal
We weren’t surprised to see yet another high-quality portable inverter generator from Honda, designed with peak performance in mind. While disappointing to not see an electric start option on this premium choice generator (or at least a combined offering), Honda has made the startup process very easy for anyone to follow thanks to 4 guiding LED lights.
We could feel the build quality as soon as we first got the Honda EU2200i portable generator in our hands, the design is very portable and weighs in at under 50 pounds – which we consider quite remarkable given there is no reduction in performance.
Under standard running conditions, this Honda unit is as quiet as a mouse (almost!), registering within 48 to 57 dBA. We selected this portable generator as our Premium Choice largely thanks to the inherent quality and performance that Honda has packed into such a small and quiet unit.
- Energy efficient with 8.1 hours (at ¼ load) out of a 0.95-gallon tank
- Easy-to-follow startup process with LED guiding lights
- Simple maintenance thanks to larger oil control parts
- Improved durability through the upgraded rotor and ventilation system
- Extremely quiet when compared to units of similar capacity
- A 2-year warranty comes as a standard with purchase
- No electric start on a premium-priced model is disappointing
- Run time only slightly better than the previous Honda unit
- No fuel gauge
WEN 56225i Super Quiet 2250-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- Running Watts: 1800W
- Weight: 48.5 lb
- Noise: 53 dBA
- Fuel Capacity: 1 gal
This lightweight, portable inverter generator packs a decent punch for its affordable price point, and the included fuel shutoff feature is excellent for maintaining the overall life expectancy of the WEN 56225i portable generator – which can be a big challenge for generators around the price point of this model.
We couldn’t look past this generator – selecting it for our Excellent Value choice, which is a credit to the pocket rocket like quality and features that are included. A fantastic option for families wanting a flexible power option for their campsite, plus with the inverter technology providing a constant flow of clean energy your fancy tech will always be safe.
A bonus to this WEN generator is the very ‘friendly’ housing unit, which made it easy to understand everything that was going on – plus the 5v USB ports are a great addition in 2020. While in a practical sense the shorter run times of about 6 hours at ½ load is not as desirable for a 1-gallon tank, it is in line with other models and to be expected for a value choice generator.
- Affordable price without jeopardizing performance
- Eco-mode helps to improve the shorter run times and efficiency
- Parallel ready features for boosted power output
- EPA and CARB compliant
- Quiet 53 dBA – similar noise to a window air conditioner
- Fuel shutoff limits blockages from the carburetor
- Shorter run times at higher loads
- May impact Radio comms due to no RFI filtering
Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator
- Running Watts: 7500W
- Weight: 192 lb
- Noise: 73 dBA
- Fuel Capacity: 6.6 gal
The Westinghouse WGen7500 portable generator is packed full of power, and stronger than Hulk Hogan himself. Complimenting the durability of this unit nicely is a huge 6.6-gallon fuel tank which means your campsite will be powered no worries.
However, with all this power comes great weight! So, don’t expect an easy time moving this 192 lb portable generator around. In saying that, the wheels and frame do a great job of making this feat that little bit easier.
This Westinghouse is the perfect solution to anyone that wants the best of both worlds, with this portable generator doing a great job of backing up the power for your home (as well as the camp or job site). Just don’t forget to consider the louder noise levels that this unit puts out at 73 dBA, thinking of placement, we were impressed with the startup options for this unit, with both electric start and a sweet wireless remote start feature, plus don’t forget Westinghouse’s buyer-friendly 3-year warranty.
- Durable steel frame with cast iron sleeve and roll cage
- Impressive run time of more than 10 hours at ½ load
- Stress-free maintenance with control panel and digital hour meter
- Engine protection with a built-in low oil shutdown feature
- Massive 6.6 gal fuel tank
- Electric start and wireless remote start features
- Somewhat noisy at 73 dBA makes it less desirable for camping
- Considerable weight for a ‘portable’ generator (192 lb)
PRYMAX Portable Power Station, 300W Solar Generator
- Running Watts: 300W
- Weight: 6.5 lb
- Noise: Minimal
- Fuel Capacity: Battery Powered
This portable generator is unorthodox when compared to the models we have reviewed. Pointing out the elephant in the room, the PryMAX Portable Power Station is more super-battery than it is a portable generator. Still, it does an excellent job for anyone with small to medium power needs.
For the environment-conscious folk, this portable power station generator is the perfect addition to your emergency plan or for a camping getaway. Non-toxic without the gasoline, but the downside to a battery is when it’s flat, it is flat. While this unit is the perfect choice for camping or a short-term backup on a rainy day – we recommend forking out the extra cash and purchasing solar panels to go with the power station.
Now, if you don’t know the ins and outs of portable power banks that are popular with charging mobile devices, they have an average supply between 5,000 – 10,000 mAh. For comparison, this super light handheld (only 6.5 lb) portable generator has the equivalent of 90,000 mAh stored in its lithium battery.
- Overcharge, overpower, overcurrent, overvoltage protection
- Can be charged within 9 hours from a 30W-120W solar panel
- Powerful LED flashlight built-in and LCD screen
- Non-toxic since there is no gasoline fuel source
- Super light makes it the perfect camping companion
- Without solar panels to recharge, consistent use is not possible
We’ve rounded up and covered five of the top portable generators to buy in 2020, but at the end of the day, there was one unit that set itself apart from the other models. If you are in the hunt for an affordable portable generator that doesn’t compromise on power, you can’t go wrong with our Top Pick – the Champion 3400W 100263 dual fuel portable inverter generator.
While the other horses in the race did put in some good yards, but the Champion (a fitting name!) remained steady in value thanks to its powerful and economic engine – without needing as much of investment like the other units with an only slight performance increase.
The housing unit of the Champion portable generator looked modern and helped to keep the startup and shutdown process smooth – without cluttering things with so many features as the Westinghouse and WEN start to do.
Although this generator does not provide the most power, we feel that the much higher price point of the Honda and the chunky, “less portable” Westinghouse unit didn’t do much to justify out placing the Champion generator.
This unit is not the most-premium model, but it does slot in nicely behind the higher tier models, earning the Champion 3400W 100263 dual fuel portable inverter generator our Top Pick for 2020.