Best Portable Generator

Who Else Wants a Generator That Can Follow Them Wherever They Go?

Portable generators have wheels or are light enough for you to carry so you can rest easy knowing wherever you need electricity you can get your generator there…

…Portable generators, for this reason, are more versatile than their standby and RV generator counterparts because they are not bolted down.

2 Types of Portable Generator to Know About

Inverter alternator generators come inside a noise reduction casing. They tend to be quieter, lighter, more fuel efficient and more compact than conventional generators.

Conventional alternator generators come with an open frame and are probably the type of portable generator you think of when you create a mental picture in your head. They are cheaper, often provide more power and are louder than inverter generators.

How Real People Use Their Generator

Inverter Generator Popular Usage Cases

Inverter generators are quiet, light, compact and very fuel efficient and so people who have bought inverter generators use them for a wide-range of recreational activities:

  1. Camping (Boating, 4×4 driving, hunting etc.)
  2. Tailgating
  3. Weekend events
  4. Small home emergency backup

Conventional Generator Popular Usage Cases

Conventional generators are the older technology. They use bulky copper winding to create electricity whereas inverters use magnets to generate a flow of charge. Because of this fact, conventional portable generators are heavier and louder. However, they almost always offer a much better price to power ratio than inverters. People use conventional generators for so many different purposes that it would be impossible to list them all here. Instead, here are some of the most popular usage cases:

  1. Job Site
  2. General home use
  3. Home emergency backup power
  4. Cabin or holiday house
  5. Generator rental company

How to Really Pick the Top Portable Generator for Your Needs

Below are 7 categories with the best 3 portable generators listed for each. This should make picking the exact one that is best for you easy. All you have to do now is pick the category that jumps out at you.

 

Top Portable Inverter Generator (Quietest)

 

1) Yamaha EF2000iS Portable Inverter Generator

Yamaha Inverter Generator IsoView

The Michael Jordan of inverter generators is the Yamaha 2 kW generator. It is the portable generator with the best fuel efficiency – drinking through only a can of soda worth of gasoline each hour (at 1/2 load). So if you’re looking for a generator that will just keep on going (like the energizer bunny), this is your best bet.

In addition, you will not be disappointed with the ability of this generator to come with you everywhere you go – being that it is only 44 pounds and the size of a briefcase. Think of the possibility of that. You could now have electricity while on your boat to power a radio or a small fridge of drinks…

Are you looking for a quiet generator? This Yamaha is nearly silent. You could easily put the generator a few feet away from you and your friend and still have a normal conversation. Officially, it is about the same sound level as your refrigerator. You can talk next to your fridge, can’t you?

All-in-all you’re looking at a 5 out of 5 star generator on Amazon.com. It is one of the most popular portable generators in existence and I think the top portable inverter generator for you.

 

2) Champion 73536i Portable Inverter Generator 

 Champion Power Equipment 73536i Portable Inverter Generator

Champion is a brand that is 1 of the most well respected in the mining and construction industry. They make generators that last even if used continuously. Their inverter generator is light, quiet, fuel efficient and you’re able to connect 2 of these up to get double the juice (stackable).

  • Light. Tipping the scales at only 48 pounds you will not be disappointed with the ability of this generator to fit into tight spots without hassle. Next camping trip, when your car is chock full, you’ll still be able to squeeze this inverter in to ensure a comfortable and warm (or cool, depending) camping trip.
  • Quiet. As with all inverter generators, this 1 is much quieter than conventional generators (which are typically as loud as your lawnmower). The best sound test for a generator is you trying to have a conversation next to it. With this one, you can. It is only as loud as your refrigerator and that’s acceptable.
  • Fuel Efficient. With state-of-the-art microprocessors controlling the inverter, Champion decided to take advantage of this technology and use it to control a smart throttle. With a “smart” throttle your generator can adjust its speed to match demand thus saving on fuel.
  • Stackable. If you require more than 1.6 kW of running power then you’ll need to stack 2 on top of each-other. That is the reason why this generator is square – to make it stable for when you stack them. All you need to make this happen is 2 x Champion Inverter Generators and 1 x parallel connecting kit (a few wires need to be plugged in).

In addition to some pretty awesome benefits mentioned above, you’re also getting a CARB (California Air Resources Board) Compliant generator which means it is very enviro friendly and you can bring it camping with you anywhere and everywhere in the US – no worries. If all this sounds good then have a further look:

 

3) Briggs & Stratton 2,000 Running Watts Portable Inverter Generator

Briggs and Stratton Inverter Camping Generator

Coming in as the third best portable inverter generator is the 50 pound lightweight by the world’s largest manufacturer of air-cooled internal combustion engines – Briggs & Stratton…

…In fact, many power equipment brands choose to include a Briggs & Stratton engine on their branded bit of gear because they are so dependable and long-lasting. I guess they figure they can’t do better, so why try?

Many people have commented how they love the handle design. It is well suited for carrying the 50 pounder with 1 or 2 hands and in many different grips. Very thoughtful! And like the other inverters on the list it has a smart throttle to increase engine life and fuel efficiency.

 

Top Portable Conventional Generator

 

1) DuroMax XP10000E 8,000 Running Watts Portable Generator

DuroMax XP10000E Portable Generator

This is the conventional generator I rated #1 top value for the money on my Top Generator 2014 page… I figured 10 kW of starting power for less than $1k is pretty good value. It is a great generator for work, play and emergency backup power:

  • Work. The XP10000E has a large fuel tank (8.3 gallons) to minimize downtime on the job by running for 10 hours (at half load). It has fully protected outlets to keep dust contaminant (present on the job site) out and has all the necessary engine sensors to keep your engine running healthy even after extended use.
  • Play. The XP10000E is a great generator to take with you camping, to tailgate parties and to sporting events because it is easily moveable. It has never-flat, all terrain tires and a flip-up handle. While you’re enjoying yourself you probably don’t want to be disturbed by your generator, yeah? Well, this one only produces a noise level equivalent to your vacuum cleaner when you step away from the genset.
  • Emergency. If you often find yourself powerless at your home, you’ll want a portable generator for backup power with a good selection of outlets and a capacity for surge. The XP10000E has exactly what you need: 6 different outlets to ensure you have power for all your different electrical appliances and a 2 kW surge capacity on top of its already impressive 8 kW of running power.

DuroMax has hit a sweet spot in the market as is evidenced by the fact this portable genset is 1 of the top selling month-in-month-out… So, if you want to spend your cash wisely, take a closer look at this one because you will not be disappointed with the ability of it to make your work easier, your play more fun and your emergencies less stressful.

 

2) Champion Power Equipment 4,000 Starting Watts Portable Generator

Champion Power Equipment 46515 Portable Generator

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Champion is one of the most trusted and respected brands for job site generators in the mining industry. I mean, if they’re reliable enough to provide power to machinery that makes these companies millions, they’re probably good enough for your needs.

Champion has learned over the years and decided to install its 196cc OHV (overhead valve) engine with a cast iron cylinder sleeve to greatly increase the engine life (protected cylinder walls). Impressive, as well, is the fact that for only about $320, you’re getting 12 hours of run-time (at half load ~ 1750W) from a generator that is no louder than your dishwasher or toilet flushing.

But hey, don’t take my word for it…Take the word from more than 50 people who have rated this generator 4.5 / 5 stars on Amazon.com. See ratings here.

 

3) ETQ 3,250 Running Watts Portable Conventional Generator

ETQ TG32P12 Portable Generator

If you want a generator with steadfast talent for providing you clean and stable electricity for very prolonged periods using minimal fuel, this is your best investment.

The Eastern Tools & Equipment portable generator is designed with a smart computer controlled alternator to deliver the smooth electricity your sensitive microprocessor controlled electronics, appliances and tools love.

13 hours run-time at half load off 4 gallons of fuel is the endurance of this top selling powerhouse. Turn this generator on at your campsite (away from the action of course) and you’ll only notice a slight purr - similar to that  purr from your vacuum…

 

Top Propane Powered Portable Generator

 

1) Generac LP3250 3,250 Running Watts Portable Propane Generator

Generac 6000 LP3250 Propane Generator

Propane powered generators are perfect for around the home, especially during an emergency, because propane can be stored indefinitely within those barbecue style tanks.

That means you can have a stockpile waiting for the next emergency and not have to worry about going to a gas station to get gasoline… And there’s a good chance that during an emergency those gas station pumps won’t be operational anyways (powers out!)

The best value for the money propane powered portable generator is the Generac pictured above right. It has up to 9 hours of run-time at 1/2 load with a regular size 20 lb tank (barbecue size). With that much run time off that little fuel you can rest easy knowing that all your power needs are covered.

 

2) ETQ PG30P11 3,000 Running Watts Propane Powered Portable Generator

ETQ PG30P11 Propane Portable Generator

Coming in as the second best propane powered portable generator is the Eastern Tools & Power Equipment clean-burning 106 pound very quiet generator.

The 2 reasons why this genset is #2 and not #1 are:

  1. No wheels. I’m ranking portable propane generators here. 106 pounds is decently light for a generator, but still, a little heavy for 1 person to move around with ease.
  2. No tank holder. The tank holder on the above Generac propane generator holds 20 and 30 pound tanks with ease. This ETQ does not have a holder – making it a little less portable.

All that said, my fav feature on this lime green geny is the advanced alternator technology. It will allow you to plug your sensitive electronics like variable speed tools, laser printers and laptops directly into the generator. If you did this on a generator that does not provide clean utility quality power, you would probably fry your gear…

…So please, if you need to power these sensitive electronics and want to use propane for power, this is the best option.

 

3) Sportsman GEN4000LP 4,000 Surge Watts Propane Generator

Sportsman GEN4000LP Propane Generator

For only about $380, you can get a propane portable generator with the ability to power your sump pump or fridge for at least 10 hours with only a normal size barbecue propane tank… like in image there —>

A cool benefit of propane generators is they are usually quieter than conventional gas powered generators. This particular 1 is about as loud as your dishwasher (68 dBA). How obvious is it when your dishwasher is on? Can you have a chat in the kitchen when its on? Though so.

So, for piece mind  around the home, get this generator and never worry about feeling powerless when the power goes out. Save your basement from flooding and your food from rotting.

 

Top Portable Generator for General Home-Use

 

1) Generac GP17500E 17,500 Running Watts Portable Generator

Generac 5735 GP17500E Portable Generator

If you have the need for lots and lots of electrical power around your home or at the job site, this is the beast for you. It offers you the most power of any portable generator – 17,500 running Watts…

…Enough power to run almost all the electrical appliances in your house AT ONCE. Think: sump pump, fridge, central AC or heating, lights, cooking appliances, tools and probably more depending on the specifics of each.

This generator is extremely popular in the Tornado and Hurricane prone areas of the Southern USA. The reason is because alot of towns in that area do not have underground natural gas lines to their home and are they’re forced into getting a gasoline powered generator for their general home use and backup power needs.

So, if you have the need for this amount of juice, you’re looking at the all-star that will keep your basement dry, food and drink cold, house warm or cool (depending) during the next blackout or natural disaster.

 

2) Briggs and Stratton 7,000 Running Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

Briggs and Stratton Elite Series 30470 Portable Generator

Coming in as the second top rated home use portable generator is the B & S 7,000 running Watts gas powered generator with wheel and handle kit. People have rated it 4 / 5 stars on Amazon and love how its US-made guaranteeing a long and healthy engine life.

This generator is perfect, as well, if you’re a contractor or need a generator for job site use. Why? Because it will provide you power all day without any downtime…

…B & S have fitted a 7 gallon fuel tank to keep your tools and other electrical equipment going for 8 hours (at 1/2 load). So while all the others are filling up their gas tanks half way through the day, you’ll be working at finishing the job fast so that you can go home early.

 

3) DuroMax XP10000E 8,000 Running Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

DuroMax XP10000E Portable Generator

If you’re like me, you enjoy getting excessive value for minimal price. Who isn’t like that, right? Well, here is a portable generator that costs less than $1000 but has features usually only present with generators costing $1500 or more…

…First off, you get 10,000 surge / starting Watts and 8,000 running Watts. That’s a lot of electrical power. Surely enough for all your general home use needs including heating or AC, fridges, lights, pumps or other safety equipment and other power tools.

Then DuroMax went and fitted it with an 8.3 gallon gas tank to provide 4,000 Watts for at least 10 hours. That means during the next blackout you can rest easy knowing you and your family will be comfortable and safe.

 

Top Portable Generator for Emergency

 

1) Generac GP5500 5,500 Running Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

Generac GP5500 Gas Powered Portable Generator

The Generac GP5500 is the new and improved GP5000… and for the same price as its more mature counterpart, you’re getting 500 more Watts of running power. In my books, this is enough to propel it to the top of the home emergency generator category.

Let’s take a closer look at why:

  • It is affordable for the amount of electrical power you get, at only about $650.
  • It has a long run-time thanks to its 7.2 gallon gas tank (10 hours or more calculated at 1/2 load).
  • It has covered outlets to protect again ingress of dust and other airborne contaminants.
  • It has a durable and strong construction to ensure the generator frame and parts last as long as it OHV (overhead valve) engine will.
  • That said, it has a purpose built for generators OHV engine with lubrication and engine warnings to keep the maintenance requirements low.

All that and you get the added piece-of-mind that Generac is the most trusted generator company in the world. They have an impecable track record and, in fact, sell “5 times as many generators as all of [the] competitors combined”. (source)

 

2) Briggs & Stratton 8,000 Running Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

Briggs and Stratton 30471 Portable Generator

Briggs & Stratton air-cooled engines are second to none. Overall, Generac generators as a whole unit are probably a fraction more reliable; however, looking at the engine alone – Briggs & Stratton surely takes the cake.

Quick fact: In 1998 Generac sold their generator business to an equity firm who then sold it to Briggs & Stratton. Once the non-compete contract was up (2007) Generac came back into the market they knew so well. So I guess you could sorta say that Briggs & Stratton generators are really just modified Generac generators with Briggs & Stratton engines.

The reason their engines are so good is because of the amount of time they have had to improve them to a point of perfection. They were founded in 1908 and have been continually improving for over 100 years. Practice makes perfect, right?

On top of that, their engines are so good that “8 out of 10 lawn mower brands choose to utilize Briggs & Stratton engines to power their lawn tractors and push mowers.”

I realize were not talking about lawn mowers here but it just goes to show that these companies agree – there’s no point reinventing the wheel – just the same as there is no point trying to redesign a better engine than a Briggs & Stratton engine…

…And when it comes to a portable generator for a home emergency, really, the most important thing is the engine. It is what provides the mechanical energy that the electrics side of the generator turns into electrical energy and thus voltage for your home appliances.

 

3) Generac GP17500E 17,500 Running Watts Portable Generator

Generac 5735 GP17500E Portable Generator

This is the largest portable generator available. It has 17,500 running watts and could easily power all of your essential home needs including air con, fridges and sump pumps during an emergency…

…So if propane/natural gas isn’t available in your area (and you thus can not get a standby generator to automatically be plumbed in to that line) then you’ll want the biggest gas powered portable generator for any large home emergencies.

This beast has a 16 gallon gas tank (take a look at the size of it in the image, haha, the gas tank takes up almost half the height of the 3 feet 4 inch high genset) to provide you power for 10 hours at 1/2 load.

 

Top Professional (Heavy-Use) Portable Generator

 

1) Generac XP8000E 8,000 Running Watts Professional Portable Generator

Generac XP8000E Professional Generator

If you’re a contractor and use a generator everyday on the construction site to earn a living, you’ll want to spend a bit extra cash and get a professional generator that is built for this purpose.

Generac didn’t just put an “XP” sticker on their lower models and sell it for more. They took the time to find out what people like you wanted in their generator: large fuel tank, easy maintenance, long and healthy engine life and a durable construction.

They listened. And so, this pro generator has

  • A large gas tank to ensure enough run-time for the entire workday – 9 gallons to give you 10 hours run-time at 1/2 load.
  • A rugged exterior with hardened 1.25″ steel tube cradle and lifting eye for lifting or securing.
  • Protected outlets to protect against job site debris and dust.
  • Clean utility quality electricity for variable speed tools and other sensitive electronics.

Being a Mechanical Engineer, I like engines. So let me tell you about this purpose-built for portable generators OHVI (overhead valve industrial) engine and why it will last you years and years without any issues:

  • Dual element air filter that protects the engine from dirt and extends the scheduled maintenance intervals.
  • Pressurized lubrication system instead of splash lubrication to ensure every single engine bearing gets the oil it needs.
  • X-Torq governor to eliminate stalling.
  • Automotive grade oil filter to prevent engine wear and ensure a long and healthy engine life.
  • Low oil pressure protection that senses oil pressure instead of just oil level to ensure the engine is protected from improper lubrication.

Simply put: If you rely on your generator everyday, get 1 that is built-for-use-everyday. 1 with better engine parts, bigger fuel tank and less frequent maintenance.

 

2) Briggs & Stratton Pro Series 8,000 Running Watts Portable Generator

Briggs and Stratton Pro Series Generator 30337

Coming in number 2 is the most affordable 8,000 running Watts professional generator – the overhead valve V-Twin B & S Pro Series. You will not be disappointed with the ability of this genset to cope with the rigours of any job site you work on.

You’ll notice in the image right that this geny comes with 4 wheels and locking brake to ensure easy movement over any job site terrain. I think this is a truly under appreciated benefit because (at least on the sites I have worked on) it is not a pleasant task to maneuver a 2-wheeled geny over bumps and hills when you’re trying to get a job done.

So if you’re into saving money (this is the cheapest within this Pro list) but still want a professional generator to use daily, this is the best option for you.

 

3) Yamaha EF6600DE 6,000 Running Watts Portable Generator

Yamaha EF6600DE Professional Generator

Yamaha’s offering to professionals is their 6,000 running Watts very quiet workhorse – the EF6600DE. It was designed for the job site and especially for extended heavy-use…

…It has a cast iron cylinder lining to improve heat dissipation. This is ideal for continuous use, and also, successful at extending the engine life well beyond a normal engine.

To be honest: I believe it is a little known fact that Yamaha even makes generators and for this reason many people are reluctant to purchase one thinking they are newbies to the game. This would be a mistake…

…They may have started as a piano manufacturer but they have been designing motorcycles for over 60 years and when you think about it – a generator engine is really similar to a motorcycle’s. They have the experience and knowledge to pump out efficient game-changing generators and with this one – they have!

 

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Sources:

1. For general background information on portable generators the wiki page was consulted.

2. The reviews index on topgeneratorreviews.com was used to navigate to all the individual generator brochures.

3. As a side reference PED pro generator ratings were looked at and taking into account for the final rankings on this page.

4. The online Home Depot store has some greats features and benefits resources for portable generators. They also have customer reviews that I found useful.