Portable Home Generators: A SafeWise Buyers Guide
Best Portable Backup Generators for Your Home
While your house is ominously quiet during a power outage, your thoughts may begin to race. Are there batteries in the flashlight? How much food is in the fridge? Before your next power outage, follow SafeWise’s advice and buy some peace of mind with a generator.
There are two basic types of generators: portable and standby units. We’ve focused on the portables in this guide because they’re affordable solutions perfect for the average homeowner. SafeWise’s generator recommendations are all gas-powered generators, producing low to medium amounts of wattage that’ll keep the average home humming.
Things to Consider When Buying a Home Generator
Before you buy, it’s good to break down exactly what to look for in a generator. We’ll highlight several key factors that were part of our decision-making process to help you become a more informed consumer, but if you’d like to skip to the details on our recommended models, you can do that here.
Top 5 Portable Generators
Honda is a reliable brand name in portable generators, and its engines are famously fuel efficient. While this compact model puts out only 1,600 watts at full load, you’ll make bank with fuel efficiency and keep it quiet enough to avoid noise complaints. Honda indicates this generator operates for eight hours on one tank of fuel and has a low-oil shutoff feature. It also comes with Honda’s standard three-year warranty and is California Clean Air Resources Board (CARB) compliant.
Quiet: Reviews claim this is an extremely quiet unit, and manufacturer specifications indicate the noise level is similar to that of a normal conversation.
Equipped with Inverter Technology: As we discussed previously, inverters make generators more fuel efficient and quieter in general.
Low Wattage: This isn’t going to power your whole home. Many customers say they use these for RVs or to supply just the essentials during an outage.
Not Electric Starting: It has an old-fashioned cord pull, like a lawnmower, but it’s easy to use and doesn’t require much muscle.
This inverter is basically a clone of the Honda EU2000I for about half the price. You’ll get the same wattage in this compact, quiet unit but a little less fuel efficiency. The WEN produces 10.5 hours of power, is EPA III and CARB compliant to save your conscience and the environment, and comes with a two-year warranty.
Less Expensive This is the best of the bargain inverters, and it garners great reviews on Amazon.
Equipped with Inverter Technology The WEN has the quiet, fuel-efficient capabilities that are a hallmark of inverters.
Relatively Quiet This unit is quieter than Honda EU2000I on the specs sheet, but actual customer reviews indicate it may be a bit louder in practice.
Low Wattage Again, this isn’t going to be enough to run anything but the essentials, so make sure you understand your power needs before you buy.
Less Fuel Efficiency The WEN costs less up front, but over time, the Honda may be a better value since this guzzles more gas. Do the math to ensure your bargain buy is the steal you think it is.
You can have it all, but you’ll have to pay for it. This Yamaha is quiet, has a CARB-complaint engine, and produces outstanding fuel efficiency wrapped in a compact package. That price tag may give you pause, but if you’re looking for an inverter generator with great reviews and all the bells and whistles, you’ve found it. Yamaha also covers this portable home generator under a three-year warranty.
Compact and Lightweight This is about five pounds lighter—and significantly smaller—than the WEN, so if you need something portable, you won’t find anything better than the Yamaha.
Extremely Fuel Efficient Yamaha has this inverter dialed in, providing over 10.5 hours of run time with a quarter load on one tank of gas. That’s pretty fierce, and it blows away the competition.
Relatively Quiet This generator isn’t loud, but it’s a few notches above the other inverters we’ve recommended.
Low Wattage Just the essentials, please, or you’ll overload the wattage this unit puts out. Calculate what you’ll need and make sure this generator is going to do the trick.
Higher Cost Unless you can grab this model on sale during the off season, this generator is pricey. But considering the fuel-efficiency gains, it may pay for itself before the warranty expires.
This home portable isn’t an inverter, but if you don’t mind the noise and the fumes, you’ll get plenty of juice for all your appliances at a bargain basement price. Buyer beware though—this one is heavy, and the wheel kit is an additional cost. It’s also not CARB compliant, and at 69 dB, you may want to opt for some earplugs.
Less Expensive This model is a bargain, no doubt about it. It’s a generator that focuses on the power and leaves the fancy stuff behind.
Higher Wattage At over 3,000 watts, you’ll be able to supply most of your major appliances and keep things humming along.
Loud This is by far the loudest generator on our list. You’ve been warned.
Gas Guzzling Even with a larger tank, this model still manages to blow through fuel in about eight hours.
Heavy Ouch. At ninety-one pounds, this generator is nearly twice what the others on our list of recommended models weigh. You’re going to need that wheel kit for sure.
Quiet, fuel efficient, and extremely powerful, this generator is the Tesla of home portables. And it’s going to cost you. Not only does it churn out nearly double the wattage of other generators on our list, it does so with mind-blowing fuel efficiency. DuroStar runs for eight hours on a four-gallon tank at half load, while this Honda generator gives you eighteen hours of double the wattage on a five-gallon tank. While it’s hard to argue with specs like that, your bank account might not agree. This portable will set you back a couple thousand dollars and then a couple more. Buyer beware.
High Wattage You can power up a small home, including an air conditioner and a full army of appliances, on this kind of wattage.
Super Quiet Once generators get this size, they’re loud. But Honda has figured out a way to minimize that noise. The decibels on this model clock in at around the same as some of the smaller generators.
Very Efficient How Honda managed to crank out twice the fuel efficiency on this engine is anyone’s guess, but your wallet won’t mind.
More Expensive There’s no question about it. This generator is a serious commitment. Make sure you need this kind of power before you invest.
Heavy It’s a good thing this comes with wheels. This generator is over 200 pounds, so don’t expect to be hefting it up stairs anytime soon.