Extreme weather events like hurricanes, winter storms and wildfires are becoming a lot more common, and each disaster is another reminder that you need to be prepared for anything. But if the last time you prepared for a disaster was during fire drills in school, you may not be sure where to begin. For starters, a designated disaster survival kit and emergency food supplies help you meet your basic needs at home for up to 72 hours, and a go-bag (a backpack or duffel with emergency supplies) can be a valuable addition in the event of evacuation orders. But if you’re going to be hunkering down in one spot for a long time, you might end up needing a portable generator.
The best portable generators can help you power essential household appliances in the event of long-term power outages such as those caused by hurricanes. Natural disasters aren’t the only reason to buy a generator. Whether you’re a regular camper, tailgater or you’re all about that van life, a reliable generator can help you meet your basic electricity needs. Your first move is to consider how much power you’ll need. Beyond that, there are several different kinds of generators that offer different features. Some options to consider include:
- Standby generators
Standby, or whole house generators, are designed to kick in as soon as you lose power. Hospitals use standby generators (very powerful ones, obviously) which kick in in a matter of seconds. Unsurprisingly, standby or whole house generators are costly and require professional installation. (Thanks to the recent freeze that’s paralyzed much of Texas and the Great Plains, they’re also in short supply at the moment.) That’s why we’ve decided to focus on the best portable generators, which best suit most needs. Portable generators are frequently found on job sites and, as the name suggests, can be taken anywhere. Inverter generators are the quieter and more energy-efficient counterpart to louder portable generators. Inverters generate AC and then convert it DC and back to AC. It’s a more complex process, which is why they’re more expensive than most portable generators. Battery or electric generators can be suitable for basic needs, although they’re not likely to power larger appliances.
When it comes to emergency backup power, there are two numbers that you need to look at. One number is peak watts, which is often referred to as starting watts or surge watts. This refers to the maximum power output. Some devices require a higher boost of power to start but run at a lower level. Then there are the running watts or rated watts, which is how much power the generator can continually put out once it’s up and running. Usually, the number accompanying generator model numbers is the peak watt rating, which is why it’s important to always check the running watts.
It’s worth noting that you should never use any gas, natural gas, diesel fuel, propane, or any other kind of fuel in an enclosed space. They can produce toxic and lethal fumes, which is why any fuel-powered portable generator should always be used outdoors. Solar or other battery-powered generators produce no emissions, so they’re safe for indoor use (although solar generators may not work very well indoors for reasons that should be obvious).
We’ve focused on compact generators, including electric, portable and inverter generators, but we’ve also included a couple of standby options as well.
Below, you’ll find our top three recommendations for the best portable generators. Keep reading for our full selection, which includes fuel-based generators, inverter generators, all-electric and solar generators and larger models designed to provide emergency backup power for homes.
Keep in mind that because of the ongoing winter storms in the midwest, these generators are in high demand. Some of the products listed below may be back-ordered or out of stock.
Honda Portable Inverter Generator
Honda is known for its reliable cars, so it’s no surprise that their power equipment is reliable, too. This inverter generator has a wattage of 2,200, and, since it’s an inverter, it will run quietly and efficiently. It also has an Eco-throttle mode for even better fuel efficiency. It weighs less than 50 pounds, which, while not insignificant, is manageable for one person, especially with the convenient carrying handle.
Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator
BEST PORTABLE GENERATOR
Westinghouse was an important company during the early days of electricity, and today the company produces tech, lighting and generators, like this gas-powered electric generator. It’s CARB-compliant, meaning it meets California’s rigorous air-quality standards. Its power capabilities are 7,500 running watts and 9,500 peak. The push-button electric starter makes it easy to get it up and running, and you can even start it remotely using the included key fob. In addition, the WGen6000 model is one of the best portable generators for sale in 2021.
Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X Portable Power Station
BEST ELECTRIC GENERATOR
For an eco-friendly option that you can use in an emergency, the Goal Zero Yeti 1500 portable power station supplies 2,000W of running power or 3,5000W of surge power. That means this compact unit has enough juice to run even your larger home appliances such as a refrigerator. It’s also a good option for tailgates and other outdoor events, since it runs silently, which even the quietest inverters can’t compete with. It can be recharged using Goal Zero’s solar panels, or you can plug into a wall outlet or even a car’s 12V port. It weighs just over 45 pounds, so it’s not reasonably difficult to carry.
The best inverter generators are known for being more fuel-efficient and quiet. These generators rev the engine up and down based on demand rather than running constantly, which is why they are more efficient than the alternatives. In an emergency, when you need your fuel supplies to last as long as possible, that can be a major benefit. In general, smaller inverter generators cannot provide whole home power, but they can keep the heat and lights operating while the rest of the neighborhood goes dark.
Craftsman Inverter Generator
This option from Craftsman is an inverter generator, so it’s quieter, more fuel-efficient and more portable. And, since it’s an inverter, this generator from Craftsman also supplies “clean” electricity — that means it’s safer to use with sensitive electronics. It has 2,200 starting watts and 1,700 running watts. The tank holds 1.2 gallons of fuel, and the auto low-fuel shutoff helps protect the unit. The Craftsman Inverter Generator is also CARB compliant, meaning it meets California’s fuel standards.
Predator Inverter Generator
QUIET BUT POWERFUL
Predator’s inverter generator is a lightweight and quiet option for delivering mobile power. The noise output is 65 dB, making it about as loud as a conversation in a public place. If you realize you need more power later on, you can pair the Predator Inverter with another Predator unit using a parallel kit. It’s CARB and EPA certified to meet air quality standards. It also has a power-saver mode for greater efficiency.
Westinghouse iGen2200 Portable Inverter Generator
In addition to the portable generator featured above, Westinghouse also makes a portable inverter generator. The iGen2200 is fuel-efficient, quiet and can run for up to 12 hours continuously. It’s running wattage is 1,800 and it peaks at 2,200. It’s also EPA and CARB compliant, meaning it meets air and efficiency standards. It can also be paired with another Westinghouse portable inverter if you need more power. It’s less than 50 pounds, so it can be carried by hand.
WEN Portable Inverter Generator
EFFICIENT AND QUIET
Wen makes a wide variety of affordable power equipment, like this 2,000 watt (1,600 running watt) generator. It’s an inverter generator, meaning it’ll run more efficiently and quietly than standard portable generators. It has two AC ports, a DC port, and a USB port, so you can keep your phone and tablets charged. At just under 50 pounds, it can be taken on the go with relative ease.
Large inverter generators and wheeled generators are generally designed to power equipment and lights at construction sites, or act as temporary backup power for homes. However, there are also smaller mini generators that are designed to operate without a fuel source. These all-electric generators can be charged like any other battery-powered appliance or via solar panels. Keep in mind that if they aren’t already charged before a power blackout, they won’t be much use in an emergency.
This category includes small, portable generators designed for camping and emergency use. Rather than powering appliances, these generators typically have USB and power outlets for charging phones and powering lights, heaters, computers and other essentials. Because all-electric generators don’t use fuel, they are generally safe to use indoors.
These mini generators are in high demand right now, but you can find the best portable generators at retailers such as Amazon and Lowes. The best mini generators from brands such as Jackery and
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
BEST FOR PERSONAL DEVICES
This all-electric power station weighs less than seven pounds and can easily fit on a table, making it a good option for indoor use. It supplies 200 watts, so it’s a good option if you need a boost for charging phones, powering space heaters and keeping the lights on in an emergency, or for longer camping trips where a portable charger isn’t enough. You can also hook it up to Jackery’s solar panels (not included) for an eco-friendly and reliable way to keep the power station charged.
Jackery Explorer 1000
BEST FOR FAMILIES
Jackery’s popular Power Station Explorer model comes in a few different sizes based on the maximum output. Many of these models are available via Amazon Prime. The higher the model number, the higher the power output. For instance, the Power Station Explorer 1000 model generates 1,000 watts and has many additional power outlets and USB ports. Thanks to the ease of use, solar charging option and handy digital display, they are the best portable generators for most homeowners.
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator
ON THE GO
If you’re looking for something for your personal devices, consider this option from Goal Zero, which has a wall outlet and USB ports to keep you connected. The generator can be charged using solar power, or you can plug it into a wall outlet. It weighs 12 pounds and has an easy carrying handle to take it on the go. Designed mostly for camping, it can also provide emergency power at home.
Ego Nexus Power Station
RELIABLE ELECTRIC POWER
This power station from Ego supplies 3,000 watts of peak power and 2,000 running watts, so it’s powerful enough for short-term blackouts, emergency situations, and outdoor events. It can power TVs, microwaves and full-size refrigerators. Plus, since it’s electric, you can use it indoors. That means you don’t have to worry about would-be thieves making off with it. The LED display shows how much power you have left, so you won’t be left in the dark.
Duracell – PowerSource Gasless Generator
SLEEK AND POWERFUL
If you’re looking for a powerful electric generator at a more modest price than some of the other options, then consider this option from Duracell, one of the most trusted names in household batteries. It provides 2,8000 watts of peak power and 1,440 watts of continuous power. There are 4 AC outlets in addition to two USB ports, so you can easily power multiple kinds of electronics that you might need.
Portable Wheeled Generators
While all of the generators we’ve featured so far are small enough to be easily transported, some generators also come with wheels so they can more easily be maneuvered around job sites. Popular tool and equipment manufacturers like DeWalt make reliable wheeled generators, which are designed to meet the needs of work crews and construction projects. For home use, these powerful generators should be more than capable of meeting basic household needs for an extended perior of time, assuming you have enough fuel to power them.
We’ve included a selection of the best wheeled generators below.
Westinghouse WGen6000 Portable Generator
BEST FOR HOME POWER
This versatile gas-powered generator can be used as both an emergency home power backup and as a portable power source for construction; it provides 7,500 peak watts and 6,000 rated watts of output. A handy electric start switch makes it relatively easy to operate, and this product has earned thousands of 5-star reviews. When fully fueled (this generator has a 6.6-gallon gas tank), it can provide 13 hours of power. Westinghouse has made sure the L14-30R outlet is Transfer Switch Ready, which means this generator will connect to your home, eliminating the need for endless extension cords and power strips. With a durable steel frame, this portable generator is built to last for many years to come, which is why it’s backed by a 3-year warranty.
Champion Power Equipment Portable Generator
Champion (not to be confused with the makers of soft sweatshirts) is a reliable brand if you’re looking for portable generators. It has 4,700 watts of peak power and 3,800 watts of continuous power. It’s a versatile option because it can run on gasoline or propane. It’s also designed to be easy to use thanks to the electric starter switch. This unit has one 120V 30A RV outlet, one 120V 30A locking outlet and two 120V 20A household outlets.
DEWALT Portable Generator
DEWALT is known for powerful worksite equipment, so if you’re looking for a generator that can keep up with big jobs, consider this portable gas generator. It has 8,000 running watts and 10,000 starting watts, meaning it’s capable of handling kitchen appliances and air conditioners. At over 200 pounds, it could qualify as a heavyweight boxer. That said, the sturdy wheels and the pull-out handle mean it won’t be too unwieldy to move around. The unit features an auto-shutoff when unsafe carbon monoxide levels are detected to keep you safe.
Also Consider: Standby Generators
Technically, standby generators aren’t designed to be portable. Rather, this type of power equipment is designed to be professionally installed in a permanent location outside your home or commercial building, as you would with an air conditioning unit. As soon as an electricity outage occurs, these standby generators power-up, ensuring there is little to no interruption of power.
Keep in mind that these types of generators require regular maintenance. They also tend to be expensive. Because of recent extreme winter storms throughout the United States, standby generators are in short supply. The products listed below are currently back-ordered.
Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator
A standby generator can be a handy option if you frequently deal with blackouts. Standby generators kick in as soon as your power supply goes out, helping to keep your home running in the event of an outage. It’s a relatively small unit, so it won’t take up too much space in your backyard. The generator can be used with either natural gas or propane, with the former being rated for 12,000 watts and the latter for 10,000 watts. The generator kicks in in 20 seconds, minimizing the disruption to your home’s power.
Generac Guardian Standby Generator
If you need a powerful home generator, this option from Generac is rated for 18,000 watts when using propane or 17,000 using natural gas. It has overload protection and automatic voltage regulation, keeping you safe while keeping your home powered up. Generac’s generators come with free software that allows you to monitor your generator from your phone, tablet or computer.