BYOP: The Best Portable Generators for Backup Power

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Recent extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires have not only served as an immediate symbol of the need to take action on climate change, but also as a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness. 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 emergency kit will help you meet your needs at home for several days, 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. You 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
  • Inverters
  • Portable
  • Electric

Standby, or whole house generators, are designed to kick in as soon as you lose power. Hospitals use standby generators (more powerful ones, obviously) which kick in in a matter of seconds. Unsurprisingly, standby or whole house generators are costly and require professional installation. That’s why we’ve decided to focus on portable varieties, 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 comparably powered portable generators. Battery or electric generators can be suitable for basic needs, although they’re not likely to power appliances.

When it comes to power, there are two numbers that you need to look at. One number is peak watts, which is also 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 or rated watts, which is how much power the generator can continually output. Usually, the number accompanying generator model numbers is the peak, which is why it’s important to also check the running watts.

It’s worth noting that you should never use any gas, natural gas, 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 only be used outdoors. Solar or other battery-powered generators produce no emissions, so they’re safe for indoor use. We’ve rounded up some of the best portable generators, including inverters and electric options.

  

1. Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator

BEST OVERALL

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.

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2. Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator

BEST ELECTRIC 

Electric generators can be good options if you need to power a few small personal electronics, although they’re generally not powerful enough for household appliances. 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.

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3. Champion Power Equipment Portable Generator

MOST VERSATILE

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.

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4. Honda Portable Inverter Generator

BEST INVERTER

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.

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5. 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.

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6. Jackery Portable Power Station

BEST FOR PERSONAL DEVICES

This 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 small appliances in the event of a short outage, 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.

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7. DEWALT Portable Generator

MOST POWER

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 means it won’t be unwieldy to move around. The unit features an auto-shutoff when unsafe carbon monoxide levels are detected to keep you safe.

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8. Westinghouse iGen2200 Portable Inverter Generator

FUEL EFFICIENT 

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.

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9.  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.

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