Portable Generator Buying Guide

Photo of author
Written By Noah Campbell
Portable Generator

Electricity has become a necessity for everyone even when you live off-grid. Somehow we know some basic conveniences like water and internet connectivity is no longer something we can do without. Perhaps there is a project that requires some heavier equipment that runs on electrical power as well. Whatever the needs are, we know electricity plays an inevitable part in our daily function. But what happens when you are in a situation where there is no power source you can easily plug in to? Where main electrical connections fail, portable generators take over.

Making Power Portable

Portable generators are simply generators that are made into a more convenient size that can be packed at the back of your car. You start to consider these over your traditional generators that power whole houses or even buildings, when your power needs will not require as much as those larger machines. 

As we go along the way of breaking down the options for portable generators, we shall also review some questions of your purpose for obtaining one. Is this merely for emergency purposes? Are you going to be using it for longer periods of time? What are you trying to power with these generators? How much space do you have for transportation storage of these generators? All these concerns will narrow down your options to the optimal choice of portable power.

What Are You Powering?

Do remember that greater size usually means greater power. The bigger your generator, the more power you are able to provide for multiple appliances and outlets. So first you might need to calculate just how much power you are probably looking to create off-grid.

Calculating the total power will require listing down the appliances you intend to use for the generator. Take note of their running watts and their starting watts. Running wattage refers to how much they are using while operating. Starting watts, for some appliances that power motors like hand drills or blenders, are usually higher than their running watts. Take their individual running wattage and sum it all up. Next, find the appliance with the highest starting watt and add that up to the sum of the running watts. This will give you the amount of power you will initially want to consider.

A whole other post could be dedicated just discussing appliances, categories of appliances and their power requirements.

Size To Power Ratio

We have already begun the discussion on power, now let us correlate it to the size of a portable generator. Enumerated below but not limited to, are possible wattage per size of generator:

Small Portable Generator – Usually below three thousand five hundred watts. This size is usually for generators used in emergency power outages. They can keep a few appliances like the Television, device charges and some lights running but not for too long before you need to refill the tank again. Now if you are using this on some sensitive electronics like your computers, set your goal on an inverter type generator to prevent damage from fluctuations in power or electrical surges. 

Size To Power Ratio

Mid-Sized Portable Generator – Ranging from four thousand watts to seven thousand watts, they can be used for a thousand to three thousand square-foot house during an emergency. The exact size of your generator will therefore depend on the number of appliances that you need running. Even with a larger house this could still function with the workaround being, reducing the number of appliances that will continue to run during an emergency. 

Large Portable Generators – Going above seven thousand watts to up to ten thousand watts, these are some pretty powerful portable generators that are capable of being power backups for larger homes or even a small two-story building.

It seems rather basic to divide the generators based on their size and power but you could also see from it on the perspective of use. Are you thinking of using it recreationally for when you intentionally go to places without electricity? Or perhaps you need it as a reliable backup during power outages. Generally, small generators are sufficient for recreational use. There is just that consideration where you will need to constantly refuel the tank, perhaps every few hours, because the small ones are not made for long duration of use. 

When doing considerations for your emergency use, it helps to think about only running the appliances that absolutely need to continue to run. For example you could set your goal to at least keep the freezer running or the computer should stay on. Then from there your power requirements will be more realistic and practical. If you do plan to power the entire house and all appliances then perhaps you ought to consider getting one of those more expensive and larger standby generators.

Number of Outlets

Since we talked about using the generator on multiple appliances, you will also want to check on how many outlets they have in the portable generator. Another thing to think about is what type of outlets you will be needing. Today some generators do not just provide outlets for your traditional plugs, they now come with USB ports for plugging in your phone and other USB-charging devices. 

Getting to the mid-sized range of portable generators, you will start seeing two hundred and forty volt outlets along with even more one hundred and twenty volt outlets. The two fort volt plugs are necessary for when you want an electrical connection directly wired to your panel.

Fueling The Power

The most common fuel used for these generators is gasoline. It is easy to get and you can simply refill from a nearby gas station. Diesel generators on the other hand offer a more superior fuel efficiency. If you are looking to power the entire house and more appliances, diesel will be the preferred fuel.

Going green has also reached this particular product’s industry. Now you have an option to store power in your battery-operated generators using the latest solar technology. This is the most environmentally friendly option with no emissions while running silently. However this will not give you as much power, no more than a thousand and hundred watts, compared to your gasoline or diesel generators.

Knowing Your Noise Levels

 smaller generators

Generally you have lesser noise for smaller generators. This is particularly useful if you happen to have possible neighbors or even just maintaining the peace and quiet in a natural environment when you are camping. 

There is really no “silence” in what are labeled as “silent-type” generators but when you do a comparison for noise levels in generators above four thousand watts then you will be watching out for the fuel type. Just like cars, diesel generators will be louder than their gas counterparts.

Concluding Considerations

Normally you will not have a problem with your generator purchase in terms of regulations of the state. This is especially true if your supplier is from the same state you are in. Therefore do check on what your state regulations are on certain generators and their emissions. There is usually a regulatory board like the CARB or the California Air Resources Board which dictate the requirements for the most environmentally friendly generators.

There will also be regulations on the amount of noise levels you are allowed to make when camping but not too much of a concern. All generators that are reviewed by the state meet this criteria.

Our team has considered all the factors outlined in this buying guide, along with their expertise and knowledge in Portable Generator, to recommend the top choice for you. You can shop being confident that someone has considered all relevant information and you will get the best portable generator to meet your needs. Happy shopping!