In a world where everything is connected, power outages present a true problem. Last summer during a power outage, I was unable to work, plus I had to face extreme heat. I watched as elderly neighbors and those with pets headed to shelters for safety. So I know firsthand how power outages can leave you exposed to the elements—whether that's summer's heat or winter's cold—and they may even risk your health if you depend on something like a CPAP machine.
A generator can be the perfect solution to keeping you safe and connected when emergencies strike. I definitely wished I had one when I was stuck in my hot house with no AC. But what's the best generator for you and your budget? In this article, I found the best ones on the market.
Best overall: Generac 7042 Standby Generator
Editor's pick: Westinghouse WGen9500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Best for low prices: Champion Power Equipment 3500-Watt Portable Generator
Best inverter generator: Briggs & Stratton P2400 PowerSmart Inverter Generator
Best low price inverter: WEN RV-Ready 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator GN400i
Most versatile power station: EGO Nexus Power Station
Generator vs. Inverter vs. Power Station
You might think of a generator as a very loud, gas-powered machine. But newer generators can be much quieter and more versatile than their predecessors.
For example, a traditional portable generator can use regular gasoline or diesel (and most do), but some can be powered with liquid propane or natural gas. Inverter generators, even though they’re also powered by gas, diesel or propane, make much less sound. Many models, like our top pick, now come with a dual fuel feature and can be powered with gas or propane, offering greater flexibility.
Standby generators are the most powerful, with some reaching over 20kW. They are installed permanently, by a professional, in a household or commercial location, and they switch on automatically if you lose power. This kind of generator might use either liquid propane or natural gas, but if you have access to the latter from the local power company, it provides quite a few benefits. Namely, it's a virtually unlimited power source, and you don’t have to buy new tanks or refill the generator (you do have to pay the bill, though). If my power company offered natural gas for a generator, I would choose a standby generator.
Inverter generators, favored by campers, normally use gasoline, though dual-fuel models (compatible with liquid propane) are becoming more popular. Inverters take the initial AC current, turn it into DC current, then back into AC current at the rate needed by whatever’s plugged in. This stabilization is what makes them much quieter and more efficient than regular generators. I like these generators for on-the-go needs.
Then there are the new kids on the block: battery power stations. While some are known as “solar generators,” these are essentially oversized lithium battery packs and not generators per se. Many are, however, designed specifically to use solar energy more efficiently than other batteries, which is where they get their nickname.
But lithium batteries, which are used in phones, electric cars and many other products, are now more efficient and better at keeping their charge for long periods. Modern power stations can pump out up to 3000W of power and, when charged through renewable sources, can even keep small refrigerators running. They may not replace generators entirely yet, but if you're worried about emissions, I would recommend this type.
Generator Buying Guide
A generator is a big expense but it can be a life-saving item. To make sure you get the right one, it's important to shop carefully. Luckily, I've already done the research so you don't have to. Here are some of the specifications you'll encounter when shopping for a generator:
• Wattage. A generator’s capacity is measured by wattage — that is, how many watts of electricity a generator can put out by the hour. This helps determine what you’ll be able to power. A common refrigerator, for example, can pull about 150 watts per hour, on average. During a power outage, you'll have to decide what you want to keep running with your generator. For example, I would've chosen to run a fan and my WiFi last summer.
Generators also have a peak capacity and running capacity, which are the two main measurements you’ll see advertised. Peak watts can be reached for short bursts to start up appliances or power something large at a moment’s notice, but a machine's running watts are what it can sustain for long periods of time.
• Power source. Generators run on gasoline, diesel, liquid propane, natural gas and some — although not technically generators — on lithium batteries. Gasoline, diesel and propane are easily obtained, and out of the three, propane is the cleanest and easiest to store. Dual-fuel models (like my Editor’s Pick) can run on either gasoline or propane.
Finally, lithium battery stations are silent, clean and can be stored almost anywhere; however, it’s important to determine whether they can be charged using solar panels, as not all batteries have the capacity to do so. If the battery station can only be charged by plugging it into an electric outlet, it could be useless in prolonged power outage situations. With these generators, I would only look at solar-charged batteries.
• Warranty. Generator manufacturers generally provide three years of limited warranty, but some only give two and others can go up to five. To make sure I'm getting the best bang for my buck, I always read the fine print and check the warranty.
• Safety. Generators emit dangerous gases and use volatile energy sources. Installing them improperly can damage your appliances or worse. First, make sure yours is certified by the EPA and CARB (California Air Resources Board) to reduce the risk of contamination and intoxication. Second, consider models with smart features such as automatic shut-off, voltage adjustment or even wireless alerts. Finally, set up the generator properly outside the home, and if you plan to use high wattage, have a transfer switch professionally installed. Personally, I would hire someone with training to install the generator rather than taking the risk myself.
Reviewing the Premium Generators for 2023
1. Best overall: Generac 7042 Standby Generator
List Price: $5,895.00
Peak Capacity: 22000W │ Continuous Capacity: 19500W │ Advertised runtime: Indefinitely with natural gas line and proper monitoring │ Tank Capacity: Natural gas line or desired propane tank │ Voltage: 120/240V │ Warranty: 5 years
For people who face extreme weather conditions or certain health conditions, even an hour without power could be life-threatening. In those situations, the best bet is a standby generator that turns on automatically and can run on an unlimited power source — like the Generac Guardian 7042. With 22kW of peak capacity and 19.5kW of continuous power, it can keep almost your entire home on for an indefinite period of time, provided you give the unit proper maintenance and have access to natural gas. Because of its high wattage and ability to automatically turn on, I chose this as my top pick. And, if natural gas isn’t available in your area, you can also set it up to use liquid propane.
The 7042 boasts a five-year limited warranty and a wide range of smart features that ensure safety and aid with upkeep. It automatically regulates voltage, and monitors temperature when in prolonged use and yes, it has Wi-Fi and an app. With the app, I can monitor the amount of gas used and the voltage and get alerts in case of an emergency.
- Easy to use and understand
- Flexible customization options for individual needs
- Robust features designed for versatility
- Assembly instructions are simple and straightforward
- Not compatible with other brands
- High price point compared to other models
2. Editor's pick: Westinghouse WGen9500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator
List Price: $1,249.00
Peak Capacity: 12500W │ Running Capacity: 9500W │ Advertised runtime: 12h at 50% │ Tank Capacity: 6.6 gal. │ Voltage: 120/240V │ Warranty: 3 years
For a little over $1,000, the Westinghouse WGen9500DF offers close to the maximum capacity found in portable generators. At 9500 continuous watts, it can easily power appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners and electric heaters. While it has less wattage than the previous generator, I chose this one because it's durable and can power larger appliances. For its price, I think it's quite a steal. I also like that it's versatile, as it can run on regular gasoline or liquid propane. The performance is a bit weaker on propane, with a peak of 11200W and 8500 running watts, but it’s a cleaner option and easier to store. These specs apply to a 20-pound tank, and you can always buy a bigger one if you like.
As a nice touch, this generator is also easy to turn on. It has a button, just like new cars, and a key fob to turn it on remotely (no need to walk to the shed in the dark). But don’t worry if the button fails or if you simply don’t trust it; there is also a reliable emergency recoil start.
- Heavy-duty wheels and handle for easy maneuverability
- Included wrench for feet and wheel installation
- Efficient fuel burning to minimize emissions
- Locking gas cap for added security
- Product labeling may be confusing
- Difficult to read dipstick on generator
3. Best for low prices: Champion Power Equipment 3500-Watt Portable Generator
List Price: $529.00
Peak Capacity: 4375W │ Continuous Capacity: 3500W │ Advertised runtime: 14h at 50% │ Tank Capacity: 4.7 gal. │ Voltage: 120V │ Warranty: 3 years
Buying a cheap generator isn’t always a good idea. In my experience, if you want to go down on price without sacrificing quality (and safety), you have to settle for less power. But for $529 (and sometimes on sale for $379), the Champion 3500W has enough power to keep valuable appliances running (up to a 15,000 BTU air conditioner) and to keep the competition on its toes too. It delivers the same performance and warranty as leading rivals, with a small edge on runtime, tank size and extras like the proprietary "Intelligauge" to monitor performance.
For a slightly more powerful, but also budget-friendly, alternative, there’s the Westinghouse WGen3600. It offers 3600W, it’s equally reliable and also offers a three-year warranty. And while it’s usually more expensive than the Champion, you can often find the Westinghouse model on sale for as low as $314.
- Rugged, well-built construction
- Quick reference guide for easy setup
- Large fuel tank capacity
- Good value for money
- Must follow break-in instructions carefully
- Doesn’t come with a quart of oil
4. Best inverter generator: Briggs & Stratton P2400 PowerSmart Inverter Generator
List Price: $799.00
Peak Capacity: 2400W │ Continuous Capacity: 1800W │ Advertised runtime: 8h at 25% │ Tank Capacity: 1 gal. │ Warranty: 2 years
Inverter generators are known for their quiet motors, their portability and, unfortunately, their high price tags. That's why I chose the Briggs & Stratton P2400 inverter. At $799, this generator is reasonable for its capacity and reliability as its manufactured by a 112-year-old company. Designed mostly for camping, the P2400 has a peak of 2400W and a running capacity of 1800W. That can power a small refrigerator, fans, and small appliances like blenders or pressure cookers. At 25%, which is about 400Wh, it can run up to eight hours.
This Briggs & Stratton model has some drawbacks, however. It has a two-year warranty, while most manufacturers offer three. And, if the generator is used for commercial purposes, the warranty goes down to only 90 days. The P2400’s power capacity is fairly limited, but if you need more, the brand offers inverters all the way up to 6500W at a good price and with the same reliability.
- Easy setup with included oil and funnel
- Suitable for large power loads
- Weatherproof covers for sockets and switches
- H-shaped handle for easy carrying
- Can be loud when running at full power
- Requires ethanol-free fuel to ensure engine longevity
5. Best low price inverter: WEN RV-Ready 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator GN400i
List Price: $373.26
Peak Capacity: 4000W │ Continuous Capacity: 3500W │ Advertised runtime: 7h at 50% │ Tank Capacity: 1.85 gal. │ Warranty: 2 years
If you want an inverter but need more wattage at a budget-friendly price, I would take a look at the GN400i by WEN. It can put out 3500 continuous watts and run for seven hours at 50%, which is nearly the full capacity of smaller generators. The biggest downside is its open frame, which makes it louder and renders it more vulnerable to the elements than traditional, closed-frame inverters.
- Powerful enough to service RV or household appliances
- Large fuel tank for long runtime
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Low-noise levels with Eco mode for quieter operation
- May not be as quiet as advertised
- Small fuel tank may limit hours of runtime
6. Most versatile power station: EGO Nexus Power Station
List Price: $599.99
Peak Capacity: 3000W │ Continuous Capacity: 2000W │ Advertised runtime: No specific runtime advertised │ Charging method: electric │ Warranty: 5 years on tools, 3 years on battery
EGO makes yard tools such as trimmers and chainsaws with the same type of detachable battery. The Nexus is essentially a modular hub where you can place four of these batteries together — or in any combination — and use it as a regular power station to charge your tools or power electronics like small refrigerators, fans, and medical devices. You don’t need to own EGO tools to take advantage of the power station, but if you have them already, this addition will make charging and using your tools easier and keep you prepared. Keep in mind not all EGO batteries have the same capacity, so their combination will not always reach max power, but you can buy the full 3000W set.
This particular EGO model can't be charged via solar panels by itself, which is why it isn't my main battery pick. However, the company has recently released an adapter to make solar charging possible, so you don't have to upgrade your model in order to use the sun.
- Ability to charge the batteries while in use
- Smaller and more compact than previous versions
- Built-in multi-speed fan to keep cool
- Long-lasting battery with an indicator for convenience
- No way to parallel multiple units together
- No AC input jack on the unit
People Also Ask
Q: How do I know what size generator to buy?
To be prepared for a power outage, add up the wattage of all the appliances you would want to use during a power outage and multiply that by a few hours. This should tell you how much wattage you need in a generator.
Q: Should I buy a generator or an inverter?
That depends on what you're using it for. Generators produce more power and are better for home use during power outages. Inverters, on the other hand, are smaller and lighter, making them portable for camping trips.
Q: What is the best gas for a generator?
I recommend using clean, unleaded gasoline for maximum efficiency.
Q: Is it cheaper to use propane or gas with a generator?
While natural gas is less expensive upfront, propane is more energy-dense. In general, natural gas is cheaper, though.
Q: Can I run my generator in the rain?
You should never run your generator in the rain or other stormy weather as it can pose a hazard.
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Our commitment to the consumer begins with product selection and ends with the last word we write in each article. Each generator is carefully vetted quantitatively through star ratings and the number of reviews and qualitatively through careful examination of reviews and the features each one has to offer. Leveraging our team of bargain hunters, we’re also always sure to keep your budget in mind while we find the best generators on the market. Our team of experts is dedicated to accurately depicting the pros and cons of each generator, translating technical product specifications into information you can understand. We strive to provide you with the most effective and efficient generators for your hard-earned money.