Are you in the market for a portable generator? Whether you need emergency power, a reliable power source for work, or a portable energy solution for recreational activities, choosing the right generator requires careful consideration. To help you navigate the many options available, our team of experts has compiled a list of essential features to look for when purchasing a new portable generator.
Table of Contents
- Buy a Portable Generator with Sufficient Power and Outlets
- Opt for Generators with Low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) and Clean Energy
- Q: Is this for Occasional Use or Continuous Use?
- Select the Right Portable Generator Fuel Type for Your Needs
- Consider a Larger Gas Tank for Extended Power
- Choose a Portable Generator with Electric and Kick Start
- Factor in Noise Levels
- EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) for Hassle-Free Performance
- Carbon Monoxide Detection as a Safety Precaution
- Wheeled Generators or Optional Wheel Kits for Mobility
- Hook Bars for Easy High Storage
- Connecting a Generator to Your Home
Buy a Portable Generator with Sufficient Power and Outlets
The first step to finding the right generator is determining the size and power output you need. Assess the power requirements of the equipment you intend to connect to the generator, considering both the starting wattage and the running wattage. Additionally, consider the type of outlets you require. Smaller generators typically offer 120V AC outlets and USB ports, while larger models may include 240V plugs alongside multiple 120V outlets. If you plan to connect the generator directly to your home, ensure it has a 240V plug and a GFCI-protected receptacle.
Opt for Generators with Low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) and Clean Energy
When running sensitive electronics like laptops or lab equipment, it’s crucial to choose a generator with low total harmonic distortion (THD), typically below 6%. Clean power, also known as pure sine wave power, provides a stable voltage level and protects your electronics from potential damage. Keep in mind that generators offering clean power tend to be more expensive and are often designed for lower-powered devices.
Q: Is this for Occasional Use or Continuous Use?
If you require a generator for occasional or recreational use, any reputable brand with a consumer warranty will suffice. However, for consistent or daily use, consider investing in a generator equipped with a commercial-grade engine and a longer warranty. While commercial-grade generators may be pricier, they offer enhanced durability and reliability.
Select the Right Portable Generator Fuel Type for Your Needs
Gas and Natural Gas Generators Offer the Easiest Fuel Acquisition
Gas generators are the most common and easily accessible. However, availability may be limited during major weather events or emergencies. Alternatively, natural gas generators can be connected to your home’s existing natural gas supply, ensuring an almost unlimited fuel source during power outages.
Pro Tip: To counteract the effects of ethanol, which can impact fuel stability, consider using a fuel stabilizer when storing fuel in tanks or containers.
Consider Diesel Generators for Better Fuel Efficiency
Diesel generators offer improved fuel efficiency and are an excellent choice if you’re willing to invest in an upgrade. However, keep in mind that diesel fuel may not be as readily available as gasoline. Additionally, diesel generators eliminate the need for carburetors, which can become clogged and cause inconvenience.
Explore Propane and Battery Powered Inverter Generators
Propane generators provide a greener fuel alternative and can be converted from gasoline use. If you prioritize eco-friendliness and don’t mind some complexity, propane may be a suitable choice. Battery-powered inverter generators, like the EGO Nexus Power Station and Ryobi Power Station, offer quiet operation, no emissions, and the ability to charge from solar panels. While they are more expensive and have lower power output, they are ideal for camping and tailgating.
Consider a Larger Gas Tank for Extended Power
A generator’s fuel tank size directly impacts the operating time before refueling is necessary. Choosing a generator with a larger fuel tank ensures longer run times. However, keep in mind that a larger tank may increase the overall weight of the generator. Additionally, consider the pros and cons of plastic and metal fuel tanks, as each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Buy a Portable Generator with Electric and Kick Start
Opt for a portable generator with an electric start option, especially if you prefer convenience over using the recoil line. Most portable generators use lead-acid batteries, similar to car batteries, although some models feature lithium-ion batteries. Remember to charge the battery before use and use the charger to maintain the battery between uses.
Factor in Noise Levels
Noise levels can significantly impact your experience when using a portable generator. Smaller models tend to be quieter, with some operating at levels lower than typical conversation volumes. If you plan on using your generator in areas where noise might be an issue, such as campgrounds or residential neighborhoods, consider opting for a quieter model. When choosing higher-wattage generators, keep in mind that diesel generators tend to be louder than gasoline models. One exceptionally quiet generator option is the Honda generator, although it comes with a higher price tag.
EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) for Hassle-Free Performance
Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) is a valuable feature to consider when purchasing a portable generator. EFI eliminates the need for a carburetor, sparing you the inconvenience of dealing with carburetor-related issues. A clogged carburetor can be a significant headache, but with EFI, starting and operating your generator become easier, even in cold weather conditions.
Carbon Monoxide Detection as a Safety Precaution
Most modern portable generators now come equipped with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. These detectors measure the carbon monoxide levels near the engine and automatically shut down the generator if the levels become dangerously high. Including CO detectors in portable generators helps to prevent illness or even fatalities caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. While some may perceive CO detectors as an extra cost, the industry is moving toward making them a standard feature in new models.
Note: Ensure proper placement of the generator exhaust in relation to the CO sensor to avoid false readings.
Wheeled Generators or Optional Wheel Kits for Mobility
Portable generators can be heavy, so it’s essential to consider mobility options. While some generators come with built-in wheels, others require you to purchase wheel kits separately. Be sure to check whether the generator you choose includes a wheel kit or if it is compatible with aftermarket dolly kits to add wheels. Installing a wheel kit is usually a straightforward task that can be completed with basic tools, and it enables you to maneuver the generator effortlessly.
Get Hook Bars for Easy High Storage
If you plan to use your portable generator for commercial or industrial purposes, you may need to transport it to higher floors. Generators equipped with hook bars provide a convenient solution, saving you time and effort when lifting and moving the generator to elevated storage areas.
Connecting a Generator to Your Home
If you prefer the convenience of connecting a generator directly to your home during power outages, consider a whole-house backup generator designed for this purpose. Whole-house generators are automatically activated and deactivated, ensuring seamless power supply. While they are more expensive than portable generators, their prices have become more affordable in recent years.
Keep in mind that connecting a generator to your home requires professional installation and the use of a transfer switch. Proper power assessment is crucial to ensure the generator can meet the power demands of your entire home, considering starting surges. While portable generators can also be used with a transfer switch, it’s important to locate the generator correctly during operation and have adequate cable length to reach the transfer switch.
With these essential features in mind, you can confidently choose the right portable generator for your needs. If you require more specific recommendations, check out our comprehensive guide to the best portable generator options. Remember to prioritize proper generator maintenance to ensure it remains reliable whenever you need it!