Best Portable Power Generators
The Power Generators category includes reviews of inverter and non-inverter power generators suitable for use at home in emergencies, for camping, in RVs, and other off-the-grid situations.
When looking for a new (or used one) power generator, there are several important things to look for, including Running&Starting Power, is it inverter generator or not, physical dimensions and weight, type of fuel, tank capacity, runtime, noise levels, type and number of receptacles, safety features, maintenance procedures and similar.
Note: Never, but really never operate power generators indoors - power generators burn fossil fuels and release fumes/gases that contain tasteless, but very toxic carbon-monoxide (CO) that kills humans and animals easily.
On This Page:
- Intro to Portable Generators
- Common Generators vs Inverter Generators
- Output Power - Starting vs Running Watts
- Parallel Ready Portable Generators
- Fuel Types
- Manual and/or Electric Engine Start
- Noise Levels
- Remote Control
- Remote Connectivity
- Safety Features
Intro to Portable Generators
Power generators convert the chemical energy of the fuel into mechanical energy using an internal combustion engine, which is then converted into electric energy via the built-in electric generator.
In order to provide electric energy in the form suitable for various tools and appliances, power generators also feature control electronics, providing the electricity within required specifications (frequency, voltage) and with as little as possible Total Harmonic Distortions (THD) - THD levels below 5% are OK for most appliances, but THD levels below 3% and especially 1% are even better and more suitable for sensitive equipment and devices.
Common Generators vs Inverter Generators
Common generators are older types of power generators. Their internal engine is tuned to run at a specified RPM, usually 3000 RPM for 50 Hz electricity and 3600 RPM for 60 Hz electricity, regardless of the electric load. As such, they have very simple electronics that monitors and controls the unit, including the output voltage/frequency.
On the other hand, inverter generators feature variable speed engines that operate at optimum speed considering the electric load - as the electricity is produced, it is a converter ('inverted' - hence the name) in the most suitable form regarding frequency, voltage, and waveform, using the built-in electronic controllers.
Although control electronics in inverter generators are more complex when compared with electronic found on 'common' generators, inverter generators are more common since they are more energy-efficient, have less THD (some provide almost pure sine wave), they are less noisy, etc.
Output Power - Starting vs Running Watts
Output power is one of the most important features of power generators and is given in Watts - Starting Watts and Running Watts.
Running Watts is the maximum output power that a power generator can provide continuously. Starting Watts is the maximum output power that a power generator can provide for a very short period of time and are usually 10-20% stronger than the Running Watts.
Starting Watts ensure that the user can power electric/electronic devices, tools and appliances that require more power when starting, hence the name - such loads usually feature electric motors that draw more current when starting.
Parallel Ready Portable Generators
Parallel Ready portable generators have the option of connecting two exactly the same (or at least two compatible) power generators in parallel for providing more power.
Parallel connection is usually achieved using dedicated cables for parallel ready connection or using parallel ready connection kits.
Parallel-ready cables are a somewhat simpler solution and they allow the user to use receptacles on the power generators only.
Parallel-ready connection kits usually have additional receptacles on the kit itself, allowing the user to power devices using receptacles on the kit and/or on the power generators.
Note: this is model dependent, but connection kits usually feature receptacles that are not found on the power generators, allowing, for example, two weaker power generators that lack RV's 30 Amps (L14-30R and/or TT-30R) or 50 Amps (14-50R) receptacles to power RV's using RV's 30 Amps or 50 Amps receptacles found on the parallel ready connection kits.
Even if You don't plan of powering larger loads in the future, having a parallel ready power generator can save some money in the long run - just in case if one needs more power, purchasing another 'smaller' but compatible power generator is cheaper than buying a large one.
Power generators come with a set of receptacles, often depending on the generator's output power. Most common receptacles include:
- 120V AC 20A 5-20R (single, duplex, GFCI),
- 120V AC 30A L5-30R,
- 120V AC 30A TT-30R,
- 120 AC 50A 14-50R,
- 12V DC 8-15 Amps (ports may vary),
- 12V DC Car Cigarette Lighter Port,
- USB 5.0V DC,
- USB 5-9V DC Quick Charge, etc.
Power generators use fossil fuels to produce electric energy. The most common fuel in smaller power generators is gas (gasoline, petrol) and propane gas.
Fuel tank in smaller power generators is usually around 1 gallon (~3.8 liters).
As fuel, diesel is more commonly used in larger power generators due to the better energy efficiency.
Natural gas is another fossil fuel used in power generators, but propane gas is used more often than natural gas.
Bi-fuel power generators may be powered by two different fuel types, most commonly gas (gasoline, petrol) and propane gas. This feature is not very common, but in emergencies and similar situations, it is often much easier to find suitable fuel for bi-fuel power generators than gas-only or diesel-only power generators.
Most gas-powered power generators accept the gas with some ethanol added (up to 10%), but some models may operate using even pure ethanol (without or with minimal adjustments), making them in essence bi-fuel power generators.
For short - most bi-fuel power generators are able to run on either gas (gasoline) or propane gas.
Tri-fuel power generators are rare, but they can be powered using gas, propane gas, and ethanol, or gas, propane gas, and natural gas, without or with minimum adjustments.
Note: many diesel-powered generators can operate using filtrated cooking oil or olive oil or something similar - powering diesel units with such fuels is NOT supported (unless You have some special unit, usually made for military use) by their manufacturers and can easily shorted operating lifetime of the power generators and render the warranty void - for short, don't do that!
Manual and/or Electric Engine Start
Smaller power generators feature manual start - it is up to the user to set the controls to start and to pull starting cord/handle.
The electric starting feature is more convenient - set the controls to the start and just press the button. If the onboard battery is charged, and the unit is set properly and maintained properly, it will start almost immediately.
One of the most common questions about the power generators is how long they operate on a single fuel tank.
Runtime depends on the fuel tank size and power output and is given in hours at a specific load.
The runtime of the portable inverter generators is usually 7-12 hours @25% load, 5-7 hours @50% load, and 2.5-4 hours @100% load.
Although power generators need more propane than gas (gasoline), some people prefer attaching larger propane bottles to their units, ensuring longer runtimes.
Noise levels are very important, especially when the power generator is used in the urban environment, for camping and similar.
Noise levels are given in dB (or dBA) and are measured at a certain distance (usually 18-22 feet, 6-7 meters) at a certain load (@25%, @50%, @100% load).
A power generator may be considered as a low-noise power generator if it features a low noise level of 52-53 dB @25% load and very quiet if it features a noise level of 50 or less dB @25% load.
The following chart lists some of the Best Portable Quietest Generators suitable for camping, tailgating, in emergencies, etc.
|6.5h @50%||52 dB @25%
58 dB @50%
|AC: 120V 20A 5-20R, 120V 30A L5-30R
DC: 12V 8.3A, USB 5V
|Champion 2000W Model #100692||1700W
|11.5h @25%||53 dB @25%||AC: 20A 120V 5-20R Duplex
|8h @25%||50 dB @25%||AC: 20A 120V Duplex
|48 dB @25%
57 dB @100%
|AC: 20A 120V Duplex
DC: 12V 100W (8.3 Amps)
|20h @25%||50 dB @25%||AC: 120V 20A Duplex, 120V 30A L5-30R
DC: 12V (12 Amps)
|10.5h @25%||51 dB @25%||AC: 15A 120V NEMA 5-20R Duplex
DC: 12V, USB 5V (2.1A, 1A)
|10h @25%||52 dB @25%||AC: 20A 120V Duplex
DC: 12V, 2x USB 5V
|18h @25%||52 dB @25%||AC: 120V 20A 5-20R Duplex, 120V 30A TT-30R
2x USB 5.0V (2.1, 1.0 A)
|10.5h @25%||51.5 dB @25%||AC: 120V Duplex
DC: 12V 8A
|8.6h @25%||53 dB @25%||AC: 120V Duplex
DC: 12V 8A
Note: Amazon affiliate links ('Model' Column) open in the new windows, feel free to check them for the most up-to-date offers and prices.
The weight of the power generators is given in 'dry' condition - power generators are loaded with oil, but the fuel tank is empty.
2000 Watts portable power generators usually weigh 40-45 pounds (18-20 kg) or more and come with built-in carrying handles, allowing a single adult to move it to very short distances or allowing two adults to carry it to shorter distances.
Remote control usually comes in the form of a remote start/stop fob, allowing the user to remotely start and stop the power generator.
Such control requires an electric start feature and the starting battery, which all lead to a somewhat larger, heavier, and more expensive power generator.
Some high-end power generators come with WiFi modules or even with GSM modules.
WiFi connectivity allows the user to control and monitor the power generator using a smartphone, tablet, or similar device while being relatively close to the unit.
GSM module with the properly set GSM card allows the user to control and monitor the power generator using a smartphone, tablet, or similar device globally. Such devices are not very common, they are not cheap, but provide features that can come in very handy in many situations.
For exact maintenance procedures, one should check the Owner's Guide/Instructions that came with the power generator.
Generally, these include:
- checking the amount of oil, adding oil, changing oil,
- checking the spark plug, checking the spark plug's gap, replacing the spark plug,
- if the unit is going to be stored for a longer period of time, one has to be sure that the carburetor and the fuel tank are empty.
These are the most basic tasks that have to be done in order for the power generator to run smoothly.
Most common safety features include:
- low oil alarm, low oil engine shutdown - when the unit senses low oil, an alarm is sounded in order to warn the user about unwanted conditions. And if the oil level drops even more, the engine is shut off automatically in order to prevent any damage.
- overload alarm, overload shutdown - when the unit sense overload condition, an alarm is sounded in order to warn the user about unwanted condition. If this condition prolongs or the load increases even more, the electric power is cut off from the receptacles, requiring the user to disconnect the problematic load from the power generator and to reset the receptacles.
- overtemperature safety feature turns off the unit in order to prevent overheating of the engine or electronics.
Of course, there are other safety features built-in, but they are model-dependent.
Note: although power generators produce fumes that contain dangerous Carbon Monoxide (CO), Carbon Monoxide sensors/alarms are very rare as a standard feature on the power generators.
The warranty period for portable inverter generators is usually between 1 (one) and 3 (three) years when the unit is maintained and used properly.
Also, some units are intended for only residential use and the commercial use renders the warranty void.
On the other hand, some models feature both residential and commercial warranty, with premium models having 3 (three) or more years for both residential and commercial use.
Boat, Camping, RV and Household Appliances Wattage Charts
- What Can You Run on a 2000 Watt Generator?
- Top 5 Best 50 Amp Portable Generators - 50 Amp RV Generators
- Will a 2000-Watt Generator Run an Air Conditioner?
- Best Portable Quietest Generators
- Best 2000 Watt Portable Inverter Generators
- Best Propane/Gasoline Dual Fuel Generators
- Generator vs. Inverter: What is an Inverter Generator?
For more info, feel free to check our Articles and Guides.
Here is the list of our latest Power Generators reviews, ordered according to the added date:
As its name suggests, Westinghouse iGen2600 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator is designed as a compact and relatively lightweight power generator, with efficiency and low-noise operation in mind.
Westinghouse iGen2600 is very popular and considering its features, an affordable inverter generator, suitable for camping, tailgating, in emergencies, and when connected in parallel with another compatible generator, it can be even used for powering RVs and similar leisure vehicles and vessels and even smaller homes.
Honda EU2200i is a very quiet and rather popular portable inverter generator, based on the Honda's previous EU2000 model.
Honda EU2200i comes with an improved and slightly stronger engine, rearranged, and somewhat redesigned components in order to provide a reliable, efficient, and simple to use and maintain portable generator, suitable for camping, in emergencies, and all other off-the-grid situations.
Yamaha EF1000iS Portable Inverter Generator is one of the most compact, lightest, and quietest gas-powered portable inverter generators on the market.
Yamaha EF1000iS offers many features that are usually available on larger, more powerful models. Also, it is CARB compliant and may legally be used in all 50 states.
Champion 73536i 2000-Watt Stackable Portable Inverter Generator is a compact and robust inverter generator, designed for use as a single unit or in parallel with the compatible power generator.
Champion 73536i features quiet operation and very long runtime on the single fuel tank, making it a preferred model for many campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Also, it can come very handy in emergencies and other off-the-grid situations.
Briggs & Stratton P2200 Inverter Generator is a very popular 2000W class power inverter generator from the Briggs & Stratton so-called 'PowerSmart Series' of inverter generators.
Briggs & Stratton P2200 PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator is well designed and build power generator, offering reliable power for camping or fishing trips, in emergencies, or other off-the-grid situations.
WEN 56225i 2250-Watt Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator is a very popular 2000-watt class power generator, designed for off-the-grid applications like camping, hunting, fishing, etc. trips, but also for emergencies.
Since it is a gas-powered unit, like all other similar units, WEN 56225i Power Generator is suitable only for outdoor use - it uses an internal combustion engine to generate power and release fumes that may contain dangerous carbon-monoxide.