Portable generators are a great tool to have when you want to stay connected to electricity but have a camping trip planned or are facing an emergency and power outage. With a portable generator, you can power a campsite, your technology, an RV with appliances, and even parts of your house.
But finding quality and quiet portable generators can be a challenge. Many people are familiar with the loud noises generators can make or the space that they take up, but with a small generator, both noise levels and size are reduced. The best portable generator will be so compact that it can power a campsite or RV without disturbing other guests.
You should never have to stress about finding a quiet portable generator and if you feel a little lost, we’ve chosen the eight best portable generators and included a comprehensive guide to kickstart your search. With a top-rated portable inverter generator, you’ll be ready for any emergency or adventure so that you can put your mind at ease.
How To Choose A Portable Generator – Buying Guide
Portability is a key feature for a portable generator, but there are different ways your generator may stand out from other models on the market. The best portable generator will be lightweight, compact, and feature a design that can be easily carried. Most portable generators are around 50 pounds, which is lightweight when you consider the power they produce. However, there are always portable generators that are lighter or heavier. Some portable generators may weigh just 20 pounds and more powerful ones can reach 120 pounds or more.
Ultimately, the portability will depend on how much power you need. A top-rated portable generator will always use light and compact engine, but with more power comes more weight. Even with the best engines, pushing the number of watts produced increases the overall weight of the design. But the weight can be managed by the design of the generator.
The best portable generator will always include a handle in the design and every generator on our list does include a handle in one form or another. Portable generators can be heavy and awkward to lift. With a handle, you can safely and easily transport or move your generator. More powerful generators may include two handles in the design, which is ideal for sharing the load with another person.
The power of a home portable generator will depend on the number of watts it produces or the power output and what source of power operates the generator. The amount of power that a generator produces is measured in watts. Portable generators are sold and priced based on the number of watts they produce. The larger the number of watts, the more expensive the generator will be.
You must consider what you want to power because it will affect how many watts you will use and will need to invest in. If you want to power basic home appliances, you should look at a quiet portable generator that produces around 5,000 watts. However, if you just want to power one appliance, you can check the wattage of the appliance to determine the generator power you need.
For reference, a refrigerator uses about 600 watts, but an air conditioning unit can use up to 1,000 watts. If you want to charge just small electronics, you will probably use anywhere from 60 to 300 watts. By determining what appliances you want to charge beforehand, you can better estimate the power of the generator you need.
But your portable generator can’t pull power out of thin air. Also, consider the power source of your generator. There are portable generators that run on gas and others that run on batteries. Small generators may feature a powerful lithium-ion battery that is ideal for charging personal devices and camping technology. A home generator will need more power and will likely run off of gasoline.
Watts is the amount of power that a generator produces. As we mentioned in power, different appliances will need a certain number of watts to function. A portable generator will produce a limited number of watts, so you should be certain that you aren’t overloading it by charging too many devices.
Small generators have a large range of watts that they produce. Some designs produce just 160 watts and others that produce 5,000 or more watts. Some portable generators can even be paired with a second generator to produce more power. Usually, paired generators are used to run an entire household or campsite.
The number of watts a generator can produce will also affect the size, weight, and price of the generator. Small generators will be the most lightweight and compact because they require a smaller engine. But if you need to run a household and are looking at a 5,000-watt generator or larger, all of those aspects will rise. The generator will be larger, heavier, and more expensive.
To save money, you want to be certain that you purchase a portable generator that produces as close to the exact number of watts that you need. Again, keep in mind that running a household will require 5,000 watts or more. But if you are only using small appliances or devices, a generator with 1,300 watts or less would suit your needs.
Number of Outlets
Portable generators have outlets because you need to be able to connect the generator to your house, devices, RV, or another generator. With different outlets, you will get the most out of your generator and its various uses. While we don’t suggest using all the outlets at once because it strains the generator, you can spread the charge load with a few outlets and make it easier on your generator.
A generator’s run time will depend on how you use the generator. Most portable generators indicate the run time at 25% or 50% running capacity. This means that with a full tank of fuel and using the set percentage of power, your generator will run for a certain number of hours. The best portable generator can be used for a full 12 hours, but others may only have enough gas capacity to run half that time. If you plan to use your generator for long-term emergencies, it will be large and heavier because it will need a larger gas tank. With more gas, your generator will run for longer.
Ease of Use
When you’re in a stressful situation or are looking to just hit the road and relax, the last thing you want to deal with is struggling to use your portable generator. The best portable inverter generator will be easy to use so that you never have to struggle to get the electricity going.
Most portable generators will use a pull cord to start to get the engine going, but the best small generator may use an electric start button or a remote key fob. Electric starts are the easiest way to get your generator going. At the push of a button, you can start the power or cut the power. But even a push-button start generator should have a pull cord as a backup option.
Other features will make it easier to use your generator too. Safety features like gas and oil gauges can tell you exactly when your tank needs a refill. But a low oil shutoff and surge protection all make it easier to use your generator without the risk of damage.
If you like dispersed camping, are planning on setting up at an RV park, or plan on using your generator in any outdoor setting, the level of noise can be a big factor. Portable generators are often thought of as loud and a nuisance that other outdoor enthusiasts will be less than thrilled to listen to all day. A quiet generator is a great way to get the electricity you want without upsetting people and the nature around you.
Many modern portable generators now operate at reduced noise levels, which also makes them great for use around the home. With about 70 decibels of noise or less, these home portable generators are no louder than a window air conditioning unit or a normal conversation. But keep in mind that larger generators will produce more sound. So, the more watts you need, the louder your generator will run.
The best portable generators are great at regulating and managing their fuel consumption. Some generators even have a setting that makes the generator even more fuel-efficient to minimize using unnecessary gas.
Fuel efficiency is a great feature in the long run because it can help you save money. By regulating the amount of fuel, the best portable generator will save on the amount of gas it uses while it runs. In an eco-mode, you may be able to use your generator for longer with one tank of gas.
Generator reviews are a great resource to determine the efficiency of a generator. While the generator may claim to have an efficiency mode, portable generator reviews are the best place to find information regarding whether the feature works.
Any time you are using gas, you will be emitting it back into the atmosphere and producing emissions. While it can’t be avoided with gas-powered generators, you can choose a clean output and find a generator that uses a different power source. Some portable generators use solar panels or propane to reduce the level of emissions.
While a clean output generator will cost more because of the features it needs to have to be zero emissions, it can be worth the price in the long run. Gas is expensive and every tank costs money, which over time adds up. By finding a rechargeable generator, you make a bigger investment upfront but save in the long run. For a clean output generator, you should look for exhaust certificates like EPA, CSA, or CARB.
Q: Can I use my portable generator for camping?
Yes, but you should check the campground rules and ensure that your generator is safe for outside use. The best portable generators are designed and have the power to run a campsite, RV, or trailer. While it’s exciting to experience the glamping lifestyle, you shouldn’t always count on portable generators being allowed at a campsite. Before you set up a campsite, check the rules for the area, especially if it is located in a State or National Park.
However, it is also important that you ground your portable generator any time you are using it away from the main power grid. A top-rated generator shouldn’t need anything extra to ground the machine. Instead, the frame of the generator should do all the grounding for you and make your generator safe to use.
Q: What are the benefits of having a portable generator?
One of the biggest benefits of a home portable generator is having power when the main power grid is down. During blackouts, you may be stressed because you can’t use your appliances or technology. Food rotting in the fridge or being disconnected from important news sources can bring a lot of stress in an emergency. A portable generator can relieve your stress and ensure that you have power for a few essential items during emergencies.
Most people plan for emergencies that they hope will never happen, but sometimes you can plan to use your generator in a non-emergency situation. Portable generators are excellent tools for outdoor enthusiasts who like to camp in tents, RVs, cars, or trailers. A quiet portable generator will be safe to use outside and can keep you connected to necessary appliances and technology when you’re on the road.
Q: If I take my generator camping, where do I plug it in?
If you are using a portable generator that has a different power source than gasoline, it will likely need to be plugged in to charge. This may mean you are charging the batteries using on-grid power or using a solar panel. While you may not be able to charge your generator in the wilderness, you can charge it beforehand. Unless you use solar panels and can directly connect them to the generator, you will need a full battery before your trip. For some campers, having a gas-powered generator is preferred because of this feature.
However, if you are camping with an RV or trailer, there should be a cable put into your mobile home that allows the generator to be connected. You may want to look for any specific instructions regarding your specific RV or trailer and how power can be connected. Ultimately, the generator’s instruction manual is a great resource for any questions you may have regarding the operation of your machine.
Q: Are portable generators safe?
A top-rated portable inverter generator should have a variety of safety features included in the design. Some features include a low oil shutoff or surge protection. But just because a generator has a few safety features, doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you should take to be safe too.
A few safety tips that apply to all generators are that you should never run a portable generator in an enclosed space or indoors. Portable generators produce carbon monoxide, which can kill you if the levels get too high. Instead, a generator should always be run away from the house with the exhaust directed away from doors and windows. You shouldn’t run your generator in the rain, and it should be cooled before being refueled. It is also important to store your gas properly and away from heat or flames.
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With the best portable generators, you can ease your mind and be prepared for an emergency, or hit the road, and experience the luxury of charging your gear. You will have power wherever and whenever you need it. With our guide, we strive to help you find a quality portable generator that will fuel your adventures or provide aid throughout the years.
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Do you own one of the portable generators that made it onto our list? Has it kept your powered throughout an emergency or adventure? Let us know how much you rely on and love your portable generator in the comments section below.