What Are the Best Portable Generators for Home Use?

A portable generator turns a small engine into temporary electrical power that can be used to run appliances and tools during a power outage. Most models use gasoline or propane gas and are typically designed to be wheeled out, started manually and refueled often. There are a variety of sizes, types and prices for portable generators, with the highest-powered models designed to keep entire homes running during extended outages.

For many people, the idea of a portable generator is to provide backup power in case of a widespread utility outage that would otherwise leave their home without electricity for an extended period. They may also be able to run a refrigerator or freezer, a sump pump, or medical devices that require a constant flow of electricity for safety and operation. Some homeowners might choose to hire a professional electrician to professionally wire a generator into their home’s sub-panel.

There are a wide variety of portable generators generatorgorilla designed to be used for recreational purposes or in the outdoors, such as camping and tailgating. Some are even compact enough to be taken on a boat. Since generators emit combustible fumes, they are not suitable for indoor use and must be kept outside of living spaces where their noise can interfere with normal activities or pose a fire risk.

Some portable generators can be adapted to use natural gas, liquid propane or diesel fuel, but these are rarer than the gasoline-powered models that are most commonly available. Consumer Reports does not evaluate these alternative-fuel portable generators, which tend to be more expensive and require specialized fueling stations.

What Are the Best Portable Generators?

The best portable generators for home use are designed to keep a number of important appliances and electronics running during an outage. They’re usually sized by the total amount of wattage they can produce, with a larger generator capable of powering more items than a smaller one. When shopping for a home generator, it’s wise to talk with a salesperson and work out exactly what you plan to power — including a few things you might not think need powering during a disaster — so that you can choose the right size.

It’s worth considering a quiet portable generator when shopping for one for home use. These are more expensive than traditional models, but they’re also designed to operate more quietly and efficiently over long run times. Generally, they have an automatic throttle that senses how much power is being drawn at any given moment and adjusts the engine speed accordingly. This reduces noise levels and makes the generator significantly more fuel-efficient than conventional models that don’t have this feature. In addition, most quiet portable generators feature carbon monoxide (CO) detectors that shut the unit down if they detect dangerous CO levels in an enclosed space. This is a significant safety feature that’s well worth the extra cost for many shoppers.