The best portable home generators produce enough power to run critical appliances and a few extras, be they big screen TVs for entertainment or HVAC components to keep you comfortable during a power outage. We’re going to review generators based on power output, since not everyone needs the high power units or can afford them. We’ll review generators that put out 3500 to 4000 watts, 5500 watt generators, 7000-7500 watt generators, and those that produce more than 10,000 watts. Here are the top models for 2018.
Generators With Different Power Capacities Backup Power for Your Home
1. DuroStar 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Portable Generator, Model DS4000S
This is a gas powered generator. It comes with a four gallon gas tank, allowing it to run for eight hours. It has two 120 volt 20 amp power plugs and one 120 volt plug.
It uses a pull cord to start. It automatically shuts off when oil is low. It comes with a breaker switch on the front panel, so it is easy to start and then connect a cable without having to verify the cable’s load.
One of the downsides of the unit is how often the muffler begins to fail if not outright fall off. Then the noise level skyrockets. Another problem is the difficulty in reaching customer service if there is a problem, and the warranty only covers parts – not labor – if the generator fails soon after you bought it.
2. Champion Power Equipment 3800 Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Model 76533
The Champion 76533 generator is a dual fuel model. It can run on gasoline or propane without any additional parts. One caveat is that the unit doesn’t produce the same level of power on both types of fuel. It puts out 4750 starting (surge) watts when you’re running it on gasoline and then supplies 3800 watts continuously. If you’re using propane, it can only produce 4275 watts (surge) and then 3400 running watts.
It will run up to nine hours on a full gas tank or ten hours on a 20 pound propane tank. You can run it on gas and then switch to propane to have it last the night, assuming you aren’t running a 3500 watt load. Conversely, you can use it to power your RV using gas when you run out of propane.
This generator comes with one 120 volt 30 amp outlet perfect for supporting RV equipment, a 120 volt 30 amp locking outlet, two separate 120 volt 20 amp outlets. It has a “volt guard” to protect equipment from power surges.
Champion provides a three year limited warranty. Getting service under the warranty is a challenge in and of itself. It is also loud.
3. Duromax Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Model XP4850EH, 3850 Running Watts/4850 Starting Watts
It has an electric start, but that’s not easy to use, and the issue is worse when the weather is cold. If the unit stops working soon after you get it, the battery is bad and you need to reach customer service or the unit will become useless. While it is dual fuel, switching from gas to propane is not easy. You need to drain it of fuel when you put it in storage and add fresh fuel each time for optimal performance.
The panel shows you when the oil is low, volts and other running indicators. It isn’t legal to sell in California but the EPA considers it good enough for the national parks.
4. Briggs & Stratton 30675A Q6500 Inverter Generator – QuietPower Series
Many of the best home generators have inverters, but few are as powerful as the Briggs & Stratton Q6500. With a peak power output of 6500W, you can have multiple high-current appliances running at the same time. Very few inverter generators can start both a 15,000 BTU air conditioner and a refrigerator at the same time. The Briggs & Stratton Q6500 will handle this load and a whole lot more, you can have a microwave going, as well as your lights, TV, and several computers or similar devices and still start your AC and refrigerator. With a continuous power output of 5000W, you won’t have a problem keeping most of your home powered up during an outage.
It’s also remarkably quiet for a generator of this size. At 25% load, it will produce a noise level that’s comparable to a speaking voice – 66dBa. It has a switch on the control that will reduce the RPM when running at a lower load. This means quieter operation and lower fuel consumption. You can expect to get about 14-hours of runtime from the 5-gallon gas tank at 25% load.
For the homeowner, the Q6500 is a really easy and practical generator to use. It starts instantly, even though it doesn’t have an electric starter. Even in cold weather, you only need a pull or two on the recoil starter and it springs to life, purring like a contented kitten. The outlets are protected by plastic covers, keeping them from harm and provide you with everything you need to power up your home. There are four 120V household receptacles (with GFCI protection) and a 30A 120V-240V twist-lock outlet so can connect the generator directly to your house wiring through a transfer switch. Load indicator LEDs on the control panel let you know what your power consumption is.
5. WEN 5500 Running Watts/7000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator, Model 56682
It runs for ten hours at half load, but it will run through the afternoon at a full load. It has four 120 volt 20 amp plugs for plugging in 3 prong power cords, a single 120 volt 30 amp outlet and a 12 volt DC outlet.
You don’t have to worry about being unable to start the generator if the battery dies. The unit can be started via an electric start or recoil starter.
The unit has a basic two year warranty. Customer service by WEN is bad, and finding service for their generators is a challenge.
6. Westinghouse Model WH5500 Portable Generator – 5500 Running Watts and 6750 Starting Watts
If you want a mid-range generator that can take the load when you enter the building and turn on both the AC and the fridge, this Westinghouse generator has the high 6750 starting watt capacity you need. It will handle the massive spike of multiple appliances kicking into gear before settling into the 5000 running watt range.
Westinghouse has a reputation for quality. The big question mark for their generators is whether or not the 2017 bankruptcy deal will affect the ability to get service under the warranty. The upside of using a literal powerhouse like Westinghouse is the fact that by having been around for a century, there isn’t a problem finding someone to service it even if it isn’t under warranty. Westinghouse generators have a 3 year limited warranty through most retail channels, and as long as they are in business, they provide excellent customer support. While some assembly is required with the generator, they even provide the tools you need, oil for the unit and oil funnel.
It will run for more than ten hours at a quarter load. It starts easily via the push of a button and has a backup manual recoil option.
7. Champion Power Equipment 7500 Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Model 100165
This Champion brand generator is a dual fuel model. This is the best portable generator for home use if you live in an RV full time, since it can run multiple major appliances using whichever fuel source you have on hand and do so at a reasonable price. Extra-long power cords and generator covers are extra. You don’t have to pay for a wheel kit – it comes with a folding handle and tires built in to the frame. Given the price tag you pay for it, they are nice enough to give you a free liter of oil.
This unit runs on either gas or propane right out of the box. It can run up to eight hours on a tank of gas or five hours on a 20 pound propane tank. The propane hose is already included.
It has an electric start, and the battery recharges as the generator runs.
Champion’s tech support leaves much to be desired, though its three year limited warranty is better than average. Conversely, the unit is designed to start and run in cold weather that chokes other units.
It isn’t legal to buy or sell in Massachusetts or California.
8. WEN Model 56877 Generator, 7000 Running Watts/9000 Starting Watts
The model 56877 generator by Wen puts out 7000 watts continuously and provides 9000 starting watts. This will handle the heavy load of several major power tools kicking in at once or a whole-house HVAC system running. This generator has an easy to use control panel from the circuit reset buttons to operational time counter to power indicators for each of the plugs.
The unit can run up to nine hours on a six and a half gallon tank of gas – but only if it is on a half load.
It comes with four 120 volt 3 prong outlets, one 240 volt twist lock 30 amp outlet and a single 12 volt DC outlet. It has both an electric start and pull cord backup option.
WEN has a basic two year warranty. Customer service through WEN if the unit turns out to be defective or needs repairs leaves much to be desired.
9. Westinghouse Portable Generator, Model WH7500E, 7500 Running Watts and 9000 Starting Watts
This is a gas powered generator. It runs as long as nine hours on a single tank of gas, and it puts out enough surge watts to let you start up an AC, refrigerator and one or two other appliances at the same time.
Westinghouse has excellent customer service if there is a problem with their generators, and there are many shops that can repair their generators if something needs to be fixed within or outside of the warranty. One issue this model has had is the carburetor dying, and there are reports of brand new generators having leaks in the carburetor assembly itself. Some users have reported the pull string breaking. The electric start button doesn’t have any reported issues, and the electric start is keyless.
It is loud. Adding oil to it is not as easy as it should be in such an expensive generator.
10. DuroMax Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Model XP12000EH
This unit is quiet for a 12,000 watt generator. It costs around a thousand dollars, making it one of the cheaper portable generators on the market that put out more than 10,000 watts. The generator cover is sold separately.
This unit isn’t CARB approved, so it cannot be sold to those living in California. The voltage can fluctuate, so don’t use it with your electronics unless you have an additional surge protector.
11. WEN Portable Generator, Model 5613K, 11000 Running Watts/13000 Starting Watts
The WEN generator has an 11,000 continuous watt capacity and can put out 13,000 watts to handle the surge that comes when you arrive at your cabin and start turning everyone on or race to turn on appliances after a storm.
The unit is so energy efficient it is legal to sell in California, and rare among high power generators, it has low total harmonic distortion (THD) so it is safe to use to power electronic devices directly. Thus you could use it to power computers for your small business in addition to the air conditioner and refrigerator.
The unit can run for seven and a half hours on a half load. It will run the afternoon if you’re running it at full power.
The Durostar generator is a good choice if you need a cheap generator you’ll only use on camping or hunting trips or at home during rare power outages; the Durostar is the affordable choice in the 3500 to 4000 watts generator category. The Champion model 76533 generator is best for those who want a generator to run either their RV or campsite, as long as they need less than 4000 watts. If you want a mobile generator, the Duromax is a better choice than the DuroStar since the wheels are built into the frame.
In the 5500 watt category, WEN wins on price. If you want customer service and a reputation for long running life, Westinghouse’s model WH5500 generator is the better choice.
If you want a 7500 watt generator that will run off either gas or propane, acting as a backup for both your home and RV, the Champion dual fuel model is the best option for you. If there is such a thing as a “budget” 7000 watt generator, WEN’s model 56877 portable generator counts.
The Westinghouse WH7500E model generator puts out significant power and has good service, but given recent reported issues with this model, check for fuel leaks before you run it a second time in the season.
The Duromax dual fuel generator costs more than the WEN model but can run on both propane and gas; this is the better choice for acting as a backup power source for your home, cabins and RVs that typically run off propane. If power output is your major consideration, the WEN model Model 5613K generator is the best choice for your home.