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The Best Portable Generators for Emergency Backup Power in 2022
By Andrew AllanJonathan Zavaleta,
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Extreme weather events like hurricanes, winter storms and wildfires are becoming a lot more common, and each disaster is another reminder that you need to be prepared for anything. But if the last time you prepared for a disaster was during fire drills in school, you may not be sure where to begin. For starters, a designated disaster survival kit and emergency food supplies help you meet your basic needs at home for up to 72 hours, and a go-bag (a backpack or duffel with emergency supplies) can be a valuable addition in the event of evacuation orders. But if you’re going to be hunkering down in one spot for a long time, you might end up needing a portable generator.
The best portable generators can help you power essential household appliances in the event of long-term power outages such as those caused by hurricanes. Natural disasters aren’t the only reason to buy a generator. Whether you’re a regular camper, tailgater or you’re all about that van life, a reliable generator can help you meet your basic electricity needs. Your first move is to consider how much power you’ll need. Beyond that, there are several different kinds of generators that offer different features. Some options to consider include:
Standby, or whole-house generators, are designed to kick in as soon as you lose power. Hospitals use standby generators (very powerful ones, obviously) which kick in in a matter of seconds. Unsurprisingly, standby or whole-house generators are costly and require professional installation. That’s why we’ve decided to primarily focus on the best portable generators, which best suit most needs. Portable generators are frequently found on job sites and, as the name suggests, can be taken anywhere. Inverter generators are the quieter and more energy-efficient counterpart to louder portable generators. Inverters generate AC and then convert it DC and back to AC. It’s a more complex process, which is why they’re more expensive than most portable generators. Battery or electric generators can be suitable for basic needs, although they’re not likely to power larger appliances.
When it comes to emergency backup power, there are two numbers that you need to look at. One number is peak watts, which is often referred to as starting watts or surge watts. This refers to the maximum power output. Some devices require a higher boost of power to start but run at a lower level. Then there are the running watts or rated watts, which is how much power the generator can continually put out once it’s up and running. Usually, the number accompanying generator model numbers is the peak watt rating, which is why it’s important to always check the running watts.
It’s worth noting that you should never use any gas, natural gas, diesel fuel, propane, or any other kind of fuel in an enclosed space. They can produce toxic and lethal fumes, which is why any fuel-powered portable generator should always be used outdoors. Solar or other battery-powered generators produce no emissions, so they’re safe for indoor use (although solar generators may not work very well indoors for reasons that should be obvious).
We’ve focused on compact generators, including electric, portable and inverter generators, but we’ve also included a couple of standby options as well.
Below, you’ll find our top three recommendations for the best portable generators. Keep reading for our full selection, which includes fuel-based generators, inverter generators, all-electric and solar generators and larger models designed to provide emergency backup power for homes.
Our previous top pick from Honda is hard to come by at the moment, but Predator’s inverter generator is a good (and economical) alternative. Predator’s inverter generator is a lightweight and quiet option for delivering mobile power. The noise output is 65 dB, making it about as loud as a conversation in a public place. If you realize you need more power later on, you can pair the Predator Inverter with another Predator unit using a parallel kit. It’s CARB and EPA certified to meet air quality standards. It also has a power-saver mode for greater efficiency.
Predator Portable Power Generator
Westinghouse WGen7500 Generator
BEST PORTABLE GENERATOR
Westinghouse was an important company during the early days of electricity, and today the company produces tech, lighting and generators, like this gas-powered electric generator. It’s CARB-compliant, meaning it meets California’s rigorous air-quality standards. Its power capabilities are 7,500 running watts and 9,500 peak watts. The push-button electric starter makes it easy to get it up and running, and you can even start it remotely using the included key fob. In addition, the WGen6000 model is one of the best portable generators for sale in 2022.
Westinghouse Portable Generator
Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X Portable Power Station
BEST ELECTRIC GENERATOR
For an eco-friendly option that you can use in an emergency, the Goal Zero Yeti 1500 portable power station supplies 2,000W of running power or 3,5000W of surge power. That means this compact unit has enough juice to run even your larger home appliances such as a refrigerator. It’s also a good option for tailgates and other outdoor events, since it runs silently, which even the quietest inverters can’t compete with. It can be recharged using Goal Zero’s solar panels, or you can plug it into a wall outlet or even a car’s 12V port. It weighs just over 45 pounds, so it’s not reasonably difficult to carry.
Goal Zero Generator
The best inverter generators are known for being more fuel-efficient and quiet. These generators rev the engine up and down based on demand rather than running constantly, which is why they are more efficient than the alternatives. In an emergency, when you need your fuel supplies to last as long as possible, that can be a major benefit. In general, smaller inverter generators cannot provide whole-home power, but they can keep the heat and lights operating while the rest of the neighborhood goes dark.
Craftsman Inverter Generator
WORKS WITH SENSITIVE ELECTRONICS
This option from Craftsman is an inverter generator, so it’s quieter, more fuel-efficient and more portable. And, since it’s an inverter, this generator from Craftsman also supplies “clean” electricity — that means it’s safer to use with sensitive electronics. It has 2,200 starting watts and 1,700 running watts. The tank holds 1.2 gallons of fuel, and the auto low-fuel shutoff helps protect the unit. The Craftsman Inverter Generator is also CARB compliant, meaning it meets California’s fuel standards.
Craftsman Inverter Generator
Westinghouse iGen2200 Portable Inverter Generator
In addition to the portable generator featured above, Westinghouse also makes a portable inverter generator. The iGen2200 is fuel-efficient, quiet and can run for up to 12 hours continuously. Its running wattage is 1,800 and it peaks at 2,200. It’s also EPA and CARB compliant, meaning it meets air and efficiency standards. It can also be paired with another Westinghouse portable inverter if you need more power. It’s less than 50 pounds, so it can be carried by hand.
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