There’s no denying that electricity is one of the most important “innovations” in modern civilization. Without electricity, how are you going to upload hateful comments on YouTube and send cat memes to annoy your work buddiesOh, we also need electricity to keep our fridges running, but that’s not nearly as important.
But what happens when there’s a blackout or when you want to hit the open roadHow will you ever make do without electricity, like nature intendedYou’ve nothing to worry about; technological advancements have prepared us for such instances. With the help of a portable generator, you won’t ever have to fret about living for a couple of hours or days without electricity.
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Why get a Portable Generator?
Why, indeedWhy not shell out a couple hundred or even thousands of extra dollars on a standby modelThe answer is simple – it’s portable!
Portable generators are great for taking electricity with you wherever you’re going. Whether you’re at a tailgate party, in the middle of the woods, or just sitting at home without a source of running power, a portable generator’s got your back.
Granted, they don’t provide nearly as much power as some standby generators, but for emergency situations or when you’re to head out into nature, you can get more power than you may not even know you needed.
Best Portable Generator Buying Guide
In this article, we’d like to go over what sort of things make for a good portable generator for your home, RV, boat, or to take on camping trips. We’ll explain all of these in two major sections: portable generators for your home, and portable generators for everywhere else.
Portable Generator for Homes
Wait one minute! Why on Earth would you need a portable generator to use at homeIf the tool is never leaving your property, why not just invest in a standby generator that’ll kick-start to life in the event of power outages?
We wholeheartedly understand if you’d rather invest on a standby generator specifically for home use, but the main thing to know about portable generators is that they can power homes as well. Sure, they won’t be able to supply enough energy to start everything in your home, but for the most crucial electronics like chargers, computers, refrigerators, and air conditioners, a portable generator is a more cost-effective way of doing it.
The first thing you need to identify before purchasing a portable generator is how much power you need. It’d be nice to find a model that delivers upwards of 20,000 watts to power every appliance in your home, but in portable generators that’s just not possible.
There are two notable wattage ratings in every generator: surge wattage and running/operating wattage. The surge wattage refers to how much power the generator can supply to kick-start your appliances to life, whereas the running or operating wattage is how much power it can consistently deliver. Your appliances have these two ratings as well.
Calculate how much power the most important electronics in your home consume and add about 20% to that number. That should be the minimum running wattage you get for your home-use portable generator. These tools typically deliver anywhere between 600 and 10,000 surge watts. Some models can even reach as high as 18,000 watts.
Most portable generators run on gasoline, but some models rely on liquid propane as their source of fuel. And there are quite a few dual-fuel models that can be powered by either gasoline or liquid propane. In most parts of the globe, gasoline is a lot cheaper than propane, but the portable generator you get should depend on which fuel is more accessible to you.
Just know that generators will need to use more propane to operate at its peak running wattage capacity. Additionally, in dual-fuel generators, when set to propane mode, they will have lower peak surge and running wattages, which will limit the number and/or types of appliances that can be powered.
If you’ve ever operated a generator before, you are probably aware of just how much noise they produce. On top of the frustration of power outages, you don’t want something that’s constantly buzzing in the background and sputtering every now. Thankfully, most modern portable generators are almost whisper-quiet – between 60 to 80 decibels – when running at half-load.
There are other features that you should consider to help reduce the amount of noise coming from the generator. First is the legs or stands that keep the unit upright. They should either be rubberized or have a layer of plastic covering it to mask noises when it inevitably rocks back and forth. Another thing is the muffler that attaches to the exhaust port, which will help in further reducing buzzing sounds.
Before we end this section, we’d just like to leave you with one extremely important safety tip when using a portable generator at home. NEVER, under any circumstance, should you ever back-feed a generator into a wall outlet.
Back-feeding means plugging the generator into a power outlet, sending electricity back through your home and into the power lines outside. Not only could this potentially fry your home’s electrical system, but you could also end up hurting some poor electrician who’s attempting to fix faulty power lines. Either plug your appliances directly into the generator or connect the generator directly into an inlet box to supply power to your home.
Portable Generators for RVs/Boats/Camping
If you need a source of energy for trips out in the wilderness or in the middle of the ocean, a portable generator is the way to go. Now let’s go over what sort of specs and features to be on the lookout for.
Most portable appliances don’t consume nearly as much power as their home-use counterparts, which is actually a huge advantage since you won’t need as much wattage capacity to run them. As we mentioned earlier, portable generators can supply between 600 and 18,000 surge watts.
Finding the right size generator for the road/sea is the same as finding one for your home. Add up the wattages of all your appliances and add 20% on top of that for safety. That’s how much your portable generator needs to supply.
Portable generators come in all shapes and sizes. The most common types of portable generators are those tanky units which can be hooked up to an RV or boat to supply power. However, if you’re in the market for something small – something to just plug chargers into that doesn’t supply a ton of power – then you may need a small unit that runs on electricity.
Odd, ain’t it, that a generator that supplies electricity needs electricity to runThese are more of a power bank than anything else. They can be draw power from a wall outlet or from your car’s battery via the cigarette port.
Forgetting about portable electric generators for a second, you should take a look at the size of the fuel tank in gas generators. Most portable generators can run for roughly 8 hours on a full tank of gas at a quarter load. Of course, the runtime depends on what appliances are currently plugged in and their power consumption rating. For longer trips in the wilderness, you should opt for a portable generator that comes with a large tank – more than a single gallon – or have several gas canisters on hand.
There’s a lot of science-y stuff behind inverter technology, but the most important thing to know about this technology is that it produces super-clean electricity. This makes it possible to plug in sensitive gadgets like smartphones and laptops directly into the generator. Without inverter technology, the power spewing from the generator may harm the battery or even the device itself. There are more and more inverter portable generators entering the market, so finding one that fits your wattage needs shouldn’t be all too difficult.
Since generators produce odorless, invisible carbon monoxide, it should always be placed at a distance from where people will be. Although this is absolutely necessary to prevent exposure to the harmful gas, it can be annoying having to tug on the recoil cord or press the electric starter, especially if your generator is placed on the upper deck of a boat while you’re down below.
To overcome this problem, you should get a portable generator that comes with a fob that lets you turn the unit on and off from up to 100 feet. Pretty handy, unless you lose the fob, then you’re stuck manually pressing buttons or pulling recoil cords.
Using a particularly noisy generator in the forest is not a smart thing to do. Sputtering sounds from a generator can attract predators to your location which, from numerous adventure stories from outdoorsmen, is no bueno.
Modern generators are a lot quieter than they used to be, especially inverter generators which are almost noiseless at quarter load. When fuel efficiency mode is activated, the generator saves a ton of gas/liquid propane while also producing the tiniest of hums from 10 feet away. Keep an eye out for sound-proofing features like rubberized legs or stands and mufflers.
Here’s something you may or may not have considered yet. When taking a generator out in the open, there’s nothing that can damage it worse than moisture (except for lions, tigers, and bears). Rainwater from above or seawater from below can cause irreparable damage to the generator, making it of extreme importance to protect the generator at all costs.
Since generators should never be placed indoors, the most effective way to protect your generator from splashes of water is by placing it under a canopy or in a tent. Covers are sold separately, though if you have a fondness for constructing things on your own, you can even design and build your casing for the generator. Just make sure that it covers the tool from water while also allowing gas to escape.
|21 x 20 x 14 in||26.3 x 24.8 x 22.9 in||18 x 11 x 18 in|
|46.5 pounds||122 pounds||48 pounds|
A portable generator is one of the smartest investments you could ever make. Even the most developed countries in the world experience power outages at least once every year, so having a backup source of electricity to keep your food from spoiling is something worth considering. In this article, we’ve talked about how portable generators are useful for home-use or when venturing out in the wild with nothing but portable electronics, an RV, or a boat.
If you’re looking for something to power the most crucial appliances at home, then the most important consideration to make is the generator’s wattage capacity. Being much smaller than their standby counterparts, you need to ensure that the generator is up to powering several appliances at once. We’d recommend going for something that provides at least 2,000 operating watts, though you may find that you need more overall power.
You should also be conscious of how much noise the generator produces since neighbors are going to mind loud noises unless you share power with them (which you’re not going to do). A muffler or rubber stands will do a lot in soundproofing a lot of the rocking and sputtering noises, but you may even want to consider building a little shack for the generator to stay in.
As for the source of fuel, you can never go wrong with a dual-fuel portable generator (gasoline or liquid propane). However, you should go with whatever type of fuel is more accessible or cheaper for you since operating a generator can be quite costly.
As for a unit to take with you in your RV, on a boat, or on camping trips, wattage capacity is also of grave importance, but other secondary features such as remote control and inverter technology can increase the experience of owning and using a generator. Furthermore, you should also consider investing or making your own cover or casing to protect the generator from harmful rain droplets.
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