Power outages seem to be occurring more frequently these days, often leaving homeowners stuck in the dark with no way to power essential appliances and devices. When the lights go out, having a backup generator can provide some much-needed peace of mind and ensure your family’s comfort and safety.
With so many generator options available, however, it can be daunting to figure out which type and size is right for your home’s needs and budget. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll spotlight the top home generator choices and provide key factors to consider when selecting the ideal model to keep your house powered up during electrical emergencies.
The Best Generator Options for Home Use
Generators for the home come in two main configurations – portable and permanently installed standby units. Here are some of the most recommended options in each category:
Best Overall: Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator
For a reliable whole-house generator solution, the Generac 7043 tops our list. This automatic home backup generator delivers an ample 7kW of power – enough for any home’s basic needs.
Some of the key advantages of the Generac 7043 include:
- Automatic operation – The generator kicks in within seconds of detecting a power outage to keep appliances and essentials running without interruption.
- Weatherproof aluminum enclosure – Designed for year-round outdoor use in any climate while protecting the components.
- WiFi remote monitoring – Users can remotely check the generator status and get maintenance notifications via computer or smart device.
- Quiet operation – Produces only 63 dB of noise while running, similar to a normal conversation.
- Fuel flexibility – Can use either natural gas or liquid propane fuel for convenience.
For whole house coverage with full automation and maximum reliability during outages, the Generac 7043 is worth the investment for serious peace of mind. Expect costs around $5000-$8000 installed.
Best Portable: Westinghouse iGen2500 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator
If you need a generator that can easily move wherever backup power is required, the Westinghouse iGen2500 is an excellent choice. Key features that make this our top portable pick include:
- Compact size – At only 48 pounds, it’s one of the lightest generators in its output class.
- Inverter technology – Generates clean sine wave power that’s safe for sensitive electronics.
- Super quiet operation – Rated at only 52 decibels during operation – as quiet as a normal conversation.
- Highly efficient – Can run for up to 10 hours at 25% load on only a 2.0-gallon fuel tank.
The Westinghouse iGen2500 is perfect for camping, tailgating, emergency home backup power, and any application where portability and quiet operation are desired. Expect to pay around $500-$650 for this model.
Best Standby: Generac 6998 Guardian Series
For a compromise between portable flexibility and the automatic functionality of a permanently installed standby unit, the Generac 6998 Guardian Series is a great choice. It delivers 7.6kW of power in a compact weatherproof enclosure designed for year-round outdoor use. Key advantages include:
- Automatic operation activates immediately upon detecting a power outage.
- Integrated whole house surge protection helps defend appliances and electronics.
- WiFi remote monitoring provides generator status alerts and diagnostics.
- Compact size takes up minimal space for installation.
While not as robust as larger standby units, the Generac 6998 provides affordable automatic emergency backup power starting around $1700-$2000 plus professional installation costs.
Best Budget: Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
For a basic home backup generator on a budget, the Champion 3400-Watt dual fuel model packs a lot of value. It can run on either gasoline or propane, offering flexibility based on fuel availability and costs. Key features include:
- Dual fuel operation – Uses either gasoline or propane, providing flexibility.
- 3400 starting watts and 3100 running watts, enough for a refrigerator and several lights and small appliances during an outage.
- Electric start makes startup effortless along with the recoil starter.
- VoltGuard provides integrated surge protection from voltage spikes.
While not as robust as the other options, this Champion model provides very capable performance and reliability with an affordable price tag of around $500-$900.
How to Determine the Right Generator Size for Your Needs
Now that we’ve covered some recommended models, let’s discuss how to determine the appropriate generator size and power capacity you’ll need for your home and lifestyle:
- Make an inventory of which essential appliances and devices you want to power. List things like your refrigerator/freezer, microwave, oil/propane furnace, select lights, TV, computers, sump pump, and any medical devices. You likely won’t be able to run your entire home, so focus on the critical items first.
- Calculate the starting and running wattages required. Check appliance manuals or labels to determine the minimum wattage needed to initially start them and the continuous watts needed to operate them for extended run times. Make sure the generator has adequate capacity for both.
- Choose a generator with enough sustained output capacity to meet your needs. Look for a rated wattage that exceeds the cumulative demands of the most essential devices you plan to run simultaneously. Always opt for more power capacity than you think you need for flexibility.
- For whole house coverage, you’ll likely need 15-25kW units or larger depending on the square footage and number of appliances. Get professional advice for higher capacity standby units.
Key Generator Considerations Based on Needs and Location
Beyond just output wattage, there are several other factors that will determine the ideal type of generator for your specific situation:
- Gasoline – Most affordable and widely available fuel, but requires proper storage and handling.
- Propane – Convenient and long shelf life, but depends on intact supply infrastructure to obtain tanks.
- Natural Gas – No fuel storage needed, but requires professional installation of a home gas line if none exists.
- Diesel – More efficient and stable long-term storage, but higher unit costs and emissions.
Evaluate your location, existing fuel storage capability, costs, and convenience to choose the best fuel source option.
Portable or Standby
- Portable – Cheaper up front cost, can be transported and used anywhere. Requires manual start when outage occurs and fuel monitoring/refills.
- Standby – Permanently installed, automatic operation when outage detected. Fueled from home natural gas/propane line. Requires professional installation.
Determine if the extra costs are worth it for automatic, whole home power protection versus budget-friendly portability.
Look for inverter generators or super quiet models rated for noise levels around 60 dB or lower. Louder models can cause disturbance issues and irritate neighbors during extended outages.
- Transfer switch – Safely delivers power from generator to home without backfeeding utility lines. Required for any standby generator connection.
- Extra extension cords and outlets – Make sure you have enough capability to connect all needed devices.
- Maintenance kits – Oil, filters, spark plugs for periodic generator upkeep.
Choose units with sound weatherproof cabinet construction if installing outdoors. Ensure the generator will be protected from direct exposure to rain, snow, falling debris, etc.
Larger standby units often require an electrician for safe and proper installation including the transfer switch and hookups. Factor these costs into your budget.
By evaluating these key factors and considerations, you can zero in on the ideal home generator solution for your unique needs and budget.
Frequently Asked Questions About Home Generators
If you’re feeling overloaded with complex generator specs and details, these answers to common questions provide a quick overview of key information that is helpful to know:
How much do home generators cost?
- Portable inverter units start around $400-500
- Standard portable models in the 3000-5000 watt range run $800-1500
- Small standby generators are $1500 and up
- Whole house standby units often cost $3000-8000 installed depending on size and features.
How big of a generator do I need for my house?
- The size needed depends on your critical loads. 7-11kW units can provide basic backup for most general home needs such as lights, a refrigerator and a few other appliances. Upsize as your power demands increase.
What size generator is needed to run a house?
- A small 5000W portable can run 10 essential circuits in an outage
- 7-10kW units can run 1-2 major appliances like a refrigerator along with lights and outlets
- 11-15kW is required for homes over 2500+ square feet with central air units and more appliances
- Homes over 3000 square feet often need 20kW or larger for whole house power
What can a 5000 watt generator run in a house?
- A 5000W unit can operate essentials like fridge, freezer, some lights and fans, TV, internet modem and routers, electric stove, and sump pump. But you’ll have to be strategic with cycling bigger loads like a well water pump, furnace fan, microwave and air conditioner.
How long will a generator run on 5 gallons of gas?
- At 50% load, a standard 5000W generator will run 10-12 hours on 5 gallons. Up to 20 hours is possible at lighter 25% loads. Fuel efficiency decreases at higher load levels.
How close can a generator be to a house?
- Portable generators should be kept 15-20 feet from a house minimum to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide buildup. Operate outdoors only in a well ventilated area, away from doors and windows. Never run a generator inside an attached garage.
How loud is a 7500 watt generator in dB?
- Expect noise levels around 75-80 dB from a typical 7500W generator, similar to a lawnmower engine or passing diesel truck. Larger units produce 70-75 dB. Quieter inverter models rate 60-65 dB.
What maintenance is needed for home generators?
- Test run the generator monthly for at least 15-30 minutes. Change oil annually or after 200 hours of use. Replace air, oil, and fuel filters as specified. Drain fuel before storage to prevent gumming. Keep batteries charged if applicable.
What are the benefits of a standby generator?
- Provides automatic backup power the instant an outage is detected. Covers entire home instead of just selected circuits. Convenience of whole home coverage versus strategically rotating appliances. Seamless automatic operation. Integrated surge protection.
Having a reliable home generator provides invaluable protection when emergencies and power outages strike. Take time to carefully evaluate your family’s needs and budget to choose the right size, fuel type, sound level, and portability or automatic functionality. Consult a qualified electrician if installing a larger standby unit.
Properly maintaining your generator with regular operation, fuel draining, and filter/oil changes will ensure it’s ready to provide vital backup power when you need it most. Power outages may be inevitable, but having a quality home generator helps provide peace of mind that your household will stay safe and comfortable until the lights come back on.