When you choose a category and click the link you will move on to the best of that size or fuel type.
Since there are 100s of different options to choose from breaking them down this way will make your search quick and easy.
The Different Sizes On Offer
Do you want to power your whole house or just a few lights and a heater? That’s the difference between the smallest and biggest conventional generators.
Gensets that are under 2,000 running watts
Take it with you… These are the smallest, most easily portable and the most affordable of all the conventional generators. They’re not quite as small, quiet and portable as inverter generators but they’re a quarter of the cost.
The best ones are 40 – 50 pounds and about the size of a microwave. They’re decently fuel efficient and at 50% load go through about a pint of gasoline an hour or their entire gallon+ fuel tanks in 8 – 12 hours.
These are good backup power for your sump pump or to power a fridge and lights or space heater when camping.
Gensets that are 2,001 up to 5,000 running watts
These are still very portable gensets that pack a little more power than the small generators above. Towards the higher end of this range they will come with a wheel kit and handles, and their size will increase from microwave’ish to small wheelbarrow.
The 2,500 running wattage conventional generators will be around $250/300 and the 4,500 running wattage will be around $450/550 depending on specs and brand (Keep in mind the inverter style 4,500W is upwards of $2,500).
Popular uses for this style of generator is recreational use and general use around the home including backup power in an emergency.
Gensets that are 5,001 up to 10,000 running watts
Generators in this wattage range are approaching on $1,000 and are becoming powerful enough to provide backup power for most your home in an emergency. All of them have wheel kits and handles because they’re 100s of pounds.
With more power is more noise. The gensets in the groups above are as a loud as a vacuum. These ones, especially as we talk about the 9kW / 10kW versions, sound like lawnmowers.
If you’re debating to get a 4kW or a 8kW just ask yourself if the extra $400/$500 is worth the extra comfort next blackout. Having 4,000 extra running watts means you will barely notice you had lost power.
Gensets that are 10,000 running watts and up
The largest portable generator on the market is the 17,500 running watts Generac (with 26,500 starting watts). Most companies don’t make a portable generator bigger than 10kW so there are only a few options. There is a quite a steep price jump from the category above, and you’ll see these machines on the market for $2,000+.
If you want the power of a standby generator but the option to easily move the genset around your house then this size is for you.
They are as big as your garage freezer, 300 – 500 pounds and can cost up to $2,500… But the upside is you won’t even notice when the power goes out in your area.
The Different Fuel Types
So which fuel type to get… Well, how you plan to use your generator will determine the best fuel type. If you will use it camping and you have a ton of propane powered camping gear then maybe a propane generator is your best bet?
Or maybe you need a generator for the job site that has a supply of diesel so you want a diesel generator. Or maybe you just want to charge some batteries while camping and wonder what solar options are out there… Here’s the gist of each fuel type.
Cons: Engine life is lowest. Highly flammable.
- See best propane generators here…
Cons: Gasoline can only be stored for a season before you need to toss the old supply for new.
Pros: Depending on the area you live in you may have underground natural gas lines feeding your home / potential to plumb in a natural gas standby generator. This means during a power outage your fuel supply will be unaffected.
Cons: Higher initial cost.
- See best natural gas generators here…
Pros: Diesel engines for residential use are not very common for the same reason they’re not common in small cars (but are in big trucks). Diesel generators offer great fuel efficiency (due to high energy content of fuel) and have long engine life (diesel fuel is lubricating, compression based so lower temps and heavier duty construction).
Cons: Louder engine (this is why you often see them enclosed in a casing). Diesel mechanic tends to be more expensive.
Cons: To get high kW you need lots of area. Also since the sun only shines in the daytime you need a way of storing the energy for nighttime use (batteries).