Portable Generators Review

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Why Buy a Portable Generator?

In 1821, Michael Faraday invented the first electric motor. Since then, life has become more and more reliant on electricity for nearly everything that we do. Without electricity, most people wouldn't be able to keep their food fresh, cook their meals, wash their clothing or keep themselves warm. Many people depend on electricity for medical equipment. Many people in rural areas even rely on electric pumps for their water. If a hurricane or tornado hit, how would you manage without your necessary appliances for days or weeks at a time? A portable generator can be the difference between being miserable during an emergency and moving on.

Portable generators aren't just for emergencies. The best portable generators are reliable machines that you can use every day to power your tools on a construction site or provide entertainment while camping. They can go wherever you need power. Honda EM5000S, Yamaha EF5500DE and Sportsman Series GEN7500DF are the best examples of power generators that you can rely on. For more information, read our articles on portable generators.

Portable Generators: What to Look For

The most important criteria you should consider is how much power you'll need. Most portable generator manufacturers provide calculators on their websites so that you can easily estimate how much power your household needs. The 5,000-watt generator is the most common range for families because it can power all of your necessary appliances. As such, we reviewed and compared generators within this range. After you know how much power you need, you'll want to consider the criteria below.

Power & Fuel Performance
Every power generator has two power ratings – running wattage and surge wattage. The running wattage is the amount of power that the generator can handle on a continuous basis. The surge wattage is the amount of power it can handle for short bursts, usually about 10 seconds. The surge wattage accounts for the surge created when appliances with electric motors start. Their starting power can be two to four times the amount needed to operate.

Most portable generators use gas engines. Some use propane. And some can use both. Propane generators have many advantages over gas generators – propane is cheaper, less toxic, cleaner burning and easily accessible during a power outage, and you can store it indefinitely because it doesn't degrade like gasoline.

Fuel efficiency is critical, especially when fuel becomes difficult to acquire during a natural disaster. The best generators burn less than half a gallon of fuel an hour and have a running time of up to 14 hours with a 50 percent load.

Safety Features
Any time you're dealing with electricity, you must pay close attention to safety features. This includes circuit breakers, grounding methods, never-flat tires and spark arrestors. The most important safety feature is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection – a sensor that measures the alternating current going back and forth from the generator. If the returning current diminishes, then this could mean that the electrical current has found an alternate path to the earth. The GFCI cuts the power if this happens, protecting you from electrocution.

You should also consider the operating noise. Gas generators are combustion engines similar to your car. They're going to make noise. A loud generator can cause your neighbors to complain or make it difficult for you to communicate with others while you use the generator.

Control Panel Features
The control panel is where the business occurs. Most generators have four standard household plugs and at least one twist-locking 120/240-volt AC outlet for large appliances or industrial extension cords. The best portable generators have electric ignitions that only require a flip of a switch or a push of a button to start the generator. However, you should make sure that the recoil ignition is still available so that you can still start the generator if the battery is dead.

The best generators also feature a voltage selector switch, which allows you to isolate the voltage to whatever you're using at that moment. They also have readouts for voltage and hours operated, which are like odometers, gauging when you need to have the machine serviced.

Help & Support
The best generators come with a three-year warranty. While most manufacturers don't sell directly to consumers, you should still be able to receive excellent support for your generator. This includes adequate contact information and a service center network for getting your generator serviced or fixed. You should also look for videos, maintenance tutorials, product manuals and FAQs pages.

Natural disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. Don't get caught without power, wishing you'd have been prepared. A portable generator is the foundation of any emergency preparedness kit, a vital tool on a construction site and a convenience that allows you the comforts of home while camping.

 
 
Appliances » Other-Household » Portable Generators Review
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
Honda Yamaha Sportsman Series Westinghouse Champion Power Briggs & Stratton WEN Generac Honeywell All-Power America
Honda Yamaha Sportsman Series Westinghouse Champion Power Briggs & Stratton WEN Generac Honeywell All-Power America
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Lowest Price
Visit Honda EM5000S
$2,499.00
Visit Yamaha EF5500DE
$1,399.00
Visit Sportsman Series GEN7500DF
$729.00
Visit Westinghouse WH5500
$654.00
Visit Champion Power Medium Duty 5500
$699.00
Visit Briggs & Stratton Home Series 5000
$649.00
Visit WEN 5500
$717.99
Visit Generac LP5500
$899.10
Visit Honeywell 5500
$699.00
Visit All-Power America APGG6000
$974.99
Ratings
9.83
9.57
9.23
8.95
8.50
8.32
8.13
8.00
7.57
6.95
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
9.38
9.38
9.38
10.00
9.38
9.38
9.38
9.50
9.38
7.50
9.38
9.38
6.88
10.00
8.13
9.38
7.50
9.38
8.75
8.13
6.88
10.00
6.88
9.38
9.38
6.88
8.13
9.38
5.63
8.13
7.50
7.50
7.50
8.13
7.50
8.13
6.88
1.25
 
Power Ratings
Rated Watts 5,000 4,500 6,000 5,500 5,500 5,000 5,000 5,500 5,500 5,000
Surge Watts 7,000 5,500 7,500 6,750 6,500 6,250 5,500 6,875 6,875 6,000
Power & Fuel Performance
Fuel Type Gasoline Gasoline Dual Fuel Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline Propane Gasoline Gasoline
Surge Wattage Increase 2,000 1,000 1,500 1,250 1,000 1,250 500 1,375 1,375 1,000
Fuel Efficiency (gallons per hour) .55 .57 .69 .47 .59 .5 .59 1.02 .64 .6
Running Time (hours) 11.2 12 9 14 11 10 11 7* 9.1 11
Fuel Capacity (gallons) 6.2 6.9 6.2 6.6 6.5 5 6.5 7.14* 5.8 6.6
Engine Displacement (cc) 389 358 389 357 338 342 389 389 389 291
Automatic Idle
        
Safety Features
Ground-Fault Circuit Interruption
       
Low Oil Shutdown
 
Spark Arrestor
  
Never-Flat Tires
Automatic Voltage Regulator
Ground Terminal or Neutral Bonded
Outlet Circuit Breakers
Operating Noise (dB) 72 74.1 80 71 72 Not Available 74 71 Not Available 76
Weight (lb) 232 212 135 168 185 178 187.2 184 202 189
Control Panel Features
Household Outlets (120 volt AC) 4 4 5 4 2 4 4 4 4 2
Industrial Locking Outlets (120/240 volt AC) 2 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2
Car Charger Outlets (12 volt DC) 1   1   1   1    1
Electric Ignition
 
   
 
Fuel Gauge
 
 
 
Voltage Selector Switch
    
   
Voltage and Hours Meter  
 
Help & Support
Warranty 3 Years 3 Years 1 Year 3 Years 2 Years 3 Years 2 Years 2 Years 3 Years 1 Year
Phone Support
 
Email Support  
 
Service Center Network
 
Videos
 
    
Maintenance Tutorials
 
    
Manuals
 
 
FAQs
 
 
  
*Using a 30-pound propane tank. Propane tank is not included with generator.