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What are the best home generators and which type do you need?

Inclement weather and rolling outages can leave your home without power. Prepare in advance with these best home generators, offering quiet operation and enough power to keep your appliances running.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor and  Sean Jackson, Contributor
All Power 9,000W | Best home generator
all-power
All Power 9,000W
Best home generator
View now View at Home Depot
Generac 8,000W | Best home generator for quiet operation
Generac 8,000W
Generac 8,000W
Best home generator for quiet operation
View now View at Amazon
DuroMax 13,000W | Best dual fuel home generator
duromax-13000w
DuroMax 13,000W
Best dual fuel home generator
View now View at Walmart
Honda 3,000W | Best gasoline portable home generator
honda-3000w
Honda 3,000W
Best gasoline portable home generator
View now View at Amazon
Pulsar 12,000W | Best value home generator
pulsar-12000w
Pulsar 12,000W
Best value home generator
View now View at Walmart

With the ever-present risk of power loss from weather disasters and other problems, you might be considering buying a whole-house or standby generator for your home. Understanding the available features and assessing your power needs will help you buy the right size emergency home generator to keep essential appliances running.

Having a standby generator will give you the backup power that you need when an emergency hits and leaves you without electricity -- perhaps for a long time. Each type of generator has features like inverters that will cope with a variety of power needs, and they come in a range of sizes.

If you have a requirement to power your whole house in an emergency power outage, I have assumed that you will want to power at a minimum: a TV, fridge, computer, freezer, four lights, and a 2kW electric fireplace. That adds up to a power requirement of around 3,630 watts.

These emergency generators like to operate at 50% of maximum load, so if you want to power more energy-hungry appliances, such as a microwave, washing machine, or medical equipment, you will need to choose a portable generator that delivers more than 6,000W to ensure you'll have enough energy to run everything at once.

Whether you're new to shopping for an emergency generator or looking to upgrade what you currently have, there are several things to consider when choosing the right generator for your home and home office:

Also: The best portable power stations

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Runs up to 10 hours
  • Quieter operation
  • CO detection system
Cons
  • Doesn't offer push button start
More Details

Features:

  • 10 hour operation at half load
  • Operating noise of 76dB
  • Features carbon monoxide sense technology 

The All Power 9000W gasoline/propane portable generator will run using either gasoline or propane with an electric or pull cord start. Its gasoline tank has a capacity of 6.6 gallons. The generator will run for up to 10 hours of operation at half load.

Its 459cc air-cooled engine will deliver 9,000W power on gasoline and 7,250W power using propane. It uses 12,000W to start. It has an operating noise level of 76 dB.

This model has carbon monoxide (CO) sense technology, which will stop the generator and alert you when CO is detected by the system. The generator comes with wheels and handle to maneuver it easily.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Quiet operation
  • Carbon monoxide sense technology
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Hand weld susceptible to breaking according to customers' experiences
More Details

Features:

  • Operates up to 12 hours on half load
  • Operating noise of 60dB
  • Features wheels for easy portability 

The Generac 8,000W generator is a gasoline-powered generator with an electric or pull cord start. It uses its 'power rush' starting technology which uses 8,000W running power increasing to 10,000W when starting. 

The generator will run for up to 12 hours of operation at half load. It has an operating noise level of over 60 dB.

This model has carbon monoxide (CO) sense technology, which will stop the generator and alert you when CO is detected by the system. The generator comes with wheels and a handle to maneuver it easily.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • CARB compliant
  • Features wheels for easy moves
  • Multiple start modes
Cons
  • Frame is susceptible to damage
More Details

Features:

  • Pull cord or electric start
  • 8 hours of run time
  • Operational noise of 74dB

The DuroMax 13,000W dual fuel generator is a will run using either gasoline or propane with an electric or pull cord start. Its 500cc air-cooled engine uses 10,500W running power, increasing to 13,000W on gasoline and 9,975W running power. It is 12,350W when starting on propane and its idle control system will reduce the engine speed when under no load.

Its gasoline tank has a capacity of 8.3 gallons. The generator will run for up to 8 hours of operation at half load on gasoline and 6 hours on propane  It has an operating noise level of over 74 dB. 

The generator is CARB compliant, and it comes with wheels and a handle to maneuver it easily.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 20 hours of run time
  • Quiet operation
  • CO detection
Cons
  • It's very expensive
More Details

Features:

  • 20 hours of run time
  • Noise operation of 57dB
  • Only requires 3.4 gallons of gas for operation 

The Honda 3,000W generator is a gasoline-powered generator with an electric or pull cord start. Its 196cc engine uses 2,800W running power increasing to 3,000W when starting and its throttle system reduced the engine speed when under no load. 

Its gasoline tank has a capacity of 3.4 gallons. The generator will run for up to 20 hours of operation at half load. It has an operating noise level of over 57 dB.

This model has carbon monoxide (CO) sense technology, which will stop the generator and alert you when CO is detected by the system. The generator has no wheels or pull along handle, but it does have two handles to lift it easily.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can alternate fuel sources during use
  • EPA approved
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Bulky body makes it difficult to move
More Details

Features: 

  • 11 hours of run time 
  • Can switch fuel sources during use
  • 74dB operating noise

The Pulsar 12,000W dual fuel portable generator will run using either gasoline or propane with an electric or pull cord recoil start. Its gasoline tank has a capacity of 10.5 gallons and has a built-in fuel gauge. The generator will run for up to 11 hours of operation and can switch between fuel sources whilst in use.

Its 457cc engine will deliver over 9,500W running power, using up to 12,000W to start and at peak load on gasoline and 8,550W running and 10,800W peak load on Propane. It will lower its idle speed when under no load situations to optimize its fuel efficiency and extend its run time.

The generator is CARB compliant, and it comes with wheels and a handle to maneuver it easily.

What is the best home generator?

We chose the All Power 9,000W because it checks many of the boxes people look for: it's affordable, offers a decent run time and quiet operation. This table demonstrates how each of the best home generators compare on price, run time, and operating noise: 

Best home generator

Price

Run time

Operating noise

All Power 9,000W

$925

10 hours

76dB

Generac 8,000W

$1,099

12 hours

60dB

DuroMax 13,000W

$1,199

8 hours

74dB

Honda 3,000W

$2,399

20 hours

57dB

Pulsar 12,000W

$799

11 hours

74dB

Which is the right home generator for you?

Your purposes and budget will play primary roles in determining which home generator fits your needs the best. To illustrate, the Honda 3,000W is an exceptional choice due to its long run time and quieter operation. However, with a price eclipsing $2,400, it might be out of reach for some. 

Meanwhile, if your aim is to find one that keeps the lights on while not breaking the bank, the Pulsar 12,000W is a wise option to consider. Below is a look at the purposes each of these home generators serve the best: 

Choose this best home generator…

If you want or are…

All Power 9,000W

Best overall home generator 

Generac 8,000W

Best generator for quiet operation 

DuroMax 13,000W

Best dual fuel home generator 

Honda 3,000W

Best gasoline-powered generator for your home

Pulsar 12,000W

Best value home generator 

How did we choose these generators?

We chose this selection of generators based on different requirements. All of the generators have electric starts with manual pull cord backup starting handles, all are portable, and most have wheels and a handle. 

Some of the generators in this list will work with either gasoline or propane, some have large gasoline tanks enabling the generator to run for longer without running out of fuel. Some of the generators have carbon monoxide alerts and safety systems.

What type of generator do you need?

Most of the generators on this list use gasoline to run an engine which produces the electricity you'll use. There are generators available that use propane for a cleaner-burning unit, and even what are known as "dual fuel" generators that can run on either. These types of generators cannot be used indoors, since they produce dangerous fumes and carbon monoxide.

There are emissions-free, electric generator systems that can be used either inside or outdoors. You can check out our list of the best portable power stations here.

How much power do you need from a generator?

The best way to work out how high a wattage output you'll need is to make a list of essential appliances and devices you'll want to keep running during an emergency. Once you have your list, find out how many watts each item uses and add them all together. Remember that things like standard refrigerators, microwaves, washers and dryers, and space heaters can use a lot of energy; on the other hand, if you just want to keep a radio and a few lights on while charging your phones, you don't need a huge output. 

Lowe's has a handy wattage worksheet that provides average continuous run and starting wattage for tons of different devices and appliances. Keep in mind that everything that uses electricity will use a big surge of power on start-up, then level out to a much lower running output, so you'll want to choose a generator that has both an adequate continuous output and starting wattage.

How long can you use a generator?

Unlike permanently installed home generators, emergency backup units cannot be run indefinitely. Most standby generators have a recommended maximum continuous run-time of 500 hours. This means you can still get almost 21 full days of continuous run-time before you need to do any engine maintenance. 

To prolong the life of your standby generator, you'll want to do regular engine maintenance twice a year: once in spring and once in the fall. Doing things like checking sparkplugs, changing oil, and replacing air filters will keep your standby generator running at optimal efficiency for much longer.

Remember to never leave a running generator unattended and to never plug a standby generator directly into your house circuit without having a professional electrician install a manual power transfer switch first. Without the switch, you could burn your house down, get seriously injured, or be killed.

Which is better: A manual or automatic start?

A manual start on your generator gives you more control over how and when the emergency power kicks in during an emergency, which is best when the lights are flickering or cutting in and out quickly. But this also means you may be trying to pull-start your generator in dangerous conditions like high winds and lightning. There are manual start standby generators that have push-buttons rather than rip cords, which your shoulders will thank you for when you don't have to frantically yank a cable to restore power. 

An automatic start switch allows your generator to "sense" when the grid-provided electricity in your home cuts out. It will kick on, minimizing the time you're without power. These switches are best for anyone who has in-home medical equipment, like ventilators or oxygen concentrators, and cannot lose power for any amount of time. 

Are there alternative home generators to consider?

We chose the best generators based on costs, functionality, noise operation, and power capacity. If you need further options, these are three viable alternatives: 


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