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How To Choose The Right Portable Generator

4 min read

How To Choose The Right Portable Generator

Thanks to their dependable ability to provide electricity anytime you need it, portable generators have become an essential tool for both emergency and non-emergency use. 

From powering your RV and camping equipment, to keeping home appliances running during power outages or natural disasters, to standby power for businesses, or off-grid living, a portable generator offers affordable and reliable peace of mind, comfort, and protection for you and your family. 

But choosing the right generator can be difficult. With a huge variety of sizes, designs, fuel sources, and connections, you need to understand your energy needs and the features of your generator before you buy. Here are some considerations before you buy a portable generator:

Size

Picture of Titan Solar Generator Specification

The first step in the generator buying process is to determine what you want to power and how much energy your items require. The size of your generator depends on answers to questions such as:

  • How many appliances do I need to power?
  • How long do I need the generator to last?
    • If you don’t need to run all of your devices at the same time or continuously, you can get away with purchasing a small generator. 
  • What is the maximum running & surge (starting) watts - of all combined items? 
    • Keep in mind that some appliances require an initial surge of energy above their running watt listing. You’ll need to check each appliance and ensure your generator can handle the starting watts which can sometimes be up to 50% more than the running watts. 

If you are running only a few household items like a refrigerator and personal devices, then you may only need a small generator. But once you begin to add more power-hungry items like heating/cooling, washer/dryer, or a water heater, you may require a larger generator. 

A small, portable generator is generally categorized as being under 2000 watts, medium between 2000-7000 watts, and large over 7000 watts.

Run Time

Picture of Nature's Generator runtime

The longer your generator can run, the less often you’ll have to refuel. The most common metric used in determining the run time of your generator is expressed as “run time at half-load”. This number tells you how long your generator can operate at half of its capacity.

For example, a 2000-watt generator with a 10-hour run time at half load will operate for 10 hours when the load is kept at 1000 watts.

You generally want a portable generator with a half-load run time of at least 10 hours to comfortably get you through the night if needed.

Outlets

{icture of Lion Safari LT Outlets

The amount of outlets and their types play a pivotal role in determining which items your portable generator can power. Most small generators come with 2-4 standard 120V AC outlets. The more outlets your generator has, the better. More outlets increase the generator's power stability by spreading the load more evenly.

Medium-sized generators (around 4000 watts) will start including 240V plugs. 240V plugs are required if you want to connect your portable generator to your home’s panel.

Portability

Picture of Inergy Apex in a car

Portable generators are meant to be… well… portable! However, larger units can weigh upwards of 350 pounds and be difficult to move and lift. Before you buy, consider where your generator is moving to and from, and if you will need help carrying and storing it.

Additional features such as locking and folding handles and durable wheels will make moving your generator easier.

Fuel Source

Picture of refilling fuel

Gas is the most common type of fuel to use with portable generators due to its availability and cost-effectiveness; other fuels such as diesel, natural gas, and propane can also be used. You’ll want to run your generator periodically to ensure the fuel does not degrade inside your generator. If you’re using gasoline, it’s recommended to use a gas stabilizer to prevent damage from idle fuel.

Solar Generators

Picture of Humless - Universal 20/8.5 House Battery

Today, there are many solar and battery-powered generators available. Solar-powered generators have the advantage of not needing any fuel to operate, and power items with no emissions and no noise. 

Using the power of the sun is a great alternative to heavy, fuel-guzzling gas models. Gas generators can be very noisy, heavy, and can release toxic chemicals. In times of crisis, fuel may be extremely expensive or not available at all; a solar power generator runs on power from the sun and stores it in a high-capacity battery. 

Some of our favorite portable solar generators manufacturers include:

Features

Picture of Nature's Generator Elite

There are several features you should consider when buying your generator. Models may come with some of these and others may be purchased as add-ons. 

  • Fuel Gauge – Keeps track of the fuel left in your generator's tank. 
  • Battery Push Starter – Eliminates the need to pull a cord to turn on your generator. Pull starts can be difficult for people with disabilities or the elderly. 
  • Circuit Breaker Protected Outlets – Protects your generator from overloading 
  • Mufflers – Mufflers can be fitted to reduce noise in fuel-run generators. 
  • Fold-Down Handles – For increased portability and ease of use. 
  • Cord Set – This allows you to split the power from your generator into multiple outlets. 
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector – Shuts down the engine automatically if high levels of C02 are detected. 
  • Low Oil / High-Temperature Shut Downs – More safety features that automatically shut down your generator before it becomes dangerous. 
  • Expansion Battery - For solar/battery powered generators, it’s good to have expansion ability if your energy needs increase. 

Finding a generator that meets your exact needs is easy once you know a few of the generator basics and how to determine your energy needs. Prior research into different models will help you make a more informed purchasing decision and lead to higher overall satisfaction.


Do you have any other questions about generators? If so, we’re happy to help. Just contact us at 1-844-WILDOAK (945-3625) or through our website's online chat feature to speak with one of our trained and friendly professionals. We’ll help you find the perfect generator and any other camping or off-grid supplies you need.

Need more help? Check out our list of top solar power generators for 2021!



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