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Side-By-Side Portable Generator Reviews 2014

 

Portable Generators Buyers Guide

You can skip straight to the portable generator reviews here.

If you're looking for a standby generator that kicks in as soon as the power goes out, check out these standby generators instead.

Budget: Price doesn't necessarily equal quality, but many of the cheap portable generators are cheap for a reason. Sometimes it’s because the specifications don’t match up to the higher end products. Other times, it’s because the generators are second-rate products with reliability issues and manufacturing defects. Looking at the specifications and reading a few reviews will soon help you distinguish the difference between "good value" and just plain "cheap".

Reliability: This is extremely important, since you may be wanting to use your generator for emergency backup power. If you and your family get stuck in a storm, natural disaster or zombie apocalypse, the last thing you want is for your generator to die! Especially in a zombie apocalypse, since whomever draws the short-straw isn't coming back, it's a one way trip and you know it.

Noise: Having a noisy portable generator running in the background can become a huge annoyance to friends, family and neighbors. Now you can look at the dBA rating of each generator and try and find the quietest one, however, the ratings can be wildy inaccurate and there's not a significant amount of difference between most generators. If you want a quieter generator, look for one with a Honda engine or even the Yamaha EF2000iS which is fantastic if it meets your wattage requirements. Also, you can check out this video series on building a generator enclosure here which can help to reduce the noise.

Here's a decibels comparison chart to give you an indication of the loudness

DECIBELS
DEGREE
COMPARABLE LOUDNESS OR FEELING
140DeafeningJet aircraft /Artillery fire
130DeafeningThreshold of pain / Causes immediate ear damage
120Extremely LoudThunder / Diesel engine room
110Extremely LoudClose to a train
100Very LoudWood saw / Home lawn mower / car horn @ 16 ft.
90Very LoudSymphony / Truck without muffler
80LoudCar noise @ high speed / Police whistle
70LoudNormal street noise / Average radio
60ModerateNormal conversation
50ModerateNormal office noise
40FaintResidential area without vehicle traffic
30FaintQuiet conversation
20Very FaintWhisper / Ticking of a watch
10Totally QuietSoundproof room / Threshold of hear

Wattage: Before you buy a portable generator you need to establish your wattage requirements. Using a portable generator to power one or two appliances in an RV for instance, is a lot different from using a generator to power every appliance in a large family home. I suggest tallying up the wattage requirements of every appliance you’re likely to use. It’s best to err on the side of caution, and make sure the generator wattage exceeds the total amount you’re likely to need… Better safe than sorry!

Here are some common household appliances that may be run to give you a rough idea of your wattage requirements.

Appliance
Wattage
Peak Wattage
Light bulbs x17575
Refrigerator (1/4 HP)5002000
Freezer (1/4 HP)6001200
Sump Pump8002000
Electric Oven34103410
Microwave800800
Television300300
Washing Machine11503400
Total:756013110

Obviously I don’t know your personal requirements, what appliances you intend to run or even the wattage totals of YOUR appliances (the figures above are just estimates). I suggest using this wattage calculator tool here to get a rough estimate of your requirements. If you intend to use a number of higher wattage appliances simultaneously, such as air conditioners, ovens, washing machines and so forth. The generator you choose will require a much higher wattage capacity.

Transfer switch: It’s recommended that you invest in a transfer switch when buying a generator (assuming you’re using it for backup power for your home). The transfer switch connects to your home circuit box, which does away with the need for numerous extension cords. It also protects the generator, lights and appliances from any potential damage when the grid power comes back online. I would definitely recommend having a transfer switch installed by a professional electrian, however, if you're a DIY kind of person, there's a good instructional video here.

SAFETY WARNINGS:

  • Don't Run Indoors: You should NEVER run a generator inside your home due to the carbon monoxide buildup which can potentially kill or seriously harm you and your family. Always run a generator away from your home, doors, windows, vents and any openings to your home.
     
  • Clean Level Surface: Always operate your generator on a level surface, and in a place where it won’t be exposed to undue moisture, dust and dirt. Also, make sure that there’s enough clearance on all sides of the generator (at least 5 foot on all sides).
     
  • Fuel Expansion: It’s recommended to leave an adequate amount of room for fuel expansion, so do not overfill the tank. Also, never add fuel while the generator is in use, make sure it cools down first.
     
  • Electrical Wiring: Do not connect a portable generator directly to an electrical outlet / house wiring. If you need to connect a generator to your home's electrical system, use a transfer switch as mentioned above. Also, it's recommended to have an experienced proffessional check over your installation, or get a qualified electrian to install the transfer switch in the first place.

These are some things to keep in mind when looking at potential generators.

 


 

Portable Generator Price Categories

 

>>> Portable Generators Under $500 <<<

>>> Portable Generators Under $1000 <<<

>>> Portable Generators Under $1500 <<<

>>> Portable Generators Over $1500 <<<

>>> Standby Generators <<<

 


 

Best Portable Generators Under $500

Specifications
WEN 56352
DS4000S
Champion 46539
Pictures
Starting Watts3,5004,0004,000
Running Watts3,0003,3003,500
Fuel Tank Capacity4 gallons4 gallons3.8 gallons
Run Time @ 50% Load11 Hours8 hours12 hours
Starting MethodManualEZ-Pull Recoil startWireless, Electric, Recoil
Low Oil Auto ShutdownYesYesYes
Weight104 lbs135 lbs140 lbs
Warranty2 Years Ltd2 Years Ltd2 Years Ltd

Category Winner – Champion Power Equipment 46539

Champion Power Equipment 46539 4,000 Watt

Research Links
Champion Power Equipment 46539
Pros & ConsCheck Here
Customer ServiceCheck Here
Long-Term ReliabilityCheck Here
Transfer SwitchCheck Here
Noise LevelCheck Here

 


 

Best Portable Generators Under $1000

Specifications
Westinghouse WH7500E
Generac 5943 GP7500E
DuroMax XP10000E
Pictures
Running Watts7,5007,5008,000
Starting Watts9,0009,37510,000
Fuel Tank Capacity (gallons)6.6 Gallons8 Gallons8.3 Gallons
Run Time @ 50% Load12 hours12 Hours10 hours
Starting MethodManual and electric12-Volt Button Start w/ RecoilElectric & Pull Start
Low Oil Auto ShutdownYesYesYes
Weight201 Lbs201 Lbs129 Lbs
Warranty3 Years Ltd2 Years Ltd1 Year Ltd

Category Winner – Westinghouse WH7500E

9000 Starting Watts / 7500 Running Watts

  Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator

Research Links
Westinghouse WH7500E Generator
Pros & ConsCheck Here
Customer ServiceCheck Here
Long-Term ReliabilityCheck Here
Transfer SwitchCheck Here
Noise LevelCheck Here

 

 


 

Best Portable Generators Under $1500

Specifications
Powermate PM0497000.04
Briggs & Stratton 30471
Generac XG8000E
Pictures
Running Watts7,0008,0008,000
Starting Watts8,75010,00010,000
Fuel Tank Capacity8 Gallons7 Gallons9 Gallons
Run Time @ 50% Load12.4 Hours9 Hours10 Hours
Starting MethodRecoil Start12-Volt Key Start w/ RecoilElectric/Manual
Low Oil Auto ShutdownYesNoYes
Weight198 Lbs248 Lbs250 Lbs
Warranty2 Years Ltd3 Years Ltd2 Years Ltd

Category Winner – Powermate PM0497000.04

8,750 Starting Watts / 7,000 Running Watts

  Powermate PM0497000.04 8,750 Watt

Research Links
Powermate PM0497000.04 Generator
Pros & ConsCheck Here
Customer ServiceCheck Here
Long-Term ReliabilityCheck Here
Transfer SwitchCheck Here
Noise LevelCheck Here

 


 

Best Portable Generators Over $1500

After checking all of the portable generators in the $1500+ category, I've narrowed down the list to 3 of the best portable generators. The Generac 5735 GP17500E, the Powermate PM0601250 and the Briggs & Stratton 30207.

Category Winner – Generac 5735 GP17500E

Generac 5735 GP17500E 26,250 Watt 992cc OHV Portable Gas Powered Generator

Research Links
Generac 5735 GP17500E Generator
Pros & ConsCheck Here
Customer ServiceCheck Here
Long-Term ReliabilityCheck Here
Transfer SwitchCheck Here
Noise LevelCheck Here

If you need a generator with a large wattage capacity, go for the Generac. Personally, I'm not too fond of Generac products because they have a reputation for poor customer service. If you're only concerned with having a high wattage generator and you don't care about CS and support down the line, then go for the Generac. If you are concerned, then the Powermate is a great choice assuming it meets your wattage requirements.

If you intend to use a generator for home use, i.e. for backup during a storm and you don't mind paying for premium. It may be worth looking at some of the stationary standby generators that are designed to kick in automatically during a power cut. They are typically more expensive than portable generators, however, they do offer a number of advantages.

If you own any of the portable generators mentioned in this article, please feel free to add your own comments to help others.

All comments (except for spam) will be accepted, even if you disagree with the winners selected. If you believe another generator should take the top spot, don't just leave an unhelpful comment, state the name of the generator and include a link to the best place to buy it.

3 Comments

  1. this is one of the best comparison sites I’ve seen in a while, i will be sure to recommend this to a couple of people, great job

  2. What would you recomend as one of the quiestest generators?

    • Well none of them are really quiet, but anything with a Honda engine should do. Also, the Yamaha Inverter generator is very quiet and very well rated.

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