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Man in house with no heat.

The Best Generators For Your Home, Ranked

Andrew Dehan6-Minute Read
September 09, 2020

You don’t know you need to a generator until it’s too late. A freak ice storm hits and you’re without power. That could mean you’re without heat. Depending on how cold it is and how your house is insulated, you could start seeing your breath in your bedroom in a matter of hours.

While most of us could get by without electricity, it’s hard to function in our world without it. And in fact, with the temperature extremes that often cause the storms that knock out power, being without electricity can be dangerous.

So let’s talk about generators, a crucial part of your backup plan. Here are common types of generators for your home.

Types Of Generators

The three main types of generators are standby, portable and inverter. All generators require maintenance to ensure they last a long time.

Generators have many uses, but their biggest role is keeping your home power after a storm or other disaster knocks the community power out.

Standby 

Standby generators are the ultimate back-up for your home’s electricity. They operate automatically, kicking on within seconds of detecting power loss.

If you rely on electricity to run a business out of your home, a standby generator could keep you in business. It could keep your food from spoiling and keep valuable equipment running.

In some residential areas, especially those with a homeowners association, you may need approval to install a standby generator.

Portable 

Where standby generators have one function (powering your home), portable generators are flexible. They run on diesel and can be moved around from place to place.

They’re especially useful for doing yardwork or landscaping when far from an electrical outlet. As long as you don’t need to them to be quiet or operate in an enclosed area, a portable generator will get you the power you need in the place you need it.

This next point should be reiterated: Don’t use these generators in enclosed areas. They can a lot of produce carbon monoxide (CO), which can lead to poisoning and death. In fact, the majority of deaths from Hurricane Laura were linked to improper use of portable generators.

Inverter

Inverter generators are safer, quieter and more efficient than their regular counterparts. They still run on diesel gas but have built-in sensors that automatically shut them off if they’re emitting too much CO in a closed space. Some engines emit less CO overall. Read the manual before operating and follow the manufacturer guidelines.

While they’re more expensive than a regular portable generator, their quietness and more efficient engines make them more flexible. You’ll be able to throw outdoor events without hearing the normal raucous chugging of a generator.

About Fuel

Most generators are powered by diesel gas, liquid propane or natural gas. Of the three, natural gas is the most eco-friendly, most efficient and burns without the pungent odor of other fuels. However, it’s not portable. You need a dedicated line.

Diesel generators have long lifespans, but your generator will run louder and less efficiently. Diesel is a major pollutant and has a strong odor. However, it does not require a dedicated natural gas line or a big propane tank, meaning it can be used in any location.

Propane is between natural gas and diesel. It runs efficiently with less fumes. The biggest downside is the extra plumbing and propane storage you’ll need.

These three are the most common, but there are generators that run on renewable energy. Now, they’re more expensive and less powerful, but with the rising environment price of fossil fuels, they will be contenders in the future.

Best Standby Generators

To compile our list of top standby generators, we compared price, power output, features and consumer ratings. Each of these three generators are great pieces of equipment, but only one could rank at the top.

General 7043

1. Generac 7043 – Best Overall

With 22,000 watts of power, this standby generator has more than enough power for most homes. With its Mobile Link technology, you can monitor the generator’s status from your smartphone or computer. Its increased efficiency and engine monitoring technology mean you get the most out of your fuel and reduce wear on the engine.

  • Whole-house protection with 200-amp, NEMA 3R enclosed transfer switch

  • Lowest cost per kilowatt of any air-cooled home standby generator

  • 5-year limited warranty

  • Engineered and assembled in the USA
Kohler 14,000 Watt

2. Kohler 14,000-Watt – Runner Up

One of the most popular generators for backup power, this generator is a reliable way to keep your house humming if you lose power. The Kohler 14,000-Watt can power large loads, like central air conditioners, without dropping power to other appliances.

  • Equipped with a heavy-duty, commercial-grade engine

  • Restores power within 10-seconds of loss

  • 5-year premium warranty

  • Comes with either a 100-amp indoor-rated transfer switch or 200-amp outdoor-rated transfer switch
Generac 7172

3. Generac 7172 – Best Bargain

The Generac 7172 is the best option if you need to power the essentials while you wait for the electricity to come back. At 10,000 watts, it may not be able to handle your whole house, but it will keep your gas furnace running, and at a fraction of the cost of other generators.

  • 100-amp NEMA 3R indoor or outdoor rated transfer switch

  • 5-year limited warranty

  • Engineered and assembled in the USA

Best Portable Generators

Like our list of standby generators, every generator on this list is a great piece of equipment. For these models, we considered portability and flexibility, along with power and reliability.

Westinghouse WGen9500DF

1. Westinghouse WGen9500DF – Best Overall

This generator can run on either propane or gas, working for up to 12 hours on gas, or 11 hours on a 20-pound propane tank. This thing is quiet for its style. At 73 dBA, it’s just a little louder than a shower. It can power essential appliances of your home in an outage or be used to power lights and power tools at a worksite.

  • 9,500W running/12,500W peak

  • Robust enough for home backup, but portable for working elsewhere

  • One touch electric start

  • Dual fuel, transfer and ST switch ready
DuroMax XP12000EH

2. DuroMax XP12000EH – Runner Up

The DuroMax XP12000EH has the same power ratings as No. 1, but it’s packed with more features. It lands second because it has a shorter run time and is more expensive than its Westinghouse counterpart. However, its flexibility and extra features might make it a better fit for you.

  • 9,500W running/12,000W peak

  • 4 different style outlets, including a 50-amp outlet

  • 3-year limited warranty

  • Lightweight for its category (230 pounds)
Pulsar PG3500M.

3. Pulsar PG3500M – Best Bargain

The Pulsar PG3500M is a great little generator for your home. It’s compact, affordable and perfect for powering your landscaping projects, outdoor parties and RV escapades. In a pinch, it can power your refrigerator or freezer in a power outage. With its affordable price, it’s easy to see why this generator is so popular.

While it won’t outpower the DuroMax or Westinghouse, maybe that’s not what you need. It’s one of the least noisy generators in its class, and it weighs less than 100 lbs.

  • 3,000W running/3,500W peak

  • Spark arrestor for use in forested areas

  • Fuel efficient

Best Inverter Generators

Inverter generators are valuable for their portability, low noise and efficiency. Their heaviest versions are similar in weight to the heaviest non-inverter portable generators. All three of these are great generators, but only one can be the best for your home.

Cummins Onan P4500I.

1. Cummins Onan P4500I – Best Overall

This Cummins inverter generator is perfect for homeowners looking for a quiet and compact generator. It’s great for tailgating and RVing. Moreover, it’s one of the best generators for your home, keeping essentials running in case of a power outage. Its sleek design, portability and versatility make it the top of this list.

  • 3,700W running/4,500W peak

  • Spark arrestor for use in forested areas

  • Dry weight of 98 pounds, making it one of the lightest in its power range

  • One of the quietest in its power range
Energizer EZV8000

2. Energizer EZV8000 – Runner Up

If you want the efficiency of an inverter generator, but need more power, look no further. This generator’s consistent power output makes it safe to power sensitive electronics. When the weather knocks out the power, you can not only keep your refrigerator running, but keep your home office going without a hiccup.

  • 6,500W running/8,000W peak

  • One of the most fuel efficient, consuming 0.35 gallons per hour at a 25% load

  • Clean sine wave energy won’t damage delicate electronics
 WEN GN400I

3. WEN GN400I – Best Bargain

The WEN GN400i is the best bargain inverter generator. It’s lightweight, average for noise and most importantly, affordable. Take it to the campground or use it to power necessary appliances during a blackout. It can even power sensitive electronics, due to its low harmonic disruption.

  • 3,500W running/4,000W peak

  • Clean sine wave energy won’t damage delicate electronics

  • Most inexpensive choice in its category

Bottom Line

The best generator for your home depends on your needs. Do you want something quiet, efficient and portable? You’re going to want an inverter generator. Is your concern keeping your house completely powered, and do you like the added benefit of running on cheap natural gas? Go with a standby generator.

Do your research to find what works best for you. Remember to always read the manual before operating and take proper precautions when working with fuel and power equipment. You want to keep the power on, but more importantly, you want to stay alive.

Read up on other homeowner tips and rankings on the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.