The Top 10 Best Portable Generators of 2016

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Portable Generators: Questions & Answers

When do I need a portable generator?

Portable generators are most useful when you’re dealing with a power outage. They can be used to power big appliances like fridges, microwaves, and even your whole electrical system, as well as electronics like cell phones and computers. You can also use them off-the-grid to power a cabin or when you’re camping.

What are the benefits of a propane-fueled generator?

Many people are choosing propane generators over gasoline. Propane is cheaper, cleaner, and also more efficient, so you can get more hours using propane. You don’t get the level of emissions that you do from burning gasoline, so propane is an eco-friendly option. It also has a much longer shelf-life than gasoline, so you don’t have to worry about refreshing your supply if it’s been a while since you used your generator. Some disadvantages: using propane makes your generator less portable, and propane generators are often harder to use, especially in cold weather, since propane contracts at 40-degrees.

What are the benefits of a gas-powered one?

Using gas is convenient, since it’s easy to find gasoline pretty much anywhere. It’s also a more portable fuel, so you can use it for smaller generators you take camping. Gas-powered engines, generally, are more reliable and powerful than ones that use propane. On the flip side, gas-powered generators produce a lot of emissions, more prone to fires, and can create a lot of expenses.

Should I get a dual-fuel generator?

If you can’t choose between a gas or propane engine, you do have the option of getting a dual-fuel portable generator. With these, you can choose to use either gasoline or propane. When you want to use propane, you use the line from the generator to hook it up to a propane source. A dual-fuel version also helps deal with the contracting problem propane has in cold weather. If you find your generator isn’t working with propane at 40-degrees, run the it for a few minutes using gasoline, and then switch over to propane.

How many watts should my generator have?

The amount of watts you should get depends on what you want to use it for, and how long you need power. A really powerful generator is measured in horsepower as well as watts, and can give up to 10,000 starting watts. Smaller ones can only handle an appliance as big as a fridge, and has about 2,000 running watts. A generator with 8,000 running watts is sufficient enough for most emergencies.

What’s the difference between starting watts and running watts?

Running watts describe the number of watts that a generator takes to start up. It’s like a burst of energy, so the wattage will be higher than what the engine takes to run normally. Running watts are a more accurate description of what a generator produces consistently, so if you need a generator with a really high wattage, look at the running watts as a more reliable measurement, this article tells more about it.

How many hours of power can I expect from a portable generator?

When you look at the number of hours a generator can produce, keep in mind that the companies usually count the number of hours when the machine is running at 50%. Some even measure when it is running at 25%. The longest range you can get on bigger generators is about 10-13 hours. Smaller generators (meaning those with smaller fuel tanks) can give 7-8 hours when running at half-load.

How much gas do portable generators use?

Smaller generators can run a decent number of hours (7-8) on very little fuel. 1-2 gallon tanks for those type of machines are normal. Larger ones can take as much as 8-9 gallons for more hours of power.

How energy-efficient are they?

When a portable generator is energy-efficient, it doesn’t need much fuel to produce a lot of energy. Certain features, like complying with California’s standards on emissions and energy consumption (CARB), can dramatically increase the efficiency. A Smart Throttle lead feature, which allows the generator’s engine to adjust its speed based on wattage use, helps the generator save energy. An alternator lamination and automatic voltage regulation also help the generator use the bare energy minimum to function, so no energy gets wasted.

What kind of engines should I look for?

A good engine is the base of a good generator. Durability is key. OHVI engines (overhead valve industrial engines) have full-pressure lubrication and a spin-on oil filter. Regular OHV engines (overhead valve) are also good options, since they are known for their reliability and efficiency. 4-stroke engines (as opposed to 2-stroke) are also reliable, durable, and efficient.

What is an inverter generator?

Inverter generators are generators that use pure-sine waves for its energy. This results in cleaner, more reliable electricity. Electronics like cell phones and computers often short-circuit when you use unrefined energy (energy produced by a non-inverter generator), so using an inverter generator for more delicate appliances and electronics is a great idea. Note that inverter generators cost more than regular ones.

How loud are generators?

Portable generators have the reputation of being very loud. Propane is just as loud as gas, so don’t expect much difference there. However, since portable generators are intended for use outside and in neighborhoods, there are features that help dampen the sound. Generators with glass wool are better at absorbing sound, so even when you’re running it with a full-load, it will be block a lot of the noise. Mufflers, like the Pulse-Flo muffler, also help reduce the sound.

Can I use my generator while I’m camping?

If you want to use your generator in any National Park (and just for safety, any park), a spark arrestor is required. Spark arrestors prevent sparks from leaving the exhaust systems, so you don’t accidentally start a forest fire. Sound levels are also a concern for most campers, so bear that in mind.

What kind of outlets do they have?

Most portable generators are fully outfitted for all appliances. Outlets include 120V duplex-two outlets, 120V GFCI, twist lock outlets, and DC outlets for charging batteries.

How much do portable generators weigh?

Despite their name, a lot of these generators are extremely heavy. They can weigh as much as 250 pounds and are really intended for use at one location. A lot of these heavy generators do have wheels and carts, so if you have to, you can move them around. For generators that are actually portable, 45-50 pounds is a lot more convenient. You can use these generators during camping trips or keep them in your car for emergencies.

How much do portable generators cost?

There’s a wide range of prices for portable generators. They generally go up in price the more watts they have. Machines with 1000 watts cost about $100-$150. If you need more watts, like 4000-5000, expect to pay more in the $500-$600 range. Really big generators with massive wattage’s (like 10,000) can cost as much as $2000. Inverter generators are also significantly more expensive. An inverter type with 2,000 watts can cost $1000 or more.

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