Best Home Generators: The Top Portable and Stationary Generators on the Market

best home generatorsAccording to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), most power outages last just over three hours,1 and food begins to spoil in the fridge in four hours. If you or a family member relies on in-home medical care, you know that a power outage can be more than inconvenient—it can be dangerous to your life or health. A generator can keep power supplied to your home when there’s an outage and help prevent potential disasters.

We’ve examined the best stationary and portable generators, considering things like run times, surge ratings, and dependability. Here are our top three picks for best generators by category.

Already know what type of generator you are looking for? Skip ahead to see our recommendations. 

The best portable generators

Portable generators are a bit different from stationary generators in that they require manual operation and close monitoring. On the other hand, they’re more affordable than stationary generators and can be transported wherever they are needed, whether it be on a camping trip or home after a major storm. While portable generators can provide a steady supply of power, they require a secondary fuel source like diesel or propane. When the tank runs out, so does your energy.

1. Generac LP5500

Generac LP5500The Generac sets itself apart from the others on this list because of its fuel source: propane. While most generators are gasoline or diesel powered, the Generac runs solely off propane. There are multiple benefits to this type of fuel, the first and foremost being that it burns cleanly. The second is how readily available propane is—while gasoline is normally easy to find, its supply may be cut off in the event of a natural disaster. Propane can usually still be found relatively easily in these cases.

The Generac is equipped with either a 20- or a 30-pound tank. It’s also rated for 5,500 running watts with a surge rating of 6,875 watts. This is enough power to easily run—and start—any appliance.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Pricing: See current price on Amazon
  • Running watts: 5,500
  • Surge rating (watts): 6,875
  • Household outlets: 5
  • Running time: 7.9 hours

Pros

  • Propane-powered engine
  • 30-pound tank available

Cons

  • Low run time
  • Relatively inefficient engine

2. Yamaha EF5500DE

Yamaha EF5500DEThe Yamaha is a gasoline-powered generator, which means under normal circumstances, its fuel is more easily accessible than diesel or propane. Of course, this can also mean that in times of natural disaster, that same fuel source might be scarce because of increased demand. To counter this, Yamaha designed the EF5500DE with an efficient engine capable of running nine hours at full power or 12 hours at half power.

The EF5500DE has a running power of 4,500 watts, which is more than sufficient to power most household appliances. However, what knocks this generator into second place is that its surge rating is only 5,500 watts—a bit low considering most appliances surge up to two or three times as high as their running wattage.

The Yamaha is equipped with a number of safety features, including a ground-fault circuit interrupter. If the returning current differs from the outgoing current, it can mean the electricity has found an alternative path that might put you at risk for electrocution. If the circuit interrupter detects a shift in the current, it will shut the generator off to keep you safe. The generator will also automatically shut down if the oil levels drop too low.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Price: See current price on Amazon
  • Running watts: 4,500
  • Surge rating (watts): 5,500
  • Operating noise: 74.1 dB
  • Household outlets: 4
  • 120/240 volt outlets: 2
  • Running time: 12 hours

Pros

  • Fuel-efficient engine
  • Multiple safety features

Cons

  • Low surge rating
  • Louder engine than the average generator

3. Honda EM5000

honda generator
Like the Yamaha, the Honda is gasoline powered, and it faces the same double-edged sword of easy fuel availability under normal conditions and potential scarcity in an emergency. The high surge rating makes it tremendously useful for starting up most appliances, and the Honda’s engine is one of the most fuel-efficient options out there with a run time of 11.2 hours at half power.

The EM5000’s features include a quieter running volume and the voltage regulation system. This system maintains a cleaner electrical flow, which reduces the risk of damage to your appliances. The voltage regulation system performs nearly 50% better than others, which contributes to the hefty price of the generator. The Honda also has an automatic low-oil shutoff and a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Price: See current price on website
  • Running watts: 4,500
  • Surge rating (watts): 5,000
  • Operating noise: 72 dB
  • Household outlets: 4
  • 120/240 volt outlets: 2
  • 12-volt DC outlet: 1
  • Running time: 11.2 hours

Pros

  • Long running time
  • Efficient voltage regulation system

Cons

  • No hour meter
  • High cost

The best stationary generators

Stationary generators are attached to the exterior of your home much like an air conditioning unit. They have a direct connection into the gas line of your home, enabling them to run nearly indefinitely as they’re needed. Stationary generators also activate automatically, providing you with a seamless power supply with only a few seconds of downtime when the power goes out. Overall, stationary generators are less hands-on than portable generators, but significantly more expensive as well. Here are our picks for the top three stationary generators.

1. Briggs & Stratton 40346

Briggs & Stratton 40346The Briggs & Stratton 40346 is an automatic generator. The moment it detects a power outage, it begins supplying energy to your home, so even in the worst of storms, you won’t be in the dark for more than a few seconds. It can be placed as close as 18 inches to the home and generates enough power to fuel all appliances as well as two up to air conditioners.

The generator operates with a low level of total harmonic distortion (THD), meaning the electricity it produces is safer for sensitive electronics and LCD TVs. All stationary generators are safe to use with large appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators, but it’s nice to be able to use electronics in a power outage as well.

Part of the Briggs & Stratton 40346’s appeal is the relatively low volume. It’s as much as 50% quieter than comparable generators, and the four-year limited warranty provides protection against potential damages to the unit.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Price: See current price on Amazon
  • Running watts: 20,000
  • Surge rating (watts): 20,000
  • Operating noise: 68.4 dB
  • Natural gas capacity: 18,000 watts
  • Liquefied petroleum capacity: 20,000 watts

Pros

  • Low levels of THD (<5%)
  • Full-home power capabilities
  • Quieter engine than most generators

Cons

  • High cost, especially with installation fees

2. Generac 6551 Guardian Series

Generac 6551 Guardian Series Generac’s Guardian series generators are highly regarded as some of the most reliable whole-home generators on the market, and the 6551 is no exception. The generator runs on both natural gas and liquefied petroleum with no need for manual start-up—that way, whenever you need the generator, it will be ready. Its patented True Power Technology provides less than 5% total harmonic distortion, so like the Briggs & Stratton, the Generac is safer to use with sensitive electronics.

The Generac requires a weekly, biweekly, or monthly test to ensure proper function. This test takes only 12 minutes to perform, and you can check the status of the generator at any time from your smartphone. If you happen to encounter any problems, Generac’s 24/7 customer service is available to help you sort through any issues.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Price: See current price on Amazon
  • Running watts: 22,000
  • Surge rating (watts): 22,000
  • Operating noise: 67 dB
  • Natural gas capacity: 19,500 watts
  • Liquefied petroleum capacity: 22,000 watts

Pros

  • Safe rating for areas with low natural gas pressure
  • Short test period requirements
  • All-aluminum enclosure for better resistance

Cons

  • High price
  • Somewhat unreliable circuit board

3. Kohler QS9 Whole Home Generator

Kohler QS9 Whole Home GeneratorThe Kohler QS9 stands out from the other two entries on this list because it can run not only on natural gas, but also on propane—and because propane doesn’t degrade over time, you can store large amounts in case of serious emergencies. To add to this reliability, the Kohler can restore power in as little as 10 seconds. It also runs quietly compared to many generators, making it perfect for neighborhoods with strict HOA regulations.

The Kohler also comes with a five-year or 2,000-hour warranty. The corrosion-proof casing means that your generator will be safe and functional no matter how fierce the weather may become. Another benefit is the price: the Kohler averages around $1,000 less than other whole-home generators.

The downside is that the Kohler has no transfer switch, so you’d need to purchase a compatible one separately. This isn’t a deal breaker, but having a preinstalled switch would save money and hassle.

Pricing and tech specs

  • Price: See current price on Amazon
  • Running watts: 14,000
  • Surge rating (watts): 14,000
  • Operating noise: 67 dB
  • Natural gas capacity: 12,000 watts
  • Liquefied petroleum capacity: 14,000 watts
  • Rust-proof enclosure

Pros

  • Lower price
  • Ability to run on propane in addition to natural gas

Cons

  • No transfer switch included
  • Lower watt rating

What to know about generators

You likely take most appliances for granted—plug something in and it works, right? Many appliances “surge” when first turned on and activated. The surge only lasts for a few seconds, but it can require two to three times as much power as the appliance normally would to run. If your appliance requires 1,000 watts to run, you may need a generator with a surge rating of 3,000 watts to turn it on. If your generator can’t meet this demand, you run the risk of damaging your appliances.

best home generatorAnother aspect to consider is fuel. For both portable and stationary generators, you’ll need some type of fuel source—in most cases, natural gas, petroleum, or propane. If your generator is strictly for emergencies, propane is likely the best choice. It can be stored for long periods of time without degrading, unlike natural gas or petroleum. Gasoline is more readily available but may be in higher demand during natural disasters.

If you have a portable generator, keeping a few cans of your choice of fuel in storage can be the difference between staying comfortable and being left in the dark. Stationary generators have a direct connection to your fuel source that isn’t affected by power outages.

Stationary advantages vs. portable convenience

While a few hours in the dark may not seem like the worst thing in the world, there is a lot that can go wrong: food can spoil, your basement could flood without a working pump, etc. If you rely on electrically powered medical equipment, then the reliability of a generator is that much more important. Take the time to evaluate your needs, the fuel types available to you, and your budget. Then take a look at our recommendations and see which one fits your requirements.