Why You Need a Generator for Your Home
There are plenty of reasons you need to have a generator for your home. Most of them fall under the “emergency power” category. Here in Florida, summer thunderstorms and hurricanes are our main risks. Up north, Old Man Winter unleashes freezing attacks. Other parts of the country have earthquakes, and then there’s Tornado Alley.
Any of these can knock power out for days or even weeks. In some cases, you need to keep medical devices running or medicines cool. A lot of folks want to make sure food in the refrigerator and freezer doesn’t go bad.
Bigger tasks include heating and cooling your house. Some of us just want to go on with our home life as if the electrical grid is up and running. Sometimes, we want a generator to pull double-duty between emergency power and our outdoor adventures.
Whatever your top priorities are, it’s a good bet there’s a generator for your home.
The Best Generator for Homes Overall – Our Top Pick
Generac Guardian 19.5kW Home Backup Generator with Wi-Fi
The best generator for your home is the one you don’t have to think too much about and is ready when you need it. While no generator is completely maintenance-free, whole-home generators offer power and convenience that portable units can’t match. If you can afford one (plan on an extra ~$2000 for installation), it’s the way to go.
Of the choices currently available, we recommend the Generac Guardian 19.5kW with Wi-Fi. It has the power to handle the majority of residential homes, even large ones. The wi-fi feature adds status monitoring, maintenance alerts, and more, all from your smartphone anywhere in the world.
Fuel is a big consideration when you’re looking at one of these units over a portable generator. You need access to natural gas or liquid propane to run it.
With the included 200A transfer switch, the package runs $6147. For around $250 more you can also step up to the larger model with a few more thousand starting watts.
The Best Portable Generator for Home
Honda Super Quiet Series Generator EU7000iS
Not everyone has the space or budget for a whole-home standby generator. If that’s you, there are still some excellent options. Our pick for the best portable generator is Honda’s EU7000iS. As part of the Super Quiet Series, its sound rating is just 58 decibels. That’s quiet for any generator, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the performance and feature set.
Honda’s GX390 engine produces 7000 peak watts (5500-watt continuous). As an inverter generator, it cleans up the power for your electronics as well. It has CO-Minder carbon monoxide detection, electric starting, Bluetooth connectivity with a variety of monitoring and control features, and electronic fuel injection to keep you powered up. Plus, it won a 2021 Pro Tool Innovation Award for gas generators.
The best isn’t cheap and that’s the one downside. This Honda generator sets you back $4999.
While it’s not as quiet as Honda, Ryobi’s 6500-watt (8125 starting watts) offers more available power and has a carbon monoxide sensor for safety. Best of all, the price tag is much more affordable at $949.
The Best Standby Generator for Home Use
Generac Guardian Series Natural/LP Gas Whole House Generators
Our top overall choice as the best generator for your home is part of the Generac Guardian series we recommend as the best standby generator. The series ranges from 14kW to 26kW and comes with a pretty reasonable price tag. Generac’s Mobile Link also lets you monitor the status of your system from anywhere in the world using cell data or WiFi.
Just keep in mind you’re going to need a transfer switch, professional installation, and possibly an LP tank if you don’t already have one.
Click here to see Generac’s sizing calculator and find your home’s power needs.
Price: $4,697 – $6,997
The Best Diesel Generator for Home Use
Kubota 11,000W Lowboy II Diesel Generator GL11000
Diesel generators don’t use the gasoline that other units do. You have to know where you can get diesel, but you’re not fighting with everyone who’s panic-buying all the gas. In our hurricane-prone area, stations rarely run out of diesel before all three grades of gasoline are gone.
If that’s the route you want to go, we recommend Generac’s electric start XD5000E but it’s getting pretty tough to find. Another quality option is Kubota’s GL11000 Lowboy II. While it doesn’t have the portability of Generac’s design, this 11,000-watt diesel generator is built for heavy-duty use on industrial jobsites.
Between that and the color scheme, it’s a tough sell for use as a home generator. However, if diesel is a must-have in your book and you don’t want to go the standby generator route, Kubota is a compelling option.
The Best Propane Generator for Home use
DuroMax 8500/10000-Watt Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator (XP10000DX)
When you’re shopping for the best propane generator for your home, go with a dual-fuel design rather than propane alone. They’re more common and you have the option to use either gasoline or propane.
Our top choice comes from DuroMax. Their XP10000DX has 8500 watts of continuous power (8075 on propane) and 10000 watts of startup power (9500 propane). Those represent monster numbers for a portable generator! They actually have one with even more available watts, but this model gets 2 hours more runtime on its 8.3-gallon fuel tank. When it comes to emergency power, runtime and fuel efficiency definitely come into play.
High-Value Pick: DuroMax 3500-Watt Electric Start Generator XP4400EH
By sacrificing some watts, you can save a lot of money and still have the benefits of a dual-fuel generator. At $549, you get 3500 continuous watts and electric starting from the DuroMax XP4400EH.
The Best Solar Generator for Home Use
We have far more options for battery-powered inverters than ever before and some of them are capable of working with solar panels. What we like about EGO’s Nexus Power Station is its modular battery design—you can remove the packs and put fresh ones on when you don’t have time to recharge them. With 2000 watts of continuous juice and 3000 watts for starting, you get a decent amount of power when the lights go out.
For portable options such as the Nexus, recharging via solar is still a long process. These units are best for temporary outages that last a few hours or for tailgating and camping.
Price: $1499 with four 5.0Ah batteries. Solar panels are sold separately.
The Best Small Inverter Generator for Home Use
Honda 3200W Super Quiet Inverter Generator EU3200i
Inverter generators have several advantages. They tend to be smaller, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and friendly to your sensitive electronics. Our top choice for portable generators is an inverter generator, so we’d consider it the best in the inverter category as well.
The Honda 3200-watt EU3200i (with 2600 running watts) uses a Honda GX130 fuel-injected engine for power and can run more than 8.5 hours on just 1.2 gallons of gas. Like all Honda generators, COMinder CO detection is onboard. It’s also RV-ready with parallel capability and connects via Bluetooth to the Honda My Generator app on your phone. Plus, it’s rated at just 54-58 decibels (depending on the load).
High-Value Pick: Ryobi 2300-Watt Inverter Generator with Bluetooth (RYi2322VNM)
At $649, Ryobi packs a ton of value into their 2300-watt inverter generator(1800 continuous watts). Bluetooth connection to your phone, CO detection, super-quiet operation, and a compact frame highlight a model that’s happy to travel wherever your adventures take you.
Generators make our lives easier, but they can be deadly. Never, ever run a gas, propane, or diesel generator inside! They produce emissions that will kill you if they are able to concentrate high enough.
Always make sure that you’re running your generator where there’s plenty of airflow. Opening a window or your garage door isn’t enough. Air has to be able to let the fumes dissipate and move away from your generator so they don’t concentrate in one area.
Many portable generators now come with a CO sensor that automatically shuts the engine off if fumes get too high. They can shut down when there’s no immediate danger, though. Make sure you position your generator so the breeze can blow past the exhaust rather than concentrating on the downwind side.
Here are some other safety tips:
- Be careful of hot engine components
- Always use the right gauge of extension cord for what you’re powering
- Don’t overload your generator
- Don’t store fuel near ignition sources (including your generator)
- Protect your generator from rain and snow
How We Make Our Choices
Having enough power is goal #1 for us. You need to plan for not just the running load, but the surge power each of the items you’re running needs.
What size generator do you need? That depends on what devices you plan to power. With some simple math and planning, you can arrive at some easy guidelines for making a solid choice.
Most generators you buy from quality brands and reputable retailers are just fine as long as you take care of your generator maintenance. Even brands with an OEM-branded engine have the potential to offer you years of service if you’re using them often.
As you’re shopping for the best generator for home use, keep in mind that many people only use them in an emergency. That means they need to reliably start and run even if they sit in your garage unused 98% of the year.
If that sounds like you, one of the best things you can do is pull the generator out and start it once a month. Always use a fuel stabilizer and try to run the tank dry when you know you’re not going to use it for a while.
Price and Value
Buy the best generator for your home that fits your budget. In our opinion, getting better quality over higher watts is the way to go if it comes down to a choice. Ask yourself what features you really need and be willing to forgo some of them to get a better price on a unit with a high-quality engine.
If you’re going to use your home generator for camping, RVing, tailgating, or other outdoor activities, you may want to go with a quiet model. These are usually in the sub-3000-watt class, but we’re beginning to see more powerful models promising quiet operation.
Features to Look For
- Bluetooth connection: monitor fuel levels, shut the generator off, and view other diagnostic information from your phone
- Electric start: keep the battery charged and eliminate pull starting
- Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI): better starting and efficiency with fewer maintenance issues
- 240V plugs: if you want to run higher-demand items
- Total Harmonic Disruption (THD): how “clean” the power is for running electronics
- Carbon monoxide sensor: shuts the engine off if CO concentrations get too high
- Fuel capacity: the larger the tank, the longer between refills
- Portability: how you transport the generator from storage to where you’re going to use it
Be sure to check out our tips on buying a portable generator!
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