2017 PORTABLE ELECTRIC GENERATORS REVIEW:

RATINGS CHART, PRICE COMPARISON AND FEATURES OF THE BEST MODELS IN THE POWER RANGE 4,000-10,000 WATTS

Portable generators are intended to provide temporary power when utility is not available. These devices are usually connected to the loads via extension cords, although a connection via an optional transfer switch is more convenient. They are often used in homes, on construction sites, farms, motor homes, recreation vehicles, and in camping trips. Most models are fueled from the on-board tank and therefore can't run for a long time without refueling. More expensive multi-fuel devices can be hooked up to a natural gas or propane line for longer operation. To save you hours of research and help you choose the best device for the job, I put up the ratings chart below. It compares the characteristics and typical prices on some of the best rated brands. The chart is followed by selection considerations.

Updated: January 2017

MODEL (with links to spec, price,
reviews)
BRAND POWER
SURGE/ RUN

WATTS
FUEL TANK
& RUN TIME @50% load
FUEL PRICE
XP10000E Duro-Max 10000/ 8000 8.3 gal,
10 hrs
gas $805
Elite Series
30663
Briggs & Stratton 8750/ 7000 7.5 gal,
9 hrs
gas $900
RS7000E Generac 8750/ 7000 7.5 gal
12 hrs
gas $900
68530 Predator 8750/ 7000 6.6 gal,
12 hrs
gas $600
EU7000iS Honda 7000/ 5500 4.5gal,
8 hrs
gas $4450
GP5500 5939 Generac 6875/ 5500 7.2 gal,
10 hrs
gas $620
GEN-4000LP Sports-man 4000/ 3250 10hr LPG $340
DS4000S
or
with wheels icon
Duro-Star 4000/ 3300 4 gal,
8 hrs
gas $250- 300




SELECTION CONSIDERATIONS.


Gasoline models are the most popular short-term backup power devices. Many of them are relatively cheap, although after a hurricane or a major storm, discount online retailers like Amazon are often run out of stock, while third part sellers set exorbitant prices.
So, what portable generator is the best? A well-known consumer magazine in its recent review rated "Best Buy" the following four models: Troy-Bilt® XP7000 30477, Briggs & Stratton 30470, Generac® GP5500 5939 and RS7000E, and Predator 68530. These units are reasonably priced and have mostly positive users reviews. Note that Troy-Bilt® XP7000 30477 which is sold at Lowe's, is actually made by Briggs & Stratton. This 7000 watt part looks similar to their 30470-0, which is currently replaced by a newer 30663. Home generator guide and review Predator brand seems to be about 30% cheaper than the others, but you have to pay extra if you want a wheel kit. It is using a Chinese-made engine, but nowadays many gensets are built in China anyway. Something CR did not mention was Harbor Freight also carries #68525, which costs about the same as 68530, but is CARB compliant and can be sold in CA. In its past review, the consumer magazine also recommended Ridgid 34348 (RD906812), which is surprising because this model is over-priced.



The CR rating covered only gasoline-fueled portables and mainly those brands that are sold at hardware stores. Of course, if you need an emergency power immediately, a local store is your only option. Otherwise, when you buy online you get broader selection, usually lower prices, and in some cases, no sales tax and free delivery. This storeicon for example offers two day shipping on many items as well as free store pickup. As for the fuel, the main drawback of all gasoline-fueled products is getting gas after a major disaster may be a problem. You will need to refill the fuel tank several times a day if you run it non-stop at rated load. Unfortunately, gasoline can't be stored for a long time and during a blackout gas may be unavailable. Therefore, such a generator may be a good solution only for short-term rolling blackouts or for camping trips. However, if you keep a genset for emergency backup, you should store a large amount of stabilized gasoline (say, 100-200 gallons for a week supply) and replace it at least every other year.



That's why I would go for LPG (casually called propane). It can be stored practically indefinitely. Besides natural gas it is the only type of fuel that may be obtainable during power outages- you don't need electricity to refill the canister. If you need to energize just a few appliances or tools, I would consider propane-powered Sportsman GEN4000LP that sells for less than many brands on the U.S. market (see the comparison chart above). When powered from a single BBQ tank, GEN4000LP will provide about the same run time as comparable small gensets per tankful. For higher power there is a broad selection of other propane-fueled devices.

Note that practically all small gensets use 3600-RPM air cooled engines with relatively short product lives: about 500-1500 hours of use. When used occasionally in an emergency, they might remain operational for about 5 to 7 years. But if you are looking for a power source for frequent use (for example on job sites), consider a diesel engine. Diesel generators of course cost more, but they have 2-3 times longer life than gas models. Diesel, likewise may not be available during a wide spread blackout, but it is safer to store.

Finally, if you prefer the convenience of portability and continuous power at extra cost, you might consider a multi-fuel device that can be hooked up to a natural gas line or a large propane tank. The tri-fuel Northstar 8000 TFG used to be quite popular and had good users reviews. Unfortunately, Northern Tool + Equipment who made this device, has discontinued all its tri fuel generators. Right now there is a number of other multi-fuel generators, such as a relatively inexpensive Powerland 8.5/7.0 kW model PD3G8500E. Many gasoline-powered models can be converted to multi-fuel ones with a third party conversion kit that enables them to run on LPG and diesel. This option may be less expensive than buying a tri-fuel model, but you will still have to deal with a light-duty engine.
For more information see this review to portable power and my picks of best portable generators.

NOTES:
The characteristics in the chart are based on manufacturer's or seller's specifications available at the time we compiled this review. The prices are given for the same period of time (shipping is not included, but may be free in many cases). Of course, prices and specs are subject to change without notice. For permanent "whole house" backup power devices and transfer switches see our discount generators page.

Most listed models provide standard duplex outlets 120VAC 60 Hz (15 or 20 A) and a twist-lock 120/240VAC 30 A outlet (except for 4000 watt models, which have only 120VAC). Other higher current twist-lock outlets if offered may be listed in the "Features" column.
All data here are provided As Is- no responsibility for any errors. The devices compared above represent only a fraction of all available models. For official datasheets you may contact the respective manufacturers.
Product reviews and the analysis are provided for information purposes and reflects only the opinion of the author. The sole responsibility when selecting a product rests with the buyer- read important Terms of Use (Disclaimer) as well as Disclosure linked below.
All trademarks, trade names and service marks are property of their respective owners.

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