It’s always a good idea to have a backup box of portable lighting. Storms can knock out your home’s electricity. Rural areas may have unreliable power networks. Or maybe you need an efficient way to operate tools and equipment on a job site. Frankly, owning a portable gas generator is a lifesaver when disaster strikes. And they’re a must for epic camping trips. But these heavy-duty machines can be expensive and complicated. Before you invest in a backup generator, learn about the different features and power output options. Find a gas generator that works when it matters most, and discover how today’s best portable generators keep appliances running and households happy.
- Best gas generator for camping: WEN 56203i Portable Inverter Generator
- Best gas generator for preppers: Champion 76533 Portable Generator
- Best gas generator for travelers: Honda 662220 EU2200i Portable Inverter Generator
- Best gas generator for homeowners: DuroMax XP8500EH Portable Generator
- Best gas generator for small appliances: TogoPower Portable Generator
Factors to consider when shopping for the best gas generator
Modern gas generators are high-tech, sophisticated pieces of equipment. Designed for dependability and safety, the best portable generator must be ready to run and easy to operate. Before buying and using a gas-powered energy station, understand how they work, what they offer, and where they provide the most efficient flow of electricity.
How much electricity do you need to generate?
The generator used to power up a laptop on a stormy night won’t be ideal for keeping all major appliances running during a multi-day blackout. Look closely at the specs and product descriptions. Most portable gas generators produce between 200 and 7,500 watts.
How do you know how many watts you need? Multiply the voltage (120V in the U.S.) by the amperage of the product (usually found on the back of the appliance or on a tag). The result is the necessary wattage. For example, a refrigerator that uses 6 amps will need 720 watts to keep it running smoothly. You’ll need a generator that can offer at least that much wattage if you want the fridge to stay chilly.
A gasoline generator will list two wattage numbers: starting watts and running watts. Some appliances need a big boost of power to get up and running; that’s the starting watts. But the appliance won’t need as much wattage to sustain its operation; that’s the running watts
To calculate how much wattage you’ll need, make a list of the appliances you’d like to keep running and include the running watts and starting watts as two separate numbers. Add up all the running wattage. Find the highest starting wattage and add this number to the total running wattage. This gives you a rough idea of how much power is required.
Confused? Simply put, your power generator needs more wattage than you think. For RVs and camping generators, look for an option that supplies between 2,000 and 4,000 watts. For a standard house, a generator should provide between 5,000 and 7,000 watts. This will keep appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, water pumps, and lights running smoothly. In addition, consider these variables: How many appliances do you have running simultaneously? Do you want to keep the AC operating? What about an electric water heater? Do you use an electric oven? That said, no two homes are alike, so the above numbers are approximations.
Before buying a gas generator, think carefully about how you want to use it. If all you want is a steady power supply to keep the lights on, get a low-wattage generator. Lights only eat up about 60 watts of power. But if you want to make smoothies during a camping trip, you’ll need more power to put the blender on blast. (Blenders need about 500 starting watts and 300 running watts.)
Whole house generator vs. portable gas generator
Don’t expect a 1,000-watt portable generator to electrify an entire home. While portable gas generators can be used as handy backup generators during a power outage, those who are looking for something to maintain normal operations of the entire household during an outage should invest in a whole house generator.
These natural generators can cost around $5,000 and are permanently installed outside the home. They are directly connected to your home’s power and will automatically turn on if the power goes out. Running on natural gas or propane, modern whole-house generators are operated via user-friendly smartphone apps. Homeowners can monitor and manage the whole-house gas generator with a simple tap on a screen. If you need a substantial backup power solution, invest in a whole-house generator.
Stay safe when using your gas generator
A gas generator should never be used in a confined space with poor ventilation. These generators produce carbon monoxide (CO) exhaust. It’s odorless and deadly. The best gas generator will have a safety feature that shuts off the machine when a buildup of CO gas is detected. However, don’t rely on the gas generator alone to protect you. Always use the gas generator thoughtfully and carefully.
For example, never use the gas generator in a garage, even if the door is open. CO gas can collect in the garage and seep into the rest of the house. And never use a gas generator in a shed or basement. Keep the gas generator outdoors and a minimum of 20 feet away from the house. And always direct the exhaust away from windows and doors.
The noise factor
Gas-powered generators are judged by two important factors: Wattage and decibels. Gas generators can be loud…very loud. Typically, a gas generator coughs up between 65dB and 100dB. For comparison, a motorcycle revs up about 95dB and an approaching subway train squeals out 100dB of annoying noise pollution. Gas generators may not be as loud as a subway train, but even mildly loud sounds can cause hearing loss over a period of time.
Look carefully at the decibel rating of a gas generator. If you plan on using the portable generator for an event, make sure the motor won’t drown out the party with incessant rumbles. Find the quietest generator available. And don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk by trying to muffle the noise with blankets. Gas generators need to breathe.
Fuel Source: What powers the power?
Most portable generators run on standard gasoline. It’s relatively inexpensive and widely available. But some generators can also use propane or natural gas. Natural-gas generators are popular as home standby generators because they can connect with the existing gas line. Natural-gas generators are also quieter. Propane generators are great during an emergency, when the local gas station is overrun with customers. Propane doesn’t go stale, so it’s a good option for stocking up and storing.
Dual-fuel generators use a combination of gas and propane, or natural gas and propane. They can switch between the two fuel options, and they’re great for RVs and camping trips when you’re not sure what type of fuel will be available.
The best gas generators
With so many gas generators on the market, where do you start? The first step is knowing how you want to use the generator. Then set a budget and look for the features that are important to your specific needs. For instance, do you need extra or specialized outlets for RVs? Do you want to power the entire home? Or do you only need to charge a smartphone? Find the best gas generator and stay energized.
Top pick: WEN 56203i Portable Inverter Generator
Safe Steady Power
This model is a great way to juice up sensitive electronics out in the wilderness. WEN
An inverter gas generator is a specific type of generator that converts the AC power to DC power and then back to AC power for a steady, efficient flow of electricity. The result is a power supply that’s more friendly to gadgets like computers and phones. The WEN inverter generator is quiet and good for parties or outdoor events. It’s only 39 pounds, which is a huge plus when most gas generators are twice as heavy. The 2000-watt generator can keep major appliances operating without stops and stutters. Inverter gas generators tend to be more expensive, but the extra efficiency and reduced noise is well worth the price.
Runner up: Champion 76533 Portable Generator
This is a big, powerful product that keeps your appliances running during an emergency. Champion Power Equipment
The 3,800-watt Champion generator can use gas or propane, making it a great all-around generator. But it really excels during a crisis when you need electricity most. If the power goes out during a storm or other disaster, use the Champion gas generator to run refrigerators, freezers, sump pumps, and just about any other major appliance. It’s also a great source of energy for power tools, a huge plus during disaster cleanup. The biggest downside is the noise. At 68dB, it’s not a quiet machine. We wouldn’t recommend this for outdoor parties and events. But when you need solid, reliable power, this is the best beast of portable gas generators.
Great for travelers: Honda 662220 EU2200i Portable Inverter Generator
Ideal for Road Warriors
Power up a cross-country trip with the ideal item for RVs. Honda
If you’re already a seasoned RV enthusiast, you know the high-quality of Honda gas generators. The EU2200i is a reliable inverter gas generator that’s surprisingly, and pleasantly, quiet. The 48dB is more than acceptable for an RV generator. And the 2,200 watts can power up air conditioning units and other heavy-duty RV appliances and still have enough juice to charge smartphones and tablets with ease. It’s an energy-efficient generator, capable of operating for nearly 10 hours on a single tank (depending on how hard you’re using it, of course). The big drawback is price. At over $1,000, this is far from the cheapest gas generators for RVs. But it is one of the best and most reliable.
Great for homeowners: DuroMax XP8500EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Huge Power Output
More wattage than you may need, but there when you need it most. DuroMax
For powering an entire house, the DuraMax Dual Fuel generator is the machine for the job. It’s a portable generator with the energy output of a whole home generator. The dual-fuel system lets you run it on gasoline or propane, or both. With two USB outlets, four household outlets, a 120/240V twist lock, and one vehicle outlet, you’ll have plenty of options for keeping the power on. This is a heavy-duty generator, weighing over 200 pounds, so it may not be great for food trucks, campers, and other mobile uses. However, the 8,500 watts is hard to beat, making this the best fuel generator when big power is needed.
Great for small appliances: TogoPower Portable Generator
A solid tool for small appliances and weekend getaways. TogoPower
A gas generator under $200 can’t be expected to power an entire house or RV. The ToGoPower gas generator is a budget-priced power source that works best on small appliances like fans, lamps, and mini-fridges. This affordable generator can power anything up to 800 watts. It runs on a 50/1 mix of gas and oil. It’s also a light 35 pounds, making it one of the most portable gasoline generators on the list. If you don’t mind the lower wattage, and only plan to use this in case of emergencies, the ToGoPower generator is a great, inexpensive energy solution.
Q: What makes a good gas generator?
A good gasoline generator must check three boxes: The right amount of power, the right noise level, and the right price. For homeowners in need of a backup generator capable of powering most major appliances, you’ll need between 4,000 and 7,000 watts. It’s always best to overshoot your power needs to account for starting wattage. Unless you use a battery-powered generator, expect the generator to be noisy. Anything over 70dB can be irritating, while anything over 100dB will sound like a piece of industrial equipment. The best gas generator must also be affordable. For a 4,000-watt backup generator, expect to pay about $500.
Q: What size generator is needed to power a house?
To power a house, you’ll need at least 2,000 watts. It really depends on what items you need to juice up. Lights and laptops use relatively little power. Meanwhile, electric water heaters and AC units are big power drains. If you plan to use the generator to keep your entire house fully operational, you may need 7,000 watts. Make a list of the appliances that matter most, as well as the gadgets and tools you can’t live without. This may include refrigerators and electric stoves. Calculate the wattage (amps multiplied by voltage) of each appliance and add extra wattage for starting the appliance. This will give you a rough idea of how much wattage you’ll need from a gas generator.
Q: Are gas generators worth the money?
Yes, gas generators are worth the money. During an emergency, access to dependable electricity can be a matter of life or death. Being able to turn on heat in the winter and AC in the summer is critical, especially for the elderly. With hurricanes and natural disasters becoming more common, equipping your home with a backup generator is not just a good idea, it’s a necessity. That said, how much you want to spend on the generator is up to you. A cheap, $200 generator may be all you need to turn on the lights and use an electric stove. A $5,000 natural-gasoline generator can run the entire house. No matter how much you spend, if the generator is to be used during a disaster, you must have a fuel supply ready. Gasoline can go bad, so check your generator regularly.
The final word on the best gas generator
When you need a dependable source of power, a gas generator is the magic box to keep things running smoothly. These hard-working machines provide enough electricity to run necessary appliances—and then some. Understand the differences between fuel options and don’t overlook the decibel rating. Add up how much wattage you need and you’ll find the best gas generator for the job.>