Portable Generator Basics and Buying Guide

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and ...

Read more

portable generator buying guide logo


Last Updated:


Patio & Yard

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs.

Buying a portable generator can be daunting and lead to wasteful spending. Generators are not cheap and have endless uses.

A portable generator buying guide will help you cut through the hype and get the most out of your money.

In addition to cutting out the noise, this guide will also explain the importance of transfer switches. This article will help you determine how much power you need and what size generator will fit your needs.

portable generator buying guide logo

Portable Power Generator Basics

When you need a portable generator to supply power, you should consider which fuel it can run on. Portable generators, like this Jackery 1000, are convenient and can be taken anywhere.

While many of the models on the market today run on gasoline, you may also want to consider one that runs on natural gas or propane.

Natural gas-powered generator sets can provide practically unlimited service, but they tend to be expensive and require professional fuel line installation.

This defeats the purpose of portability. A portable generator’s most useful features are an electric start and voltage regulator.

Some of the most expensive models have low T.H.D., which is useful if you have sensitive electronics.

Noise level is another important factor to consider when selecting a portable generator. Inverter models are usually quieter than standard generators, but you should also pay close attention to how much noise you’re willing to tolerate.

For the most peaceful operation, choose an inverter generator. Most reviews only list inverter models; standard generators use diesel and run at a constant speed.

You can use a portable generator for various purposes , including emergencies, disasters, and recreational needs.

Before making your purchase, determine the wattage you need. You need a larger model if you don’t need high-wattage power.

Depending on your needs, you may need to consider a heavier-duty portable generator if you’re planning to transport it.

You might also need to purchase wheels or a steel cage if you need to haul it a long distance. Finally, make sure the portable generator has a handle or other means of portability.

Features to Consider

Some features that you should look for in a portable generator are an automatic start, fuel gauge, fuel stabilizer, and low oil shutoff.

Fuel gauges are helpful, especially during prolonged power outages when it is hard to determine how much gas to have.

Having multiple outlets helps spread the wattage you need, while low oil shutoff helps protect the unit from damage. Many generators have this feature.

One of the most important features of a portable generator is portability. Some are lightweight, while others weigh several hundred pounds.

A wheel kit is a must if you plan to transport your generator from one location to another.

Some generators even have noise reduction features, such as large mufflers, which can reduce the noise while running. Some generators also have handles and lift hooks to make them easily move around.

Make a list of your household appliances and tools that need power. You might have medical equipment, a freezer, a refrigerator, or a portable charger for your phone.

Consider how much power each of these appliances needs. Ensure the generator can supply enough power for your appliances and tools to run simultaneously.

The more appliances and tools you use, the higher your price tag. And remember, you don’t want to spend more money than you need to, so don’t be tempted to buy an overpriced portable generator.

Why You Need a Transfer Switch

While portable generators are convenient, they do not come with a transfer switch. A transfer switch allows you to power your appliances via your home’s circuit breaker panel.

These include hardwired appliances, such as the dishwasher, ceiling fan, water heater, and air conditioning.

You simply plug the portable generator into the transfer switch. Then, your appliances will automatically switch to the portable generator’s power.

To properly install your transfer switch, you must first determine the wattage output of your generator.

The highest power output is usually indicated on the NEMA plug of the transfer switch, so a 30 amp generator will need a 30-amp transfer switch.

Remember that it is very important not to overload the system. It could damage your generator and the transfer switch.

Whether your portable generator has a 30-amp or 50-amp outlet, you should check the amp rating of your transfer switch before purchasing.

Another benefit of transfer switches is eliminating the need to use extension cords. You’ll have to use outdoor-rated extension cords without a transfer switch to power your appliances.

These cords can get overloaded and cause a fire hazard. Furthermore, you’ll only be able to power electronic appliances that accept a standard plug.

You won’t be able to power hardwired appliances, such as electric ranges.

Power Requirements and Generator Size

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right size generator. Before shopping for a new generator, you should first determine how much power you need.

You can get a rough estimate of your needs by calculating the wattage of your appliances. However, you should consider that surge watts will throw off your calculations.

To find the correct wattage, refer to the user manual or the manufacturer’s website.

Next, determine what type of power you need to operate your tools. A common scenario is to operate a 240-volt air cleaner.

This device may require around 18 amps of power, whereas a large air purifier may require 30 amps. The total wattage of all your appliances must not exceed half of the capacity rating of your generator.

Once you’ve figured out the power requirements, you can then choose the size of generator you need.

The power requirements and generator size are critical factors for its efficiency and safety. A smaller unit may not be able to run a central air conditioner, while a larger one will be inefficient and waste fuel.

The wattage of a generator, in contrast to the wattage of the appliances it powers, should be calculated before purchasing one. You can use this calculator on the manufacturer’s website.

Portable Generator Features

A portable generator is necessary, convenient, and sometimes even a lifesaver. These portable power systems can be used around the house, on the job site, or even while camping.

They’re so versatile that they’re sometimes even used at tailgate parties and community events.

Several models are available, so choosing one that suits your needs best is key. Here are some of the most important factors when choosing a portable generator.

The battery of a portable generator should be large enough to charge a smartphone up to 30 times and a laptop up to six times.

There should be enough juice to charge a 3-inch television for around 3-4 hours. Some models include USB ports, which allow you to charge other devices.

You can also recharge the unit via solar panels, car chargers, or wall outlets. You can even use the portable generator to charge other electronic devices.

What are the Basics of Using a Portable Generator for Outdoor Heating?

When buying a patio heater, it’s important to consider the fuel type, heat output, and portability. Look for a portable generator that is compatible with your heater and can provide sufficient power. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe outdoor heating.

Portable Generator Safety Tips

Portable generators can be dangerous tools if not used safely. These devices are extremely dangerous if a spark or flame is ignited. You also must remember that gasoline vapors can burn if they come in contact with hot surfaces.

If fuel spills from a portable generator, you should quickly move to a safe location, turn off the power, and call emergency personnel.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most dangerous from portable generators and can be fatal.

As a result of portable generators’ significant heat, they are prone to fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. To keep these hazards at bay, generators should be used outdoors , at least 10 feet from the house.

Nearby objects absorb the heat from a portable generator, and it’s best to keep it as far away as possible from people and animals.

Moreover, improper use of portable generators can cause injuries and even death. To prevent these problems, generators should be used only by people who have received proper training.

Portable generators are rugged and versatile but aren’t made for operation in wet environments. Exposing them to water can result in an electrical shock. Similarly, it’s important to never operate a generator in areas with a lot of water.

Water can mix with the electricity and cause permanent damage. Moreover, it’s important to follow generator safety tips and observe the wattage rating for your portable unit.

Make sure to use grounded cords to plug in the generator. Finally, never operate your portable generator under objects that can store heat or damage the cords.