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Buying a Portable Generator

Q: What options should I consider when buying a portable generator?

A: Consider the following options when buying a portable generator:

Generator Use

  • Home Use: To run essential items in your home when the power goes out and for occasional use around your yard to run electrical tools, choose a Portable Residential Generator.

  • Recreational Use: For use with your RV, or for camping, tailgating, and boating, choose a quiet RV/Recreational Generator.

  • Industrial Use: For regular use on the construction site or other industrial applications, choose a Portable Construction/Industrial Generator. 

Amount of Power Needed

After determining how you will use your generator, the next thing you need to determine is how much power (watts) you need. Important questions include:

  • What items do you want to power from your generator?
  • Do you want to power all of the items at the same time or separately?
  • How much power does each item take to run and start? Please be aware that many items require more power to start up – usually two to three times their running watts.
  • By adding up what you want to start and run at the same time, you can determine how big of a generator you need.

Power Output Quality

Another important issue is the quality of power coming from the generator. This is less of an issue if you want to use your generator to power electrical tools, pumps, lights, or appliances. But if you want to power sensitive electrical equipment, consistent power quality is key. Fluctuations in power can cause sensitive equipment to shut down or even damage the equipment.  For use with sensitive electronics, consider purchasing a generator with AVR or getting an inverter generator:

  • The Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) on many generators is designed to consistently control voltage. The AVR keeps the output voltage more constant, regardless of the load. This means no spikes or brownouts. Look for this feature under the description of the generator. Many models will also show the voltage regulation in the Specs.
  • Inverters produce the smoothest, cleanest power available, making them ideal for use with sensitive electrical equipment like computers. 

Receptacles

Of course you want to make sure the generator you buy has the receptacles you want to use. Common house receptacles are 5-15 (15A). If you are using a transfer switch to power items in your house, you will want a locking receptacle of 20A, 30A or 50A - depending on how much power you need. Locking receptacles start with an “L” – L5-20 (20A 120V), L14-20 (20A 120/240V), L5-30 (30A 120V), L14-30 (30A 120/240V), etc. Receptacle information is found in the Specs for each generator.

Noise level

  • You can find the noise level (dBA) for most generators in the Specs section for each model. To give you some perspective: Normal speech is around 60 dBA. A vacuum cleaner runs around 70 dBA.
  • Inverter generators are the quietest on the market, making them the first choice for recreation use. Their quiet operation also makes them popular for home use, but keep in mind the inverter technology makes them cost more than most other residential portable generators.
  • If you need a relatively quiet generator for construction or industrial applications, consider MQ Power’s Whisperwatt mobile generators or the Pramac P6000S.

Fuel Type

Most residential portable generators use gasoline, but some run on L.P., Natural Gas, or all three. Industrial/construction generators run on gasoline or diesel. 

Fuel Efficiency & Run time

If you plan to use your generator a lot, you will want to look for a generator that is both fuel efficient and has a long run time. Some generators adjust the engine speed (RPM) based on the load for greater fuel efficiency. Both fuel efficiency and fuel tank size will effect the run time. You can find the run time under the Specs for most generators.

Starting System

Smaller and less expensive models tend to have a recoil starting system. Larger and more expensive models often have an electric start. See the Specs for the generator to determine the starting system on each model.  

Weight and Transportability

Smaller generators (up to 2000W) tend to be light enough to carry. Many larger portable generators have available wheel kits. Many models also have a lifting eye kit either installed or available. Really large wattage generators usually have available trailers for transportability.

Warranty

Warranties vary by manufacturer. The warranty information is provided for most models toward the bottom of the Specs.

Accessories

Different manufacturers offer various accessories to go with their generators – from covers to wheel kits to remote starts to lights and more. You can find many of the available accessories for each generator in the upper right side bar.

Cost

Each option comes with a price tag. Higher wattage, smoother power, less noise, electric start, inverter technology – all of these will increase the cost of your generator. 

  

Once you have decided on the options that are best for you, go to the type of generator you have chosen:

Generators are listed by wattage, so you can easily compare the different options by clicking into each generator with your desired wattage. For a faster comparison, you can check “Compare” on up to four generators in the category page, and click “Compare Selected” in the bottom right corner of the page. You can then compare receptacles, noise level, run time, starting system, cost, and more.

If you would like further help in choosing a generator, please call us at 1-888-331-5344. We would be happy to assist you.

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