Guide: Finding The Best Portable Power Generators
Portable power generators can be used as an emergency option in homes, or as the primary electricity source off grid such as in your RV, on your camping trip, or on a construction site.
The history of the best portable power generators goes back a long way.
Today, there’s such a wide variety of options when it comes to the best portable power generators that it can be challenging, at times, to find the right portable generator for your specific budget and needs.
Below, you will find a list of things that will help you pick the best portable power generator for off-grid or camping.
1. Power Requirements
Where and how you plan to use the portable generator will dictate the power rating of the generator you need to get.
Power requirements of a home are different from the power requirements on a construction site or in a camping day, and for each situation, you require generators of different ratings.
The amount of power needed is determined primarily by the items you plan to power up.
Appliances are typically rated in their starting and running wattage. The starting wattage of an appliance refers to the amount of power needed to start-up the appliance, and power consumption is generally highest at this point.
The running wattage of an appliance refers to the amount of power required to continuously run the appliance.
The starting wattage rating is usually several times greater than the running wattage, which can easily mislead you on the amount of power required from the portable generator.
When estimating the amount of power that’s needed, consider all the applications you plan to power up and find a generator that’s rated slightly higher than this figure. The additional allowance caters for any additional future power needs that may arise.
2. Quiet Operation
If a generator runs too loudly, it can lead to hearing damage and can act as a nuisance to neighbours. It is why you should only buy a generator which runs as quietly as possible or be ready to invest in long cables that allow you to set the generator a few meters away.
For generators, the acceptable noise level is 60 decibels and less. At this level, you can hold conversations comfortably and act less as a disturbance to your neighbors in your business premises, at home, or at the campsite. Here are some examples of noise operation measured in decibel:
- Blender: 80 dB
- Vacuum Cleaner: 70 dB
- Operating Refrigerator: 50 dB
- Whisper Talking: 30 dB
The professional grade power generators used in factories tend to be much louder due to the high power rating. Professionals that use such generators are always advised to wear the proper protective gear for safeguarding their well-being and health.
3. Fuel Economy
A good portable generator should have efficient fuel consumption. Such a generator should adjust the rate of fuel consumption with the applied load. With the setting, the engine only runs in full-throttle when the load applied is equal to the maximum rating of the generator. For instance, Honda generators have the Eco-
Throttle feature, which ensures that the engine consumes fuel in an efficient way in line with the applied load. Efficient consumption of fuel will help you save money on fuel expenditure.
4. Fuel Tank’s Run-Time
Generators typically indicate the run time at either half (50 percent) or quarter (25 percent) of the load. This represents the amount of time it will run on a fuel tank at the set percentage of the total power.
If the generator is to be used for emergencies, and you are unable to estimate the length of time that the main power supply line will be out, you need to get a generator with a large fuel tank.
5. Ease of Use
A good portable generator is one that’s easy to use and has automatic control options for protecting it from damage. The low-oil shutdown feature turns off the engine once the oil level gets too low.
A fuel gauge lets you easily determine the remaining run time. An electric start is yet another good feature to have; with electric ignition, starting the engine is as simple as pushing a button.
The pull cord method used to start generators is both tiring and outdated. However, a good generator should have a pull cord as a backup starting option.
6. Ease of Movement
A generator’s weight is not necessarily related to the amount of power it can generate, but high power output generators tend to be heavier. The presence of handles and wheels makes it easy to transport the engines.
Professional grade generators tend to be heavier since they have more components and a bigger fuel tank to generate all the power you require for various equipment and power tools.
7. Number of Outlets
Generators with multiple outlets make it possible for you to use them optimally by spreading the load. However, it isn’t advisable to use all outlets on a generator since it strains it, which can put its longevity in jeopardy.
It is advisable to use all outlets only in case of an emergency or when using low-wattage appliances.
Generators the run on fossil fuels tend to be the greatest culprits with regards to emissions. It includes both gasoline and diesel generators. If you want a ‘green’ generator, you will find a solar power generator or one that runs on propane ideal for you.
It is also important to look for the exhaust certificates the generator could obtain, such as CARB, CSA, or EPA.
A portable generator’s price is influenced by:
- Brand Manufacturer
- Noise Rating
- Ease of Use Features It Has
- Amount of Power It Can Generate
Generators from leading brands such as Yamaha and Honda tend to be more expensive, but for great reason. The manufacturers are experienced in making such engines and you can be sure that they are sufficiently reliable to serve you for the longest time possible.
10. Customer Service and Warranty
Generators are expensive machines that may set you back several thousand dollars in case they get damaged. It is due to this reason that you should only buy one that’s backed by a long-term manufacturer’s warranty.
That way, you can have it replaced or repaired in case of failure. A long warranty also shows the trust of the manufacturer in their product. A good warranty is generally 2 or 3 years long.
You should always read the warranty information carefully to know exactly what it covers as well as what is not. You should also remember never to accept damaged goods.
What Are The Different Types Of Power Generators?
There are many different types of generators on the market to help with your specific power needs.
Each of these units has a unique mode of build, operation and fuel that is needed for operation.
Knowing the various types of power generators and how they function will allow you to choose the best portable generator for your type of power needs.
Below we will look at the various types of generators as well as their unique pros and cons.
1. Gas Powered Generators
One of the most common types of power generators found in houses and businesses is that of the gas-powered generator.
These types of generators run on gasoline, which is typically the cheapest type of fuel available. Also, gasoline is commonly available, making this one of the most convenient generators on the market.
Considering these units are small in size they are very portable and rather safe to use.
However, these units are not environmentally friendly as they produce a high amount of omissions while in operation. The lifespan of gasoline is less than that of the year, which can make storage somewhat of a challenge.
For those individuals living in colder environments, gasoline generators are not optimal as they do not start well. It is also wise to learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning before purchasing a gasoline generator.
2. Diesel Powered Generators
Diesel is the least flammable of all fuels that are used with power generators. Diesel can be found as easily as gasoline which makes them just as convenient.
These power generators are the most fuel-efficient ones available. These are powerful machines that are designed to last much longer under extended use if maintained properly.
These can generate a lot of power which is ideal if you have heavy-duty tools that need to be powered up. Diesel has a shelf life of about two years which is much longer than that of gasoline.
While these generators are rather easy to maintain, they can be slightly more expensive when compared to gas-powered generators.
Since these Diesel power generators produce a high amount of omissions, it is advisable to use them for a limited amount of hours.
3. Propane Powered Generators
Propane power generators are much quieter and cleaner than other generators on the market. They are fuel-efficient machines that provide economical use of fuel.
Propane can be found locally and provides a much better shelflife than that of gasoline or diesel. Also, when compared to gasoline and diesel fuels they are quite affordable. Because they are adorable as well, they can last for a rather long time.
Propane generators are perfect for backup power options as well as small appliance power. However, these units are not ideal for large power operations due to the logistics that are required for installation and storage.
Propane can also be rather flammable as well as explosive because is kept under such high pressure. The fuel systems that are required for these generators tend to be rather complex and prone to frequent failures.
Dual fuel generators are available in which case the engine can use more than one fuel type.
4. Solar Powered Generators
Solar power generators will use the sun’s energy and store it within its solar panels and converted into electrical energy for later use. These generators produce clean free energy and because solar energy is a renewable resource means you will never run out of power.
Solar generators do not include any moving parts which make them rather easy to maintain. These units can be used indoors or outdoors since they have no omissions or fumes.
However, the amount of power that is produced by solar generators is rather low compared to other generators on the market.
These units are not ideal for powering large appliances or heavy-duty tools unless you have a large enough area to place solar panels on.
5. Inverter Generators
Conventional power generators are typically prone to power surges that can be rather harmful to sensitive electronics.
Whereas inverter power generators will incorporate a built-in inverter that helps to convert the direct-current into smooth sine wave power which limits the total harmonic distortion which allows them to be used safely with electronics and appliances.
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