The 12 Best Home Generators for 2024 - Generator Reviews

Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. Why Trust Us?

Don’t get caught off guard the next time your power goes out. C-Exv47

The 12 Best Home Generators for 2024 - Generator Reviews

You never know exactly when you’ll need it, but having a backup generator makes a huge difference in an emergency. Whether you’ve lost power due to rough weather, or have medical equipment that needs to stay on no matter what, you’ll be glad you have one when it unexpectedly kicks on.

If you’re frequently working on large DIY projects, a large but technically portable power source may also come in handy when you need to charge up heavy-duty power tools and other gear. Whatever the case, the best home generators store enough juice to ensure you’re always prepared.

Everybody Needs a Generator: Best Solar Generators● How do Generators Work? ● Best Portable Power Stations

Before running out to buy a generator, it’s important to think about how and where you’re going to use it. There are often laws, rules, and restrictions regarding their use in residential homes, with homeowners associations, at campgrounds, or on construction sites.

Picking the right one means you’ll be able to power up the appliances or equipment you need. Picking the wrong one, or using it improperly, could damage the generator or what is connected to it, at best—at worst, it could be dangerous, posing a risk of fire, electrocution, or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Picking a generator depends mainly on the size of your home and what you wish to power. The average house will take at least 5,000 to 7,500 watts to run only the most critical equipment—think fridge, heat, and water. Often, a portable home generator can get you through an outage, but there are also options that are capable of powering your entire house. If you’re looking for full power, you will want to invest in at least a 20,000-watt generator; this also goes for people with exceptionally large homes or families, which will use much more power than, say, a two- or three-person household.

It’s also important to consider that while generators are certainly a hefty investment, they will pass the test of time. Most home standby generators can run anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 hours. If you were to use it for 100 hours per year, that translates to 10 to 30 years.

Standby generators are permanently installed and connected to a home. These may power selected, critical circuits during a power outage, or may provide power for the whole home. Standby generators have systems that monitor power supplied by a utility and start automatically in the event of an outage.

Portable generators, sometimes called backup generators, are used to provide temporary power when and where it is needed. Portable is a relative term; some are more portable than others. While the smallest models can be picked up and carried, most have wheels and a handle to make transport easier. 

However, at 100 plus pounds, picking them up to load or move may take two people. Appliances, power tools, or other devices can be plugged directly into standard outlets on the generator’s front panel. Additionally, many models have a twist-lock plug that can provide up to 240 volts and be used to power circuits in a home via a manual transfer switch.

Though inverter-type generators are typically portable, we put them under their own heading because they are significantly and technically different from the other two in terms of how they work. Like most generators, inverter generators provide 120/240 volts of AC power. They generate AC current just like the others, but it’s then converted to DC (Direct Current), and then inverted back to AC. 

The conversion and inversion is controlled by circuitry which acts like a filter, flattens surges, and cleans up the sine wave (or oscillating wave) of the electrical current. Typical generators have varying degrees of distortion in the sine wave of the alternating current. This isn’t usually an issue for most electrical devices—the exception being sensitive electronics like tablets, laptops, televisions, and other smart devices which can be damaged by current distortion or surges. 

These devices will last longer with “clean” power and steady voltage. Because of the added complication, inverter generators can be significantly more expensive.

To pick the best home generators, we researched popular features, scoured consumer reviews, and talked with product engineers. We selected the portable and inverter models based on our experience using generators for backup power with and without transfer switches, on construction sites to run power tools and equipment, as well as running sound systems and lighting at outdoor events.

We measured sound levels of these generators idling with no load, and while running under load at 2 feet and 25 feet. We used an oscilloscope to observe the sine wave of the AC current generated by these machines, and a clamp meter to check voltage output. Some examples of devices we used with large starting and running loads include a large air conditioner and a portable table saw. We evaluated these generators based on ease of starting, power response, sound levels, value, safety, and reliability to select the top performers.

We haven’t tested the standby models, but recommend them based on our experience using and reviewing other similar generators, research into the market, and consulting consumer reviews at online retailers. They have compelling price, design, or features that may meet your needs.

In subsequent updates, outdated and unavailable products have been replaced by new releases and other models that have proven their quality over time.

At half the size and less than half the weight of the other models in this test, the Honda EU2200i inverter generator is incredibly portable. It’s easy to pick up, move around, or pack in a vehicle—and since the generator is fully enclosed, it can slip into tight spaces without getting caught on anything.

That enclosure is an important feature as it protects the inverter electronics and helps contain noise—the EU2200i is remarkably quiet. In testing, we measured sound levels of 68.9 decibels at the generator under no load. When we switched it to “eco” mode, which reduces engine speed when power isn’t called for, sound was reduced to 76 decibels.

When we used an oscilloscope to look at the sine wave of the current generated, the curves were smooth and symmetrical, an indicator of “clean” power required by sensitive electronics. When we started and stopped things with bigger motors, like a table saw and air conditioner, the sine wave remained smooth. Running under these heavier loads, we measured the highest sound levels for the EU2200i at 81.2 decibels at the generator.

Aside from the clean enclosure, there are some other nice features on this generator. The vent on the gas cap can be closed, so that fumes, or fuel, cannot escape. So, if it’s been packed inside an SUV, the fuel or fumes associated with it won’t be released. Likewise, the power on/off switch doubles as a fuel shutoff so it can’t be forgotten.

Lastly, the EU2200i has ports for parallel operation. With the correct cable, it can be connected to a second EU2200i to double output to 4400 starting and 3600 running watts. The EU2200i is ideal for camping and other outdoor events where generator noise might be frowned on.

It may cost less than $2,200–very little for a standby generator–but the Generac 69981 is fully capable of preventing the contents of your fridge from spoiling and keeping the inside of your house at a reasonable temperature. It can power up to eight circuits in your home, and runs significantly quieter than a portable generator.

Its durable aluminum shell will keep it protected from inclement weather. And if any issues do arise, it comes with a three-year warranty. The generator also features three removable sides, which allow for easy access should it require maintenance.

Given that a standby generator like this is a semi-permanent installation and is hooked directly to your home's power system, we recommend having this professionally installed.

The Predator 9500 is a big inverter, capable of powering all the critical circuits in a modest-size home. With a generator this size, we can’t overstate the importance of the four wheels it sits on and the sturdy, fold-out handle that facilitates moving it. We were able to pull it around fairly easily with one person, but lifting it was definitely a team affair.

To hit the running capacity, we powered two air conditioners, a portable heater, a table saw, and a planer. Despite the slew of devices it can run, we were able to easily have conversations around the generator; it’s that quiet.

Finally, the Predator comes with two plug ends for 120-volt, 20-amp outlets and one 240-volt, 30-amp twist lock, in case your cables don’t match up or need converting—handy if you buy the 9500 in an emergency and get home to find your plugs don’t match. It costs a lot, but $2,000 is worth it for a generator with so much capability.

This reliable generator from Craftsman weighs slightly less than our top pick, making it a solid choice for multi-purpose users who may want to bring out their home backup generator for a job every now and then. Its admittedly modest 1,700W output isn’t going to power an entire home, but can keep the essentials going.

On a worksite, you’ll have plenty of juice to keep your power tools running. Like other small generators on our list, the C0010020 is parallel capable, so you can chain two of them together for a bigger backup.

Here’s a sample list of appliances this Craftsman generator can run simultaneously: a refrigerator, two CFL lights, and a charger for a mobile device.

Champion packed a lot of value in here, starting with the ability to run on either gas or propane. Monitoring the current when turning the saw or planer on, we saw a symmetrical sine wave. Total harmonic distortion held at 0%, though it blipped to 3.7 when we turned the saw on. With a 30-amp, RV-style plug, this generator is suited to powering a medium camper, and though it doesn’t have a 240-volt outlet, it could come in handy during an emergency at home.

The DuroMax XP12000EH has a hardy 9,500-watt running capacity, with an extra 2,500-watts of starting capacity. These big numbers mean you’ll be able to run most—if not all— critical circuits in a modest-size home during a power outage.

With electric start for convenience, the XP12000EH can also run on either gasoline or propane, which gives you more options for refueling in a pinch. And, if you’ve got a big camper, it has a 50-amp RV receptacle so you can run completely off-grid.

For a smaller home, it may make sense to look for a physically compact generator, so long as it delivers enough power to keep your essential appliances running. This sturdy and surprisingly affordable dual fuel option from Wen delivers on both counts.

Its relatively compact design means that it won’t take up much storage space, and its 3,500W output is more than enough to keep the essentials going in a smaller house. Despite its tight dimensions, it is not particularly portable: At just over 103 pounds, you should probably find a good place to park this generator and leave it there.

One of the latest and greatest from Goal Zero, the Yeti Pro 4000 offers a combination of solid capacity and powerful output that is extremely rare among solar generators. Fully charged, it will keep a fridge, lights, and all your essential devices going for well over a day—including sporadic toaster use.

Should the need arise, you can always plug in a set of solar panels and top it off during the day. It’s also easy to move around, thanks to its integrated wheels and handle hidden in the base.

If you have a larger home, or want a complete home backup, you can connect up to four Tank Pro 4000 expansion batteries, bringing the capacity up to a tremendous 20kW.

The biggest generator we tested, Generac’s GP6500 CoSense, boasts a generous starting capacity of 8,125 watts. This means the generator can handle startup loads from big appliances or tools that could be two- to three times their running watts.

Larger-capacity generators like this are particularly useful as backup power during power outages. Connected to the home through a manual transfer switch, instead of running extension cords to individual appliances, the generator can run directly to the home’s critical circuits. This unit could also supply power at construction sites, or to large RVs that have significant power needs.

Wherever you use it, Generac’s CoSense technology keeps people near it safe. When the unit detects high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in the immediate area, it quickly shuts down—preventing CO poisoning or death. We tested this feature by placing a large cardboard appliance box over the unit while running and found that it shut off in just 16.5 seconds.

For a larger generator, the GP6500 isn’t excessively loud; we logged sound levels at 83.3 decibels under load from 25 feet away. When we hooked up an oscilloscope and monitored the sine wave of the current generated, we noticed some mild distortion, which is normal for most AC generators. It is a reminder, though, that if powering sensitive electronics from a generator, to do so using a good power strip with a surge protector.

To ensure the unit won’t need frequent refueling, it has a large fuel tank that holds nearly 8 gallons—there’s also a fuel gauge designed into the top of the tank. A digital hour meter is included on the front panel to help track maintenance—as it approaches 100 hours and starts to blink, it’s time to change the oil. At 200, routine service is recommended. Lastly, the GP6500 meets emission standards in every state, including California.

In particular situations where waiting for the power to come back on could pose a special danger, this generator makes sure all your needs are met. You can check the generator’s power status at any time with your phone, affording peace of mind in storm season. The Generac 22-kW is designed to power your entire house, which means you will have every comfort you’re used to while waiting for your regular power to come back on.

This is a particularly sound investment for families that have kids learning from home or parents that may not have the luxury of heading into school or the office when the electricity goes out. Generac also offers a five-year warranty and 24/7 customer service if you do have any issues, since the power always seems to cut out outside of business hours.

Coupled with two sturdy handles, the metal doors and enclosure of the IQ3500 make clear that it’s a durable, well-built machine. We appreciate the convenience of the push-button electric start. During testing we used two 120-volt loads, our 15-amp table saw, and a 10-amp portable air conditioner.

While turning the saw on and off, the sine wave of the current had consistent symmetrical waves. We were initially disappointed to see there’s no fuel gauge on the tank, but the LCD screen made it easy for us to monitor performance and keep tabs on remaining fuel and run time. The IQ3500 is a great compact generator for job sites and emergency home backup.

Choose your fuel, or use what’s available in an emergency, with Champion’s 5500 Dual Fuel generator. Being able to pick between gasoline and propane has a couple of benefits, especially when using a generator for backup power during or after storms. Unlike gasoline, propane is stable and won’t gum up carburetors or other components when stored for long periods between use or from storm seasons.

Additionally, you might not have to deal with gasoline shortages following regional storms that take down power grids for days. We found switching between gasoline and propane to be simple, and the 5500 started equally well on either fuel. However, since propane doesn’t pack the same amount of energy as gasoline, the running and starting watts will be slightly reduced.

When we tested the 5500, we also confirmed that it runs a little quieter on propane, with 78.2 decibels under load at 25 feet versus 81.5 decibels on gas. One note on using propane: The main power switch on the panel won’t shut the unit down—the propane switch on the fuel selection panel shuts off both the flow of propane and the generator. This prevents the propane from being left on when the generator is off.

We appreciated the digital gauge at the top of the control panel that displays the voltage and current frequency being generated, as well as total hours of use—handy to keep track of maintenance schedules. The 5500 Dual Fuel is a great option for emergency backup power, but it’s also good for job sites and bigger RVs and campers.

How can you tell if your generator is overloaded?

When you start to see dimming or flickering lights, or sluggish performance in appliances, that’s usually a sign that your generator is overextended. You may also notice that your generator sounds like it’s working extra hard to keep up.

We’d recommend turning off non-essential devices or even giving the generator a rest right away if you notice it overloading. If you overwork a generator for too long, it may begin to overheat, produce smoke, or cause it to power down. If it stays overloaded for long, you may seriously damage a generator or even start a fire, so consider this an urgent issue.

How long can a home generator run continuously?

A generator can typically run as long as its fuel capacity allows, and its efficiency is determined by electrical demands. The bigger the tank or capacity and the lower your power usage, the longer you can keep things running. 

With gas and propane generators, make sure to turn them off when it’s time to fill the tank. Failing to do so could start a fire. Solar power stations and inverters, on the other hand, can almost always be charged while in use.

Nick Hilden is a writer, globetrotter, and jack-of-many-talents who has written gear reviews for the likes of  Runner’s World, Popular Science, Men’s Health, Thrillist, the Daily Beast, the Los Angeles Times, Greatist, and the Manual, and his lifestyle, culture, and tech writing has also appeared in Scientific American, Afar, Salon, Vice, Healthline, and many others. Before entering journalism some 15 years ago, he worked as a bartender, brewery manager, sound engineer, recording and touring musician, cook, teacher, and in a variety of other trades. These days, he lives all over the world, performs music sporadically, and spends a lot of time thinking how to best improve his Honda Element conversion.

Brad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things. Growing up he worked on a farm, where he learned to weld, repair, and paint equipment. From the farm he went to work at a classic car dealer, repairing and servicing Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, when he's not testing tools or writing for Popular Mechanics, he's busy keeping up with the projects at his old farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania.

The Best Flood Barriers for Home Preparedness

Get a Game Plan-It's National Preparedness Month!

The Best Emergency Kits for Help in Any Situation

The 8 Best First Aid Kits for Emergencies

The Best Tools to Keep in Your Car’s Emergency Kit

The 8 Best Flashlights for Everyday Use

The Best Generator Covers for Any Make and Model

A Part of Hearst Digital Media

We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.

The 12 Best Home Generators for 2024 - Generator Reviews

6000w Inverter Generator ©2024 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.