This is a strange and tough time. Many of us are still working from home, while others are dealing with the fallout from 2020’s wildfires and tropical storms. And as the colder months approach, we face the possibility of power outages that can last from hours to weeks. Investing in a standby generator is one of the best ways to keep your most important appliances up and running and help everyone inside stay a little more comfortable.
Check out quick reviews below of our top five home standby generators, then scroll farther for buying info and full reviews of these models.
How to Choose a Generator
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.
How to Use a Standby Generator Safely
If you’re not familiar with operating one of these units, here are some tips to keep you and your family safe.
- Make sure you have a powerful enough generator for the equipment that you wish to run. And it’s better to overestimate than underestimate, as an underpowered generator can cause permanent damage to appliances and devices when it causes them to brown out. That’s when the appliances places too much draw on the system, which can cause some components to overheat from the inconsistent power supply.
- Use heavy-duty cords that can handle the large amount of power flowing through them. The labels on their packaging will be the best indication if they’re the proper size to use—though generally the thicker the gauge, the more current it can handle. You’ll also want to make sure that whichever you choose is rated for exterior use to ensure it’s safe no matter the weather.
- Do not refuel the generator while it’s hot, as gas is flammable, and always make sure that you have enough fuel to last at least a few days. When your power comes back on, remove any leftover fuel from the generator to ensure that it doesn’t leave residue behind, which can buildup and begin to erode the components.
- Keep the generator at least five feet away from anything else—this will help prevent the possibility of it causing a fire should it overheat.
- Do a test run once you install your generator to ensure that it’s working properly with the appliances you wish to power from it. Familiarity can cut down on the chances that you’ll have issues when the power really does go out.
How We Selected
—FOR RESIDENTIAL AREAS—
Champion Power Equipment 100294
Keep the power on without annoying the neighbors
Wattage: 14 kW | Size: 50 in. x 30 in. x 40 in. | Warranty: 10 years
While generators can be lifesavers in a storm, they can also cause a serious annoyance, particularly if you live within close proximity to your neighbors. This generator was made with those noise complaints in mind, and produces only 63 decibels—quieter than what you hear from your car on the highway. This generator is a 14,000-watt model, and while it may not power your entire house, it’s certainly enough for the necessities and adequate for most families. Bonus: You can attach it to your natural gas hookup line, which is safer than having a propane tank next to your house.
—FOR LARGE HOMES—
Briggs & Stratton 20-kW Standby Generator
Enough power for you and your extended family
Wattage: 20 kW | Size: 30 in. x 50 in. x 33 in. | Warranty: 5 years
Larger homes require more energy, particularly when you have a big family inside that house. This 20,000-watt generator is a great option for powering essentials in such a house, or powering an entire small home. Customers praised its ease of installation, and it has a durable galvanized steel (read: weather- and rust-resistant) enclosure, which eliminates any need for additional coverage or protection. It also features a 100-amp automatic transfer switch. This allows your power to turn back on within seconds of an outage when the generator automatically takes over.
—FOR SMALL HOMES—
Kohler 8-kW Air-Cooled Standby Generator
No need to overspend for a small home
Wattage: 8 kW | Size: 32 in. x 28 in. x 30 in. | Warranty: 5 years/2,000 hours
This little guy only puts out 8,000 watts, so it won’t be able to power an entire house. But it can juice the essentials in a small one. This Kohler is a great option if you want a power backup for a few necessities but wince at the thought of spending upwards of $4,000. Sure, it’s still an investment, but it comes with a five-year, 2,000-hour warranty. And it does automatic weekly power checks to ensure that it’s working correctly when the time comes that you need it most.
—MONITOR FROM YOUR PHONE—
Generac 22-kW Air-Cooled Standby Generator
You won’t even notice the power went out.
Wattage: 22 kW | Size: 29 in. x 48 in. x 25 in. | Warranty: 5 years
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. It comes with a five-year warranty and has Wi-Fi capabilities, which allow you to check the status of your generator at all times, 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 still 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 24/7 customer service if you do have any issues, since the power always seems to cut out outside of business hours.
Generac PowerPact 7.5-kW Generator
Stay in budget and have enough electricity for your necessities
Wattage: 7.5 kW | Size: 27 in. x 36 in. x 28 in. | Warranty: 3 years
This generator may be under $2,000, but it’s fully capable of preventing the contents of your fridge from spoiling and keeping the inside of your house at a reasonable temperature. It is able to power up to eight circuits in your home and significantly quieter than a portable generator. It has a durable aluminum shell that 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.
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