Have you ever wanted to power something while outdoors or when the electricity is out? When there are no outlets or extension cords around, the best solution is a portable generator. These gas, battery, or even solar-powered devices let you power things like lights, computers, speakers, outdoor equipment, and anything else with a cord. Looking to buy one? There are a few things you can think about to find the right one.
Since portable generators come in at many different price points, set a... budget ahead of time to avoid spending more than you want. It's also good to have an idea of how you want to use the generator. What kinds of devices do you want to power? How long do you intend to keep it on? These details will help you decide the size and power (watts) you need for the generator.
Here are the top eight portable generators for you to think about.
With so many portable generators on the market, it takes a great all arounder to stand out. The Champion Power Equipment 76533 fits the bill for those looking for a generator capable of powering things around the campsite, worksite, or outdoors at home at an affordable price. This 3800 watt generator will provide you up to 9 hours of run time using either gas or propane right out of the box. Like some cars, the generator also has a self-charging electric starter for hassle free startups.
The generator is powerful enough to run a variety of devices and appliances like televisions, power tools, and floodlights. Even though it doesn't include any USB ports, you can add a separate USB charger to the wall outlets to keep tablets and phones running for hours. Despite the generator's power, it has a low noise level when running. Like any gas generator, you will want to only use this outside for proper ventilation of the fumes.
The runner up for the overall best generator is the WEN 56180. While it isn't as powerful as the top pick, it’s cheaper and smaller. This is a great option for people looking for a small gas generator to use outdoors. Its 1500 watts is plenty to power things like radios, lamps, small kitchen appliances, and other things for 7 hours at half power. Increase the power for larger devices, tools, and appliances.
The generator’s small, light frame is a great selling point. The included spark arrestor will even permit you to use the generator while camping in national parks. The noise and emissions are tolerable, so you can use this in relatively close proximity to people while outdoors.
For the best gas operated generator, the Champion Power Equipment 73536i is the clear choice for two very important reasons: a quiet and flexible operation and handy space-saving features. It can produce 1700 watts ultra quietly at just 53 db from 23 feet. That is about as quiet as you can get without using a battery. The generator’s Smart Economy Mode will give you fine control over the power output, so you can run it for up to 9 hours at 25% capacity.
For more power intensive uses, this generator is also stackable. Stack two or three of these generators to double or triple the amount of devices you can power at any time.
Battery powered generators offer many advantages over their gas powered cousins. While they are limited in how much power they produce, they are cleaner, smaller, and silent. The Jackery PowerPro is the top pick for a battery generator since it offers the most power (300 watts) and outlets.
You’ll get an AC wall outlet, 12 volt cigarette-style car outlet, and two USB 2.1 connections. The higher price partly comes from the sturdy, compact case which includes a carrying handle. The generator is powerful enough to run a television for 3 hours or to recharge a smartphone up to 40 times on a single charge.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
If you can do without the fancy wall or car outlets, the iMuto 185Wh is a great alternative. This generator is meant for smart devices. The four USB outlets (2.4 and 3.0 USB) can charge multiple devices at once anywhere, anytime. The generator is powerful enough to recharge a tablet 3 times or a smartphone around 10 times on a single charge.
Recharging the built in battery is also simple. Choose between the wall, car, or even a separate solar panel for on the go charging. Solar charging will be slower, but a great addition for longer outdoor excursions.
For maximum portability, choose the Rally Portable 8 in 1 Power Source and Jumpstarter Unit. This handheld unit is tiny with a large punch. It delivers up to 140 watts through several USB and AC outlets for 1-6 hours depending on the device. It is also the least expensive generator on the list.
The real standout feature of this generator is the hand-powered operation. When the built-in battery runs out of juice, pull the handle to keep the power coming. In a car emergency, you can also use it to jumpstart a battery or inflate tires with the built-in air compressor. It's size and handy features makes it a great addition to any emergency survival kit.
The Coolis 150Wh generator isn't the least expensive on the list, but it offers the most in the budget category. The biggest selling point of this silent, battery-operated generator is the number of outlets it offers. Three DC ports, two AC outlets, and two USB ports can all deliver 100 watts for 1-4 hours to things like lamps, phones, fans, even small kitchen appliances like mini fridges and coffee makers.
Charge the battery with a wall outlet, car outlet, or separate solar panel. Wall charging can take up to 7 hours for a whole charge. When you are outdoors, the solar charging option, while slower (2-5 days for a full charge), can make the battery last even longer.
To get the most juice from a portable generator, you have to go with a gas engine that creates a lot of watts. The Yamaha EF4500iSE does just this: 4000 continuous watts will give you enough power for most worksites, campsites, and emergency situations. You will get a lot of juice and control over the power. Unlike other hand started generators, an electric start feature makes turning this one on easy. Press a single button and stand back as the generator comes to life.
A built-in power meter will let you see and control how much power you are generating at any given time. Choose the low speed running mode for a quieter, more economical operation. Finally, the generator also comes with a wireless control that is good for up to 66 feet away.
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