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When heavy storms, earthquakes and other disasters strike, electricity is often the first necessity to go. The best means of preparation for such an event? An emergency power generator.
If you have candles and a gas stove (which is somewhat rare) you’ll be able to have light and some warm food, but, even then, power outages can be an inconvenience at best and a serious fire risk at worst. Essential appliances such as the refrigerator, furnace and medical equipment will no longer work, while gadgets including computers, phones and TVs won’t be able to provide emergency contact or entertainment while you hunker down. The best emergency generators are able to power all these necessities, providing safety and comfort for a switched-off household.
Residents of areas with a high risk of power outages often invest in a dedicated backup generator, but those are costly and require a bit of space. Emergency generators are a pared-down version of these backup generators, and the best emergency power generators can sustain everything from the refrigerator to the TV and the phone.
Below are some of the best emergency generators that you can buy on Amazon right now, as well as some important specs to consider when shopping for the best emergency power generator.
What to Know Before Buying an Emergency Generator
Power Output: The most important feature of an emergency generator is power output which is measured in watts. For reference, a refrigerator typically requires about 2000 watts of power to start up and around 200 watts to run continuously. A furnace might need 1600 watts to start and 600 watts to run. The more watts a generator is good for, the more appliances you can use simultaneously.
Power Source: The three most common generator power sources are gas, propane and solar. We’ve excluded solar generators from our list because (with current technology) most can’t power a household. Gas generators are the most efficient and therefore most common but propane burns cleaner than gas.
Run Time: Power outages typically only last a day or two, but it’s always better to have a generator that can run for long periods. The run time of a particular power generator indicates how long it will last on a single tank of gas or propane.
Ease of Use: Some generators use a recoil start (a.k.a manual start) which requires you to yank a pulley. This is more difficult than electric start generators which turn on with the flick of a switch. Also be sure to read reviews to find out how easy it is to fill a generator’s fuel tank, move it around the house and refill the oil tank.
Noise: Power outages, although inconvenient, can be somewhat tranquil. There’s no need to ruin that with a loud generator. Check reviews for user reports of a power generators noise level.
1. Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
Our favorite power generator is the Champion Dual Fuel. As the name suggests, the emergency generator can run with propane (for 10.5 hours a tank) or gas (for nine hours a tank). Using the Champion is easy thanks to an electric start button and Cold Start technology that ensures a boot-up in freezing weather (many generators can’t combust correctly in extra cold weather). Pumping out 3,800 watts, the generator should create enough power for all the necessities and then some for entertainment. The only downside is noise, as users say its a bit loud.
2. Westinghouse WGen5500 Portable Generator
If you need lots of power, check out this 5,500-watt generator from Westinghouse. It offers plenty of power for everything you’ll need during a power outage, and with a run time of 15 hours on a single tank, the generator can easily sustain essentials such as the furnace and refrigerator through the night. The generator also comes transfer switch ready, meaning you can hook it up to the whole house instead of individual appliances or a power strip. Starting the Westinghouse is a bit of a chore, however, as it uses a recoil start.
3. WEN 56200i Generator
This 56200i gas generator from WEN is a compact, highly-portable alternative to the previous options. It generates 2000 watts, which should be sufficient for most refrigerators and furnaces, although not enough for starting both at the same time. But the trade-off with the WEN is a significantly smaller size and lighter weight at just 48 pounds (less than half the weight of our other picks). This allows for easy mobility around the house for different needs. It’s great for, say, keeping the fridge on during a storm, but it’s ideal for using gadgets and electric gear while camping.