How to choose The best generator in the USA – Comparison, guide and opinion

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We are so used to living with many devices around us that we find ourselves very helpless when this formidable energy source runs out.

The situations in which this happens can be varied: on a trip in the great outdoors, on the road for a special event… or even when a breakdown occurs.

To remedy this, some machines provide electricity at all times: generators.

Many different models are available, and it can be challenging to determine which product will be right for you. Is it better to have a heavy model but capable of providing a lot of energy or a compact but less powerful reference?

To help you see more clearly and find the generator best suited to your needs, we analyzed then compared 26 generators for 32 hours and considered the opinions of 1426 consumers.

Our approach

Our method

All the recommendations we make onbuythemeileur.ca are the result of many hours of research, comparisons, analyzes of consumer opinions and, if necessary, expert points of view.

The products we recommend here are the ones that will best fulfill their day-to-day task, passing all safety, reliability and efficiency tests with flying colors and with an attractive price/quality ratio for you.

What are our criteria for judging the products reviewed and selected bybuylemeilleur.ca?

  • Quality: Does the product have a solid construction? Will it be reliable over time? Does it have a good warranty?
  • Effectiveness: Is the product effective in its task or do you have to give it a little help? For example, is it powerful, fast, silent?
  • Use: Is the product easy to handle, easy to use and maintain?
  • Price: Is the price of the product and/or accessories and spare parts reasonable compared to the rest of the market?

In addition to these main criteria, we then establish a list of criteria specific to each product category, detailed a little further down in this article.

In the end, the products we recommend to you are the ones we would like to buy, and the ones we also choose for our friends and family.

Things to know before buying a generator

Generators are not necessarily easier devices to use.

And your choice depends on several parameters.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before buying a generator, as well as some details on how this type of machine works.

What are the different kinds of generators?

There is not only one type of generator, far from it!

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However, three general categories can be distinguished.

Electric generators

These devices are in fact very high capacity external batteries.

They are simple to handle (no gasoline, no oil, they simply “store” energy) and to transport, and more ecological.

However, they remain somewhat dependent on the electricity network (they must be recharged), and their power is limited.

They are indicated for excursions, nature walks or for relaxation by the lake, not really for power outages or long-term camping.

Portable gasoline

generators Gasoline generators are heavier and bulkier, but also much more powerful. They release CO² into the air, but are essential for certain demanding applications.

They are recommended for variable needs depending on their power: from camping to occasional breakdowns.

For occasional camping and safety in an emergency, we recommend inexpensive or mid-range gas models.

In the event of a power failure, they can help you as long as you have sufficient stocks of oil and fuel.

Residential generators

These are not portable and you must dedicate a dedicated space to them outside your property.

These high-performance generators are ideal if you want the electricity in your home to keep running normally in any situation.

They are the bulkiest, most efficient, and most expensive generators, especially since the installation is also an expense to be expected.

If you plan to use powerful power tools, equip a vacation cottage, or to deal with major power outages, it is better to opt for a generator of this type.

Is it a difficult device to use?

Do not hesitate, before making the purchase, to read the instructions or watch the manufacturer’s videos. Electric generators are very easy to learn, but gasoline models are a little more complex, there are requirements, including:

  • Adding fuel and oil (checking the level with the dipstick).
  • Set the choke (or starter knob) to the correct position.
  • Pull the starter or use the electric start.

Another thing to know: you will need to add a stabilizer to the fuel in order to preserve it if you do not use the device for more than a week.

Each model can have its subtleties, and it is better to find out about it beforehand.

With most devices, a can of oil and a funnel (for fuel) are provided.

One precaution to keep in mind with any gas-powered appliance: never use it indoors.

Indeed, these devices give off CO2, the inhalation of which can be fatal if used in a closed place.

How to decipher the rating of autonomy?

The autonomy of electric generators is “until exhaustion”, directly linked to the quantity stored (in mAh).

The autonomy of gasoline generators depends, among other things, on the size of the fuel tank.

It is expressed in hours at X%, where X% represents the power delivered in relation to the power actually available.

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Most models last 10 hours at 20%.

Is a generator noisy?

With electric generators, you won’t have to worry about that.

Since these are technically upgraded batteries, the device will not give you any noise disturbance other than perhaps a very slight whirring.

It’s a different story with gasoline models: indeed, a heat engine is necessarily noisy.

Manufacturers make efforts in this direction, and if noise is an important point for you, here are some useful indications:

– The use of propane (for compatible models) instead of gasoline can lead to a reduction in noise.

– Closed-frame models cut noise better than open-frame models.

– Eco mode, available on some models, significantly reduces engine noise.

– The presence of an inverter tends to reduce the sound volume emitted.

Our selection criteria for buying a generator

Often, choosing your generator will involve accepting compromises between weight, power and ease of use.

For example, if a product is just a little heavier than another, but also more powerful and easier to handle, it wins the duel of portability.

Here are some of the criteria we used in our analyses, which you may also find useful.

The price

The price is mainly related to the power.

Basic electric machines are usually priced between $200 and $400.

Transportable gasoline models range from $450 (very cheap) to over $2000 (high end for individuals).

For professional or residential references, count much more (over $5,000).

Transportability

Electric generators are very light, equipped with a handle, and easy to transport wherever you want.

For gasoline generators, the more powerful they are, the greater the weight tends to be and the larger the dimensions.

You have to look for the best power-to-weight ratio.

Mobility can be facilitated by wheels or a handle.

This can be especially important if you want to move the generator or if you want to use it for your RV for example.

Power adapted to your needs

This is undoubtedly the most important criterion.

Power is expressed in watts or sometimes in kW for gasoline models.

Manufacturers often advertise the maximum power, but it’s the installed (or rated) power output that really matters.

The power can also be expressed in kVA (but it is much more often written in watts on the technical sheets).

The most important thing is to opt for a device that corresponds well to what you need.

To know the power you need, there is a simple method to apply.

You have to look at the power in watts of the devices to be powered (the maximum peak power). Sum it up.

Next, look at the rated output power (not the maximum power) of the generator.

This must be greater than the sum obtained previously, ideally by at least about ⅕e .

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Note that if you just need to connect phones and computers, most models will be suitable, including those without a heat engine adopting the “external battery” format, much cheaper.

Options and functionalities

In the same category of generators, it may happen that certain models are very similar.

In this case, it is often the options and features offered that help to differentiate them.

Here are the main ones.

The inverter

If you plan to connect devices such as telephones or computers to the generator, it is preferable that it be equipped with an inverter: this voltage regulation system (“Inverter” in English), makes it possible to provide stable voltage, better suited for more fragile devices.

Additionally, inverter generators tend to be much quieter.

Biofuel models

Some models accept two fuels: gasoline and propane.

This adaptability is enormously practical since it allows you to use the most accessible fuel for you, propane being cheaper and easier to store than gasoline.

Available outlets

This is one of the most important points when it comes to ease of use of a generator.

It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to make sure that the connection is suitable for you: are there enough USB or USB Type-C ports, classic sockets, specific sockets for your tools, etc.? ?

Starting options

Several models offer features to make starting the engine easier.

In addition to the presence of a starter, it is thus possible to have an electric start rather than manual, or even a cold start function (to start better in the event of low temperature).

And let’s not forget the remote start option!

Some models offer this option.

Via a dedicated remote key, you can activate the generator remotely, at the touch of a button.

It’s very practical, especially in winter when you don’t want to go out in the cold to turn on the generator!

The Transfer Switch

On larger machines capable of supplying power to a home, there is often a dedicated output for the transfer switch.

This addition is installed between the generator and the house and allows automatic triggering of the generator when the usual power source fails.

This very practical option is sometimes offered for purchase, but more generally you will have to buy it separately.

On larger models, connecting this switch is a large part of the installation.

Options for charging the battery

For electric generators, the battery “is” the device.

Depending on the models, the methods for charging the battery can vary greatly.

A few can even be recharged via a solar panel, usually sold separately.

For motor generators, the battery is a component that plays a vital role in starting: it is, therefore, important to always ensure that it is not empty.

Again, several options for recharging the battery exist, more or less practical.

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