Question

As winter approaches many folks begin prepping their homes for the oncoming cold and snow. This could be cleaning the gutters, caulking any drafty areas, and making the home as efficient as possible. Another step in preparing for winter that a lot of folks don’t consider is having a generator on hand in the event of a power loss. Generators can be a lifesaver especially in those cold winter days when the power goes out and your furnace won’t start.

Generators can give you that much needed power, but they can also be dangerous if ran or setup incorrectly. In this article we’re going to cover what’s known as ‘Backfeeding,’ your generator.

What is BackFeeding?

Backfeeding is routing power from your running generator and plugging that power straight into an outlet of your home. This is done with a two male sided extension cord. (Why these cords exist, I do not know.) By doing this you are flowing power throughout your home in reverse. The power will move backwards from the outlet, to your electrical panel, and back throughout the rest of your home.

While this may seem like a very easy way to power your whole home I will warn you now that it is illegal and dangerous to you and others. Many people do this without realizing the risks.

The first is that by backfeeding the generator into your home you negate the circuit breaker/fuse in your power panel. For those of you that do not know, a circuit breaker is an automated electrical switch that protects a electric circuit from a short or excess current overload. When your circuit breaker trips it shuts off automatically normally to prevent damage and to prevent over heating. Without a circuit breaker, or by negating your circuit breaker by backfeeding, you risk your home and your generator catching fire.

A lot of times these fires begin when the homeowner’s normal power comes back on line. There are now two sources of power flowing back and forth between the panel and the generator. This causes the overload that we mentioned earlier and poses a large fire risk either at the panel or the generator itself. In one such incident a backfed generator caught on fire, the fuel tank exploded, and caught the user’s house on fire as well as a neighbor’s home. The story on this extreme example can be found by clicking here. The worst part about these fire accidents is that most of the time the homeowner doesn’t realize anything’s wrong until it is too late.

Along with the fire hazard you should also know that backfeeding your generator is against the law. No, that’s not the government being overreaching. There is a good reason for this. If you do backfeed your generator the electricity that you are generating through your generator can be routed back through your home and back through the electrical grid. That means if a power company employee is working on the lines he is at risk of being electrocuted. The lines they are working on are supposed to be dead/off but if a generator is backfed there is risk of electrify running through the lines during maintenance. Do you want to be responsible for that? I certainty don’t.

The Right Way

Ok, so we’ve gone through the wrong way to hook up your generator. Let’s look at the right way. Now when most people backfeed their generators they do it because they want power throughout their home. They don’t want to just power one or two things, they want the whole shebang.

This can be done, and done safely, using portable generators. The difference here is that instead of backfeeding your system you get what’s called a ‘manual transfer switch,’ installed on your power panel. A transfer switch will allow you to do just that. It allows you to transfer the power from your generator over to your home all the while blocking new power from the gird. This prevents your overload and prevents damage or overheating.

Installing a manual transfer switch can be rather tricky and complex. The best way to do this is to hire a trained electrician. This way you get the switch installed correctly and have nothing to worry about during your next power outage. Also, if you have a trained professional come to your home be sure to ask if he recommends a grounding rod for your generator. Most of the time you will need a grounding rod if you are going with a manual transfer switch.

Conclusion

Ok folks, we have now gone over the dangers of backfeeding. For more information on generator setup, install, and running safety please check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here.

Also, please note that this article is intended as advice and is for informational purposes only. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or injuries that can occur when using generators.

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question Marks

Portable generators can be a lifesaver in a dire situation or they can provide you some much needed power during a camping trip. Whatever your reason is for using them you may notice that a lot of these units come with wheels. Now, this may not be something you really think about when purchasing a generator, but depending on the wattage size of the generator having wheels can make a huge difference.

Remember, these units are meant to be portable. What good is a portable generator if the system weights over two-hundred pounds and you have no way to move it besides brute strength? I guarantee you that after doing that a few times that you’ll never want to do it again. That’s to say if you even could move it.

If you opt for a smaller generator, maybe a few thousand watts, then you may not even need the wheels. Sure, they would be nice, but you should still be able to move the generator around without killing yourself. This is more of a preference and if you want to pay a bit extra for a system with wheels. (Personally, if it was me I wouldn’t worry about wheels. Just keep an eye on the product weight and make sure that you’re comfortable moving something that heavy around.)

It’s as you go up in wattages that you’ll begin to see the weight increase. They may start at around one-hundred pounds but some of these can be huge reaching almost three-hundred pounds. The good news is that most of the time these heavier generators will have wheels as part of the system, but you should be wary because some systems sell the wheels as a separate component. These separate wheels can cost you an extra one-hundred dollars or so.

Also, I want to caution you that before you purchase your generator you should ensure that the tires are a ‘never-flat.’ What that means is that you won’t have to deal with a flat tire or a tire that comes off the rim. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, let me paint a picture for you.

Let’s say it’s the dead of winter and your power just went out due to an ice storm. Your family is inside getting cold and you need to be the hero. You are out in your garage getting ready to pull your generator out, dust it off, and get it setup for emergency power. Only as you get to the back of your garage you see that both rear tires are flat. Now on top of having to deal with the loss of power you have to contend with flat tires.

If it was me, I would pay a bit extra for the peace of mind that my tires aren’t going to be flat when I need them most. Keep an eye out for these ‘never-flat,’ tires and if you do see them advertised for the generator you want be sure to read the product reviews to ensure that they are actually ‘never-flat.’

Please be aware that while generators are a great tool to use they can also be dangerous if not setup or ran correctly. For more information on the Do’s and Don’s of generator usage please click here to be taken to our official Generator Safety Guide.

Lastly, please note that ToughAssTools is not liable for any property damage or injuries caused by generators. Exercise caution when using and if you have any questions please consult a trained professional.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

 

 

A lot of you may not know this but when it comes to generators there are two different and distinct types. Most of you may already be familiar with the standard portable generator. These are the units that you see at campsites, RVers using, or sitting in your neighbor’s driveway during a power outage. These are the most common generators. They provide a mobile alternative power source for a relatively cheap price. (Depending on the model you purchase you could pay as low as two-hundred dollars.) The majority of the time they run off of standard eighty-seven octane gasoline but there are some models out there that run on a propane tank. (The same tank you use to fire up your gas grill.) Portable generators also come with a relatively easy installation process depending on what you’re using for.

What a lot of folks aren’t aware of are generators known as standby generators. These more or less accomplish the same thing as portable generators. They provide you with an alternative power source. The difference here though is that standby generators are not mobile. They are a stationary generator that is typically much much larger then your portable systems and can provide a lot more power. Another key difference is that a standby generator is automated. What that means is that if your power goes out today and you have a portable system then you are going to have to go outside, pull it out of the garage, prep it, route your cords, and then start it. That’s a lot of work. With a standby system once your power goes out the standby will start after only a few seconds and your power will come right back on almost seamlessly. Then, when the power does come back from the electric grid your standby system will shut right off. It’s a very easy no hassle system.

Let’s do a quick Pros and Cons of each type of Generator:

Portable Generators

Pros

  • Able to provide power anywhere in the world. (Within reason)
  • Much cheaper then standby systems.
  • Portable and able to be wheeled around as needed.
  • Variety of uses such as camping, RVing, job sites, or emergency home power.
  • Can be routed directly to your circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch.

Cons

  • Manual setup each time it is needed. This includes pulling it out of the garage, prepping it, routing the cords, and starting the system.
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a very big risk when it comes to using portable generators.
  • Fire or electrocution risk.
  • Unit is not shielded from weather
  • Power or wattage supply is limited and it may be difficult to find a system to power your whole home.

Standby Generators

Pros

  • Everything is automated. If your power goes out there is no work or worry.
  • Most standby units come with a shielded case to prevent damage from the weather and to keep water out.
  • Lots of power and watts. In some cases you may find models as high as forty-thousand watts.
  • The standby system can be hooked directly up to a large propane tank. (Eight-hundred or one-thousand gallon tanks.) By doing this your system can run for a week or more with no hassle.
  • Twenty-four seven protection even if you are out of town and the power goes out.

Cons

  • Cost is a huge one here. Not only do you have pay thousands for your standby system but you also have to pay thousands for the installation.
  • Installation cost and overall process. I mentioned this above but it’s worth bringing up again.
  • The unit is stationary and cannot be moved.

Conclusion

Ok folks, so now we understand the differences between a portable and a standby generator. The question now though is what unit is right for you? If you are unsure then I highly recommend reading our ‘What Are The Best Generators,’ guide by clicking here. This guide goes into the different types of applications, sizing, and product features to look out for. After reading the guide you should then have an accurate idea of what type of generator that you need.

If you do decide to go the portable generator route then I would highly recommend you visit our Generator Safety Guide. This safety guide goes through all of the Do’s and Don’ts of running a portable generator as well as what to look out for. Remember folks, it is always better to be safe then sorry.

Lastly, since this article has to deal with generators I need to provide our disclaimer. ToughAssTool’s is not liable for any product or property damage, injuries, or anything else when it comes to generators. This article was designed to provide advice and information to the reader. We are not liable for any consequences.

Thank you for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

There are many reasons for someone to purchase a generator. It could be that they are looking for a power source on a camping trip, they need power during a job site, or they are looking for an alternative power source for their home in case of an emergency. A question that we see a lot when it comes to generators is if the consumer can install the system themselves. There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Let’s dive in here and take a look:

Scenarios

First, we have to look at what type of generator you will be purchasing. By knowing this we can then begin to make the determination if you are able and if you should install the system yourself or if you should hire a trained professional. What will you be using your generator for? Do you have an application in mind already? If so, then we can most likely determine the install and what will be involved. Let’s say for example you want to purchase a generator as a backup power source for your RV during camping trips. The generator will allow you to keep your refrigerator and a few other things running on your RV without having to idle the engine or drain the battery. In this example the install is rather simple and you will most likely not need an electrician.

Let’s take a look at another example. Let’s say it’s winter and a blizzard just rolled through your town. The power was cut and you need your phones charged and maybe power to an infrared heater you have in your living room. You don’t need to power on your whole home again, or even your furnace, but you do need enough power for some smaller appliances. In this scenario the setup is still relatively simple for your portable generator. Be sure to setup your generator outside of your home by about fifteen to twenty feet. Never run your generator near your home, in your garage, your closet, or your basement. This can be a HUGE safety risk. (For more information on safety and generators click here to be taken to our Generator Safety Guide.)

Once you have your generator setup all you have to to is route an extension cord from the generator into your home to power your appliances. There you have it, you’re setup. Not so bad! Again, keep in mind that this is ONLY for smaller appliances and is not intended to power your whole home. Also, whatever you do, do NOT backfeed your generator into your home. Backfeeding your generator is taking an extension cord with two male ends and plugging one end into your generator and one into an outlet of your home. This can create a fire hazard at best and at worst can cause serious electrocution injury to you or local electrical workers.

Ok folks, I have two more examples for us to go through. The next is if you are in a similar situation as above. Your power is out and you need to get some things back on. The difference here though is that you want to turn your furnace back on. Your furnace is hooked directly to your circuit breaker. There isn’t an outlet for it to plug into. So how do you turn it back on? The only way to get your furnace back during a power outage is by installing what’s known as a manual transfer switch. This transfer switch will allow you to hook your generator directly to your circuit breaker. In these situations it is imperative that you consult a trained electrician or professional. Installing a transfer switch can be a difficult task for a laymen and along with the transfer switch your electrician will tell you if you need a grounding rod for your generator or not. (In most cases you WILL need a grounding rod if you are hooking your generator up to your circuit breaker via  manual transfer switch.) On top of all that the professional will be able to tell you if you are complying with all city, county, and state regulations and codes.

Alright, our last example are on standby generators. For those of you who don’t know a standby generator is a much larger version of your portable generator. A standby unit will automatically switch the power of your home over to the generator in the event of a power loss. These units will switch between power sources after just a few seconds of outage. They make things easy and allow you not to worry during a power outage. The downside of these is that they are quite expensive and the install can be very complicated. When purchasing a standby generator it is imperative that you have a certified electrician come out and install the system. If possible, try to get an electrician that is familiar with the brand of standby generator that you will be purchasing. (Even the most trained professionals can sometimes make mistakes on systems they are not familiar with.) If you were to try and install one of these systems yourself you risk harming yourself, your home, not following codes and regulations, AND voiding the warranty on the system. Is all of that really worth it? Or, should you pony up the cash and get it installed right the first time? I know what I would do.

Conclusion

As you can see above there are many types of scenarios and possible outcomes when it comes to installing a generator. Depending on what application you need the decision for a do-it-yourself install and a professional install will be made for you. Remember folks, it is always better to be safer then sorry.

As always, since this article has to deal with generators I have to put our ToughAssTool’s disclaimer here stating that we are NOT liable for any product damage, property damage, or injuries when dealing with generators. This article was a guide to best practices. If you have further questions we HIGHLY recommend you converse with your local electrician.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Portable generators are a fantastic tool to have in your possession. It doesn’t matter if you are purchasing one for camping, RVing, a work site, or for an emergency power back up. Whatever the reason is they can provide you with the much needed power that you are looking for. The question though on a lot of folks minds is exactly how much do these generators cost? What should they expect when preparing to purchase? Well we here at ToughAssTools are going to take the time and do our best to answer that question for you.

First thing’s first though folks. Before we can give you an estimated cost we need to identify two things. The first is what will you be using this generator for? Is the intention to drag it along during camping trips so that you can charge your cell phone? Is it intended as an alternative power source for your RV so that you don’t have to idle? Or, do you live way up north and are looking for an alternative power source before the next blizzard arrives? By identifying HOW you will be using your generator we can then begin to make an educated guess as to what cost you can expect.

The next big question is what size generator that you will need. Now, application and usage come right in line with sizing. So, if you determine that you want a camping generator then we can pretty much narrow the wattage down to between one-thousand and three-thousand. But, if you’re looking for something to power your home then the sizes can range from four-thousand watts upwards to ten or twenty-thousand plus.

Before you read further I would recommend checking out our portable generator sizing guide. By reading this guide you will begin to understand how to size your system and then you can begin to see what cost you are looking at. Please click here to be taken to our sizing guide.

Cost

Ok folks, so now that you have a kind of idea on what type of generator you need we can begin to get into the cost. In this section we are going to break down the cost by category. Then within this category we will give you a cost range. This cost range will give you an idea on how much a lower wattage model costs and how much a higher wattage model will cost. These categories will be your camping/RVing, your partial home power, and your full home power. Let’s take a look:

Camping and RVs

  • Camping and RVs are the smaller sized generators and will be on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Most of the time these types of units will range between one-thousand watts upwards to three or four-thousand watts. You are going to see these units range in prices starting at around two-hundred dollars all the way up to five-hundred dollars. These ranges can depend on not only size but also features.
  • Our recommend product in this category is the DuroStar DS4000S thirty-three hundred watt generator. This unit gives you a good amount of power while also not costing you an arm and a leg.

Alternative Home Power (Partial)

  • Ok, so the power is out in your home and you need to keep your refrigerator, computers, and phones running. You’re not looking to power everything back up again. You just need a few things turned back on and then you’ll be good. In these situations your generators wattage can start at around four-thousand watts and can go upwards to six or seven-thousand watts. The price range on these units can vary wildly. The smaller sized units will start at around three-hundred dollars whereas a larger unit can end up costing you around eight hundred to one-thousand dollars.
  • Here at ToughAssTool’s our recommended product in this category is the Generac 6672 5500W portable generator. This product will give you enough power to hook up a manual transfer switch if you wish. It also comes in at a decent price point considering the wattage you get as well as buying the very reputable Generac brand name. (Generac is one of the top generator producers in the world.)

    A-iPower 12,000 Watt Portable Generator
    A-iPower 12,000 Watt Portable Generator

Alternative Home Power (Full)

  • Let’s use a similar example to what we illustrated above. The power is out in your home and you need it to come back on. You don’t want to do a half-assed approach and only have half of your systems come back on. No, you want the whole spiel. You want it all to come back. The lights, the furnace, the washer and dryer. Everything. This is where things can get quite expensive. I just want to say that right away. With powering everything in your home you are going to need a lot of watts and that means more cost.
  • It should be noted that when looking at fully powering your home you have a choice between the traditional portable generators and what’s known as a standby generator. A standby generator is a unit that is hooked directly to your home and automatically switches to the alternative power the moment your power goes out. Whereas a portable generator will still need to be wheeled out, setup, and manually transferred over. The choice is up to you, just be aware that with standby units you will not only need to pay for the system but you will need professional installation.
  • Portable generators at this size can start at around nine-hundred dollars and can top out at over two-thousand dollars. A standby generator can start at a few thousand dollars and can go all the way up to seven or eight-thousand dollars. Also, remember that with standby systems you will need to pay for professional installation as well.
  • Here at ToughAssTool’s our recommend portable generator for these types of applications is the A-iPower 12,000-watt portable generator. This system gives you a whole twelve-thousand watts of power while still coming in at a relatively low price point. You also get a host of other features such as GFCI outlet, never flat wheels for easy moving, and seven gallon fuel tank that can run up to nine hours.
  • We won’t recommend a specific standby unit in this section as each one can be rather specific to your home. Instead we’re going to recommend a brand and direct you to their website. The company known as Generac, is one of the best in the generator market. For more information from them click here to be taken to their site.

Conclusion

Well folks, that about covers it for how much do generators cost. The above estimates were just that, estimates. Prices can change at any time and it is always best to do your research from multiple sources and articles. Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that generators can be dangerous, especially if you do not know what you are doing. If you are not familiar with generators I highly recommend checking out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. The guides goes into details on what to do, what not to do, and overall best practices when using generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

Portable generators are one of those things that you never really think about it until the time you need one. When hurricanes roll through or when a blizzard blankets your town and drops the power you need an alternative solution. When my wife was younger her and her family would have their power knocked out by a storm. While we have all experienced this before, what was unusual was they sometimes had to wait one or two weeks for it to be hooked up again. Depending on where you live or who lives with you, having your power out for two weeks isn’t just uncomfortable. It can be a matter of life and death.

While generators can give us this emergency power that we need it is often the case that users of these machines don’t know the first thing about them. This can result in injuries, electrocution, or worse. In an effort to educate those of you out there we here at ToughAssTools have taken the time to write this short article to answer some of your questions.

Grounding

When working with portable generators there are many risks. In this section we are going to focus on the electrocution risk of not grounding your generator. Grounding your generator allows excess electricity to be displaced and prevents users from accidentally shocking or electrocuting themselves. Depending on your system you may need a grounding rod. A grounding rod is a long copper rod that measures eight feet in length. It is usually recommended for it to be at or over five eights inches in diameter.

Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that all generators need grounding rods. That is not the case. There are considerations that have to be taken. Basically, it boils down to two main checks:

  1. How are you using your generator? If you plan to be plugging appliances directly into your generator using extension cords then you do NOT need to ground your unit as long as you meet the criteria from step two.
  2. Ok, the second check that you need to look over is that all components of the generator are bonded to the generator’s frame. This includes your fuel tank, your engine, the generator’s housing, and the power receptacles.

If your generator meets the above conditions then you are OK to move forward without using a grounding rod. This is because the generator’s frame replaces the grounding rod. (That is why we checked if every component was bonded to the frame.) So, if your errant electricity exists it will be grounded by your generator’s frame. If these conditions do NOT exist then a grounding rod will be required in order to safely run your generator and prevent injury.

Also, there is another exception that is very important. If your generator meets the above conditions BUT your system is plugged directly into your home’s circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch or if it’s connected directly to a building then you are required to have a grounding rod.

If you are unsure exactly if you need a grounding rod for your generator then I would highly recommend consulting with a trained electrician. Remember folks, it’s better to be safe then sorry. For more information on grounding your generator click here to be taken to OSHA’s guide on grounding your generators.

Conclusion

Well folks, I hope that this was able to answer your question and if it did not hopefully it at least pointed you in the right direction. For more information and best practices when using a generator you can check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. The guide goes over all of the Do’s and Don’ts of setting up and running your generator.

Also, because of the nature of this topic I have to put a legal disclaimer here stating that ToughAssTools is not liable nor responsible for any damage, injury, or other events due to this article. This article is advice. If you are unsure on what to do when using your generator Please Please Please consult a trained professional for a consultation.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

A lot of folks don’t even think about generators until the need arises. That’s why we see a huge swath of generator purchases right before a blizzard or hurricane hits. It’s the same thing that you see at grocery stores. I always laugh when a blizzard is in the forecast because I know that if I go to the store that all of the bread, milk, and eggs will be gone. The shelves will be empty. I couldn’t tell you why people do this.

The same thing applies to your home improvement stores with generators. If you go to a Lowes or Home Depot a day or two before the storm you’ll find that the selection of generators have been picked over. Usually the ones left over only have enough power to charge your phone or computer.

While buying these generators last minute can give you peace of mind, you are also losing something in this last minute decision. You lose your ability to pick and choose what size and options that you want. You lose the ability to properly research the company and brand behind the generator. And, most importantly, you lose in your wallet. Believe it or not, these big box retailers tend to mark these products up right before a storm hits.

Would you rather be purchasing something like this last minute, or would you like to do the proper research and really understand what you’re buying and how it can be used? Would you like to know that you received a competitive price? I know what option I would choose here folks.

In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of generators. We’re going to view what size generator you need, what features to look at, installation and safety requirements, what price points to expect, and most importantly we are going to showcase ToughAssTools’ top generator selections.

Before you Buy

Before you consider purchasing a generator it is always smart to stop and take a step back to look at all of the possible considerations that need to be factored in. Generators come in all sorts of sizes, features, and safety concerns. Do you know what to look for? Do you know where to begin? If you do, then by all means bypass this section and move right onto the next section.

However, if you find that you still have some questions on what to look for then I highly suggest you take the time and read through some of our guides. These guides will serve as your compass in the maze that are generators. Yes, I know, that was a bad analogy. Oh well. That aside though, these will provide you the knowledge on what to look for and after reading these guides you find that this product isn’t the right one for you then we have served our purpose by steering you in the right direction.

  • If you are not sure what size of generator you should be buying click here to be taken to our generator size guide. This sizing guide will walk you through the process on how to calculate total watts, amperage/volts, and the differences between starting and running watts.
  • If you are not sure what features you should be looking for then click here to be taken to our top features for generators guide. There are so many things to consider like electric starters, wheels to help you move around, low oil indicators, and so on and so on.
  • Lastly, if you are not quite sure how to safely use and run a generator then please click here to be taken to our safety guide. Safety is something I just can’t stress enough of when dealing with generators. These machines can be life savers but they can also be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.

ToughAssTool’s Top Generator Products

In my opinion there are three types of generators and generator applications. We have our camping/recreational applications with a lower power output, our medium units for powering some appliances in your home, and your high power systems designed to power your whole home either through a portable or a standby system. I hope that after reading our sizing guide you now have an idea of what you are going to use your generator for.

In this section we are going to review the best units out there for each category. Please note that there are many other great generator models out there. This is OUR list of what we have deemed the best. If the model you want isn’t listed don’t panic. Do you research, read the reviews, and make the determination yourself. Remember, we try to condense these recommendations so as not to overwhelm the consumer.

Camping, RVing, & Tailgating

Every Fourth of July a friend of mine and his family throw a rather large party. The party is held on some land they own quite a ways south of town. It’s about eighty acres of prairie with a large pond in the middle of it. There are no buildings or power supply anywhere to be found. Since this is a fireworks party attenders are going to be there when it gets dark and this is country dark where it’s hard to see a few feet in front of you.

To resolve this problem they bring in a portable generator and hook up some flood lights to it. These flood lights illuminate the buffet, seating area, and the kid’s play area. The generator is hooked up quite a ways away and the lights are wired with an extension cord. The unit doesn’t have a lot of power, but it has enough to keep the lights going and to keep the crock pots warm.

If you are looking for something like this for your camping, RV, or tailgating adventure then these are the generators for you. They are not too high in wattage and that means that they are not too high in price. Most of the time with these applications you can get away with two to three-thousand watts of power. To be exact though, I would refer to our sizing guide we mentioned above, and remember that it is recommended to go an average of ten percent higher watts then what you have calculated.

WEN 56200i Portable Generator
WEN 56200i Portable Generator

Ok, so now let’s take a look at our top camping generators:

WEN’s 56200i 2,000 Watt Portable Generator

  • This generator from WEN comes in three different watt sizes ranging: Twelve-hundred and fifty, two-thousand, and thirty-one-hundred. These threes sizes should more then cover your camping needs. Please note that wattage sizes mentioned above are surge or peak watts. The rated watts are lower. (You want to base your sizing off of rated operation which is about eighty percent of the peak watts.)
  • Along with the various sizes it also runs very quietly when compared to other generators. This unit comes in at fifty-one decibels which is about the same noise level as a standard window air conditioner.
  • You also get two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets, one 30A RV plug-in, and two USB ports to charge your phones and electronics.
  • Lastly, the product comes with a two year warranty to ensure your investment lasts.

Westinghouse’s WGen3600 Portable Generator

  • This generator from Westinghouse comes in all different wattage sizes. I won’t list every single one here, but the model we have selected to view is the thirty-six-hundred rated watt model. (Four-thousand six-hundred and fifty watts peak.)
  • You also get a four gallon fuel tank with an estimated twelve hour run time when the generator is at fifty percent capacity. For those of you that don’t know, a twelve hour run time is unusual and very nice. Most of the time you’re filling up every four to six hours.
  • With the WGen3600 you get a three year warranty rather than the two year we mentioned above on the WEN unit.
  • Lastly, the price point on this product is much lower then WEN and you get a longer warranty. Personally, I would choose this product over the WEN.

Champion 76533 4,750 Watt Portable Generator

  • The other two units were great for camping and giving you that power support you need. This next product from Champion does that and more. You see, this product has a bunch of extra features added on to it that make your life easier when looking for power.
  • First, this unit comes in at four-thousand seven-hundred and fifty starting watts and thirty-eight hundred running watts.
  • Something I love about this product is that it’s a dual fuel system. What that means is that you can either use your standard gasoline OR you can use a propane cylinder. Yes, that’s right, just like the ones you use on your grill. Most RV’s out there carry some propane tanks with them and having your generator take propane will make things that much easier.
  • This champion product is expected to run for around nine-hours on a full tank of gas and a little over ten hours on a propane cylinder.
  • You also get an electric starer over the manual rip cord that you find on other units. Again, this makes things easier.
  • Lastly, you get a three year limited warranty and LIFETIME technical support.
  • If I was looking for a premium generator for my camping or RV trips then this is the one I would purchase. Just be aware, that this unit is higher in price then the others we recommended.

If you find that generators aren’t the right tool for you, or if you want something a bit quieter then a generator then you may try power inverters. (There are a lot of campgrounds that ban generators due to the noise but allow power inverters.) A power inverter acts much like a generator but provides a lesser amount of power and is much quieter. 

Emergency Home Power – Partial Restoration

Let me paint a picture here. Let’s say it’s the Spring season and a severe storm has just rolled through and cut the power across your neighborhood. It’s been a few hours already and there is still no sign when the power is going to come back on. As the day drags on more and more time passes and you realize that your power is going to be out for quite a while. You need to get power back to your home, or at least for parts of your home.

This is where a generator will come in handy. In order to power your home, or partially power your home, you are going to need significantly more power then you would when compared to a camping trip.

First, let me ask you a question. Are you wishing to power just a few things like your computer and your phones? Maybe your refrigerator? In these cases you may only need a four-thousand watt generator. However, if you are wishing to power your lights, furnace, air conditioner, or even washer/dryer then you are going to need to go up in wattage but you are also going to need a manual transfer switch installed on your circuit breaker.

These transfer switches allow the generator to hook straight up to the power of your home and allow you to power your large appliances like your furnace or air conditioner. These transfer operate off of two-hundred and forty volt power and if you wish to have a transfer switch installed you will need at least a five-thousand watt generator. You may want to go higher though to accommodate for starting watts. Also, note that manual transfer switches need to be professional installed by a trained electrician. An install along with the switch could end up costing you between seven-hundred to one-thousand dollars.

Champion 100165 7,500 Watt Portable Generator
Champion 100165 7,500 Watt Portable Generator

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top generators in this category:

DuroMax XP4400E 4,400 Watt Portable Generator

  • The Duromax Xp4400E comes with forty-four-hundred surge, or starting watts, and thirty-five-hundred running watts.  This is about the same size as our larger camping and RV category.
  • This is the unit you get for your home if you are on a budget and are just looking for a basic source for emergency power.
  • That being said, you do get an electric starter on this unit as well as an emergency low oil shut-off switch so this product isn’t without features.
  • You also get a four gallon gas tank that is rated for a eight hour operation time.
  • As I mentioned above, I see this unit as kind of the entry model for home power usage. Continue reading for more powerful units.

Briggs & Stratton 30675 Q6500 Portable Generator

  • This Briggs & Stratton model comes with sixty-five-hundred starting watts and five-thousand running watts.
  • The Q6500 does come with a two-hundred and forty volt outlet and can be hooked up to your home with a manual transfer switch. (Again, consult an electrician before doing this.)
  • The product comes with a five gallon fuel tank and a rated operation time of fourteen hours. That’s a HUGE run time and one of the highest I’ve ever seen. That’s a great convenience for those of you who hate filling the generator up with gas every few hours.
  • Like one of our models in the RV section, this Briggs & Stratton model is VERY quiet. In fact, it’s rated at sixty-percent quieter then your standard generator.
  • For your money you also get a two year warranty on the product to ensure your investment is protected.

Champion 100165 8,400 Watt Portable Generator

  • Bigger and bigger! This Champion generator is rated at eighty-four-hundred starting watts and seventy-five hundred running watts. Those are some big numbers folks!
  • This product comes with a two-hundred and forty volt outlet and can be hooked up to your home with a manual transfer switch. (Again, consult an electrician before doing this.)
  • This model is dual fuel as well. So, that means that you can use either standard gasoline or propane. Personally, I’m a big fan of the propane as it’s an easier setup.
  • You also get a host of other features on this Champion model such as a low oil engine shut-off block, an electric starter instead of the traditional rip cord, and built-in surge protectors.
  • Lastly, this product comes with a three year limited warranty and a lifetime of FREE technical support from the Champion team.

Emergency Home Power – Full Restoration

Alright folks, so now we are on to the high wattage systems. Let’s use the same scenario we used above for the partial power. Your home’s power is out and you need to get power back. In our previous example we were powering on select systems such as refrigerators, phones, and furnaces.

If you wish to power on our whole home then you are going to need a whole lot more power. What’s that Home Improvement  Tim Allen bit from the 90’s? More Power! This section is going to focus on generators that are over ten-thousand watts.

Now, before I get into our recommended products I want to make something clear. As we get above that ten-thousand watt mark the amount of portable generators begins to shrink. It is fairly rare to find units over ten-thousand, but there are some out there. There is another option though folks and this other option will automate the power transfer during a power outage. In other words, if your power goes out it will come right back on after a few seconds due to your generator. These units are called your standby generators.

Standby generators are immobile systems that are hooked directly to your home. They can range from ten-thousand watts up to forty-thousand watts. These are the kinds of systems that business owners  or rural homesteads might have installed. A lot of the times these systems are tied directly to the homeowner’s propane tank so there is no worry about feeding gas every few hours. While these units are convenient, they are also very expensive. Depending on the system you could easily spend five to eight-thousand dollars. If you throw in the installation by a professional electrician then you could be looking at over ten-thousand dollars all in.

Depending on your needs a portable system would be cheaper, but it would not be automatic. You would still need to haul it out, hook it up, etc to get it running. The choice is up to you.

Duromax XP12000EH Portable Generator

Let’s take a look at our top picks:

DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator

  • This DuroMax unit is known as ‘The Beast,’ and I can see why. It comes in at a whopping twelve-thousand starting watts. That’s a whole lot of power, especially for a portable generator.
  • This product comes with two-hundred and forty volt hookups and can be connected to your home via a manual transfer switch.
  • Like other models we’ve gone over, this unit is a dual fuel system. You can use either gasoline or propane. Again, I prefer the propane method.
  • At fifty percent capacity the run time on gasoline fuel is rated at around ten hours. With propane the run time is measured at twenty hours. Yes, you heard right. Twenty hours!
  • You also get a host of other options such as the low oil emergency shut-off, low oil warning light, muffler to reduce noise, and a heavy duty frame to ensure durability.
  • Just so you are aware, I want to warn you about the weight of this product. It comes in at over two-hundred and fifty pounds.  It does come with wheels, but it will still be difficult to move around due to it’s size.

A-iPower 12,000 Watt Portable Generator

  • Like our previous model, this A-iPower system comes in at twelve-thousand starting watts and nine-thousand running watts.
  • This product comes with two-hundred and forty volt hookups and can be connected to your home via a manual transfer switch.
  • You get a seven gallon all steel fuel tank that can provide a run-time of up to nine hours on fifty percent capacity.
  • A host of other features are included such as GFCI outlet protection, electric starter, and a protective cover to conceal and cover any wires and electronics.
  • Remember how I talked about weight on the previous unit? Well, the same can be said on this one  as well. The good side though is that this unit is about sixty pounds lighter AND it has NEVER flat wheels so moving this thing around is a lot easier.

Generac 7043 22,000 Standby Generator

  • And you thought twelve-thousand watts were big! This standby generator from Generac comes in at twenty-two-thousand watts.
  • This unit includes a smart home transfer switch.
  • You also get a tough and durable aluminum casing around your generator to ensure maximum durability.
  • Generac stand behind their products with a five year limited warranty. That’s the highest warranty I’ve seen so far on a generator.
  • Please note that standby generators need to be professionally installed by a trained electrician.

Construction Site

This is a smaller market but I thought I would mention it here anyways. It could be construction or at another job site where you need power. Most of the time this power is needed to run power tools. Because of this, the wattage needed can vary wildly. In our generator sizing article we got into the differences between starting watts and running watts, but I’ll briefly cover it here as well.

Starting watts are how many watts it takes to start your appliance or power tool. Typically you’ll see these with applications that have motors or compressors in them. These starting watts measure how much power it takes to fully start up your tool. While you will only need starting watts for a short time your generator will need to be able to have sufficient power to support the starting watts. Running watts are just that, how many watts it takes to run your tool or application. Normally, this won’t change once the application has been started but there are some exceptions such as a compressor turning off and on during normal running.

This is why it is so difficult to gauge an adequate construction site generator without knowing exactly what types of tools and applications that will be used. If you are looking for a generator for these purposes then I highly suggest you sit down and make a list of exactly what you will be using and what their running and starting watts are.

Once you have this information you can then add everything up and determine exactly what sized generator you need. Also, please note that with whatever number you came up with it is always safest to add an additional ten or fifteen percent so that you have some leeway in your total wattage.

Conclusion

Alright folks, we have gone through the sizing requirements for generators, what features to look for, what safety guidelines to follow, and what applications you may need. Along with all that we covered our top picks in each category. Our goal here was to make the most comprehensive generator guide on the internet today and I have to say, I think we did it. If you do find yourself having additional questions on generators feel free to reach out to us.

Lastly, I want to make clear that while generators can be a very resourceful tool they can also be dangerous. When installing and using these machines please ensure that all safety requirements are met and followed. While we here at ToughAssTools have given advice and recommendations on which generators to choose from we are not liable for any future safety concerns or injuries.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question Marks

A generator is one of those things that you just don’t think about until you really need it. They are amazing tools and can help you out of a sticky situation like a prolonged power loss. They can also provide some needed light during a camping trip, or they can give you that extra power you need for your camper. Whatever your reason is for needing a generator you should know that they come in all different types, sizes, and features. Because of all of these options a consumer can easily be overwhelmed with what to choose.

In this article we’re going to build the ultimate buying guide when it comes to portable generators. Our goal here is to inform you, the customer, with as much knowledge as you would ever need to know. So, when it comes to time to make that all important purchase decision you are armed with the best data and facts. I am a big analytical guy and I always like to have the facts on my side before I make a decision. Without further delay, let’s take a look at what you need to know before purchasing a generator:

Determining The Application

First and foremost before we even get into the sizing of your generator I want to ask you a question as to what your goal is with your generator. By answering this question to yourself you will be able to get a fairly firm idea of what type of generator you are looking for, what size you need, and what appliances you can expect to run off of it.

What is your primary goal for purchasing a generator?

  • Camping, Outdoors, & RV Usage?
    • If so, then you are going to want some of the lower power models between two-thousand and three-thousand watts. In some cases you may even look at power inverters. Power inverters have less power then your standard generators but they are much quieter and are also usually quite a bit cheaper. You can check out a few power inverters on Amazon by clicking here, or if you want to get that extra power from a portable generator then continue on reading.
  • Alternative Power for Some Appliances In Your Home?
    • These are our medium grade portable generators. These are the type of units that you would purchase during a power loss event at your home rather it be due to a blizzard, ice storm, hurricane, tornado, or whatever. Depending on your needs these units can go from two-thousand watts all the way up to nine-thousand watts. It all depends on what you need for your home. I’ll get more into sizing and watts in the next section.
  • Alternative Power for Your Whole Home?
    • This is where we get into the big dogs of generators. Notice how I didn’t say portable generators, but instead just generators. That’s because as we get into these large wattage needs of maintaining your whole home there are two solutions. You have your portable generators like we’ve discussed but you also have what’s known as your standby generators. Standby generators are your larger immobile professional generators. These units restore power automatically within only a few seconds of a power loss. They are the best of the best, and because of that they come with a hefty price tag. One of the best standby generator brands in the industry is Generac. They provide top quality products, an example can be found by clicking here. Be aware that if you purchase one of these that you will need to pay for a professional installation service as well. This can be an additional thousand dollars or so depending on your situation and installer.
    • Please note, that portable generators will work in these whole home power situations as well, up to a certain amount. Most portables only go up to around nine or ten-thousand watts. So, if you’re needing more power then that you may consider a standby system.

What Size Generator Do I Need?

One of the most important factor that you need to consider when purchasing a generator is what size of unit that you need. A generator’s power is measured in watts. The higher the watts the more power your unit will have. These portable generators can be as low as five-hundred watts or as high as forty-thousand watts. It all depends on what you need your generator for. Whatever your case is for getting a generator you should always take the time and care to acquire the right sized unit for your needs.

Now, the best way to determine the right wattage requirements is to simply add the watts of each appliance/product that you want to use during your power outage and then add them all up for your total amount. (This guide from Amazon helps give you watt estimates on certain appliances). Most small and regular sized appliances will have stickers or labels on them telling you exactly how many watts they take. If you notice that your appliance doesn’t have a wattage rating on it but instead has a volts and amperage don’t worry. We can still find the amount of watts that are needed. All you have to do is take the number of volts times the number of amperage. As an example, let’s say you have an appliance that takes one-hundred and ten volts and and five amps. Let’s do the math:

110 volts * 5 amps = 550 watts.

If you go this route, please be aware that some products have a cycle on process when being turned on. During this cycle on they may need additional wattage and then cycle back down to their normal watt usage. There are whats called starting watts and running watts. Starting watts, also known as surge watts, are how much power it will take to turn your system on whereas a running watt is how much continuous power it will take to maintain your system rather it be an air conditioner, oven, or whatever. Just like before when looking at watts of your appliance you can find starting and running watts either on a label on your appliance, on the instruction manual, or online at the manufacturer’s website. Some example appliances that have different starting and running watts are your refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and well pumps.

Wen 56200i Portable Generator
Wen 56200i Portable Generator

If you run the mistake of not accounting for starting watts and just add up your running watts you can easily short out your generator and damage your system. If you are lucky your generator has a automatic shut-off switch to prevent damage. Even though this starting cycle process only takes a few seconds you will still need that extra power to get the unit running. If you find that you cannot find the exact starting watts on your system, you can usually make an estimate by taking two to three times the running watts number.

Along with calculating all of the watts that are required it is also recommended to take that number of watts and add an additional ten or twenty percent. This increase in watts gives you some leeway when using your generator and also allows for a margin of error if you ended up missing something or pulled the wrong wattage on a unit.

To make things simpler we’re going to give a quick estimate of watts and what can be used. Please note that this is an estimate and it is best to add your wattage like we mentioned above.

  • 2,000-3,000 Watts – This is enough for a refrigerator, a computer or two, some lights, and a few phone chargers. This is also what most people use when going on camping trips and for their campers or RVs. Please note that while this size works for most campers and RVs, if you plan to power your air conditioner as well then you will need to go quite a bit higher in watts to ensure you have the proper capacity.
  • 4,000-5,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you can also add a clothes washer and dryer.
  • 6,000-8,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you would have enough power to turn on your furnace.
  • 9,000 Watts & Up – Here is where we move out of the portable generator territory and head over to the standby units. Most people won’t need a size this high, especially if they are just getting through a couple of days while their power comes back on. However, if you are looking to power your whole home then you may want to look at a full standby generator and having it wired directly to your home.

Lastly, please note that when looking at generators there are two numbers that you’ll notice. The first is known as the ‘Maximum Power.’ The maximum power is the very max power output that the generator can produce. This maximum level can usually only maintain for about a half-hour. The second measurement is known as ‘Rated Power.’ The rated power is around ninety percent of the generator’s full power. This power level can be maintained for much longer periods of time. When looking for the perfect sized portable generator then you definitely want to review the rated power rather than the maximum power.

Generator Product Features

Ok folks, after the last two sections I am sure that you have a pretty good idea of what sized generator you are looking for. The question now though is what features are you looking for on your generator? Are you wanting the best of the best? Or, do you want a lower end model that will get the job done? The section below is going to go through each of the top features that can be found on generators and what our thoughts are on them.

It is very important to remember that these features aren’t mandatory. It is completely up to you. If you want to get a generator with no wheels, a ripcord pull, and no fuel gauge then by all means you do just that! On the other hand, if you’re looking to spend a bit more money then you may spend some time and consider these extra features.


Number/Type of Outlets

One of the first features that we need to take into consideration is how many outlets and what type of outlets that comes with your generator. The first thing to ask yourself is do you need any two-hundred and forty volt outlets? Machines or appliances that take volts this large are usually your ovens, dryers, furnaces, and air conditioners. If you are just looking to keep your refrigerator, some lights, and maybe your phones charged during an outage then you don’t need to worry about the two-hundred and forty volt outlets. In this example you can stick with the basic appliances that take your one-hundred and twenty volt outlets.

However, if you do want to end up powering these appliances as well as other areas of your home then the two-hundred and forty volt outlet is a necessity. Most of the time portable generators, especially the lower wattage ones, will just come with one-hundred and twenty volts. Be sure to pay attention when purchasing if you need that extra power. Speaking of the extra power, come to find out larger generators generate two-hundred and forty volts constantly but divide it up as necessary to get to that one-hundred and twenty volt.

Depending on what your goal is for your generator you may want to have a thirty or fifty amp outlet as well. These can be used for connection with a manual transfer switch. A manual transfer switch will connect your generator directly to your main circuit breaker. Once it is connected you are then able to power hard-wired appliances like your furnace, sump pump, and even an air conditioner. Please note that it is best to leave installing a manual transfer switch to a professional electrician to ensure that the install is done correctly and safely. Lastly, if you are going to be purchasing a manual transfer switch for your generator you will need to make sure that your generator has the power for two-hundred and forty volts.


Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI)

GFCI Outlet
GFCI Outlets

This relates back to the outlets, but I wanted to give it it’s own section. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupts, or GFCIs, are very common in most households nowadays. If you are not familiar with them, you should be able to find an example in your kitchen. These devices help to protect users from receiving electric shocks due to faults either in the electrical devices or the outlet itself. Along with that, they also aid in preventing fire by arcing faults in damaged electrical wires. I remember my GCFI kept going off for an old coffee maker that I had. I’d start the coffee and within a few seconds the coffee maker would shut off and the GFCI would pop out. At the time I was getting frustrated, but there was something obviously wrong with the coffee maker and the GFCI was trying to tell me. I currently don’t have these installed in my kitchen right now. It’s on my to do list, but frankly I just haven’t had the time to get to it yet.

GFCIs provide the same protections on generators. While these protections are nice in your home, I consider them crucial for generators. The reason for that is that if you have your generator running outside next to some snow and that snow somehow melts and gets into your generator and the outlets of your generator there is a major problem. We all know what happens when water and electricity meet. Think about if it starts to rain or snow while your generator is running. Having a GFCI switch installed on your generator will automatically shut the power and system off the moment it detects electrical currents outside the normal path which in this case would be the moisture from the snow and rain.

Having these installed on your portable generator can literally be a lifesaver. Without these there is risk of electrocution to you and others. With a GFCI installed your unit will trip and then it will be up to you to diagnose the problem. At least in that scenario the system is off and you can make the proper safety determination.


Electric Starter

There is nothing worse then having a tool with a rip cord that just won’t start. I have this old weed whacker in my shed that I’m too cheap to replace. I have the hardest damn time trying to get the thing started. I’ll pump the gas into the engine and then I will start ripping away on that rip cord. Each time I’m hoping and hoping that the thing will start. After who knows how many tries my arm starts to get tired and I’m starting to get frustrated. Most of the time it starts and if it doesn’t I just decide that I’m not going to be weed whacking that day. (That may be after I throw the thing across the shed.)

Now imagine that above scenario but with your generator. This time instead of whacking the weeds you have your family inside an ever increasing cold home. They are expecting you to get the generator started so that the furnace can come back on. Would you like to be out there in the cold pulling the rip cord again and again just to get the thing to start? Or, would you prefer to have an electric starter installed and have the system kick on with just the press of a button? I know what I would choose.

Having an electric starter on your generator will absolve you of this problem, or at least make it easier. It is a hell of a lot easier to just press a button then to pull that rip cord over and over again. I’m all for making things easier. What was that old Staples commercial? You know, the one with the Easy button? That’s what you’ll get with the electric starter.

Now, electric starters aren’t perfect either. Everything has a downside. In this case the electric motors are powered by batteries and if your battery is dead then you are out of luck. That is why it’s best to routinely check the batteries on your generator, but if you do run into that situation where your batteries are dead and you need to get your engine going you will find that some generator models come with both an electric start and a rip cord start. This allows you to bypass the electric start if you need to. Having both options is the ideal, but if you have to settle with one or the other I would choose the electric starter.


Fuel Type, Tank Size, & Fuel Gauge

You may not even be thinking about the fuel type for your generator. In fact, you may be thinking what most everyone does and assume that the generator that you are looking at takes gasoline. Well, you would be correct in most accounts. The majority of the time your standard portable generators will take the standard eighty-seven unleaded gasoline that you can find at any gas station. While that’s true, there are always exceptions to the rule. The first one that I can think of is a standard portable generator that takes propane tanks. Yes, that’s right. The very same propane tanks that you use for your grill can be used for your generator. This is a bit less common then gasoline so if this is what you are looking for be sure that you are purchasing the right type of generator.

As you get into the larger portable generators and into the standby generators you will find that your choice of options increases. Instead of being limited to standard vehicle gasoline you will also have access to natural gas and to propane. I mention propane and natural gas again because with these larger systems you can actually hook them directly up to your existing propane eight-hundred gallon tanks or to your natural gas line. (In both cases please have trained professionals do these hook ups for you. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any mistakes or injuries.)

If you find that you have a standard gasoline generator but you want it to take propane or natural gas there are conversion kits out there as well. I won’t get too far into this here, but just be aware that there are ways to convert your generator over to a different fuel source. Again, be sure to follow all documented instructions and consul with a professional if needed.

Something else to consider here when it comes to fuel is the size of the fuel tank. If you are using a standard gasoline model generator what size fuel tank do you want? If you get one that’s too small then you are going to be out there every hour or so adding fuel to the generator. However, if you get one that’s too large then the size and weight of the generator goes up exponentially. There is a fine line when it comes to fuel tank sizes. When purchasing a generator be sure to pay careful attention to the size of the tank and also how long that tank is rated to last.

Speaking of fuel, the last thing I want to mention in this category is the necessity of a fuel gauge. It is something so simple that a lot of folks don’t even think about it. But without this, how are you going to know where you stand on your fuel? Let’s say your system has been running for a few hours and you want to check how much fuel or time you have left. With the gauge this is  quick glance of the eye. Without the gauge, it’s nearly impossible to gauge how much fuel is left in the system.


Wheels, or Lack Thereof

This is another thing that a lot of people tend to look over. They see the name portable and just assume that the system is easily portable. The problem here though is that not all of these portable generators come with a set of wheels and as you go up in wattage size and fuel tank size you will find that some of these units can easily weigh over two-hundred pounds. Now picture yourself lugging around a two-hundred pound machine without wheels. For a lot of folks, that’s just not even possible. If you get suckered into purchasing one of these systems without wheels you will find that you have to pay separately for the wheels and those wheels may end up costing you an additional one-hundred dollars. Make sure that the unit you buy has wheels and is also easily portable and movable from location to location.


Low Oil Engine Shut-Off

In an earlier section we talked about the GFCI switch automatically shutting your generator off due to electrical currents moving outside the designated path. Well in this section we’re going to cover another emergency shut-off. This time instead of looking at the electricity section of the generator we will be focusing on the engine. What do all engines need? Yes, you guessed it. Oil. Without oil an engine will fail to lubricate and will eventually seize up entirely.

With generators you want a unit that comes with an emergency engine oil shut-off mechanism. This addition actively checks the oil on your machine and determines if the oil is too low. If it falls below the designated level then your generator will automatically shut-off and will give you a warning sign on the generator stating that you need to add oil. This switch and notification are designed to prevent your generator from seizing up and causing catastrophic failure to your system.

DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator

The rule of thumb when it comes to checking the oil levels of your generator is to do it at the very same time you are refueling your system. If you make it a habit and check it during each refuel then you shouldn’t have a problem. But, if you do have a problem and you begin to loose oil it is great to know that you have the shut-off switch as an emergency back up to protect your investment.

ToughAssTools’ Top Generator Picks

Here at ToughAssTool’s we take our product recommendations seriously. We do our research, as you can see with all of the above content. We figured it only suiting that at the tail end of this article we would take the time and give you some of our product recommendations. These are not all the best generators on the market, but instead just a select few that we have chosen from our Amaszon.com partner that really stood out to us for one reason or another.

  • WEN’s Portable Inverter/Generator
    • This unit comes in three different wattage sizes on Amazon.com: Twelve-hundred and fifty watts, two-thousand watts, and thirty-one hundred watts. This is the type of unit that I would recommend for your camping trips, RV excursions, or other rural areas where you just need that power. I would not recommend this for home power back up as the wattage is just too low. Sure, you can power a few things hooked directly to the generator, but there’s not enough power for a manual transfer switch.
  • Champion 7500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
    • This Champion model is a perfect in between generator for those that need more power then a camping/RV setup but also for those who aren’t looking to power their whole home. This Champion model comes in at seventy-five hundred watts and over nine-thousand starting watts. This gives you enough power to get that important transfer switch installed. Along with that you get your electric starter, dual fuel of propane/gasoline, a low oil shut off sensor, and a three year warranty.
  • DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
    • This portable generator comes in at over twelve-thousand watts. That is an impressive and rare number, especially for a portable system. Typically, you see portables start to go away once you go over that ten-thousand watt mark and be replaced by standby systems. The system is also dual fuel compatible with both propane and gasoline. The run time is what caught my attention though. At fifty percent power this unit will run for ten hours on gasoline and at twenty hours on propane. (Remember, these numbers are based off of fifty percent power.)
    • At this point in the wattage size you may consider going with a standby generator like we mentioned earlier from Generac. Generac’s official website can be found by clicking here.

Conclusion

Well folks, if you stuck with me throughout this article then I congratulate you. You’ve made it to the end! I realize this may have been a rather long post but I can assure you that every bit of this information was necessary. I mentioned this in the beginning of this article, but I am firm believer of having all of the information and facts on your side before purchasing. I’m hoping that this article has done just that for you.

Lastly, if you are going to be purchasing and running your own generator I highly recommend you check out our generator safety guide. This will go over the best Do’s and Do Not’s when setting up and running your new generator.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

For those of you who always want to be prepared and ready for whatever that can be thrown at you, or for those of you who are hunkering down in advance of a large storm heading your way a portable generator is a must to ensure that you have an alternative source of power. You never know what’s going to happen when riding out a storm and having a generator on hand as a back up can give you that rest of mind if your power begins to flicker.

Even if you aren’t expecting a large storm a lot of folks like to just have a generator on hand for those just in case scenarios. But, the question is what should you be looking for in a generator? What size do you need? What features do you need to look for? What other factors need to be considered before purchasing? In this article we’re going to do a deep dive on generators and some of the best features that they have to offer to consumers. This will be a long read, but I assure you folks that it’ll be worth your time if you are seriously considering purchasing a portable generator.

Wattage & Size of the Generator

First and foremost, the most important factor that you need to consider when purchasing a generator is what size of unit that you need. A generator’s power is measured in watts. The higher the watts the more power your unit will have. These portable generators can be as low as five-hundred watts or as high as forty-thousand watts. It all depends on what you need your generator for. Whatever your case is for getting a generator you should always take the time and care to acquire the right sized unit for your needs.

Now, the best way to determine the right wattage requirements is to simply add the watts of each appliance/product that you want to use during your power outage and then add them all up for your total amount. (This guide from Amazon helps give you watt estimates on certain appliances). Most small and regular sized appliances will have stickers or labels on them telling you exactly how many watts they take. If you notice that your appliance doesn’t have a wattage rating on it but instead has a volts and amperage don’t worry. We can still find the amount of watts that are needed. All you have to do is take the number of volts times the number of amperage. As an example, let’s say you have an appliance that takes one-hundred and ten volts and and five amps. Let’s do the math:

110 volts * 5 amps = 550 watts.

If you go this route, please be aware that some products have a cycle on process when being turned on. During this cycle on they may need additional wattage and then cycle back down to their normal watt usage. There are whats called starting watts and running watts. Starting watts, also known as surge watts, are how much power it will take to turn your system on whereas a running watt is how much continuous power it will take to maintain your system rather it be an air conditioner, oven, or whatever. Just like before when looking at watts of your appliance you can find starting and running watts either on a label on your appliance, on the instruction manual, or online at the manufacturer’s website. Some example appliances that have different starting and running watts are your refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and well pumps.

Wen 56200i Portable Generator
Wen 56200i Portable Generator

If you run the mistake of not accounting for starting watts and just add up your running watts you can easily short out your generator and damage your system. If you are lucky your generator has a automatic shut-off switch to prevent damage. Even though this starting cycle process only takes a few seconds you will still need that extra power to get the unit running. If you find that you cannot find the exact starting watts on your system, you can usually make an estimate by taking two to three times the running watts number.

Along with calculating all of the watts that are required it is also recommended to take that number of watts and add an additional ten or twenty percent. This increase in watts gives you some leeway when using your generator and also allows for a margin of error if you ended up missing something or pulled the wrong wattage on a unit.

To make things simpler we’re going to give a quick estimate of watts and what can be used. Please note that this is an estimate and it is best to add your wattage like we mentioned above.

  • 2,000-3,000 Watts – This is enough for a refrigerator, a computer or two, some lights, and a few phone chargers. This is also what most people use when going on camping trips and for their campers or RVs. Please note that while this size works for most campers and RVs, if you plan to power your air conditioner as well then you will need to go quite a bit higher in watts to ensure you have the proper capacity.
  • 4,000-5,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you can also add a clothes washer and dryer.
  • 6,000-8,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you would have enough power to turn on your furnace.
  • 9,000 Watts & Up – Here is where we move out of the portable generator territory and head over to the standby units. Most people won’t need a size this high, especially if they are just getting through a couple of days while their power comes back on. However, if you are looking to power your whole home then you may want to look at a full standby generator and having it wired directly to your home.

Lastly, please note that when looking at generators there are two numbers that you’ll notice. The first is known as the ‘Maximum Power.’ The maximum power is the very max power output that the generator can produce. This maximum level can usually only maintain for about a half-hour. The second measurement is known as ‘Rated Power.’ The rated power is around ninety percent of the generator’s full power. This power level can be maintained for much longer periods of time. When looking for the perfect sized portable generator then you definitely want to review the rated power rather than the maximum power.

Number/Type of Outlets

Alright, so we have got the size of the generator that we need hammered down. Something else that needs to be taken into consideration though is how many outlets and what type of outlets that comes with your generator. The first thing to ask yourself is do you need any two-hundred and forty volt outlets? Machines or appliances that take volts this large are usually your ovens, dryers, furnaces, and air conditioners. If you are just looking to keep your refrigerator, some lights, and maybe your phones charged during an outage then you don’t need to worry about the two-hundred and forty volt outlets. In this example you can stick with the basic appliances that take your one-hundred and twenty volt outlets.

However, if you do want to end up powering these appliances as well as other areas of your home then the two-hundred and forty volt outlet is a necessity. Most of the time portable generators, especially the lower wattage ones, will just come with one-hundred and twenty volts. Be sure to pay attention when purchasing if you need that extra power. Speaking of the extra power, come to find out larger generators generate two-hundred and forty volts constantly but divide it up as necessary to get to that one-hundred and twenty volt.

Depending on what your goal is for your generator you may want to have a thirty or fifty amp outlet as well. These can be used for connection with a manual transfer switch. A manual transfer switch will connect your generator directly to your main circuit breaker. Once it is connected you are then able to power hard-wired appliances like your furnace, sump pump, and even an air conditioner. Please note that it is best to leave installing a manual transfer switch to a professional electrician to ensure that the install is done correctly and safely.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI)

GFCI Outlet
GFCI Outlets

This relates back to the outlets, but I wanted to give it it’s own section. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupts, or GFCIs, are very common in most households nowadays. If you are not familiar with them, you should be able to find an example in your kitchen. These devices help to protect users from receiving electric shocks due to faults either in the electrical devices or the outlet itself. Along with that, they also aid in preventing fire by arcing faults in damaged electrical wires. I remember my GCFI kept going off for an old coffee maker that I had. I’d start the coffee and within a few seconds the coffee maker would shut off and the GFCI would pop out. At the time I was getting frustrated, but there was something obviously wrong with the coffee maker and the GFCI was trying to tell me.

GFCIs provide the same protections on generators. While these protections are nice in your home, I consider them crucial for generators. The reason for that is that if you have your generator running outside next to some snow and that snow somehow melts and gets into your generator and the outlets of your generator there is a major problem. We all know what happens when water and electricity meet. Think about if it starts to rain or snow while your generator is running. Having a GFCI switch installed on your generator will automatically shut the power and system off the moment it detects electrical currents outside the normal path which in this case would be the moisture from the snow and rain.

Having these installed on your portable generator can literally be a lifesaver. Without these there is risk of electrocution to you and others. With a GFCI installed your unit will trip and then it will be up to you to diagnose the problem. At least in that scenario the system is off and you can make the proper safety determination.

Electric Starter

I have this weed whacker that takes forever to start up. I pull the damn rip cord over and over again while pumping gas into the engine. It usually takes a good ten to fifteen times for it to finally kick on. This stuff drives me crazy and it kills my arm. Now imagine going through that stress of pulling the rip cord over and over again but this time with your generator. This time your family is waiting inside for the power to come back on and you are out in the cold and rain trying to get the darned thing to even start.

Having an electric starter on your generator will absolve you of this problem, or at least make it easier. It is a hell of a lot easier to just press a button then to pull that rip cord over and over again. I’m all for making things easier. What was that old Staples commercial? You know, the one with the Easy button? That’s what you’ll get with the electric starter.

Now, electric starters aren’t perfect either. Everything has a downside. In this case the electric motors are powered by batteries and if your battery is dead then you are out of luck. That is why it’s best to routinely check the batteries on your generator, but if you do run into that situation where your batteries are dead and you need to get your engine going you will find that some generator models come with both an electric start and a rip cord start. This allows you to bypass the electric start if you need to. Having both options is the ideal, but if you have to settle with one or the other I would choose the electric starter.

Fuel Type, Tank Size, & Fuel Gauge

You may not even be thinking about the fuel type for your generator. In fact, you may be thinking what most everyone does and assume that the generator that you are looking at takes gasoline. Well, you would be correct in most accounts. The majority of the time your standard portable generators will take the standard eighty-seven unleaded gasoline that you can find at any gas station. While that’s true, there are always exceptions to the rule. The first one that I can think of is a standard portable generator that takes propane tanks. Yes, that’s right. The very same propane tanks that you use for your grill can be used for your generator. This is a bit less common then gasoline so if this is what you are looking for be sure that you are purchasing the right type of generator.

As you get into the larger portable generators and into the standby generators you will find that your choice of options increases. Instead of being limited to standard vehicle gasoline you will also have access to natural gas and to propane. I mention propane and natural gas again because with these larger systems you can actually hook them directly up to your existing propane eight-hundred gallon tanks or to your natural gas line. (In both cases please have trained professionals do these hook ups for you. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any mistakes or injuries.)

If you find that you have a standard gasoline generator but you want it to take propane or natural gas there are conversion kits out there as well. I won’t get too far into this here, but just be aware that there are ways to convert your generator over to a different fuel source. Again, be sure to follow all documented instructions and consul with a professional if needed.

Something else to consider here when it comes to fuel is the size of the fuel tank. If you are using a standard gasoline model generator what size fuel tank do you want? If you get one that’s too small then you are going to be out there every hour or so adding fuel to the generator. However, if you get one that’s too large then the size and weight of the generator goes up exponentially. There is a fine line when it comes to fuel tank sizes. When purchasing a generator be sure to pay careful attention to the size of the tank and also how long that tank is rated to last.

Speaking of fuel, the last thing I want to mention in this category is the necessity of a fuel gauge. It is something so simple that a lot of folks don’t even think about it. But without this, how are you going to know where you stand on your fuel? Let’s say your system has been running for a few hours and you want to check how much fuel or time you have left. With the gauge this is  quick glance of the eye. Without the gauge, it’s nearly impossible to gauge how much fuel is left in the system.

Wheels

This is another thing that a lot of people tend to look over. They see the name portable and just assume that the system is easily portable. The problem here though is that not all of these portable generators come with a set of wheels and as you go up in wattage size and fuel tank size you will find that some of these units can easily weigh over two-hundred pounds. Now picture yourself lugging around a two-hundred pound machine without wheels. For a lot of folks, that’s just not even possible. If you get suckered into purchasing one of these systems without wheels you will find that you have to pay separately for the wheels and those wheels may end up costing you an additional one-hundred dollars. Make sure that the unit you buy has wheels and is also easily portable and movable from location to location.

Low Oil Engine Shut-Off

In an earlier section we talked about the GFCI switch automatically shutting your generator off due to electrical currents moving outside the designated path. Well in this section we’re going to cover another emergency shut-off. This time instead of looking at the electricity section of the generator we will be focusing on the engine. What do all engines need? Yes, you guessed it. Oil. Without oil an engine will fail to lubricate and will eventually seize up entirely.

With generators you want a unit that comes with an emergency engine oil shut-off mechanism. This addition actively checks the oil on your machine and determines if the oil is too low. If it falls below the designated level then your generator will automatically shut-off and will give you a warning sign on the generator stating that you need to add oil. This switch and notification are designed to prevent your generator from seizing up and causing catastrophic failure to your system.

The rule of thumb when it comes to checking the oil levels of your generator is to do it at the very same time you are refueling your system. If you make it a habit and check it during each refuel then you shouldn’t have a problem. But, if you do have a problem and you begin to loose oil it is great to know that you have the shut-off switch as an emergency back up to protect your investment.

Conclusion

Well ladies and gentlemen that about covers it for ToughAssTool’s must have features on your portable generators. I hope that this guide was helpful and that it was able to provide some insight on what to look for when you are purchasing generators. I would also like to take this time to inform you of our Generator Safety Guide article which can be found by clicking here. This article goes into all of the Do’s and Do Not’s of running a generator.

If you find that you are interested in purchasing a portable generator then I would recommend you pay a visit to our Amazon.com partner and take a look at all of the generators they have to offer. Their sizes range from one-thousand watts to over ten-thousand watts. Their review system also makes things very easy to understand how each product is rated by everyday consumers like yourself.

Lastly, please note that this article was a guide and meant as advice. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage, injuries, or other scenarios resulting in the installation, running, or setup of portable generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

 

Question

Ok, so you’re looking to purchase a generator for your home or camping trip but you are just not sure exactly what size you need. I understand completely. Even just doing a simple search on Amazon.com we can find hundred of matches all that seem to be at a different size. Should you get a two-thousand watt system or a ten-thousand watt? Where do you even begin? Well, in this article we’re going to take the time to go through exactly how to size your generator for your needs. Without further ague, let’s dig in!

The most important factor that you need to consider when purchasing a generator is what size of unit that you need. A generator’s power is measured in watts. The higher the watts the more power your unit will have. These portable generators can be as low as five-hundred watts or as high as forty-thousand watts. It all depends on what you need your generator for. Whatever your case is for getting a generator you should always take the time and care to acquire the right sized unit for your needs.

Now, the best way to determine the right wattage requirements is to simply add the watts of each appliance/product that you want to use during your power outage and then add them all up for your total amount. (This guide from Amazon helps give you watt estimates on certain appliances.) Most small and regular sized appliances will have stickers or labels on them telling you exactly how many watts they take. If you notice that your appliance doesn’t have a wattage rating on it but instead has a volts and amperage don’t worry. We can still find the amount of watts that are needed. All you have to do is take the number of volts times the number of amperage. As an example, let’s say you have an appliance that takes one-hundred and ten volts and and five amps. Let’s do the math:

110 volts * 5 amps = 550 watts.

If you go this route, please be aware that some products have a cycle on process when being turned on. During this cycle on they may need additional wattage and then cycle back down to their normal watt usage. There are whats called starting watts and running watts. Starting watts, also known as surge watts, are how much power it will take to turn your system on whereas a running watt is how much continuous power it will take to maintain your system rather it be an air conditioner, oven, or whatever. Just like before when looking at watts of your appliance you can find starting and running watts either on a label on your appliance, on the instruction manual, or online at the manufacturer’s website. Some example appliances that have different starting and running watts are your refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and well pumps.

Wen 56200i Portable Generator
Wen 56200i Portable Generator

If you run the mistake of not accounting for starting watts and just add up your running watts you can easily short out your generator and damage your system. If you are lucky your generator has a automatic shut-off switch to prevent damage. Even though this starting cycle process only takes a few seconds you will still need that extra power to get the unit running. If you find that you cannot find the exact starting watts on your system, you can usually make an estimate by taking two to three times the running watts number.

Along with calculating all of the watts that are required it is also recommended to take that number of watts and add an additional ten or twenty percent. This increase in watts gives you some leeway when using your generator and also allows for a margin of error if you ended up missing something or pulled the wrong wattage on a unit.

To make things simpler we’re going to give a quick estimate of watts and what can be used. Please note that this is an estimate and it is best to add your wattage like we mentioned above.

  • 2,000-3,000 Watts – This is enough for a refrigerator, a computer or two, some lights, and a few phone chargers. This is also what most people use when going on camping trips and for their campers or RVs. Please note that while this size works for most campers and RVs, if you plan to power your air conditioner as well then you will need to go quite a bit higher in watts to ensure you have the proper capacity.
  • 4,000-5,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you can also add a clothes washer and dryer.
  • 6,000-8,000 Watts – Along with what we mentioned above you would have enough power to turn on your furnace.
  • 9,000 Watts & Up – Here is where we move out of the portable generator territory and head over to the standby units. Most people won’t need a size this high, especially if they are just getting through a couple of days while their power comes back on. However, if you are looking to power your whole home then you may want to look at a full standby generator and having it wired directly to your home.

Lastly, please note that when looking at generators there are two numbers that you’ll notice. The first is known as the ‘Maximum Power.’ The maximum power is the very max power output that the generator can produce. This maximum level can usually only maintain for about a half-hour. The second measurement is known as ‘Rated Power.’ The rated power is around ninety percent of the generator’s full power. This power level can be maintained for much longer periods of time. When looking for the perfect sized portable generator then you definitely want to review the rated power rather than the maximum power.

 

Conclusion

Well folks I hope now that after reading this article you feel a lot more comfortable when it comes to looking at generators. If you find yourself still confused or you are having trouble finding the watts on your appliances feel free to reach out to me by visiting our contact page and we’ll do our best to help you through it. Please note, that this is a guide and the ultimate decision on the size of your generator is up to you.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools