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

No, no they cannot. In fact, you will find that most generator manufacturers have warnings on their products and on their instructions manuals explicitly saying that generators cannot operated in a wet or rainy environment. This includes snowed in areas as well. Let’s think about why this is for a moment. We all know what generators do. Their engine gives power to the alternator and the alternative generates electricity for your home. You then connect your extension cord to the generator to route the power back to your home.

Here’s the problem though folks. Water and electricity do not mix. If it is raining and your generator is out in it that water is inevitably going to get into the electrical outlet. That means that there is now a chance of electrocution. Depending on the model of generator that you have, yours may come with what’s known as a GFCI outlet. These outlets, known as a ground fault circuit interrupt, will automatically shut the generator off if water is detected within the system. Would you want to be the guy that has to go out and try and restart the generator if it shut down due to water being in the system? I certainly wouldn’t. Using, touching, or maintaining a generator that is wet can result in electrocution to the user. Generators can carry quite a bit of electricity so this electrocution risk should be taken very seriously.

For more safety suggestions and tips on generators please check out out Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. This guide goes into all of the safety precautions that should be taken into consideration before you setup and run your generator.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

 

Question

No! This is not safe and can result in tragic results. A lot of people do not realize that a generator emits the same kind of exhaust that a vehicle does. This exhaust is known as Carbon Monoxide and it is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas. Let me ask you a question, would you sit in your garage for an extended period of time with your car running? Of course not. After only a short while you would begin to feel the effects of the monoxide. The very same principle can be said when it comes to portable generators. Remember folks, that generators have engines too and they emit exhaust just like your car does. There are stories that I hear on the news of folks putting generators in their living room closets, in their basements, or garages. All of these can result in tragedy. It may not be convenient to setup your generator outside during the cold of an ice storm, but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary!

Let me ask you this, would you want to risk your family’s safety by assuming that the generator running in your garage is venting all of the monoxide outside and not into your home? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

Below is a quick Dos and Don’ts when it comes to running and placing your generator:

Do:

  1. The generator should be run outside of the building you are aiming to power.
  2. The generator should be at least fifteen feet away from the building. Some people recommend twenty feet, but use your best judgement here.
  3. The generator should be run in a dry and well ventilated area.
  4. The generator’s exhaust should be pointed AWAY from your home, garage, or whatever building you are trying to cool.
  5. When using a generator ensure that you have the carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home and that their batteries are up to date. In my family we have three to four portable monoxide detectors in each room to ensure that there are no accidents.

Do Not:

  1. Do NOT run a generator in your basement.
  2. Do NOT run a generator in your closet.
  3. Do NOT run a generator in your garage.
  4. Do NOT run a generator in your detached building.
  5. Do NOT run a generator inside your home with the windows open. The air flow from the windows is NOT enough to negate the carbon monoxide flooding your home.

If you suspect that you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning then exit the area immediately and either have someone take you to the hospital or call 911. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic symptoms of the Flu. These can be a dull headache, blurred vision, confusion, vomiting, dizziness, and overall weakness. Please be vigilant of these symptoms when using generators and have that portable carbon monoxide detector in the same room you are.

Lastly, if you want to read more about generator safety please check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

No! No, please do not do this. This is a very bad idea and can result in catastrophic results. Do NOT back-feed your generator back into your home. I repeat, do NOT back-feed your generator to your home. Back-feeding your generator is literally plugging your generator directly into your home’s power supply by using a two male ended cord.  These two sided male cords are often called ‘suicide cords.’

This is NOT the proper way to do this. By doing this and not turning off your main breaker you could permanently damage your generator when the power does come back on. There are stories of people’s generators bursting into flames because of this. A flaming generator is not a good thing because, you guessed it, it is holding multiple gallons of gasoline. In one such incident a back-fed generator caught on fire, exploded, and caught the user’s house on fire as well as his neighbor’s home. (Story can be found here.)

Along with the fire hazard of a back-fed generator you are also putting your local electric works at risk by dumping power back into the electric grid while workers are actively repairing. This can result in electrocution injuries and even death to emergency power line workers. If that’s not enough to steer you away from this then you should also know that this act is illegal.

If you plan to permanently connect your portable generator to your home’s electric system then the best and safest option is using a transfer switch or an interlock system. If you wish to purse this avenue then you will most likely need a permit and an inspection from your city or county. Along with that you will need the professional installation from a trained electrician to ensure that everything is setup correctly and safely.

For more safety information on generators please check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

First, let’s understand what generators are. A generator is an alternative source of power to your standard power grid. Generators are designed as a temporary solution or backup to your main power source. Or, in some instances they are used for power during camping trips. I won’t get too technical here, but the generator has an internal combustion engine that uses gasoline. This gasoline runs the engine and the engine gives power to the alternator within the generator. This alternator is what generates your electricity. This is very similar to how your car is able to obtain electricity when it is running. Once the electricity has been generated it’s as easy as just plugging your outlets into the generator.

Wen 56200i Portable Generator
Wen 56200i Portable Generator

There are two main types of generators your Standby Generators and your Portable Generators. Now, your portable systems are just that, portable. That means that they are much smaller then your typical standby unit which makes them much easier to move either around your property or on camping trips. The downside of portable generators is that they have much less power then a standby system. Most of the time you will see portable generators as the standby systems are much more expensive. For more information on the differences between the standby and the portable generators check out our article we wrote just a few day ago by clicking here.

Lastly, if you are interested in further reading on generators please check out ‘What Are Portable Generators Used For,’ article and our ‘Generator Safety Guide,’ article.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was able to answer your questions,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Portable generators can be used for just about anything. They are an extremely versatile tool, and as you guessed it, they are portable. That means that they can be taken anywhere with you as long as you have the space in your truck, car, or trailer. You are able to retrieve power and electricity rather you are stuck at your home during an ice storm or you are way out in the wilderness on an extended camping trip. The need for power could be getting back the use of a luxury item or it could mean having air conditioning during one of the hottest days of the year. Regardless of your need, generators can solve it.

Camping & Outdoors Usage

From my experience there are two main applications that people use these generators for. The first is the outdoors, camping, and RVing. These types of generators are smaller in watts and are towards the lower end in price. I picture these being used for a camping trip where someone needs to work on their computer, they need to charge phones, or they just want some flood lights up around the campsite during the night. Whatever the reason is, these generators will be able to provide it. All you will need to do once the unit is setup is occasionally refuel it with gasoline. Our ToughAssTool product pick is the WEN 56200i 2,000 watt generator. This product gives you the power you need during your camping trip while also not weighing too much and being difficult to carry around. (This model comes in at around fifty pounds.)

A friend of mine hosts an annual Fourth of July party on some land that they own south of the city. Each year, I swear, the party gets bigger and bigger. They typically have it an large open field with no buildings within sight. As the sun begins to set the area gets pitch black, or country dark, as we call it out here. To solve this, they brought out their portable generator and installed some flood lights around the buffet, seating area, and play area for the kids. The lights made this empty field look bright as day and allowed us to enjoy the night way into the evening all without having any power lines or homes nearby. This was all done by their portable generator. This is a great example of a camping or outdoors usage.

Another great example of these being used are in campgrounds and RVs. Now, depending on where you are you’ll find that some campgrounds do not allow generators to be run. This is mainly due to the noise that some models can make. They feel that it disturbs the tranquility of the nature environment. (I would agree with them there.) But, if you do find that you are in your RV and you need some extra power a generator may be right up your alley. Some of the nicer RV models out there have what’s called an auxiliary power unit, or APU, that accomplishes the same thing but not all of us can afford the top of the line models. A generator will give you the same results without having to buy the Cadillac model.

Westinghouse WGen5500
Westinghouse WGen5500

Home Usages

The other main usage that we see for portable generators are for your home. I don’t care where you are in the country, most everyone has experienced a prolong power failure in their lifetimes. The longest I had to suffer through was just a few days. My wife was telling me the other day where she had to go through two weeks without power as a child. I can’t even imagine that in today’s world. The cause of these power outages vary. They could be tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards, or even hurricanes.  Regardless of how it happened, power is needed back in your home rather it be for your refrigerator, your furnace, or even for medical equipment for an ailing family member.

Portable generators can solve this issue for you by offering you a power source while you wait for your power to be turned back on. One thing to mention though is as you get into powering your home or portions of your home the wattage needed will increase and increase. A typical campground generator may be a few thousand watts whereas a home unit may need five-thousand watts or more. I have included in this article a short guide below to help you determine what sized watts you need for your generator.

Here at ToughAssTools’ our product pick for your home portable generator is the Westinghouse’s WGen5500 generator. This product comes with a six gallon gas tank and an estimated thirteen hour run time. That means that you only have to refuel the thing twice a day. That’s a hell of a selling point when you are dealing with inclement weather and you dread having to go back outside to refuel your system.

Determining Watts

Now, the best way to determine the right wattage requirements for your needs is to simply add the watts of each appliance/product that you want to use during your power outage. 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.

To make things simple 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.
  • 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.

Conclusion

Alright folks, so now you have a good idea what these portable generators are used for and what benefits they have to offer. One last note that I want to mention before you finish reading this article is that before setting up your generator you should read our safety guide to ensure everything is setup correctly and safely. Safety is paramount when it comes to generators as if used incorrectly they can cause injuries or even death.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful to you,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Portable generators are a great tool to add to your collection. Most people don’t think much about generators until it comes time when they need one. My wife, who loves to plan for things like this, always says, ‘Be prepared.’ Having a generator on hand is a great way of being prepared for natural disasters that result in a prolonged power outage such as blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. They are also a great tool for those of you who live way out in the country like we do. When the power goes out where I am we know that the power is going to be out for a while. That’s just how the things work out here. The city gets preference over us country bumpkins.

While portable generators can be a lifesaver in the above situations they can also be quite dangerous. In fact, they can be deadly if the proper precautions are not taken. That is why I wanted to take the time today to write this article on generator safety. There are dozens of reported cases each winter of people being seriously injured or even dying due to them not using their generators properly. I want to prevent these incidents from occurring in the future by writing this article.

When it comes to generators there are three main safety precautions that need to be taken into consideration. Let’s take a look at these now:

Carbon Monoxide Hazard

Carbon monoxide is the most common problem found with generators. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that is emitted from engine exhaust. People do not realize that a generator emits the same kind of exhaust that a car or vehicle does. Would you sit in your garage with the door closed and your car running? Of course not. You would be overcome with carbon monoxide very shortly in this scenario. The very same thing can be said when it comes to generators. Remember, generators have engines too. There are stories that I hear on the news of folks putting generators in their living room closets, in their basements, or garages. All of these can result in tragic results. It may not be convenient to setup your generator outside during the cold of an ice storm, but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary!

Below is a quick Dos and Don’ts when it comes to running and placing your generator:

Do:

  1. The generator should be run outside of the building you are aiming to power.
  2. The generator should be at least fifteen feet away from the building. Some people recommend twenty feet, but use your best judgement here.
  3. The generator should be run in a dry and well ventilated area.
  4. The generator’s exhaust should be pointed AWAY from your home, garage, or whatever building you are trying to cool.
  5. When using a generator ensure that you have the carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home and that their batteries are up to date. In my family we have three to four portable monoxide detectors in each room to ensure that there are no accidents.

Do Not:

  1. Do NOT run a generator in your basement.
  2. Do NOT run a generator in your closet.
  3. Do NOT run a generator in your garage.
  4. Do NOT run a generator in your detached building.
  5. Do NOT run a generator inside your home with the windows open. The air flow from the windows is NOT enough to negate the carbon monoxide flooding your home.

If you suspect that you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning then exit the area immediately and either have someone take you to the hospital or call 911. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic symptoms of the Flu. These can be a dull headache, blurred vision, confusion, vomiting, dizziness, and overall weakness. Please be vigilant of these symptoms when using generators and have that portable carbon monoxide detector in the same room you are.

Fire Hazard

This is a small one and most of you who work with other machinery may know this already but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Generators need fuel and most of the time they take your standard eighty-seven octane gasoline. The problem occurs when you have to refill your generators fuel tank. Most generators will need to be refilled with gas every three to four hours. (Some can go upwards to six hours depending on the size of the tank.) When you go to refill your generator be sure to:

  • Turn the generator off entirely.
  • Wait for the engine and the rest of the unit to cool off.
  • Once it has been turned off you can then begin to refuel the tank.
  • When done refilling be sure to wipe up any spills that occurred during filling.

These steps are necessary to prevent the gasoline from accidentally igniting. Gas can ignite or catch fire if it comes in contact with a hot engine. By taking these steps mentioned above you avoid that risk and protect you and your generator from fire damage. Lastly, when you you are done refueling your generator be sure to put your gas canister in a safe and controlled environment out of reach of children and pets.

Electrocution Hazard

When using portable generators there is risk of electrocution and also fire if the system is not properly setup. First thing’s first, when using extension cords to and from your generator and to your home be sure that the you are using the proper sized cord for your generator. On top of that, ensure that the extension cord that you are using exceeds the total amperage of the appliances that you are hooking up to it. If you have too much power being routed through an extension cord the result can end in disaster. Going in that same line of thought, be sure not to overload your generator. Each generator is rated for a certain amount of watts. If you exceed those watts then your generator will most likely shut itself off to prevent damage to the system.

Back Feeding Your Generator

Do NOT back-feed your generator back into your home. I repeat, do NOT back-feed your generator to your home. Back-feeding your generator is literally plugging your generator directly into your home’s power supply by using a two male ended cord.  These two sided male cords are often called ‘suicide cords.’ This is NOT the proper way to do this. By doing this and not turning off your main breaker you could permanently damage your generator when the power does come back on. There are stories of people’s generators bursting into flames because of this. A flaming generator is not a good thing because, you guessed it, it is holding multiple gallons of gasoline. In one such incident a back-fed generator caught on fire, exploded, and caught the user’s house on fire as well as his neighbor’s home. (Story can be found here.)

Along with the fire hazard of a back-fed generator you are also putting your local electric works at risk by dumping power back into the electric grid while workers are actively repairing. This can result in electrocution injuries and even death to emergency power line workers. If that’s not enough to steer you away from this then you should also know that this act is illegal. If you plan to permanently connect your portable generator to your home’s electric system then the best and safest option is using a transfer switch or an interlock system. If you wish to purse this avenue then you will most likely need a permit and an inspection from your city or county. Along with that you will need the professional installation from a trained electrician to ensure that everything is setup correctly and safely.

Rain, Snow, or Overall Wetness

Another electrocution risk is dealing with water rather it be rain or snow in the system. In fact, you will find that most generator manufacturers have warnings on their products and on their instructions manuals explicitly saying that generators cannot operated in a wet or rainy environment. This includes snowed in areas as well. Let’s think about why this is for a moment. We all know what generators do. Their engine gives power to the alternator and the alternative generates electricity for your home. You then connect your extension cord to the generator to route the power back to your home.

Here’s the problem though folks. Water and electricity do not mix. If it is raining and your generator is out in it that water is inevitably going to get into the electrical outlet. That means that there is now a chance of electrocution. Depending on the model of generator that you have, yours may come with what’s known as a GFCI outlet. These outlets, known as a ground fault circuit interrupt, will automatically shut the generator off if water is detected within the system. Would you want to be the guy that has to go out and try and restart the generator if it shut down due to water being in the system? I certainly wouldn’t. Using, touching, or maintaining a generator that is wet can result in electrocution to the user. Generators can carry quite a bit of electricity so this electrocution risk should be taken very seriously.

Grounding Your Generator

Lastly, there can be another electrocution risk if your portable generator is not properly grounded. Not all generators need a grounding rod, but in some cases you do. 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.) If these conditions do NOT exist then a grounding rod will be required in order to safely run your generator.

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, that about sums it up for our generator’s safety guide. I hope that this article was able to give you some advice on how to setup your generator and how to stay safe during a power loss situation. I’m going to wrap this up by putting a disclaimer that all of the above advice is just that, advice. We at ToughAssTools.com are not liable for any mistakes, injuries, or fatalities caused when working generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools