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A home generator can fall anywhere between useful and downright essential for any number of reasons. Maybe you live someplace plagued by frequent winter storms and their resulting blackouts, and you need to be able to keep the lights on and the fridge running in a pinch. Or maybe you rely on lifesaving medical equipment like a CPAP machine and can’t run the risk of having it cut out. Maybe you live in a hot region that experiences utility brownouts in the summer, and you need to be able to keep the AC going. Or perhaps you simply want a mobile power source around the house to use with tools and whatnot. Whatever the case, you’ll find the best generators for homes below to suit a variety of purposes.
How we chose the best generators for homes
As an unrepentant gear junkie and general tech obsessive, I’ve had a chance to use a lot of generators—big to small. What’s more, having spent some 40 years living in the windy, rainy Pacific Northwest, I’ve had to wield said generators under various conditions, from short power blinks to weeklong outages, so I know what constitutes a reliable backup power source. Equipped with this experience, I have spent over a decade reviewing generators and other gear for outlets like Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, the Daily Beast, Thrillist, and more. If I arrived at split decisions for a particular category, I looked to input from my fellow experts, as well as reviews from real-world buyers to break the tie.
The best generators for homes: Reviews & Recommendations
These generators span a variety of formats, budgets, intentions, and power needs. Some are fairly portable, others can be moved with a bit more effort, and others still are more or less designed to stand in one place. Regardless, each was chosen for delivering reliable performance and rates among the best generators for homes in 2024.
Best overall: Generac 7228 18kW Guardian
- Wattage: 18,000 watts
- Power source: Gas
- Weight: 420 lbs.
- Very high wattage
- Effortless power switch
- Smart controls
You can’t beat the Generac Guardian if you’re looking for dependable, whole-home backup power. While this line is available in a range of sizes and packages, I’m recommending the 7228 18kW with transfer switch specifically as it not only provides plenty of power for virtually any home but, thanks to the switch, can be set up to turn on instantly upon losing utility power.
This isn’t the kind of generator you wheel around or carry. It’s a big, very heavy unit intended to be installed and left to sit in place, waiting to do what it does. Generac generators are famously reliable, and this particular model’s 18,000W output will easily power an entire house, from lights to kitchen appliances (including the refrigerator) to various electronics like your TV and wifi router.
What’s more, its ability to link to WiFi allows you to monitor its operation via an app, which lets you to switch it on and off and keep an eye on usage and fuel levels from the comfort of inside your home. By pretty much every metric, this is a truly outstanding generator.
Best dual-fuel: DuroMax XP 13000HX Dual-Fuel Portable Generator
- Wattage: 13,000 peak/10,500 running on gas – 12,350 peak/9,975 running on propane
- Power source: Gas and propane
- Weight: 240 lbs
- Dual fuel versatility
- Very high power output
- Helpful data display
Dual-fuel generators are particularly handy in emergencies when you’re not sure whether you’ll have easy access to gas alone, but some people simply prefer them because running on propane is a bit quieter and better for the environment. No matter why you want it, the DuroMax XP 13000HX will provide the dual-fuel convenience and reliability you seek.
Effortless to start and operate, it provides a solid 10,500W (gas)/9,975W (propane) output, which is enough to power most homes or at least all the essentials. A data display presents various useful information about hours of operation, voltage, and more, and a CO2 safety switch cuts it off if carbon monoxide levels become toxic. A 50 amp outlet ensures that it can deliver on the heaviest of home power demands. And it also has a set of sturdy wheels and handles, which make it easy to move around.
Best portable: Honda EU2200i Companion Portable Generator
- Wattage: 2,200 peak/1,800 running
- Power source: Gas
- Weight: 46.5 lbs
- Highly portable
- Rugged durability
- Very quiet
- Only moderate power output
Sometimes, you’re not looking to electrify the entire house, just a few power tools, appliances, and other odds and ends. Accordingly, you want a smaller generator that can easily move into place. The Honda EU2200i Companion was our pick for the best portable generator, which maintains that status here.
While its modest 1,800W output is only intended for small- to medium-sized power tasks, it really shines in terms of its great all-around design. Compact and easy to carry, durably built for years of operation, and whisper-quiet by generator standards, it’s perfect for random power needs around the home and yard.
Best portable power station: Goal Zero Yeti PRO 4000
- Wattage: 7,200 peak / 3,600 running
- Power source: Solar or wall outlet
- Weight: 115.7 lbs
- Great electrical performance
- Plenty of ports
- Only moderate power output
If you’re looking for a near-silent alternative to gas generators, the Goal Zero Yeti PRO 4000 is a big, reliable block of power that is among the industry’s highest-capacity portable power stations to date. Its 3,993Wh capacity and 3,600W output will keep a full-sized fridge going for over two days or will keep a smattering of small tools and devices going for many days on end. What’s more, it charges significantly faster than many of Goal Zero’s previous power boxes, charging from a wall socket in about 2.5 hours or from a 3,000W solar array in about two.
It’s also expandable, stacking on top of add-on batteries that can attain a massive 20kWh capacity and can be integrated into the wider Goal Zero ecosystem, allowing you to tack on a transfer switch and other useful tools. More portable (and much quieter) than a gas generator, it’s also great for camping.
Best solar: Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Solar Generator
- Wattage: 6,000 peak / 3,000 running
- Power source: Solar or wall outlet
- Weight: 140.36 lbs
- Great electrical performance
- Deploying solar panels takes a bit of trial and error
If you’re looking for a full solar array, Jackery has pretty much nailed it with the Explorer 2000 Plus. While you can get the Explorer 2000 by itself, I recommend the full package, which comes with two of the company’s 200W solar panels, a 2000Wh expansion battery, and a manual transfer switch. All told, this is everything you need for a powerful solar setup.
The electrical performance is great, with its total 4000Wh capacity and 3,000W output being more than enough for most essential home needs or RVs. And once its solar panels are deployed, it will provide a steady, sustainable source of electricity for as long as the sun shines. It’s a great pick for a versatile power source you can use for backup around the house or bring along in the RV.
Best budget: Wen DF475T Dual-Fuel Generator
- Wattage: 4,750 peak / 3,500 running
- Power source: Gas or propane
- Weight: 105.8 lbs.
- Affordable dual fuel
- Decent output
- Somewhat portable
Wen did something great by designing a dual-fuel generator with reasonable performance that doesn’t break the bank. While its 3,500W output isn’t quite enough to power a whole home like larger, pricier generators, that’s still a good number for the price and is more than capable of keeping a fridge, lights, and other essentials up and running. It’s also somewhat portable, and long-time Wen owners report that the quality is reliable. In other words, the Wen DF475T delivers an outstanding bang for your buck.
A home generator is not only a big investment in terms of cost, but you need to be sure that it will deliver on your needs when the situation arises—especially in the event of an emergency. Accordingly, there are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a generator.
The first and arguably most important consideration involves how much power a generator produces. With a home generator, you’re typically looking for something capable of powering either your entire house or at least the most essential appliances and electronics. Check a generator’s “running” or “rated” wattage to determine how much it can produce at any given time. The “peak” or “surge” wattage reflects how much it can bump up temporarily to accommodate a boost of draw, such as when starting an appliance. Numbers vary based on your home’s power usage, but generally speaking, you need a generator that will produce at least 7,500-10,000W to power an entire home. With a smaller 3,000+W generator, however, you’ll still be able to keep the fridge going along with a few other musts.
Fuel type and capacity
Nearly all generators run on either gas or solar power, with dual fuels adding propane. Gas is usually the most convenient and reliable, but it pollutes more and runs the loudest. Propane drops the volume and emissions slightly. And solar generators can be charged either via solar panels or by plugging them into a wall socket. They’re the most sustainable option, but they tend to produce lower wattage and can only charge with adequate sunshine.
Fuel capacity involves how much gas, propane, or electricity it can store. More capacity translates into longer operation, but it also makes the generator heavier. If you plan on more or less leaving your home generator in place, however, weight isn’t as important as capacity.
The classic recoil pull cord is included with pretty much all gas or dual fuel generators, and while it is reliable, it does require a lot of physical effort. Luckily, these days, most generators also include an electric starter that will fire up at the press of a button. A few brands offer remote starters, which can be used via Bluetooth or WiFi from inside your home. Solar generators typically turn on with a button.
Gas generators tend to be pretty loud. While that might not be a concern during a home emergency, if you are worried about breaking the peace, you might want to consider either using a dual fuel with propane or a near-silent solar generator. But when it comes to powering your entire house, wattage will usually out-prioritize noise.
If you’re simply looking to power a few power tools and devices, most generators will offer the outlets to do it. But for powering a house, you need a generator with heftier output options. Most mid to large generators come with 20 amp and 30 amp rated plugs, which will suffice for basic household needs. If you’re really looking for max power, however, go with a model equipped with a 50 amp plug.
Q: What are the cons of a whole-house generator?
The main two downsides are cost and noise. Whole house generators tend to be pricey and—because of their higher wattage—loud. The only way around this is to get a small, quieter, cheaper unit, but then it wouldn’t offer the capability to power your entire house.
Q: How long can a home generator run continuously?
A generator’s continuous runtime is limited to how much fuel it can hold. Typically, home generators have the capacity to operate for between 6-20 hours between fill-ups, depending on electrical demands. Always switch the generator off while refilling the tank, and allow it to cool before pouring in the gas.
Q: Can a generator operate in the rain or snow?
Running a generator while wet can result in damage or injury by electrocution. Either position your generator out of the weather or protect it with a cover.
Q: What happens if I overload a generator?
Overloading is an easy way to damage either the generator or the electronic equipment it’s powering. Usually, if a generator is overworked, it will get noticeably loud, straining to keep up. If this occurs, switch some things off and prioritize the essentials.
Final thoughts on the best home generators
When it comes to choosing a home generator, bigger isn’t necessarily better, but it’s not a bad idea to get something that will over-deliver beyond your needs. That way, no matter what happens with the utility power, your home’s comfort and safety will be assured.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.