When looking for the best portable generator to survive blackouts, especially in California where this has been more of an issue of late, there are plenty of factors to consider. If you’ve already done your research and have determined that a portable generator is right for you, read on for my top picks for the best portable generator, including those with low emissions, high fuel efficiency, and a solid reputation for reliability.
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Not sure what size generator you need? We’ve written previously on how to determine the best generator for your needs.
If you’re looking for a gas-powered generator you’ll be able to find a recommendation here, but we’ve also come up with picks for the best solar-powered generators as well. Do keep in mind though, that for most households, a solar generator will not be able to produce enough energy to keep a home, let alone large appliances, running during a serious blackout.
Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.
Best Small Generator: Champion 73536i Portable Inverter Generator
Highlights: Budget-friendly, high-performing, low emissions, very quiet portable generator that is stackable.
Full load power time
2.375 hours (based on 9.5 hours at ¼ load)
The Champion 73536i is a budget-friendly, high-performing, low emissions, very quiet portable generator that is stackable, meaning if you need a little extra oomph you can just add a second generator using a twin cables. Not quite as quiet as the Yamahas (53 decibels vs 51) when running at ¼ load, the Champion is still a great choice for camping, tailgate parties, outdoor weddings and so forth.
Compared to the Yamaha EF2000iSE, the Champion has a slightly higher continuous output (1,700 W vs 1,600), which may explain why it has a run time of 9.5 hours at ¼ load, compared to 10 hours with the Yamaha. Still, this is a great runtime!
The Champion uses inverter technology and a smart economy mode to make for excellent fuel efficiency and suitability for powering sensitive electronics. It includes two 120V 20A household outlets and 12V DC outlet. That said, the Champion produces electricity with less than 3% THD, while the Yamaha has less than 1%. Not a big difference, but worth noting if you plan on powering very sensitive electronics.
The Champion is CARB compliant, weighs 48 lbs, is pretty darned robust, making it a good workhorse for rugged locations. The handle is also good and sturdy, and this generator comes with oil, unlike the Yamaha where you’re going to need a trip to the store. Oh, and the Champion has a US Forest Service Approved Spark Arrester. What’s that? Well, it means the generator has been designed in such a way as to minimize the risk of forest fires starting through sparks from the exhaust system. Definitely a good idea in this age of climate fires.
The Champion Power Equipment 73536i 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator is ideal for powering all your odds and ends in the RV and can provide backup power for a few basics like lights, microwave, TV, modem/router or phone charger. It’s not powerful enough, though, to be used as a backup generator for whole home air conditioners, stoves, furnaces or sump pumps.
This generator has a recoil start and Cold Start Technology to make it easier to get going in cold weather. The engine itself is an 80cc Champion engine and has a low oil shut-off sensor, a 0.4-quart oil capacity and comes with a bottle of 10W-30 oil. There does seem to be a slight tendency for fuel leakage with this one, but it’s easily remedied with a little nudge to free a stuck float.
At almost half the price of the Yamaha generator, this one is a steal. Just read some of the reviews from folks caught up in various hurricanes and other weather events in the US and it’s easy to see why it’s a smart move to have a Champion in your corner. That said, if you’re looking to be truly eco-friendly, consider getting a portable power station charged by solar. Some models, such as the Goal Zero 3000 W, provide almost as high a wattage without burning gasoline, and these are also much quieter!
Best Medium-Sized Generator: Honda EU7000iS Portable Generator
Highlights: Reliable, durable, high-performing, and quiet, with low emissions.
Full load power time
6 hours (18 hours at ¼ load)
If you’re looking for a medium-sized generator that is reliable, durable, high-performing, and quiet, with low emissions, the Honda EU7000iS is a fantastic choice. With a sound output of just 52-60 decibels (depending on load), this 7,000 W generator is quieter than some generators with less than half the power output! It’s also one of, if not the only generators with electronic fuel injection, which makes for even easier start-up and smooth running.
There are two major downsides to the Honda: its price and the lack of parallel connection capability. This model is prohibitively expensive for most folks, but if reliability, power, and some blessed quiet are your priorities, consider saving up for this one. That said, if you like the idea of being able to hook up two smaller generators for a bit of extra power once in a while, the Honda might not be for you.
The Honda EU7000iS was brought to the market in 2014 and is still highly prized. It regularly wins awards as one of the best generators around and the customer reviews and product specs make it easy to see why.
The Honda’s Eco-Throttle means this generator can modulate power output as needed, allowing it to run 6-18 hours on a single tank. Inverter technology means you can power sensitive electronics and all your high-powered white goods. And a handy iMonitor tracks cumulative runtime, RPM, Volts and wattage, so you know when to service the unit, how hard the generator is working to meet current demands, and power remaining for use if you plug in more devices.
This generator has electronic fuel injection technology to improve fuel efficiency and prevent problems with the choke or carburetor. It also has an Oil Alert to prevent engine damage, and it has a handy push-button electric start. Circuit breakers prevent overload, and the generator offers 5,500 W of continuous power. It uses a 120/240 voltage selector for high wattage requirements and has a Honda GX390 EFI Single Cylinder OHV air cooled engine with 389cc displacement and a fuel tank capacity of 5.1 gallons.
The GX engines are a mighty force. Reliable, high-performing, and beloved across the industry, the GX390 is arguably the best engine around. It can handle the coldest mornings up north and the hottest midday sun down south, without overheating or otherwise crapping out. It is CARB compliant, with low emissions and impressive fuel economy, and could easily last a lifetime if well maintained.
Offering 7,000 W of start-up power, this generator can more than handle the energy demands of a small household and most work on a construction site. It hooks up easily to a transfer switch too. If you have a larger home, however, or very high energy demands from a whole home A/C, you might want something a little larger. Otherwise, the Honda is as good as it gets in this power range, only facing competition from the Yamaha EF6300iSDE.
The Yamaha model is almost as powerful and is just as quiet, and it features a handy wireless remote control start (which the Honda doesn’t have). There is a version of the Honda generator with a remote control start and stop option, but the Honda EU7000IAT1 (View Price on Home Depot) isn’t wireless like the Yamaha, meaning you have to run a wire somewhere or other.
The Yamaha is also priced around $600-$1200 lower than the Honda, but there are a few downsides to consider. First, the Honda is far easier to move around, even though it weighs about 60 lbs more than the Yamaha. Why? Because the Honda is designed with two bigger wheels and folding handles, while the Yamaha has four smaller wheels that don’t swivel and no useful handles. This makes it very difficult to, say, turn a corner, without having to somehow hoist a 200 lb machine onto just two wheels.
Oh, and the Honda has a back-up pull cord starter, in case the electric start fails (which it won’t) or the battery runs down. The Yamaha doesn’t have a back-up pull cord.
Hondas are also notoriously easy to maintain and service, with carefully designed hardware that allows good access to everything you need. It’s easy to drain oil, add oil, and access your spark plugs for cleaning with the Honda, while the Yamaha can make for messier oil changes, requires a funnel with a flexible nozzle to refill oil, and needs a special tool, not just a regular ratchet, to access the spark plugs.
As always at LeafScore, we favor products that will keep performing at a high level for a long time, as this drastically reduces resource use and waste. All in all, the Honda EU7000iS is a great choice for rugged use (it has steel tubing for the frame and steel insulating panels rather than plastic) and is also a top choice for an emergency kit, camping, or recreational use. And, at around 4.95 kiloWatt hours per gallon of gas, you can look forward to bragging about the fuel efficiency of this beast.
Best Large Generators
If you’ve got a lot of appliances you’d need to keep running in the event of a blackout, such as more than one refrigerator, freezer, sum pumps, well pumps, A/C, and so forth, a generator providing at least 8,000 Watts is probably wise. Otherwise, you’re going to have to rotate use of these items, so as to not overload capacity.
Once you get above 12,000 Watts, you can pretty much assume all your energy needs are covered and you won’t max out the capacity even with most things running.
Highlights: Can run either on propane or gasoline and can easily provide backup power for a whole house during a blackout.
Power 12,000 W
Full load power time 3.5-4.5 hrs (or 7-9 hours run time at ½ load) gasoline/propane
Weight 260 lbs
With hundreds of five-star reviews, the DuroMax XP12000EG Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator is an Amazon Choice and EPA/CARB compliant across 50 states. It offers 9,500 running Watts and 12,000 W maximum, thanks to an 18 horsepower, 457 cc OHV engine. And, remarkably, it costs less than the much lower powered 8000 W Generac at just under $1,300.
The DuroMax XP12000EH can run either on propane or gasoline and can easily provide backup power for a whole house during a blackout. White goods, home A/C, power tools, lights, and more – this generator has you covered. One big downside of this generator, however, is the lack of load indicator on the control panel. As such, you’re going to need to do some math, or just practice caution, before hooking up all your appliances.
The dual fuel nature of this generator is what sets it apart from others in its class. Liquid propane is typically more accessible in a power outage because you may get to the gas station only to find that their pumps aren’t working because of, well, the power outage. Also, you can safely store liquid propane indefinitely, whereas gasoline deteriorates after a few months, requiring a stabilizer. Liquid propane also burns a little cleaner than gasoline, so your propane generator produces lower emissions.
The XP12000EH has an electric start and an optional recoil start, features a handy MX2 switch, which doubles your 120-volt amperage for heavy loads, and offers two 120V/20AMP outlets, one 120v/30AMP twist lock outlet, a 120/240V 30AMP outlet, and a 50-amp heavy duty outlet. The panel also features a voltmeter, circuit breakers, low oil indicator, and idle control.
The DuroMax is well constructed and ideal for rugged conditions thanks to its solid fill tires, a heavy-duty all-metal frame, and fully-isolated motor mounts, It also has an oversized noise reducing muffler with a built-in spark arrestor allowing for smooth and quiet operation and, like all DuroMax generators, the XP12000EH is built with all copper windings that will last for years.
If you’re in the market for a serious gas-powered generator to survive any power outage, storm, or emergency event, the DuroMax is a solid choice. If you’re just in the market for a generator for small jobs here and there, or for RVing, camping, or to power smaller appliances and electronics during a blackout, this is definitely overkill, especially as this generator is not an inverter generator, so you’d need to use an extension cord with surge protection before plugging in your laptop, phone, or TV. Some users have hooked this one up to a whole home system using a Reliance Controls Corporation PBN50 50-Amp NEMA 3R CS6375 power inlet box (View Price on Amazon) and a 15ft Conntek 1450SS2-15 cable (View Price on Amazon) plugged directly into the power box, along with a manual interlock kit such as the Square D by Schneider Electric HOMCGK2C Homeline Cover Generator and QOM2 Frame Size Main Breaker Interlock Kit (View Price on Amazon). If none of this makes any sense to you, call an electrician. During an emergency and a blackout, you do not want to find out that something is incorrectly installed and likely to cause an emergency itself.
Highlights: Boasts up to 8 hours of runtime on a full tank of gasoline and, as a dual fuel generator, you can choose to use gasoline or propane.
Power 10,000 W
Full load power time 5.2 hrs (based on 10.4 hours run time at ½ load)
Weight 260 lbs
The DuroMax XP10000E has 10,000 starting Watts and 8,000 running Watts, along with the company’s unique MX2 power boost to provide double the 120 V power for appliances and RVs. This generator might be a beast but it’s still easy to transport over even rugged terrain thanks to its all metal construction. And, of course, it’s CARB compliant and EPA compliant for low emissions, as are all the generators recommended at Leaf Score. It is not CSA compliant, however, but still seems to be sold in Canada.
The DuroMax isn’t an inverter generator but it does have surge-arrest technology to protect the generator itself from power surges. It boasts up to 8 hours of runtime on a full tank of gasoline and, as a dual fuel generator, you can choose to use gasoline or propane.
The XP10000E features circuit breakers, low oil indicator (and low oil shut-off) and idle control to lower the RPMs of the generator when it’s not in use, thereby saving fuel and reducing noise. The power panel includes two standard 120V household GFCI outlets, one 120V 30A twist lock outlet, one 240V 30A outlet, and one 240V 50A outlet. The panel also includes a voltmeter and 12V DC charging posts for charging external batteries.
The 18HP DuroMax 440cc OHV engine can handle multiple high voltage appliances and heavy-duty power tools, making it a great choice for powering a whole home or construction site. And that MX2 power boost switch lets you choose between operating the generator at both 120V and 240V simultaneously, or at 120 only with full power.
The generator has a heavy-duty frame with fully-isolated motor mounts, allowing for smooth, quiet operation. The XP10000E is built with all copper windings and is covered by a 3-year factory warranty (as are al DuroMax generators). Although most other manufacturers don’t list the noise level of their generators, DuroMax do. This one blasts out about 72 decibels, which is about the same noise level as a loud conversation about 5 feet away.
Highlights: The best rated generator on Consumer Reports, and has a reputation for reliability and performance.
Full load power time
4.75 hrs (or 9.5 hours run time at ½ load)
The Generac 7162 8000 Watt Electronic Fuel Injection Portable Generator is one of the few of this size to be EPA/CARB compliant. It is also, by far, the best rated generator on Consumer Reports with a run time of 4.75 hours on a full tank (the manufacturer claims 9.5 hours at half load) and a reputation for reliability and performance.
The Generac’s XT8000EFI has an OHV 459 cc engine with electronic fuel injection (EFI), so you won’t have to worry about the generator getting gummed up with fuel while in storage, nor do you need to worry about problems starting it in cold weather. It also has a back-up recoil starter, in case the electric start runs out of battery power.
Splash lubrication and a load pickup response system also help keep this beast in good working order as the generator matches its output to demand to maintain steady power at all times, thereby reducing wear and tear on the engine.
The XT8000EFI features idle control, which conserves fuel for extended run times, and has an easy to understand Power Bar so you can check at a glance the load demands and how long the generator has been running for. There are also fold-down, locking handles that make it easier to move this 244 lb. behemoth while also making for more convenient, compact storage. And the 10 inch diameter wheels do a great job even on bumpy terrain.
The electric starts makes it easy to get this generator going, and the control panel and outlets are covered to help protect against rugged working conditions and the elements. The generator boasts a large (8 gallon) capacity steel fuel tank with an incorporated fuel gauge. A low oil shutoff helps automatically protect the engine against suboptimal working conditions.
There are five outlets in total, including two GFCI Duplex Outlets and one 30A Twist Lock 120/240V plug. Sadly, this is not an inverter generator, so you probably don’t want to use this to power sensitive electronics, unless you use your own surge protector (View Price on Amazon). That said, the company does claim that the XT8000EFI features TruePower technology with a THD of less than 5% and is fine for powering sensitive electronics. Personally, I’d feel much safer with the slightly lower powered Honda EU7000iS (Consumer Reports’ top-rated inverter generator), despite the Honda costing significantly more (c$4,500 vs. $1,305 for the Generac). This consideration is why the Generac gets a Leaf Score of just 3.