This is a strange and tough time. Many of us are still working from home, while others continue to deal with wildfires, tropical storms, and heat waves. And as the colder months approach, we face the possibility of power outages that can last from hours to weeks. Investing in a standby generator is one of the best ways to keep your most important appliances up and running and help everyone inside stay a little more comfortable.
Check out quick reviews below of our top five home standby generators, then scroll farther for buying info and full reviews of these models.
How to Choose a Generator
Picking a generator depends mainly on the size of your home and what you wish to power. The average house will take at least 5,000 to 7,500 watts to run only the most critical equipment—think fridge, heat, and water. Often, a portable home generator can get you through an outage, but there are also options that are capable of powering your entire house. If you’re looking for full power, you will want to invest in at least a 20,000-watt generator; this also goes for people with exceptionally large homes or families, which will use much more power than, say, a two- or three-person household.
It’s also important to consider that while generators are certainly a hefty investment, they will pass the test of time. Most home standby generators can run anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 hours. If you were to use it for 100 hours per year, that translates to 10 to 30 years.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you’re not familiar with standby generators, here are some pointers on what to look out for when buying and operating.
- Make sure you select the right size generator for the critical circuits you intend to power. While most modern generators have circuit protection, it’s still good practice to avoid overloading them. In a worst-case scenario, overloading can cause a generator to overheat, suffer permanent damage, or even catch fire. Intermittent power supplied by an overheating generator may also damage some appliances.
- Standby generators usually run on propane (LPG), supplied by large tanks on the property, or natural gas piped in from the street. Either way, they’re permanently connected to the fuel source.
- Although consumers may install a standby generator, it’s best to hire an electrical contractor. They’ll be able to get the permits required to install one and make sure the installation meets all local codes, including where generators and propane tanks may be located with respect to windows or doors.
- If your generator runs on propane, make sure the tank can hold enough fuel to be able to run for at least three to four days. And if you live in an area with seasonal storms, it’s a good idea to fill the tank at the beginning of the season if it isn’t already.
- Most standby generators will run autonomously, starting on their own when the power goes out and shutting down when it comes back on. They’ll also periodically run “exercise cycles” to ensure they’re always ready to go and keep the starting batteries charged.
How We Selected
—FOR WARM CLIMATES—
Generac Protector QS 22-kW Standby Generator
No worries about an overheating generator
Wattage: 22 kW | Size: 63 in x 29 in x 30 in | Warranty: 5 years
While generators can be lifesavers in a storm, they often lose their reliability in hotter climates. This generator was designed with a top of the line liquid cooling system so that it stays cool even when the weather is unbearably hot. Not only does this system cool better, but it is also generally quieter then air cooled models—this makes it a great choice for residential areas where you don’t want to disturb your neighbors. Since it is a 22kW model, it can power most homes, but because of the wattage and cooling system, it is also quite expensive. The cooling system can also be a bit finicky and may require more maintenance than an air cooled system, but if you are willing to put in the work, it can be a lifesaver in a summer power outage.
—FOR LARGE HOMES—
Briggs & Stratton 20-kW Standby Generator
Enough power for you and your extended family
Wattage: 20 kW | Size: 30 in. x 50 in. x 33 in. | Warranty: 5 years
Larger homes require more energy, particularly when you have a big family inside that house. This 20,000-watt generator is a great option for powering essentials in such a house, or powering an entire small home. Customers praised its ease of installation, and it has a durable galvanized steel (read: weather- and rust-resistant) enclosure, which eliminates any need for additional coverage or protection. It also features a 100-amp automatic transfer switch. This allows your power to turn back on within seconds of an outage when the generator automatically takes over.
—FOR SMALL HOMES—
Briggs & Stratton 12,000-Watt Standby Generator
No need to overspend for a small home
Wattage: 12 kW | Size: 37 in. x 26 in. x 28 in. | Warranty: 5 years
This little guy only puts out 12,000 watts, so it won’t be able to power an entire house. But it can juice the essentials in a small one. This generator is a great option if you want a power backup for a few necessities but wince at the thought of spending upwards of $4,000. Sure, it’s still an investment, but it comes with a five-year warranty which covers parts, labor, and travel. And it does automatic weekly power checks at a low RPM to ensure that it’s working correctly when you need it without using more fuel than is necessary.
—MONITOR FROM YOUR PHONE—
Generac 22-kW Air-Cooled Standby Generator
You won’t even notice the power went out.
Wattage: 22 kW | Size: 29 in. x 48 in. x 25 in. | Warranty: 5 years
In particular situations where waiting for the power to come back on could pose a special danger, this generator makes sure all your needs are met. It comes with a five-year warranty and has Wi-Fi capabilities, which allow you to check the status of your generator at all times, affording peace of mind in storm season. The Generac 22-kW is designed to power your entire house, which means you will have every comfort you’re used to while waiting for your regular power to come back on. This is a particularly sound investment for families that still have kids learning from home or parents that may not have the luxury of heading into school or the office when the electricity goes out. Generac also offers 24/7 customer service if you do have any issues, since the power always seems to cut out outside of business hours.
Generac PowerPact 7.5-kW Generator
Stay in budget and have enough electricity for your necessities
Wattage: 7.5 kW | Size: 27 in. x 36 in. x 28 in. | Warranty: 3 years
This generator may be under $2,000, but it’s fully capable of preventing the contents of your fridge from spoiling and keeping the inside of your house at a reasonable temperature. It is able to power up to eight circuits in your home and significantly quieter than a portable generator. It has a durable aluminum shell that will keep it protected from inclement weather. And if any issues do arise, it comes with a three-year warranty. The generator also features three removable sides, which allow for easy access should it require maintenance.