If you live in the areas frequently hit by tropical storms, you should invest in the best whole house generator to provide for a backup power supply. If you reside in a colder part of the US, getting a powerful portable unit or a standby home generator can protect you from blackouts caused by winter storms. In any case – investing in one will certainly add a protective layer to your home.
All generators presented in this guide, both portable and standby types, can provide enough power to supply nearly the entire household. In the event of a blackout, they can easily power all crucial devices in your home such as lights, refrigerators, freezers, portable heaters etc.
The following guide lists the most recommended whole house generators currently on sale in the US. You will also find the brief reviews of these generators as well as the comprehensive buying guide containing everything you need to know before buying a portable or standby generator.
Top 10 Whole House Generators (Portable and Standby) – Our Reviews
1. Westinghouse WPro8500 (Our Pick)
Westinghouse WPro8500 is an exceptionally solid and top-performing whole house portable generator.
Delivering 11500 starting watts and 8500 running watts, it can easily run most of the home appliances including the larger electric equipment. These include an AC, refrigerator, garage door openers, heating, lights, sump pump etc.
You can expect this generator to run for up to 17. 5 hours on a single 6.6-gallon gas tank. This makes it a really good choice for prolonged power outages.
It comes with a variety of outlets, all of them with rubber covers for added safety. The most important one for homeowners is the 120V L14-30R Transfer Switch ready outlet.
WPro8500 also comes with a remote start key fob making shutting this generator on and off very easy. In case of a power outage, you can simply use the remote control to start it without leaving the comforts of your home.
The user manual is well written and easy to follow. As long as you have at least some DIY experience, you won’t find it difficult to set up at all. In fact, several users reported being able to run it pretty much straight from the box.
The issue with all ultra duty portable generators have is obviously the noise they produce. Westinghouse WPro8500 is comparatively quieter than many other generators of this size. However, you certainly can’t expect it to run noiselessly. You can also place it in an enclosure to effectively minimize the noise.
Overall, this is a really solid home generator attracting mainly 5-star reviews from people who’ve bought it and other similar Westinghouse generators. I would recommend mainly for the mid-sized homes. However, those living in larger households can also benefit a lot from having this generator as an emergency backup power source.
If you need a bit cheaper and smaller generator to run only the most important appliances, check out Westinghouse WGen6000 instead.
2. A-iPower SUA12000E (Best Value For Money)
When I saw this generator for the first time and noticed its low price tag, I immediately thought “nope, it cannot be any good”. Then I’ve started reading through all the positive reviews it was receiving from the customers who bought it in the context of the hurricane Irma. It’s when I decided to give it a closer look.
My observations? A-iPower SUA12000E proves that a good quality home generator doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It performs exceptionally well as a home backup power supply.
It features a 459cc four-stroke engine delivering up to 9500 running watts of energy. This is enough power to run the majority of home appliances (as long as you don’t try to turn on an AC, a refrigerator and an electric cloth dryer all at once).
The generator has got a 7.0-gallon heavy duty 100% steel fuel tank. The manufacturer claims that it can provide up to 8-9 hours of run time at 50 percent load. Surprisingly, a lot of users have reported running it for up to 13 hours before having to refuel again.
Overall, this is a really good quality generator costing only a fraction of the price of the generators manufactured by more famous brands like Generac or Honda. If you do not want to spend thousands of dollars on a generator you are only planning to use several times a year in case of an emergency – I honestly recommend you to seriously consider A-iPower SUA12000E.
You can read more about it in our A-iPower generator review.
3. Generac 22000 Watt 7043 Home Generator
This 22 kW generator is the most heavily recommended standby generator for any household. It is one of the largest air-cooled home generators currently available on the market.
With its 22000 watts, it is powerful enough to provide energy supply for the entire home including all major appliances requiring higher wattage such as air conditioning, heating, TVs etc.
Users reported it working fine during multi-hour outages caused by hurricanes or other weather elements.
It comes with a whole house 200 Amp NEMA3 Transfer Switch suitable both for outdoor and indoor use.
What I really like is the built-in wi-fi connection allowing you to control the generator with your computer or smartphone. You can also use the dedicated app to monitor the operation status and set up the maintenance schedule.
The generator can safely handle the sensitive electronics thanks to its True Power technology which guarantees less than 5% harmonic distortion.
4. DuroMax XP12000EH – great dual fuel generator
Duromax XP12000EH offers the best of both worlds. You can use two types of fuel to run it. This gives you more flexibility and decreases reliance on one single fuel type.
While dual fuel generators are nothing new, hardly any other hybrid generator can beat Duromax XP12000EH in terms of their performance.
Even when running on LPG it provides 11400 surge watts and 9025 running watts. This is enough to provide emergency power for the whole small home or nearly entire mid-sized household. You can get even more wattage when you switch to gas.
It can run for more than 7 hours on propane and 8 hours on a single gasoline tank (at 50% load).
It is a very large and bulky unit so don’t expect it to run quietly. Having said that, it is not very loud for the engine of this size and certainly won’t be a major disruption in times of emergency. My suggestion is to place it inside a wooden enclosure (you can easily build one yourself) to further minimize the noise and protect it from harsh weather.
I highly recommend Duromax XP12000EH as a whole home backup power supply. This is the type of portable generator which can handle even more energy consuming devices without hiccups.
5. Briggs & Stratton 20000 watt whole house generator
The 40346 is ideal for medium to large homes with 200 amp service and one or two central HVAC units. It comes with the powerful rugged 35HP engine which can be found eg. in tractors. It’s a reliable unit and the weekly diagnostic runs like clockwork.
Some customers suggest in their reviews that the insulation could be a bit better at keeping this generator quieter. However, this can be easily remedied by setting up a DIY enclosure.
Installation is not very complex. However, you’d better bring in an electrician for the final 240v hookup.
A maintenance kit with handy oil and filters is also available as extras, as it is a heater kit which is actually recommended by those living in cold weather regions, as the light 5W30 oil can tend toward freezing.
The ability to control the generator straight from your computer is also a major plus.
6. Generac 16000 Watt 6462 Guardian Series
This is a 16000 watt unit, suitable for most of the average size detached houses.
It features a composite mounting pad which can potentially eliminate the need for a concrete base, depending on local ordinances.
It also has a durable metal enclosure rated for 150mph winds – good news for those who live in the hurricane-prone area.
Generac 6462 is rated to operate with lower gas pressures. The runtime test is 12 minutes with options for scheduling weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Professional installation is relatively straightforward with this model, but even experienced DIY homeowners might want to pass this one up as some users suggested that the manual leaves a lot to be desired.
Customer service has been reported a little lackluster at times, and you will have to rely on local dealers for service. Fortunately, there are few problems reported with the generator itself. For the most part, as long as it is properly installed and regularly maintained, it kicks in when needed in the events of long-lasting power outages.
Just like other Generac standby generators this model can also be controlled via wi-fi connection with a smartphone or computer. Just don’t forget to keep the wi-fi mode turned on and you’ll be able to control the generator even from hundreds of miles away.
7. Duromax XP10000E
Duromax XP10000E is a very powerful portable generator. While a lot of people who bought it used it along with demanding jobsite electrical tools (such as MIG welers) it can be also effectively used as an emergency home supply.
This is one of those portable generators which help you set up a complete home backup supply without having to spend serious money on the costly installation of a standby generator. Those who live in the disaster-prone states (such as Florida) will surely want to consider this model.
Duromax XP10000E comes equipped with a 9-gallon tank and the 16HP engine capable of running for around 9-10 hours depending on the load.
It features an automatic low oil shutoff system which automatically turns the generator off when the oil levels are too low. This helps prevent any serious damage caused by the lack of oil – an often overlooked aspect of generator maintenance.
A good thing about XP10000E is that it’s easy to maintain and clean. It certainly doesn’t require the same level of attention as standby whole house generators.
Overall this is one of the most popular heavy duty popular generators on the market. It can be an excellent home backup supply providing the necessary power during the hurricanes or snow storms.
8. Kohler 20000 Watt Standby Generator
This generator comes with a composite noise-dampening enclosure. It indeed runs more silently than some of its competitors.
It can be set up for online monitoring and text alerts. It is a reliable, powerful and quiet generator that’s well worth the investment.
In the event of a major power outage, it runs pretty smooth even on higher loads. Some minor adjustments may come along due to slight vibration and known engine throttle problems that can cause dirty power flow. The cause is often a bad carburetor gasket that’s relatively cheap to replace. Cold-weather users will want to pick up a carburetor heater.
In addition to being very quiet for its size it also has very low levels of harmonic distortion, so you don’t have to worry about running your HD TV or laptops with this unit to rely on.
While Kohler is a reputable and trusted manufacturer, several people reported less than ideal customer service as well as a few surprises regarding their warranty or service coverage in some areas.
But if you read the fine print and follow Kohler’s instructions you wind up with an excellent generator that’s almost completely covered by a 5-year warranty.
9. Generac 11000 Watt 7033
A 250-gallon tank is recommended for LP as it burns nearly 2 gallons of fuel per hour on a heavy load, though much less if you ease up on the power use.
It is very easy to do the routine maintenance of changing plugs and oil, though the oil has to be pumped out.
It is a little noisy under load but still quieter than a portable generator, and it does what it’s designed to do – power your whole house. One buyer reported it running perfectly for 7 days straight in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Other than that it has the exact same features as other Generac standby generators which happen to be the best on the market. For those who do not need as much as wattage as 16 or 20kW – this particular model is the optimal choice.
10.Generac 5734 GP15000E
This is one of the largest and most powerful portable generators on the market. It delivers the wooping 15,000 running watts (15KW) of power making it the ideal solution for those looking for a whole home generator.
With so much power at your disposal, you can basically run nearly all of your home appliances at once, with only exceptions being some particularly energy-hungry ones like electric clothes driers. Do not try to run them together with an AC and you’re going to be totally fine.
This generator features an original Generac 992cc OHVI engine.
It has a built-in automatic low-oil level shutdown mechanism which automatically turns off the generator if there is not enough oil inside.
The fuel tank is truly enormous – it has a total capacity of 16 gallons. This, depending on the load, is enough to run this generator on single refueling for more than 10 hours.
One serious downside quite a few customers have reported is the poor customer support offered by Generac. The manufacturer often fails to help the client when problems appear, even with the recently purchased generators.
Overall, if it wasn’t for the poor customer service, this Generac generator would be higher on my list. However, since I expect the generators to run flawlessly (when everything else does not) and do not want to rely on external companies to help with servicing and maintenance – these kinds of issues decrease its value in my eyes.
Nonetheless, it is still definitely worth consideration, especially by those who are looking for a portable home backup power generator running at no less than 15,000 watts.
Portable or standby whole house generator – which one should you get?
This depends on a few factors, but I would personally vouch for a powerful portable generator rated at least 7500 running watts. Why is that?
1. Portable generators are cheaper to buy and much easier to set up
Portable generators cost much less than standby models. They are also cheaper to maintain and do not require any professional installation. You can simply buy one together with a dedicated transfer switch, connect it to your house in the event of a power blackout, fill it with gas, turn it on and you are good to go.
On the other hand, standby generators are not only very expensive but also require professional installation by a certified electrician. This can add a lot to the overall cost of the whole house generator. The installation of such generator also requires specific permits in adherence to the local town planning regulations.
Standby generators also require regular maintenance which does not come cheap either. You should get the generator serviced even after only 24 to 48 hours of continuous use. (source: Popular Mechanics) As you can imagine, this can be a real nuisance in the longer term.
Portable generators are much easier to set up and do not require any advanced knowledge, government permits nor regular professional maintenance. The only minor issue you might have with them during a blackout is that they can be quite loud. But let’s be honest – in the event of the power outage caused by a hurricane or a forest fire, noise is one of the last things you and your neighbors are going to be concerned about (they’re probably going to use their own generators too).
If you’re a California resident, make sure that the generator you buy is CARB compliant.
Remember: NEVER connect a portable generator to your home without a transfer switch! Doing so can cause a serious electric shock and can be potentially fatal. It can also cause major damage to the electric grid in the whole neighborhood.
2. Large portable generators can power nearly the entire house
You should really ask yourself – in a very rare case the disaster hits (such as a hurricane) – do you really need ALL your appliances to be powered on? Or perhaps just the most important ones such as a refrigerator, an 8000 BTU AC, TV and a set of lights? In fact, quite a lot of people on Amazon reported using even small inverter generators during the hurricane Irma and were happy with the results.
Having said that, there are plenty of portable generators with really high wattage capable of powering a large number of appliances. A good example is Duromax XP10000EH – with is 10,000 watts it can easily power most of the major home appliances.
A 10000 watt generator would be ideal for most users.
However, if you are sure you need even more power then there are portable generators with 12,000 or even 15,000 (15 kw) running watts. As you can see in the graphic below, these can supply enough energy for pretty much everything you need in your home.
3. You can easily move a portable generator
That might sound obvious but the freedom of movement that portable generators offer is truly a wonderful thing. While standby generators are permanently installed on concrete pads, portable models can be easily moved from one place to another.
You can safely store a portable generator in the basement for most of the year just to pull it outside and get it back to work whenever the emergency happens.
One downside is that they do not add any value to your home. However, this is rather a minor con, offset by much power purchase and maintenance costs of portable generators.
Ok, so which exact portable generators are good for home?
If you are looking for a bit smaller model available at a lower price, then A-iPower SUA12000E comes heavily recommended.
If you are absolutely convinced you need even more power then there is Generac 7534 with its 15,000 running watts. However, several people have reported problems with maintenance and poor customer service provided by Generac.
Make sure to also check our calculator to find out how big of a generator do you need for your house.
Why Should You Get the Best Whole House Generator?
If you absolutely can’t do without power to the entire house or don’t want to face the limitations of a small, gas-powered generator, purchasing a whole house generator is something that you should give serious thought. Unlike the silent portable units, a standby whole house generator is installed permanently on a concrete pad and connected directly to your home’s electric box to provide uninterrupted power that can kick in automatically. It is directly connected to a ready fuel source, such as natural gas, that can supply all of your electricity needs for days.
A unit generating 20 kilowatts can easily power the average home, and you may not need to forego the microwave popcorn or even turn down the AC. It depends on the size of the home and power needs; a 5000-watt portable unit might be better for an RV or small cottage. Whole house generators allow even very large homes with high power use to keep things running smoothly no matter what happens to the public power grid. Most likely you’ll conserve power to conserve fuel, but if you’re one of those whose loved ones or livelihood depend on electricity being available, good quality whole house generator for your budget is vital.
Boredom is also an issue. If you face the possibility of days without electricity, that means days without television, computers, electric lights, and all the other conveniences. More than boredom, it could mean misery. It means no AC or fans in the stifling heat of summer, and little warmth in the bone-chilling winter. No more home-cooked meals. Children and even adults will tend to go stir-crazy. Even if you have a camp stove or back yard grill for meals, no power means all that food in the freezer or refrigerator will go bad, and you’ll find yourself making daily trips for fresh supplies and bags of ice. Aside from comfort, there is also safety to worry about, without bright lights and backup power to security systems.
If any of that sounds terrible, you should look into getting as much standby power as budget permits.
What Do You Need To Know Before Buying a Whole House Generator?
The highest quality generators can be pricey. The more power you need, the more you’re going to pay upfront. Then there are fuel costs. The more power you use, and the longer runtime the generator needs to provide it, the more fuel you need. The type of fuel a particular unit uses, and how expensive it is or difficult to get in your area, should be considered when shopping for a whole house unit. Fuel levels will have to be checked unless you want to be scrambling for fuel every time the weatherman predicts a storm. Some units might also require a certain amount of fuel pressure, so be sure your hardware or local utility can deliver.
There’s also a noise factor. Even a portable generator can run at a constant 80 decibels – about the sound of a loud lawnmower, and running continuously. A whole house unit is generally more efficient and more insulated. But the noise level is something to consider, so be sure to take a look at the manufacturer ratings and consumer reviews for each prospective unit to give you some idea, balanced against any options for enclosures, insulation, or sound-proofing. Many models are given a rating of 62 decibels which is similar to most of the portable inverter generators reviewed, but that is often the noise level measured at 25 feet away. The closer the generator is to your living area, the lower the level of noise you’ll be looking for. The only true noiseless sources of power are the solar systems but then – they are definitely not powerful enough to act as emergency whole house energy supplies.
There may be more periodic costs. A licensed electrician will be needed to do the electrical work, and probably a plumber or local utility technician to hook the unit up to its fuel source. A contractor may have to come in to pour the concrete slab. Whole house generators tend to be bulky, so unloading, moving, and space requirements should be considered. Unless you or friends and relatives can handle all this safely and reliably, special labor costs should be factored in.
As a home generator is a permanent addition to your home, and will generally contribute to its value, you may also run into red tapes such as building permits and property tax. There are also safety inspections and code requirements. Sometimes the retailer or installer will handle these things, but it pays to be sure upfront, so you don’t get slapped with a fine or citation for non-permitted improvements.
Odds are you won’t need the unit to run at full blast 24/7, but noise levels and fuel consumption can also be dependent on run time.
Before purchasing, make sure a trained technician visits your home to assess your power needs, living area cubic footage, home electrical system, appliances, and possible installation issues. Find out the minimum level of wattage you need, and go from there.
There’s also quality and durability. Whole house generators work hard and will need maintenance if they’re going to be ready to power your home in an emergency. The best whole house generators can be set up with periodic self-tests to ensure they’ll be up and running when needed. Standby generators require a short run-time periodically, known as exercise, to test and ensure the system is functioning properly and ready for an emergency.
How Much Should You Spend on a Home Generator?
Be aware that the energy produced by generators is not the same as grid-supplied electricity. Generators produce harmonic distortion, which can affect or even damage sensitive devices like televisions and computers.
To get your own rough estimate of what kind of power you’ll need, you’ll have to add up the relative requirements of the appliances in your home. You can find a guide online on sites like consumerreports.org. Adding up all these numbers will give you an idea of the maximum wattage you might be consuming. though you should refer to an expert technician for actual needs, at least this will give you a rough idea of what kind of wattage you’re going to need.
A permanent generator that provides 10-15 Kilowatts will typically cost between $3,000 – $10,000, and an added $400 – $1,000 for installation fees. A larger generator that can provide 20 – 40 Kilowatts will usually cost between $5,000 and $20,000. These generators will operate even if you’re away, saving you the headache of returning home to a refrigerator full of spoiled food. In terms of relative costs, it’s often wiser to spend that extra $500 or so on higher wattage for your family needs.
To determine the best whole house generator for your needs, make a list of items you would want to be powered during a blackout. Each device should have a watt rating. If there is only an amps rating, multiply that number by 120 to find the wattage. If an appliance uses a motor, you’ll have to find the startup wattage and use that instead. Add up the total wattage of the items, and then add an additional 10 or 15 percent to be safe. This is the amount of power your choice of the best whole house generator must provide in order to meet your needs.
Even the best whole house generators involve extra costs such as fuel tank installation and set up fees, consider that generators are generally a little larger than comparable AC units, and regulations usually require that they be located x amount of feet from property lines or dwellings, and concealed by fences or shrubbery, all of which can add up. Some local regulations may also include periodic inspections.