Portable Gas Generator Review
Article by Mark Trotta
If you're looking for a backup power source for home use during emergencies, or to run electrical equipment while out camping, you'll find the most affordable option is a portable gas generator.
Surge vs Running Wattage
Starting wattage (surge wattage) is the amount of power an appliance needs when starting. Running (rated) wattage is the amount of power needed to keep the appliance running.
To help decide what size generator you need, work up an average of how much wattage your devices and/or appliances will require. The below figures are 'running' or rated average.
- Smart Phone (Recharge) - 6
- Tablet (Recharge) - 8
- Satellite Dish - 25
- Incandescent 50 Watt Bulb - 50
- LED Bulb (60 Watt Equivalent) - 13
- TV (LCD) - 150
- Desktop Computer (Standard) - 200
- Electric Blanket - 200
- Box Fan - 200
- Desktop Computer (Gaming) - 500
Higher up on the wattage scale:
- Well Pump (1/3 to 1 Horsepower) - 750
- Window Air Conditioner (10,000 BTU) - 900
- Coffee Machine - 1000
- Microwave - 1000
- Fridge (16 cu/ft) - 1200
- Hair Dryer - 1500
As you can see, large appliances such as air conditioning units and refrigerators take a lot of power, so instead of trying to run those big appliances, consider smaller alternatives, such as several small ice coolers or cooling fans.
The wattage figures above help explain why the 2000 watt inverter generator is one of the most popular generator categories. The nice thing about these are, aside from being affordable, they're fairly small and light.
Is 2000 Watts Enough?
A 2,000 watt generator is not capable of powering your entire house, so narrow down your emergency equipment list to what is absolutely necessary to get you through the power outage.
NOTE: The U.S. national SAIDI (system average interruption duration index) states that the average length of a power outage, without major events, is about 100 minutes.
Inverter vs Generator
Many generators are labeled portable generators but technically they are inverters. So what's the difference? The main difference is the type of electricity it produces. Conventional generators produce AC electricity only, while an inverter generator produces electricity in three phases; high frequency AC, over to DC, and back to a stable AC current.
Inverter generators run at a fairly low 3600 rpm, which gives two advantages. The first is, since the engine's not revving any higher than needed, they run quieter than conventional generators. Secondly, since the engine only runs at the RPM's needed, it's not burning any more fuel than needed.
Because they don't need as big an engine to make the same power, the engine and fuel tanks are smaller, cutting down overall weight and size. Usually they're light enough to be carried by hand.
The majority of 2000 watt inverter generators on the market today are in the 45 to 50 pound weight range. Two exceptions are the Champion Ultralight and the WEN Super Quiet, which only weigh 39 pounds.
Inverter generators also produce less greenhouse emissions than conventional generators, plus they are safe for sensitive electronic devices.
What Are Sensitive Electronics?
A lot of modern electronics, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TV's, are sensitive to voltage spikes. These are classified as sensitive electronics, and spikes in AC voltage could damage them. If these are some of the things you plan on powering, an inverter generator would be a good choice.
Inverter generators have an average power of 1200 watts to 4000 watts, whereas conventional portable generators can reach over 10,000 watts.
Since they don't make a lot of power by themselves, one way to get more power from an inverter generator is by installing a parallel connection between two separate units. Provided they are the same model, they can be connected together and deliver double the amount of power.
Propane vs Gasoline
The big advantage of propane is, no matter how long it's stored, it doesn't lose its quality or effectiveness. But there are several disadvantages, including it's more costly than gasoline. There's also the hassle of finding a place to buy them, and keeping and refilling the portable tanks. By converting a generator to dual fuel, you have the option of multiple fuel sources.
For a small portable generator, gas-powered is the most common choice. Chances are you already have gas powered lawn equipment, so having a little more on hand is not inconvenient.
Best Gas For Generators
The pump gasoline we buy today has a short shelf life - sometimes only 30 days. Ethanol-blended gas is bad for small engines and should be your last choice for fuel.
I keep a five-gallon Jerry Can of non-Ethanol gasoline for our portable generator. When needed, the generator may run 24 hours or more, so I want to have enough gas on hand for for such emergencies.
After three or four months, if our generator hasn't run and the gas was not used, I'll pour the gas in my daily driver or lawn tractor gas tank, then refill the Jerry Can with fresh non-Ethanol as soon as I can.
Generator Inverter Maintenance
Aside from regular maintenance like cleaning the air filter, replacing the spark plug, and changing the oil, I run my generator at least twice a year when it has not seen use.
Our Champion inverter generator runs about eight hours in Econo mode on one tankful. Most portable gas generators, including the Champion 2000, have a one-gallon gas tank.
Generator Inverter In Use
Personally, I don't use my portable generator very often. It is called upon only when there is a power outage. And in the nine years we've owned it, we may have used it six times. But the times we did need it, it helped keep us a little cooler during summer blackouts, and a little warmer in winter power outages. Aside from running fans and small heaters, it allows us to run lights at night, charge up our cell phones, and lets us make coffee in the morning!
Best 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
The following is a list of several best-selling portable gas generators:
WEN Inverter Generator
- 2000 peak watts
- Engine: Gas 4-Stroke 79cc
- Dimensions: 17.3" x 11.5" x 17.7"
- Weight: 39 Pounds
- One of the lightest inverter generators on the market
Shop: WEN Super Quiet 2000-Watt Inverter Generator
Champion Inverter Generator
- 2000 peak watts
- Engine: Gas 4-Stroke 80cc
- Dimensions: 16.3" x 13.2" x 19.3"
- Weight: 47.8 pounds
Shop: Champion 2000-Watt Inverter Generator
Westinghouse Super Quiet Igen 2200
- 2200 peak watts
- Engine: Gas 4-stroke 80cc
- Dimensions: 19.8" x 11.4" x 17.9"
- Weight: 46 Pounds
- CARB Compliant
- One of the quietest on the market
Shop: Westinghouse Super Quiet Inverter Generator
Champion Ultra Light Inverter Generator
- 2500 peak watts
- Engine: Gas 4-stroke 79cc
- Dimensions: 17.3" x 12" x 17.7"
- Weight: 39 Pounds
- One of the lightest 2500-watt inverters on the market
Shop: Champion Ultralight 2500-Watt Inverter Generator
Plastic vs Metal Gas Cans
Plastic gas cans are small and light, and their affordability makes them popular. But plastic gas jugs can swell when subjected to extreme heat, and get brittle when it's very cold. Gas kept in metal containers withstand extreme weather better.
Read: Best Metal Gas Can
Shop: 50 foot Extension Cord