Plan ahead. Keep in mind that buying a generator isn’t like buying a lawn mower or snow blower—you shouldn’t just go and get something that looks good, even in a pinch. Your best bet is a stationary generator, which is pro-installed and switches on when needed. But they can take weeks to install given local zoning laws that regulate permits, setbacks, and inspections after you’ve selected the model itself.
Safety first. And even if you buy a portable generator and plan to run extension cords for your lights and refrigerator, for safety's sake we recommend having an electrician install a transfer switch for a less messy hookup. An electrician can also help you decide how capable a generator you need for the wattage of what you need to power.
Here are some generators from our generator tests that are worth your consideration:
Portable generators need to be taken outdoors once the power goes out (and whenever else you run it) and started up. They typically run on gasoline, which means you’ll need to keep some on hand. A 7,000-watt portable will use 12 to 20 gallons of gas per day if run continuously. Be sure to add stabilizer, and fire the machine up about every month to be sure it’ll be ready when you need it.
One of Kohler's first portable generators, the 6,300-watt Kohler PRO7.5E delivered ample clean power and many helpful features such as electric start, fuel shutoff, and low-oil shutoff, which protects the engine from overheating if the oil level dips too low.
The 7,000-watt Generac RS7000E, supplied more than enough wattage to power our test appliances and handled surges very well. That power was also fairly clean. Helpful features include electric start, fuel shutoff, and low-oil shutoff.
Stationary (Standby) Generators
For the least fuss—at least once it’s installed—a stationary generator comes on when the power goes off, runs on propane or natural gas, and also starts itself periodically to run diagnostic checks. With most, you need to check the generator’s display for error codes that might require service from your local dealer. A few models have optional modules that will text or email you and/or a dealer should attention be required.
The Generac 6237 offers capable performance. It's claimed to offer 7,000 watts using natural gas and another 1,000 if you use propane. It also comes with a transfer switch, needed for safe operation. Among helpful features is low-oil shutoff with a warning indicator. An add-on option lets you monitor your generator’s status from anywhere using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The Kohler 14RESAL was top-notch at delivering ample, especially smooth power, and it’s claimed to offer 12,000 watts using natural gas and another 2,000 if you use propane. It was among the quietest of the models we tested and includes a low-oil shutoff with a warning indicator. It also comes with a transfer switch. An add-on module lets you monitor your generator’s status from anywhere using a Windows PC.
Before You Start Shopping
If this is your first generator, your research should begin with our free buying guide for generators. Then take a look at our generator test results of more than three dozen portable and stationary models.
For more information, contact South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA.