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The typical American household loses power once or twice a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with outages caused by thunderstorms, snowfall, hurricanes and earthquakes. “Often this is a mere inconvenience and some lost cartons of milk, but as we saw in Texas, where nearly 200 lives were taken in the 2020 winter blackout, the loss of power can leave us desperately vulnerable,” says Steve Eberlein, corporate resilience and engagement manager at Ethos Preparedness, a company dedicated to emergency preparedness.
Experts say a generator is something to consider for those who live in areas with frequent power outages or natural disasters, or those who don’t want to be inconvenienced. While stationary generators typically provide more power, portable generators can be moved around depending on where they’re needed. If you’re thinking about buying a portable generator, you’ll first want to think about what exactly you want to power in your house, so you can make sure the generator can, in fact, power those items. You will also want to think about fuel type; for example, if gasoline becomes unavailable during a natural disaster, it may be wise to have a generator that uses propane. Popular Mechanics has a good guide on picking a generator.
As a FEMA instructor, member of the Southern California law enforcement Search & Rescue team, and a former disaster products executive and founder and CEO of Early Warning Labs (EWL), Josh Bashioum says his view of power generation takes a practical mission-based approach. “Having a high level of flexibility and portability is key,” says Bashioum. These are the best portable emergency generators, as recommended by preparedness professionals.
If you need a lot of power: Honda Generator EU3000iS Inverter Generator with CO-MINDER, $2,299 with free shipping
Many portable generators don’t have enough power to power things like your refrigerator for longer than an hour or two. This one does: “My rescue team has used this generator and it’s a personal favorite because it’s semi-portable, somewhat quiet, reliable and it provides plenty of power,” says Bashioum. You can run some large appliances like a furnace, refrigerator and microwave, it has unlimited runtime assuming you have access to gasoline and it’s optimal for running minimum household needs. In fact, with 3.4 gallons of fuel, this generator will run for about 20 hours. Popular Mechanics also notes that it’s super quiet, which is rare for generators, so you can have a conversation while standing next to it. Plus, it only weighs 130 pounds which means it can be moved by two people if necessary.
Note that a fueled generator like this one should never be run indoors. “Make sure to have your power cables measured and ready for when you need them. Most people forget this vital part which renders their generator useless,” says Bashioum.
LEARN MORE: Honda Generator EU3000iS Inverter Generator with CO-MINDER, $2,299 with free shipping
If you want a more affordable gas-powered generator: Honda 1000-Watt Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Portable Inverter Generator, $899 (free shipping)
Commonly used by caterers and rescue teams, this portable generator runs on gas. “It has a small format and it’s lightweight for generator standards, it’s very quiet, it’s got a long runtime and it can power most small to medium electronics including routers and televisions,” says Bashioum. Use it to power sump pumps, space heaters, furnace fan blowers, window air conditioning units and more, for over 8 hours on a single tank of fuel.
LEARN MORE: Honda 1000-Watt Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Portable Inverter Generator, $899 (free shipping)
If you prefer solar power to fuel: Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station + Boulder 50 Solar Kit, $679.92
This generator can be charged using the company’s portable solar panels and it offers high-speed charging with a delivery port that charges laptops, tablets, cameras and phones quickly. Portable fridges can also be powered using this model and Popular Mechanics considers these Goal Zero Yeti generators excellent green options that can be used indoors. “These are portable and don’t require the need of fossil fuels, but the biggest downside is that they’re slow to recharge so usage is relied upon by that charging schedule,” says Bashioum. He says this is a great option at a lower price point because you can run some very small appliances, use it off-grid powered by sunlight, it’s extremely portable and there’s no maintenance involved.
LEARN MORE: Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station + Boulder 50 Solar Kit, $679.92
If you just need a amount of power: Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator, $159.89
Eberlein says if you’re not ready for a full blown generator, live in an apartment where it’s simply not an option or want something portable that can keep communication devices charged during a brief outage, electrical generators are a good option. “This station weighs just 12 pounds, emits no fumes and can be used to recharge a laptop, phone or to run a simple appliance for a while. It won’t get you through a Texas freeze event, but it can at least keep you connected to the world during those one or two annual outages,” says Eberlein.
LEARN MORE: Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator, $159.89
If you need a versatile solution: Firman 7500W Running/9400W Peak Tri Fuel Generator, $999
My family actually purchased this generator after a power outage in 2020 and we feel such a sense of security knowing we have it available should we need to rely on it. This tri fuel generator can run on gasoline, propane or natural gas, making it a versatile option for emergency situations. With more than 739 reviews and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating, one reviewer says, “I bought this generator because well, 2020 happened. Already in 1.5 weeks, I’ve had 4 wildfires nearby and that means power gets cut off. I just picked this up and it’s a beast. Assembly is really easy: put the wheels on with a cotter pin and then tighten a few bolts for the front stand. Add oil and fuel and you can start this up!”
LEARN MORE: Firman 7500W Running/9400W Peak Tri Fuel Generator, $999
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-2-200-portable-generator-that-this-fema-instructor-and-disaster-preparedness-company-ceo-says-his-rescue-team-uses-its-a-personal-favorite-01625839734