Buying a Portable Gas Generator – What to Look for

What to look for when buying a portable gas generator and explore the benefits of having one.

Do you lose power often? Are you prepared for an emergency situation during a power outage? Or do you need to run your tools where electricity is not available? The answer to the above questions is the portable gas generator, a convenient and useful device that can be used in and around your house, at the job site, or when traveling, camping, and partying. In some regions, it is a must to have as an alternate power source.

In this article

  1. What are the portable gas generators?
  2. How portable gas generator works?
  3. Benefits
  4. Features to look for
  5. Where to use a gas generator?
  6. Top sellers
  7. Popular brands

What are the portable gas generators?

Portable gas generators are gasoline-powered devices that are designed to generate dependable power (electricity) - anywhere and anytime. The best portable generators are reliable, strong, easy to transport, small, and powerful. They come in a wide variety of different sizes, watts and prices.

Top sellers

How portable gas generator works?

The generator's gasoline engine burns the fuel (gasoline) and spins a small electromagnet inside a coil, generating electricity with certain levels of Amps, Volts, and useful power wattage. Just plug electrical appliances into the device's socket directly or indirectly to the sub-panel of your home.

Portable generators make use of the combustion engines; therefore, regulators onboard are a must. In order to produce the standard 60 Hz of AC current, the engine needs to turn at 3600 rpm, which is mechanically controlled. To prevent the engine from burning, a voltage controller is required, that is to maintain the output at 120 volts.

Benefits (and disadvantages)

  • Backup power during an emergency and harsh weather conditions
  • Power electronics when away from home, in the outdoors
  • Power the tools at the job site

Gas portable generators also come with some disadvantages:

  • They must be used outdoor due to toxic fumes.
  • Gas has a limited shelf life, so it can not be store for a long time.
  • Potential spillage and odor.
  • Hard to buy gasoline during emergency and delivery disruption.

Features to look for

Power and sizing tips

The first thing you need to know when buying any type of generator is how much power it can generate. Generators with power ranging from 1000 to 2000 watts are recommended for light-duty jobs at home when camping or tailgating and for lights, fans, and smaller appliances.

Models with the power of up to 5000 watts are still considered portable but are heavier and bulkier. These are used for running several applications simultaneously, such as lights, fans, small devices, and even a refrigerator. At the job site, these generators can supply enough power to several tools.


  • Before buying a portable gas generator, ask yourself what do you really need to run.
  • Make a list.
  • Add up all the running wattage of each device to get the minimum power you need to run all the applications.

For example, device 1 needs 100 watts, device 2 needs 250 watts, and device 3 needs 350 watts, and you want to run them all during the power outage. The total power is 100+250+350=700 watts, so you would buy a generator of 1000 watts, or so.

For your reference, check out how much power is needed for some devices:

  • Lights – 100 watts
  • TV – up to 400 watts
  • Refrigerator – 1000 watts
  • Computer – 400 watts
  • Water pump – 3000 watts
  • Dryer – 4000 watts
  • Window AC – 1400 watts
  • Table saw – 1800/3500 watts for running/start-up

Tip: Be aware that some devices need more power for the start-up than to run. So check both: starting and running watts’ ratings.


Get a generator with at least 10 hours of runtime and avoid sleepless nights knowing that your sump pump is still operational.

Number and type of outlets

See how many appliances you need to power at once, and based on that, get a unit with the right number of outlets. Don’t forget to check the type. The outlets are usually circuit breaker protected against circuit overload.

THD and clean power

THD stands for Total Harmonic Distortion, and it relates to “clean power”. A good THD is less than 6%, but if it is more than 6, the electrical wave can damage electronics in laptops, computers, and other sensitive electronics.

Fuel tank capacity

It is straightforward that with the larger fuel tank, you will get more run time and more in weight. Fuel tanks are either made of plastic or metal.

Fuel gauge

A fuel gauge allows you to check the fuel level and refill the tank if necessary, so your appliances and electronics can run without disruption.

Engine type

OHV engines (OverHead Valve) are more efficient, run and last longer and are quiet. If equipped with the low oil shutoff feature, even better, as it protects the engine.

Inverter technology

Inverter technology is ideal for running sensitive electronics as it provides cleaner output power and stable current all the time, keeping its voltage to what is needed. Such generators are more efficient, produce lower emissions, and are quiet.

Control panel

A control panel should be easily accessible with all the necessary features and weather protected.

Starting a generator

Do you have a preference on how you would like to start the engine: electric start (push button) or pulling a recoil cord?

Noise level

Smaller generators tend to be less noisy than their bigger counterparts. Get a model with a low-tone muffler for quiet operation.

Handles and wheels

For easy portability, get a model with foldable handles and large pneumatic wheels for easier transportation over rough terrain.

Where to use a gas generator?

Use portable gas generators as the home backup power in case of emergency. With these small, movable generators, you can run essential home appliances, watch TV, listening to the radio and keep the fridge running to prevent food spoiling. All the models are designed to work outside only, so what you have to do is to run an extension cord into the house and power the appliances. You can do it directly, but the recommendation is to have the electrician install the power transfer switch.

Use portable gasoline generators when away from home, while camping, RVing, boating, on concerts, parties, trade shows, and for other outdoor activities.

You can also use the generator to run the tools such as drills, saws, air compressors... at the construction site, or power the light in distant areas.

Top sellers

Popular brands

  • All Power
  • Honda
  • Stanley
  • Briggs and Stratton
  • Generac
  • Westinghouse
  • Champion
  • Ryobi
  • Yamaha Generators


Portable gas generators are a better alternative to other types of generators. Gas or gasoline is a resource that can be easily obtained. Anyone can go to the nearest gas station to purchase it. Refueling is simple as the gasoline can be deposited in containers for temporary storage. Gasoline increases the portability of smaller generators.

If you don’t want to invest in a large standby home generator and you need a type that you can easily lift, carry, move around, and store, and for camping, tailgating party or when away from home, get a portable gas generator. They become handy during blackouts or when you need to power electronics when camping.

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