Best Standby Generators for Home Use in 2018: A Complete Buyer’s Guide

In this buyers guide, we’ll rank and provide overviews for the best standby generators for 2018.

Most homes don’t need a commercial backup generator in order to get you through a power outage. There are plenty of great, affordable compact backup generators that can handle most normal family home power needs during an emergencies.

As you read these reviews, you will notice that most, if not all, of these generators are fuelled by natural gas and/or liquid propane. The benefits of this feature are enormous. Storing gasoline can be dangerous and burdensome. If hooked up to a natural gas line, these type of generators can run forever (or as long as the natural gas is available) without you having to worry about refilling a gas tank. And even though propane needs refilling, you can usually get propane refills delivered from a propane gas dealer. This a great advantage.

Note: In some descriptions you will find the term "NEMA 1, indoor rated only". Follow the link for an explanation of this term used within this article.

Best Tri Fuel Generators 2018 - Comparsion Table

Model Noise Level Max wattage Weight Editor’s Rating
Generac Guardian Series 5870 62 dB 8000 watt 350 lb. 9.6/10 Rating Check Price
Read Review
Briggs & Stratton 40303 65 dB 15000 watt 480 lb. 9.4/10 Rating Check Price
Read Review
Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS 73 dB 20000 watt 500 lb. 9.3/10 Rating Check Price
Read Review
Generac 6243 66 dB 17000 watt 437 lb. 9/10 Rating Check Price
Read Review
Generac Guardian 6519 69 dB 7000 watt 360 lb. 8.8/10 Rating
Read Review
Generac 6438 63 dB 11000 watt 407 lb. 8.6/10 Rating
Read Review
Briggs & Stratton 40531 63 dB 11000 watt 318 lb. 8.5/10 Rating
Read Review

#1 Generac Guardian Series 5870 8,000-Watt

Generac Guardian Series 5870

Another great home backup generator in the Generac line, this model also runs off natural or liquid propane. It provides you with 8,000-watts startup power and 7,000-watts continual. It’s powered by a 410cc OHVI engine. This particular model specifies only a two year oil change interval. This is good, as many people seem to forget to change their electric generator’s oil. That is why many come with low oil warnings and low oil shut off mechanisms. The automatic switch allows the generator to come on when the power goes out, and then turns off when the power returns. This means you don’t have to go outside to turn it on.

The Generac Guardian is encased within a steel enclosure for sound dampening, which allows it a noise rating of 62 Dba. Nonetheless, customers have reported that the noise is about the same as a lawnmower running outside. But most agree that this is a small price to pay when facing a long term power outage. Due to the 10 circuit load center style auto transfer switch technology (100-amps), there is no need for long extension cords to be strewn all over the place.

The Generac Guardian Series 5870 produces a rated 8,000-watts. It includes eight circuits that are fuse protected. Furthermore, this generator is also NEMA 1, indoor rated only. CARB and EPA compliant, it operates remotely via a NexusTM Digital Controller, which monitors and controls all of its functions. This system provides the status of the Series 5870’s system status and is compatible with Nexus wireless monitors. The skewed rotor design provides your home with a smooth output waveform. This means clean power for all of those sensitive electronics.

The 10 circuit load center style Auto Transfer Switch includes:

  • 5’ pre-wired external connection box from wall to generator;
  • 2’ pre-wired indoor conduit from switch to external box;
  • 1’ flexible fuel line;
  • 30’ pre-wired indoor conduit from switch to external box;
  • DVD manual on how to setup and use the generator.

TECH SPECS
Overcrank Protection No
LP Fuel Consumption 0.94 (BTU: 85,305 BTU/HR) gallons/hr - 50% Load
NG Fuel Consumption 77 (BTU: 77,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr - 50% Load
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 8000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 7000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 62 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 3 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 350 lb.

#2 Briggs & Stratton 40303 15,000 Watt

Briggs & Stratton 40303

This 15kw standby generator (IntelGEN) is a beast of a generator. Powered by a 895cc Vanguard(TM) air-cooled V-Twin engine, it produces 14,000 rated watts and 17,000-watts of surge power with natural gas (NG); it produces 15,000 rated watts and 18,500-watts of surge power with liquid petroleum (LP). Half the size, with half the sound, and half the cost as those in the same class, this is a great choice for a medium sized standby generator. Like the other generators above, this Briggs and Stratton is fully automated. As soon as its system senses a power outage has occurred, it will kick in and keep you with power for as long as the zombie apocalypse lasts.

This particular Briggs and Stratton model features Sound Shield Technology, engineered air passages and an automotive exhaust system and acoustic foam dampeners to bring the noise level down to 65 dBA at seven meters away. A durable all-weather enclosure features heat and rust proof polymer louvers, vents and a powder coat paint job to maximize its durability. With over-load protection, you don’t have to worry about keeping a constant eye on the generator.

Other specs:

  • 120/240-volt single phase;
  • 60 Hz frequency;
  • 58 @ 240 rated amps (single phase);
  • Two poles;
  • Consumer Engine Warranty;
  • Battery and automatic switch not included.

TECH SPECS
Diagnostic Alerts with Remote System Status Low Oil Shutdown, Engine Does Not Start, Low Frequency, Engine Overspeed, Low Voltage, Low Battery Voltage, Oil Temp High, Transfer Switch Fault
Overcrank Protection Yes
LP Fuel Consumption 1.56 (BTU: 141,570 BTU/HR) gallons/hr (50% Load)
NG Fuel Consumption 126 (BTU: 126,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr (50% Load)
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 15000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 14000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 65 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 4 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 480 lb.

#3 Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS 20,000-Watt

Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS

This KOHLER generator is powered by a 999cc KOHLER Command PRO engine with hydraulic valve lifters. It produces 20,000 rated watts running on liquid propane and 18,000 rated watts on natural gas. It is UL, CSA and ETL safety rated. The exclusive Powerboost technology allows you to run an air conditioner and other major appliances all together. As far as surge power goes, this bad boy has enough punch to start a five ton air conditioner. KOHLER claims that it will automatically start within 10 seconds. This generator is probably the quietest of its class running at 63 dBA at 23-feet away.

The KOHLER 20 kW generator features an electronic speed control system that allows it to respond quickly to power demand fluctuations. It boasts one percent (give or take) voltage regulation with less than five percent harmonic distortion, which is great for those more sensitive electronics such as computers, smartphones and tablets. This model is remote capable, but the remote unit is sold separately.

The load-shedding technology makes sure that your most vital appliances and electronics get the power they need, even if the generator has reached its capacity. This is beneficial in two ways: 1) You don’t have to worry about power being cut to things you actually need. 2) The generator won’t ever go over capacity. There is an easy-to-read LCD control panel. The generator itself is protected by a very durable enclosure that is highly impact resistant in temperatures -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reader should be aware that depending on which authorized dealer you buy this unit from, it may or may not include the automatic switch box. The battery must be purchased separately. Unfortunately, those living in California can’t purchase this item because it is not CARB compliant.

Here are some other specs that you might find useful:

  • The reconnectable output is 120/240-volts;
  • Five year or 2,000 hours protection plan (AKA warranty);
  • Two pole, rotating field;
  • One-step load acceptance;
  • Compliance with NEMA, IEEE, and ANSI standards for temperature rise;
  • Rotating-field alternator with static exciter for excellent load response;
  • Skewed generator construction produces a smooth;
  • AC waveform.

TECH SPECS
Overcrank Protection Yes
LP Fuel Consumption 2.3 (BTU: 208,725 BTU/HR) gallons/hr (50% Load)
NG Fuel Consumption 161 (BTU: 161,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr (50% Load)
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 20000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 18000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 73 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 5 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 500 lb.

#4 Generac 6243 17,000 Watt

Generac 6243

This Generac 6243 home standby generator has an aluminum enclosure, which helps make it rust proof and last longer. The 200-amp smart transfer switch is quick to transfer power so that you don’t miss a beat (it only take about two to three seconds to kick on). This unit comes prepackaged with all the things you need to get your home hooked up and protected from the next power outage. This is the mother of all generators, providing 17,000 rated watts on liquid propane (LP) or 16,000 rated watts on natural gas. The Truepower Technology provides your home with stable, clean power so that you can run your electronics.

The engine is an air cooled 992cc Generac OHVI and is designed to support large loads. It can be programmed to do a routine “exercise” at any time of your choice. This is to ensure that it is ready to go when the time comes. The convenient digital controls and easy to view indicator help you keep on top of its performance with only a quick glance. It includes an external GFCI outlet for outdoor power needs. It only needs servicing every two years or 200 hours of operation.

Some additional specs for this unit:

  • It is 1-UL and CSA listed;
  • Five year manufacturer limited warranty;
  • Remote capable but sold separately;
  • Uses a Group 26R 12-volt minimum 525 CCA battery, also sold separately;
  • Enclosure protected with Rhino Coat technology;
  • Listed backup power response time is between 10-30 seconds (depending on who you ask).

TECH SPECS
Overcrank Protection Yes
LP Fuel Consumption 3.57 (BTU: 323,978 BTU/HR) gallons/hr
NG Fuel Consumption 312 (BTU: 312,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 17000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 16000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 66 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 5 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 437 lb.

#5 Generac Guardian 6519 PowerPact 7kW

Generac Guardian 6519

The Generac Power Systems’ PowerPact 7kW (7,000-watts) standby generator is especially designed for home use. It is fuelled by natural or liquefied petroleum gas (LP). This is a single phase generator that is powered by an 420cc air-cooled OHVI engine that has been especially designed for power generation. As should be expect, the PowerPact 7kW is designed with “true power technology,” which means the highest current performance level of its class. It has a power quality less than five percent total harmonic distortion, providing fluid operation for sensitive electronics such as computers, smartphones and tablets.

The PowerPact 7kW is encased in a steel enclosure that decreases its noise level to 67 Dba at 23 feet under normal operating conditions. You can either start it manually or use its electric start. There is an low oil alert and low oil automatic shut off mechanism that protects the engine from becoming damaged in the event you forget to change it. Nevertheless, there are no hour meter. This model comes with a three year warranty.

As you will see throughout this article, this is the type of generator that will turn on by itself when the power goes out, and it will shut off after the power returns. Due to its power output, I would not consider this generator that good for off-grid living. It has a brushless alternator that provides 120/240-volts single phase with a frequency of 60 hertz. It features Generac- Nema 1 indoor rated transfer switch. The transfer switch is 50-amps. The transfer switches are:

  • 8 Circuit, No Whip;
  • 1-30A 240V;
  • 1-20A 120V;
  • 5-15A 120V.

TECH SPECS
Overcrank Protection No
LP Fuel Consumption 1.3 (BTU: 117,975 BTU/HR) gallons/hr
NG Fuel Consumption 117 (BTU: 117,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 7000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 6000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 69 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 3 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 360 lb.

#6 Generac 6438 11,000-Watt

Generac 6438

This Generac home standby generator is powered by a 530cc Generac OHVI air cooled engine. The Generac brand designs their engines to be capable of running for extended periods of time, promising a reliable and uninterrupted source of power. It features their Evolution Controller with a dual-line, LCD display that allows for simple monitoring and management of the generators functions, external indicator lights that are easy to view at a glance and built-in hour meter. As should be expected with such complete generator models, it features True PowerTM technology that ensures clean, stable power.

This unit features a 200-amp automatic transfer switch, which means, much like the other models, it will turn on at the first sign of a power outage, then shut off when the power is restored. It provides 11,000-watts (41.6-amps) while running on liquid petroleum (LP) and 10,000-watts (37.5-amps) on natural gas (NG). The steel enclosure is coated with the famous Rhino CoatⓇ, which provides it with a protective finish that protects the generator from severe weather and high winds up to 150 MPH.

The Generac 6438 is Underwriters Laboratories (UL), cUL (for Canadian residence) and EPA compliant, as well as CARB compliant for those in California. It is NEMA 1, indoor rated only. The cool thing about this model is that it has a self-test option which allows itself to run on a set schedule for 12 minutes. This test ensures that the generator’s system is working properly and ready for an emergency. It also comes with a two year standard warranty.


TECH SPECS
Overcrank Protection No
LP Fuel Consumption 1.92 (BTU: 174,240 BTU/HR) gallons/hr
NG Fuel Consumption 195 (BTU: 195,000 BTU/HR) ft³/hr
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 11000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 10000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 63 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 5 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 407 lb.

#7 Briggs & Stratton 40531 12kW

Briggs & Stratton 40531

This 12kw standby generator is on a whole other level from the previous models. Symphony II Power Management technology compliments this unit by sensing a power outage and automatically switching your home to backup power. Then it continuously monitors the high-wattage appliances, like air conditioner, fridge and water heater to be sure the generator is never overloaded. This awesome system will transfer power to each appliance as the generator’s power becomes available.

The Symphony II has the following options:

  • 100-amp, 150-amp, 200-amp or dual 200-amps;
  • 120/240-volts;
  • Two poles, 60 Hz frequency, NEMA 3 rating, UL 1008 listed;
  • Manages the entire home’s power;
  • 120/240-volt eight priorities with unlimited "lockouts";
  • 50-amp, low voltage for HVAC, or dual low voltage;
  • Conventional outlet plug-in monitor system status and availability of managed loads;
  • Service entrance disconnect.

This Briggs and Stratton 40531 is said to be 50 percent smaller and 60 percent quieter than their previous models. Nevertheless, it is still 69 Dba, which is slightly higher than the above models. This design is more compact, standing vertically rather than horizontally. This makes it good when space is a concern.

A 627cc Briggs and Stratton commercial-grade Vanguard(TM) engine powers the generator. This engine has premium sintered iron cylinder sleeves to improve heat transfer. The brushless alternator produces clean power with less than five percent total harmonic distortion. The enclosure is made of automotive-grade galvaneal steel, with an advanced powder coat paint that helps prevent rusting. As a much added bonus, it has a five year warranty on labor and travel.


TECH SPECS
Diagnostic Alerts with Remote System Status Low Oil Shutdown, Engine Does Not Start, Low Frequency, Engine Overspeed, Low Voltage, Low Battery Voltage, Oil Temp High, Transfer Switch Fault
Overcrank Protection Yes
LP Fuel Consumption 2.36 gal/hr (50% Load)
NG Fuel Consumption 119 ft3/hr (50% Load)
Running Watts (Liquid Propane) 11000
Running Watts (Natural Gas) 10000
Noise Level at 1/4 Load 63 dBA
Fuel Type Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
Consumer Warranty 5 Years
Voltage 240 Volts
Item Weight 318 lb.

Conclusion

Whether you are talking about the Generac or the larger Kohler standby generator, you are going to find the same basic elements all the way through.

  • They don’t include batteries or the automatic switches;
  • They may be remote capable, but that, too, must be purchased separately;
  • All their prices are about the same, no matter what size you get;
  • There isn’t much difference in their noise levels.

When it comes to choosing which one is best for you, it all boils down to what are your needs: Are you just wanting a standby generator? Or are you looking to get off of the grid? The first two models are perfect for standby only. And maybe okay for off the grid (if you live in a tiny minimalist home). But for those looking for a more robust standby generator able to handle most anything you throw at it, I love the Kohler.

The Kohler does cost more (as is expected). Yet, it only costs about $1,500 (give or take) more than others on this list. Purchasing a generator is a big decision. Much like when you purchased your house or vehicle, you weren’t more concerned with price than you were about if they were sufficient for you and your family’s needs, right? And even though price does play a factor, we may be able to agree it is probably number three or four on the list. Purchasing a generator is the same. You will use this thing for years to come. Even if you move, you may take it with you. If you don’t, the selling power of listing a standby generator as one of the perks is awesome as well.



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Comments (1)

  • Mitch B 02 january 2018, 22:36(Comment was edited) # 0
    I just got a Generac standby generator from Applegate Home Comfort in Michigan. It has been working great so far, and I'm happy to have power when my neighbors don't. Here's a link for others looking for a Generac generator in Michigan.