Power failures don’t have to leave you sitting in the dark with a fridge full of spoiling food. A gas-powered portable generator or backup battery system can keep your lights on and run a few home appliances and systems. Here are some of the best…
For dependability: Honda EU2200i portable inverter generator delivers the reliability that Honda is known for. It produces 2,200 watts, enough to run the typical refrigerator plus a few lights and a computer or TV. Unlike other generators, “inverter generators” such as this one provide power without voltage fluctuations that can fry sensitive electronics, though it’s still prudent to use a surge protector between any generator and the devices plugged into it. The EU2200i runs for about three to eight hours on each one-gallon tank of fuel, depending on how many watts it is asked to supply. At just 46.5 pounds and 16.7 x 20 x 11.4 inches, it’s relatively easy to transport, and at 48 to 57 decibels, it’s quiet by generator standards, though still loud enough to be annoying. $1,050.*
For extra power: Champion Power Equipment 100302 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter provides nearly twice as much power as the Honda for a lower price—its 4,000 watts could be sufficient to power your fridge, a handful of lights, a TV and a furnace fan or room air conditioner at the same time. It can run up to 17 hours on a single 2.9-gallon tank of gas, and it’s safe for electronics. But at 64 decibels, it’s louder than the Honda, and at 82 pounds, moving it can be a challenge—gas-powered generators must be taken outdoors before they’re run so deadly carbon monoxide doesn’t accumulate inside the home. It’s worth paying $36 for the optional wheel kit, sold separately. $686.
For quiet: EcoFlow Delta 1300 Power Station is a battery backup system, not gas-powered like the other products on this list. That means it’s virtually silent, lightweight—31 pounds—safe for electronics and can be used indoors. And there’s no need to change the oil regularly or keep fresh gas on hand. The EcoFlow provides 1,800 watts of power and 1,260 watt-hours per charge—enough to run a refrigerator for seven to 14 hours. When its battery runs down, it can be recharged by plugging it in for just 1.6 hours. Or charge it by plugging it into a car’s power port with the engine running for 10 to 12 hours…or by attaching solar panels for four to eight hours ($399, sold separately). This battery system’s quiet and ease of use make it ideal for relatively brief blackouts as well as camping or tailgating, when you want electricity without engine noise—though a gas generator is more practical during a longer blackout. $1,400.
How many watts an appliance or a piece of electronics requires typically is listed on the device—check the devices you intend to run before buying a generator. If you don’t see wattage requirements listed, enter the model name and number into a search engine to locate the owner’s manual. Choose a generator that has comfortably more capacity than your wattage requirements—appliances and electronics often draw additional power during the first seconds after they’re switched on. If you plug multiple devices into a generator, wait a few seconds between turning each on to reduce the odds that you will exceed the generator’s limits.
*Prices are recently available from major online retailers.