Choosing the Best Backup Power Generator

| 8/10/2011 11:10:00 AM

Tags: Power generator, backup generator, portable generator, electrical generator, Steve Maxwell,
I bought my first backup generator in 1989 – the very best 3500 watt Honda made at the time – to help me with building projects beyond the grid. That’s the one you see on the rolling cart, above. Little did I know that I’d end up using this machine more often during power blackouts than running a saw or drill or sander. Life in the country comes with its share of outages, but that’s not much of an issue when you’re self-reliant for basic power needs.

Generators have improved a whole lot since I bought my first one, with today’s best models being much smaller, lighter and quieter than before. A minority of current models even generate power that’s clean enough to operate the most sensitive electronic equipment without causing damage. This is an important issue when you’re choosing a generator, and few people understand it fully.

Besides using generators frequently for the past couple of decades, I also get the chance to take apart and test different models from various manufacturers. I have my favourites, as well as tips for choosing the best models for different situations. If you’re looking for a portable, backup generator and want to make the best possible choice, check out my technical report at

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

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john webber
10/30/2012 4:30:26 PM

For myself, I found that generators were just too much trouble. Instead I went with a backup system from Outback Power Where I live, we would lose power 20 or so times a year, for several hours at a time. With some golf cart batteries we were able to make it through with out any issues. The pure-sine wave inverter is the only way to go. Beats pulling on a cord or spraying starter fluid in eye.

shawn breshears
1/15/2012 4:51:39 PM

We are producing a video that will teach you how to backfeed your home safely and easily. There are several ways to do it that are safe and meet code requirements and will allow you to use 90% of your homes electrical system just as you would when the power company is supplying power through your meter. It'll be online by Feb 1, 2012 at and will be part of a 26 video tutorial that teaches everything from Beans to Bandaids - and that's everything! Shawn the SurvivAll Expert

kevin thompson
1/15/2012 11:27:06 AM

Here is the link

kevin thompson
1/15/2012 11:26:19 AM

I recently bought the DuroMax XP10000E 10,000 Watt 16 HP OHV 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator. Great buy.

9/5/2011 1:05:13 PM

Stupid question: I have a generator that my father left me and I can start it up just fine. My stupid question is how do I attach it to the house to offer power? It looks very much like the generator in the picture above but what kind of cables do I need, can I plug it in to an outlet (wishful thinking I know)? I have a house, I have a generator, but for me, the two just do not meet together.

andre talbot
8/14/2011 5:16:16 PM

we have to sign up to a social network to read the article. any way to avoid that for those that don't want to sign up?

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