Portable Generator Buying Guide

Why Do You Need a Generator?

Hurricanes. Ice storms. Wind storms. You’ve seen the after-effects: entire communities without power. A home generator will ensure your family has the power needed when faced with unexpected outages. Two types of generators are available: portable generators and permanently installed home generatorsystems.Portable solutions will power your home appliances during blackouts, your recreational toys when you’re camping or outdoors, and/or tools on your job site. Home generator systems are installed at your home and will power at-home medical equipment, multiple home appliances, and in most cases actually start automatically during power outages. Briggs & Stratton portable generators range between $500 and $2,200; and our Home Generator Systems range from $1,649 to $4,000.

How to Select the Right Generator For the Job

You’ve seen what can happen during natural disasters, storms and power outages. You know you want an alternate power source for your home. To determine how much power you require, follow these steps:

  1. What do you need to power? Make a list. Ask yourself what you will need to power during an electrical outage: just appliances and lights? Computers and home electronics, too? Some families have in-home medical equipment that is a priority, while others need to ensure they have enough power to keep stocked food supplies on ice. If you need a generator for recreational or jobsite usage, list out the toolsor appliances you will want to use at the same time. Will you need to power work lights along with your tools? What about a radio? On camping or fishing trips, how many outdoor cooking, heating or entertainment appliances or accessories will you and your family or friends be using at once?
  2. Determine what it takes to start each appliance. Ensure you’ll be able to start (not simply run) your appliances. The “starting wattage” is the amount of wattage needed to start an appliance with a motor; and it may be two to threetimes the wattage required to run the appliance. If you have owner’s manuals, check for your appliances’ listed start-up wattages (vs. the running wattage or the rated wattage). If you don’t have owner’s manuals, use our wattage calculator to estimate your power needs.
  3. Calculate your total power needs. It’s a two part equation. First, add up all the “running wattage” for all the items you wish to power simultaneously. This equals the total running watts your generator needs to produce simply to run your equipment. Next, add to that total the highest of the “starting wattages” you wrote down in step 2, above. Now you know how much power you need to start and run your appliances and equipment!

With the knowledge you now have about your power needs, you can comparison shop for generators within your wattage requirement. Warning: Never connect a generator directly to a home’s wiring! If you intend to connect a generator to your home’s electrical system, hire a qualified electrician to install a transfer switch.

All Briggs & Stratton portable generators are powered by high-quality Briggs& Stratton gas engines that offer power you can count on. Portable generators provide dependable power during power outages, and can also be used to run your power tools or to make recreational areas more comfortable where there is no electricity.

To shop for a portable generator, follow these steps:

  1. Determine your power needs. Portable generators can range from 900 to 10,000 watts
  2. Think about the ease of transporting your generator. Most Briggs & Stratton portable generators come with wheels, and some are light enough to carry. If you require wheels, you’ll love our never-flat, puncture-resistant wheels for easier transportation over rugged terrain like construction sites.
  3. Look for a generator with at least 10 hours of runtime. This allows contractors to make it through a full day’s work and home owners to get a full night’s sleep without re-fueling.
  4. Count how many outlets you’ll need on your generator. This depends on how many appliances you’ll need to power at once. Check your appliances to see what type of outlets you’ll need. See diagram below for outlet types.

Features That Make a Difference

  • Weather Protected Control Panel Protects your control panel from rain, dirt, dust and debris.
  • Outlets All outlets are circuit breaker protected. Select the generator with the types of outlets you need.
  • Fuel Tanks Larger fuel tanks provide longer uninterrupted run times. 
  • Alternator Produces the electricity. PowerSurge™ Alternators deliver greater surge wattage for extra starting power.
  • Engine OHV (OverHead Valve) engines provide longer life, longer run times, greater fuel efficiency and quieter running.
  • Muffler Helps reduce engine noise. Look for the SuperSilencer™ muffler for extra noise reduction.
  • Wheels Look for pneumatic wheels for easier transportation over rugged terrain like construction sites.

Visit Your Local Generator Dealer

A great resource for finding the right unit is your local outdoor power equipment dealer who handles pressure washers.

Be sure to start the unit and try the controls. Don’t hesitate to ask the dealer if he or she has a model that can be used for an on-site demonstration before making a final buying decision.

Know what you’re looking at and how it can help you. Familiarize yourself with the various features and parts of a portable generator (below) before comparison shopping. Move your mouse over the numbers tolearn the basic features of a generator.

Ask About Service 

A properly maintained generator will provide optimum performance for years, so buying a generator from a servicing dealer is a big advantage. As with all Briggs & Stratton products, our generators are supported by America’s largest service network. Locate a dealer near you.


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