We tested and reviewed the top whole house generators on the market. After 100+ hours of research, we are comfortable recommending the Champion 8.5-kW Home Standby Generator as our #1 pick. For the price, this machine does not sacrifice quality. It offers a high level of efficiency, even in extreme weather, and is available in all 50 states. What’s more, the Champion features an unbeatable 10-year warranty plan with a lifetime of technical support. Read further to learn what else we found.
Briggs & Stratton 40346 20000-Watt Home Standby Generator System
- Tight form factor can be installed as close as 18” from buildings
- Automotive-style exhaust system dampens sound substantially
- 5-year warranty covers parts and labor
- 100-200 amp transfer switch options
For one of the highest energy standards in the whole house generator market, the Briggs & Stratton 40346 remains of the best picks. Like many of Briggs & Stratton’s prime offerings, this model includes their proprietary Symphony II Power Management system, which is designed to provide both high-demand and low-demand appliances a safe amount of energy simultaneously.
This model’s automotive-style exhaust system effectively cuts down on its sound production, which is noteworthy for a 20kW generator. As such, you’ll be able to install the Briggs & Stratton 40346 against a tight lot line – even as close as 18” from the nearest building.
Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator
- Includes indoor/outdoor rated NEMA 3 transfer switch
- Smart technology evaluates status and maintenance needs
- Quiet test mode runs at low RPM with decreased fuel consumption
- Durable RhinoCoat aluminum case
- Battery not included
- Control panel is less functional without app
The Generac 7043 is a notably durable 22kW generator that many homeowners have turned to in recent years as a long-term investment in their power security. With a unique RhinoCoat finish over an already sturdy aluminum case, this generator is made to stand up to the worst that nature can throw at it. This has even earned it a NEMA 3 outdoor rating.
Maintaining this generator is not a hassle, either, given its user-friendly Evolution control panel. Equipped with LED indicators, you’ll be able to use this panel to check on the generator’s status as well as the engine’s fuel level. You’ll even be able to run a quick five- or twelve-minute engine test from this panel.
For quality, this model is definitely among the very best available to non-commercial buyers today. A reliable transfer switch is essential to a successful backup generator, which is why this model comes with a remarkable NEMA 3 transfer switch that can rapidly engage your generator in an emergency. This model’s smart technology also sets it above the competition, given that it allows you to evaluate this generator’s status without ever stepping out into a downpour. Even this model’s aluminum exterior is packed with quality, given that it is coated in the ever-popular RhinoCoat.
Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS Air-Cooled Standby Generator
- Corrosion-proof steel enclosure resists even seaside conditions
- 10 second response time to power AC, heat, and sump pumps
- +/-1% voltage regulation for use with sensitive electronics
- Air-cooled Kohler SV620 engine for long-life durability
- Only runs on propane
- Challenging to reach support team at times
The Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS has also become a popular standby generator option in recent years, not least for its air-cooled Kohler SV620 engine and maximum 20,000-watt output. Through its integrated transfer system, this model is able to respond to a sudden power outage and flip on automatically within 10 seconds.
These integrated systems go even further to provide a +/-1% voltage regulation that minimizes harmonic distortion. In other words, this generator is safe to use with your sensitive electronics, such as computers and server systems. With a 2,000 hour warranty across the whole appliance, you should have plenty of time to test the Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS and find if it’s a good fit for your family’s needs.
Champion 8.5-kW Home Standby Generator
- Unique baffle system only produces 59.5 dBA of sound
- Operates effectively between -22° F and 104° F
- Long 10-year warranty with free technical support
- Available for all 50 states
- Different wattage for different fuel sources
- Does not come with hook up cables
What’s in a name? Well, for the Champion 8.5-kW, the answer is clear. This model is among the champions of the home generator industry, providing a solid standard of power output across eight separated circuits. What’s more, this model doesn’t shrink from the threat of extreme weather; in fact, it can operate smoothly in temperatures from -22° F to 104° F without the need for a warming kit.
Nearly every generator today offers some level of warranty, but few can compare to the Champion 8.5-kW’s remarkable 10-year warranty period, which includes a lifetime of free technical support. The same goes for this model’s availability, in that it is one of the most widely available models in all 50 states.
Simply put, there are few other backup generator options that provide reliability and performance as this model. With a unique baffle system that cuts its operational sound to 59.5 dBA, you’ll hardly ever hear this generator as it pumps out a consistent 8.5 kW of power. Because this model can perform at temperatures anywhere between -22° F and 104° F, homeowners in any state can install it without fear of failure during a thunderstorm or snow storm. The same goes for this model’s availability – it’s available in all 50 states, so it should definitely be your go-to whole house generator pick.
Briggs & Stratton 40531 12kW Standby Generator
- Uses proprietary Symphony II Power Management system
- Compact form factor is 50% smaller than previous 12kW models
- Installation style meets National Fire Protection Agency 37 standard
- 60% quieter than previous 12kW models
- Requires local repair
- Is not compatible with petroleum
As the smaller iteration of its well-known 20kW cousin, the Briggs & Stratton 40531 provides a lower volume of energy – 12,000 watts – that is more appropriate for small to mid-sized homes. Even for its decreased size, this model still performs as reliably as its larger cousins thanks to its onboard Symphony II Power Management system.
Unique to this model, though, is the Briggs and Stratton 40531’s exceptionally quiet performance. With a Vanguard engine that runs 60% quieter than previous 12kW generator models, you can count on the Briggs & Stratton 40531’s compact form factor to power your home’s key appliances when you need them most.
Generac 6998 Guardian Series Air Cooled Home Standby Generator
- True Power system smooths delivery to sensitive electronics, including computers
- Comes with 50 amp transfer switch
- Air-cooled engine maintains consistent output
- No warranty listed
- Battery not included
On the smaller end of the standby generator market, the Generac 6998 provides its brand’s well-known smooth performance while still producing 7,500 watts through its patented True Power technology. This model is also fairly efficient in its production cycle thanks to its air-cooled architecture.
While professional installation is always the best option, you’ll still have the option to install the Generac 6998 yourself. With three removable side panels and a base pad that requires minimal ground preparation, you’ll be able to add this generator to your property in no time flat. Though this model is affordably priced, you will need to pay in a little extra for a compatible battery.
For folks shopping for a new generator on a budget, this model should provide a great deal of performance that doesn’t break the bank. This model’s True Power system smooths its 7,500 watt delivery continuously, allowing it to be hooked up to important computers without the risk of damage. This model is also air-cooled, ensuring that it will remain fully operationally consistent even when the weather turns bad.
- Can heat 240 cu. ft. of water at once
- Kicks on in 60 seconds
- Durable stainless steel case
- Only designed to supply energy for shower water heating
- Requires K-5557 invigoration steam generator control kit or K-5548-k1 DTV+ steam adapter kit
- Lacks a transfer switch
The KOHLER K-5529-NA is unique, to say the very least, but it may still be precisely what you are looking for when it comes to providing electricity for one of your home’s core systems. This model is designed exclusively to provide auxiliary power to your home’s water heating system, with options in this line ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 watts.
In terms of capacity, this model can heat 240 cu. ft. of water at once, which is impressive for both home and RV use. The KOHLER K-5529-NA can kick on in under a minute after a sudden power lose, allowing for a seamless bathing experience. With a durable steel exterior, you’ll certainly be able to count on this model to cover your water heating needs during a prolonged power outage.
Generac 70371 Home Standby Generator Guardian Series
- G-Force engine requires less maintenance over lifespan
- Connects to wi-fi and Mobile Link for interfacing
- Durable RhinoCoat exterior resists corrosion and blunt damage
- Well-priced for size and output
- Requires branded battery, sold separately
- Requires app for significant portion of interface
The Generac 70371 is a solid mid-ranged option with a 16,000 watt output capacity that is appropriate for a variety of small through medium homes. Power by a unique G-Force engine, this model has become synonymous for enhanced reliability and a decreased need for routine miniatous.
Like other models in its line, the Generac 70371 features a durable aluminum case coated in corrosion-proof RhinoCoat coating. The Generac 70371 is unique from its smaller cousins in that it is wi-fi compatible, allowing it to be fully controlled and maintained from Generac’s in-house Mobile Link app.
Briggs & Stratton 76143 35 kW Standby Generator
- Liquid-cooled GM Vortec engine meets high simultaneous demands
- InteliNano interface panel is easy to read and operate
- Durable powder-coated galvanneal steel exterior
- Can provide power for up to 26,000 sq. ft. of space
The Briggs & Stratton 76143 is a heavy hitter in standby generator terms, with its liquid-cooled GM Vortec engine capable of spinning at up to 1,800 RPM to produce a whopping 35,000 watts of power. In fact, with its highly-capable Symphony II Power Management system taken into account, this model can even power a 5-ton air conditioner to cool a 26,000 sq. ft. estate home.
The InteliNano interface panel on the Briggs & Stratton 76143 is fairly unique in that it is easy to read and operate even in the dark or in adverse weather. Gone are the days of mysterious flashing lights, thanks to this model’s intuitive method for providing its user with information regarding its operating status.
Champion 12.5-kW Home Standby Generator
- Reliable 439cc Champion OHV engine with auto start and low oil shutdown
- 12 available circuits for stable power during a power outage
- Performs weekly self-diagnostic tests
- Residential-friendly 63 dBA sound rating
- Lacks a listed warranty
- Variable power output depending on fuel source
The Champion 12.5-kW is another great mid-range option for homeowners with only a few essential electronics, such as a sump pump and a chest freezer. If you have more small-demand electronics, though, you’ll be able to accommodate them across the 12 circuits of this model’s reliable 439cc Champion OHV engine.
The Champion 12.5-kW also features one truly unique component: an ATS100 Emergency Essentials automatic transfer switch. This component can quickly supply your home with energy after a sudden outage, making it a must-have for folks living in rural areas. This model also cuts out the need for persistent system checks given that it performs weekly self-diagnostic tests.
Briggs & Stratton 40484 20000-watt Home Standby Generator System
- Affordably priced and widely available
- Uses proprietary Symphony II Power Management system
- Provides reliable 20,000 watts on propane fuel
- Requires electrician installation
- Battery may not last for extended outages
The Briggs & Stratton 40484 is another strong backup generator from one of the industry-leading brands. This model in particular comes with flexible installation options thanks to its 150 amp automatic transfer switch. Unlike some of its expensive liquid-cooled competition, this model can provide a consistent 20kW of energy through its proprietary power management system, the Symphony II.
Because of its broad usage in both large and small homes, the Briggs & Stratton 40484 is widely available at most local generator retailors. Not only does this cut back on the cost of shipping this generator to your home, but this also makes it far easier to service this generator from a local team of experts.
Kohler 14RESAL-100LC16 Air-Cooled Standby Generator
- Starts up to 14,000 watt capacity automatically in 10 seconds
- 16 circuits for a well-connected home
- Corrosion-proof steel exterior
- Requires Group 51 battery
If your home features a wide array of important electronics, then you should definitely consider the Kohler 14RESAL-100LC16 and its impressive 16 circuits. Each of these circuits can output up to 100 amps, allowing you to receive generator-produced power within 10 seconds of your primary power source cutting out.
The exterior is a considerable problem with many low-grade generators – not so with the Kohler 14RESAL-100LC16. Instead, this model comes with a corrosion-proof steel exterior that is designed to stand up to some of the harshest seaside conditions. Whether you’re looking for a propane or natural gas option, the Kohler 14RESAL-100LC16 is a worthwhile pick.
How to Choose a Whole House Generator
In many ways, our home’s ready access to reliable electricity has made for an unparalleled level of comfort in our everyday lives. Some days, we may even take for granted how easy it is to flip on a light switch, heat water for a bath, or even plug our smartphone into the wall to charge. But there are times when that system fails, requiring prepared homes to switch over to their backup generator.
Using an effective whole home generator like the Champion 8.5-kW can really make a difference when an unexpected power outage plunges your home into darkness. There’s a lot to know about these specialized power generators, from specific to features to safety and more. Luckily, you won’t need to research all of that information on your own because I’ve compiled much of what I’ve learned about whole house generators here in this buying guide.
Do You Need a Whole House Generator?
As the years go on, more and more homes are built to incorporate electrical versatility in nearly every room of the house. While electric use habits are beginning to take an eco-friendly shift, there are hardly any homeowners who would willingly give up the comfort of their electrically-connected lifestyle. As such, a generator for your entire home. appears to be an appealing option for nearly every homeowner across the country.
But as it turns out, a whole house generator isn’t an absolute must-have. While these backup generators can be a blessing during a sudden weather-related power outage, many homeowners can forgo these pricey home additions in favor of other methods of power their critical home electronics until regular power is restored. If you are worried about an emergency, like a natural disaster or blackout, you may want to consider a portable generator.
If you are considering purchasing a generator for the entire house, spend some time taking stock of your home and family’s electrical needs. For example, if someone in your family uses an electric-powered medical device (such as a CPAP machine), a standby generator is a worthwhile investment. The same goes if your home uses an active sump pump that needs to remain on to prevent your basement from flooding – especially during a heavy storm when the power is most likely to go out.
However, purchasing a whole house generator need not necessarily be a matter of absolute necessity. Indeed, you can also take your families comfort into account, especially when it comes to seasonal threats. If you live far outside of a town center, for example, a generator may be a good option for bridging the gap before a power company can make it to your area to repair your connection. The same goes for folks living in rural, snowy areas where ice may bring down power lines and make roads inaccessible for long periods of time.
To this same extent, you should speak with your neighbors before purchasing a whole house generator. Your neighbors may be able to provide you critical input as to why they chose a backup generator to fit their family’s needs. Also, be sure to speak with your power company before picking out a generator. Not only can they provide critical input on these electrical units, but they may also provide you with discounts to further incentivize your purchase.
Determining your Power Priorities
As noted, one of the most important steps towards purchasing a home standby generator involves evaluating your family’s specific power priorities. While some high-end generators are capable of powering all of your electric appliances – both for comfort and for necessity – you should still make a priorities list in order to double check that your new generator has what it takes to meet your home’s needs.
Creating your whole house power priorities list should start with the bare necessity electronics in and around your home. In general, these necessities should include any fixture that you wouldn’t want to go with in case of an emergency power outage caused by weather. For example, homeowners living in a low-lying or flood-prone area should absolutely put their sump pump’s electric needs near the top of their list.
Next, consider how much electricity the key appliances in your kitchen require. At the least, this should include your refrigerator and your stove but may also expand to auxiliary appliances such as coffee makers and microwaves, should you determine them to be essential to your family’s needs.
Though some might set them in the “comfort” category among power priorities, your heating, and air conditioning systems may well be a necessity based upon where you live geographically as well as the current season.
For example, a family living in Alabama or Texas should absolutely include their AC’s electric needs in order to offset the debilitating effects of summer heat and humidity. The same principle applies to homeowners in Montana or Minnesota in the winter, when appropriately powered home heating can make a major difference to a family’s well-being.
Beyond the bare essentials, you can also begin to rank several “comfort” electronics that would smooth your family’s experience if the power were out for an extended period of time. This can include a wide variety of electronics, each of which should provide some degree of extra support to family et al. So, a TV or radio may be included on this list in order to access emergency news broadcasts.
Lamps and lighting should, of course, be accounted for, though you should try to focus on the most used lights in the home (those in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, etc). Cell phone chargers should also be included in this priority list if you do not possess an external charging battery. Depending on your line of work, a single computer may also be included in your listing.
After you have determined each and every appliance that you wish to power during an extended power outage, you should begin to determine each appliance’s specific power draw during regular usage. For example, a ½ horsepower sump pump requires a hefty 1050 watts of power to run properly (with a further 2200 watts required to start up in the first place).
Depending on the size and needs of your home, your power needs can add up quickly. With a 24,000 BTU central AC system, you can expect to need 3,800 watts to properly cool a home (with nearly 5,000 further watts needed to kick on). Even a few 60-watt lamps and 10-watt phone chargers can really dial up how much energy output you’ll need from your new standby generator.
Estimating your home’s power needs can be one of the most challenging steps in the shopping process. Check out this helpful infographic if you need help estimating how much power is used by a wide variety of common home appliances.
Once you possess a general idea of how much power your home would require, total these figures up and begin to shop for a whole house generator that provides slightly more power than this sum total (in order to provide some flexibility in usage). Many leading brands include similar models that scale up their power output capacity, so you can shop confidently knowing that you’ll be able to find a model that includes the features and capabilities you need to keep your home safe and secure.
Whole Home Generator Safety Tips
If you are imminently planning to install a new generator or have already completed the installation process, take a break and read through these important safety tips for safely operating your new power generation appliance. While modern generators are built with home safety in mind, it always worthwhile to review these safety keys in order to properly place your generator and operate it for years to come:
First and foremost, always follow the installation and operation instructions listed in your owner’s manual. These guidelines have been tailored to specifically suit your chosen model, so you should heed their advice above all other sources both in print and online. Also, even if you have experience with other generator brands, do not assume those instructions carry over to your new generator.
When it comes time to install your chosen backup generator, choose a location away from your home. The precise recommended distance will vary from model to model, though some new models are now able to operate safely as close as 18 inches from a home’s exterior. This distance is designed to prevent a sudden malfunction that creates fire or sparks from damaging the owner’s home.
While choosing a location, you should also avoid placing your generator in a fully enclosed or semi-enclosed space. While this is in part to prevent the creation of a fire hazard, this recommendation is also to prevent the propagation of dangerous fumes that may percolate out of a generator (especially those running of petroleum or liquid propane). As such, garages, crawl spaces, and basements should be immediately taken off of your list of potential generator locations.
After installation, you should generally do your best to keep the generator dry. While most modern generators are encased in a weather-resistant shell, it does not do well to allow water or snow to remain in long-term contact with the base of the appliance. As such, your generator’s installation location should be well irrigated and easy to access, in order to prevent snow and ice from piling onto it in the winter.
As a further extension, always ensure that you are not conductive when interacting with the generator. Always dry your hands before interacting with the generator and avoid interacting when it is raining (under regular circumstances, of course). You may even consider wearing rubber gloves when making repairs to your generator.
As with an automobile, always maintain fueling safety standards outlined in your owner’s manual. These likely include turning off the generator before refueling it and allowing it to cool down in order to prevent flare ups caused by temperature differences. Also, always store your fuel in a properly labeled, well-ventilated container that is certified to hold your chosen fuel.
Your generator dealer will likely recommend that you install carbon monoxide detectors in your house (if you do not already have some). Generators that burn natural gas or liquid run the slight risk of off-gassing this dangerous gas into adjacent structures during a malfunction or a dramatic decrease in air flow. Ensure that these detectors are effective on a regular basis as a further safety measure.
If you are presented with an affordable option, you should choose propane over old-fashioned gas-burning generators. While the latter are effective in producing extra energy when you need it, propane generally comes with fewer risks in terms of fuel burning and stabilization. If you do select a propane-burning system, be sure to create a propane storage area on your property that adheres to state and local regulations.
At least once a year (or more, if the generator is used regularly), contact a trained generator maintenance expert and request a full-service checkup. Though they may find few faults in your system (especially if it is new), this preventative approach to maintenance can ensure that small problems do not grow due to neglect or grow into dangerous malfunctions that impede the generator’s ability to safely operate in an emergency.
If you’re in a hurry to find a new whole house electrical generator, keep these quick tips in mind as you analyze the industry-leading models listed below. For more details and specification descriptions, be sure to read our “Buyer’s Guide.”
- Evaluate how much outdoor space you have to spare for a sizable generator
- Evaluate your power priorates based upon which appliances your family needs during an extended power outage
- Choose a durable model that provides enough power to meet those power needs while also providing useful features
- If a warranty is available, immediately file the appropriate paperwork to activate said policy
Purchasing a whole house generator for the first time can be challenging if you aren’t equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to identify the model made to fit your needs and your budget. Before you buy, be sure to carefully review this buyer’s guide in order to learn many of the key terms used to differentiate standby generators in both online and in-store product listings:
As with any major appliance installed both inside and outside your home, you should carefully evaluate each generator based on its size and compare that figure to how much space you have to spare on your property. While modern generators are growing more and more compact each year, you should still take these core measurements into consideration in order to account for required safety distancing (often 18 inches or further from any structure).
As a general rule, generators with a higher wattage (or kilowatt output) tend to be larger in overall size. As such, homeowners with higher energy needs should carefully determine how much space they will need for their bulkier generator.
Fuel Type and Efficiency
Fuel type is also a key consideration, given that all backup generators run independently off the main power grid. Traditionally, most whole home generators run on a combustible liquid fuel, such as petroleum or propane. However, many leading brands are also producing natural gas generators to meet the changing needs of the energy market.
As with cars, fuel efficiency can also make or break how long you can operate your generator during an extended outage. Be sure to choose a model that can operate for at least a few days on a full tank of fuel. A high quality, fuel efficient unit will save you time and money in the long run. Also, consider choosing a model with flexible fuel options in order to take advantage of the cheapest fuel option in your area.
Power production is at the core of your standby generator and as such, should be a top priority while you compare models. Often, generators are rated based on how many watts of energy they can produce during peak performance. Though this is often measured in kilowatts, you should compare this figure to the sum total of your power priority energy needs.
Always be sure to choose a generator with a higher energy capacity than you expect to need. Flexibility is always useful when it comes to keeping your home up and running off of a limited-capacity generator.
Folks who have previously used an external generator can vouch for the amount of sound they can produce while in operation. Depending on how close you live to your neighbors, this auditory factor may come into play, both while you are testing and operating your new generator.
One of the best sources for noise level ratings can be found in user reviews. Current users are often very honest about how noisy their generator runs, as well as if any advertised noise-deadening add-ons work as intended.
Warranty and Service
Warranty is also a key factor that may come into play, should your generator break down unexpectedly. While most every major brand offers some form of an extended warranty, you should always take time and read through the warranty submission requirements in order to ensure that it is ready when you need it.
Also, your generator will require routine maintenance, even if you care for it well. Be sure to choose a model from a brand with local experts that will be able to knowledgeably diagnose any problems that may crop up during regular operation.
There are several useful features that you should seriously consider when evaluating your top standby generator options. First and foremost, you should consider a transfer switch to be a must-have. This helpful component allows for seamless (and safe) transferring from a home’s main power source to the backup generator. While this may require a professional installation, the time and effort will be well worth it.
An inline or in-app fuel gauge can also be essential to evaluating your generator’s status. These gauges can come become especially useful during extending generator uses in order to prevent your back up power source from running dry prematurely.