10 Best Whole House Generator Reviews & Buying Guide

best whole house generator

A standalone home generator is a great investment for any homeowner, especially in these uncertain times. These devices can not only keep your appliances going during a blackout, which can prevent the food in your fridge from spoiling but may also help protect you when things get really tough.

What would happen if your home’s electricity failed during the winter months and it was going to be several days before it was fixed? It’s not uncommon for snow and ice buildup to pull down power lines and cause winter blackouts. It happens all of the time. For many people, this would not only be an uncomfortable situation but potentially could be life-threatening as well.

In an ideal world, everyone would have a generator for their home, but we understand that’s not always a feasible option. After all, these devices aren’t inexpensive, and there’s some expense or expertise required to hook them into the home’s electrical system—a task that seems daunting to most people.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to purchase one of the generators, however. With a little bit of knowledge and a careful consideration of the best whole house generators available, you can find a model that not only suits your needs but helps protect you and your family from the problems that can arise from an unexpected power failure.

Top Rated Whole Home Generators Models in 2018

Best on a BudgetBest SellerBest Quality
Briggs & Stratton 40445Kohler 20RESCL-200SELSGenerac 7043
Briggs & Stratton 40445 8000-watt Home Standby Generator System with 50-Amp Automatic Transfer SwitchGenerac 7043 Home Standby Generator, Aluminum
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The purpose of this guide is to help you sort the so-so generators from the very good models so you can choose the best standby generator possible. After doing some extremely thorough research and consulting with home generator experts, we’ve gathered together what we feel is the best information possible. Information that will help you determine which models are really leading the pack in the home generator industry and which models you probably should pass on. Hopefully, we will present this information in a way that’s very easy to digest and keep as a future reference, too.

During the course of this guide, we’re not only going to review the best home generators, but we’re also going to give you some tips on how to purchase these devices and what you need to know before you do. Let’s start with ten whole house generator reviews and then when we finish with that we can talk about what you should look for when you’re purchasing one for your home.

Best Whole House Generators Reviews

#10 Champion 8.5-kW Home Unit

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This model doesn’t require an extensive unit of extension cords or diesel gas to operate. That’s because it works on the power of either propane or natural gas. This unit can deliver 8,500-watts of clean power on only propane gas or can deliver 7,500-watts of power on nothing but natural gas. This allows the homeowner to operate it without having to worry about refueling it and without operating it man

ually. And thanks to its ATS50 Emergency Essentials Transfer Switch, this model can automatically switch over to backup power when the power goes out and has 8-available circuits to handle the load.

Equipped with sound dampening materials and a low-profile muffler, this product is rated as one of the quietest generators in its class and only has a decibel level of 59.5 dBA. Another great feature found on this unit is that it has a 24-volt starting system which allows it to start up no matter what the weather is outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20-below zero or 105-degrees, this product will operate without problems. This durable unit is also backed by a 10-year limited warranty and comes with free technical support. All of which means that it’s reliable during emergency situations.

It may not have the smallest profile when it’s compared to other comparable generators and may not deliver as much power as some of the more high-end models, but it does deliver high-quality power, is fairly reliable and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. All of which makes it a decent model for any homeowner to own.

#9 Generac 7041 Synergy 20kW/18kW Variable Speed

Generac 7041 Synergy 20kW18kW Variable Speed

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Although this unit isn’t shipped with a battery and the homeowner has to buy a Generac battery separately, this unit does have other features which make it a worthwhile product to own. This unit incorporates G-Flex technology, a system that enables the generator to run at lower speeds when household demand isn’t as high. This allows this unit to not only be extremely fuel efficient but also to be exceptionally quiet. It also means that this unit is capable of delivering a more stable current than its competitors, which is good for appliances and electronics that are sensitive to electrical fluctuations.

This unit pumps out 18,000 to 20,000-watts of power and includes a 200-Amp indoor/outdoor rated NEMA 3 smart transfer switch. Manufactured using high-quality components and with an aluminum enclosure that has three removable sides and is capable of holding up to just about any weather conditions, this product is sure to give the homeowner many years of backup generator use. This unit also has LED indicators that keep the homeowner advised of this unit’s most important operating parameters including the status of the generator, whether utility power is present or not, and whether maintenance is currently required on the unit.

This product is more expensive than comparable units and doesn’t deliver as much power as the Generac 7043, but it is extremely quiet and does deliver a good base current. Overall, while it’s not the best product currently available, it’s decent and can give the homeowner a little bit of extra peace-of-mind when it comes to their power supply.

#8 Briggs & Stratton 40450 10,000-Watt System

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This generator really gives the homeowner some options when it comes to powering their home in an emergency. That’s because it costs less than some of the higher-end models currently available. Although it only supplies up to 10, 000-watts of power, it’s capable of handling a 4,200-square foot home and is capable of powering a three-ton air conditioner. It accomplishes this feat by using its patented Symphony II Power Management System, a system that balances the needs of the household with the current supply of power. This enables this unit, which has half the power of larger generators, to handle the power needs of many households.

Another thing to like about this system is that it’s capable of being placed within 18-inches of the home, as is the case with many of these Briggs & Stratton generators. That’s because they conform to National Fire Protection Agency standards and are safer to place closer to the home than some other units that are currently being sold. The last key feature worth mentioning about this unit is that it comes with a 200-AMP automatic transfer switch which can be installed indoors or outdoors, and allows the unit to power several circuits as necessary.

#7 Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS Air-Cooled System

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When the power goes out, homeowners want a generator that kicks into action and provides reliable, clean electricity. All of which is done by this Kohler unit. Within ten seconds of a power failure, this unit will kick on and deliver up to 20,000-watts of power that has 5% or less THD.

This unit is built using high-quality components and has a corrosion-proof enclosure that can hold up to a wide variety of different weather conditions. Even if this unit is placed in a seaside community, it’s special enclosure will protect it from the harsh salt air. This unit also comes with a 5-year warranty. This generator also comes with a 200-AMP automatic transfer switch, which is big enough to handle the power load of an entire home.

Equipped with an engine that’s designed to outlast the power outage, consumers can rest assured that this product will stand ready to service their power needs if and when the lights go out. And since this unit only measures 48-inches by 26.2-inches by 29-inches and has a nice design, it doesn’t disrupt the curb appeal of most homes.

It’s also a unit that’s neighbor-friendly and is designed to operate quietly. Although it doesn’t come with the battery needed to operate, this has to be purchased separately, it is otherwise ready to be installed and has been thoroughly checked for defects by Kohler.

#6 Briggs & Stratton 40445 8000-Watt System

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Some people look at the Briggs & Stratton 40445 and mistakenly think that it can’t deliver enough power for their household in an emergency. While it only supplies 8,000-watts of power, instead of the 16,000+ watts of power comparable units produce, it does have one advantage over these units.

It has a smaller footprint and is inexpensive. That’s not even mentioning the fact that 8,000-watts of power are enough to power to keep essentials on in most homes. Its commercial-grade Vanguard engine is also extremely reliable and is designed to be durable.

Since this product has a low-profile, it won’t disturb the curb appeal of most homes and can be placed within 18-inches of most homes thanks to its strict adherence to the National Fire Protection Agency 37 standard. It also has a unique muffler system that allows it to run more quietly than some of the larger, more expensive generators currently available.

Equipped with a Symphony II Power Management System and a 50-Amp transfer switch, this model can also balance the load requirements of the household and allows the homeowner to determine which circuits are powered during a power failure.

#5 Briggs & Stratton 40396 20000-Watt Model

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Briggs & Stratton is a company known for manufacturing quality motors, so it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that they also make some pretty fine generators, too. Which is easily proven by taking a look at the Briggs & Stratton 40396, a model that can deliver up to 20,000-watts of reliable power. This unit is made using high-quality components and is backed by a 5-year warranty.

It also complies with the National Fire Protection Agency 37 standard, which means that it’s safe enough to place in close proximity of the home. In fact, this unit can be placed as close as 18-inches to the home, which enables homeowners to maintain curb appeal–even when they have extremely tight lot lines. And since it has an exhaust system that’s designed much like a car’s, it can run without creating a huge racket and waking up half the neighborhood.

The real genius of this generator, however, is its Symphony II Power Management System. This system helps to balance out the load required by high-demand appliances with the lower power consumption of low-demand appliances. For example, central air units often require a lion’s share of the power supply, so electricity to it is prioritized over smaller appliances which often don’t demand very much power consumption. This allows the entire home to be powered by this unit.

Another key feature of this unit is that it comes with a Dual 200/500 Split-Amp transfer switch that replaces two 200-AMP switches in standard 400-AMP service homes. This allows an entire home’s power to be managed easily.

#4 Generac 6438 11,000 Watt Air-Cooled System

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Delivering up to 11,000 watts of power, this unit is capable of handling the electrical needs of most small homes in an emergency. It’s not only UL-rated but is also CUL and EPA-compliant for added safety. This product is easy-to-install, easy-to-maintain and comes with a 20-year limited warranty. It has an all-weather enclosure that’s made of steel and is powder-coated for corrosion-resistance. This generator is one of the more durable generators currently available and is capable of withstanding wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. This makes it ideal for areas in which storms are a common occurrence.

Unlike other generators which use gasoline to power the unit, this model hooks into the home’s existing liquid propane or natural gas supply. This allows it to be used without having to worry about refilling it or manually starting it. As long as there is a supply of natural gas or liquid propane, this unit can be operated.

It can even be operated in areas that may not have as high of a natural gas pressure one would want. The one significant downside to this particular unit is that it doesn’t come with an automatic transfer switch, the homeowner has to purchase that separately. The last key feature worth mentioning about this model is that it has a self-test mode that takes only 12-minutes to complete. This ensures that the unit is ready for an emergency, but doesn’t burn a lot of gas during the test.

#3 Generac 7043 Home Standby Model

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When your home and your family depends on a reliable source of backup power, then you are going to want to get a generator that not only has enough power to get the job done but will also start when you need it to start. A generator that fits both of these checkpoints is the Generac 7043. This generator has the features that most consumers look for in a backup generator for the house.

This model is crafted in the United States from quality components and is backed by a 5-year limited warranty. It has an extremely durable all-aluminum enclosure that has a Rhino Coat powder coating finish that makes this unit durable enough to hold up to all weather conditions.

It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, sleeting or if the area it’s installed is extremely humid, this product is designed to last. Another key feature which can be found on this unit is a G-force engine which delivers a more reliable source of power than its competitors and requires very little maintenance from the homeowner.

The user controls on this model are also very good. It has an LCD display that can show important information using one of several different languages and this unit also has mobile link remote monitoring. Which means that the homeowner can check on the unit using any mobile device including a smartphone, tablet or laptop. All of these features, along with the best in class power quality makes this 22,000-Watt unit useful for just about any home.

#2 Generac 7036 Guardian Series 16kW Model

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This product not only delivers 16,000-watts of power but this power only has a total harmonic distortion of 5% or less, which means that the power it supplies is stable enough for sensitive appliances and electronics. High-quality current isn’t the only feature that’s worth talking about on this generator, however.

It’s also worth mentioning that this product is built using high-quality components and is assembled in the U.S. It has an all-aluminum enclosure which opens on three sides and has a Rhino-Coat coating—which is a powder coating that makes this unit virtually corrosive resistant. And since it opens up on three sides, it’s easy for service personnel to get into the unit to service and maintain it.

While this generator doesn’t ship with a battery, it does come with a 100-AMP NEMA 3 transfer switch. This switch is rated for indoor or outdoor use and is rated to hold up to the rigors of regular use. This unit has LED indicators which let the homeowner and service personnel know what’s going on with the unit.

Some of the things these indicator lights report include the presence of utility power, the general status of the unit and whether or not maintenance is currently required. This unit is also backed by a 5-year limited warranty by Generac.

There are also a few other features which make this model easier to use than other generators. For instance, there’s a quiet self-test mode that allows the unit to run at a lower RPM for a 5-minute or 12-minute test. This allows the test to be performed quietly and without consuming a lot of fuel. Another nice feature that can be found in this model includes mobile link remote monitoring. This feature allows the status of the unit to be remotely viewed by the homeowner using a personal computer, tablet or smartphone.

#1 Briggs & Stratton Power Products 40555

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Anyone who’s worried about whether their generator will destroy the curb appeal of their home or is worried that the unit is too loud for the neighbors may want to take a close look at the Briggs & Stratton Power Products 40555. That’s because this model is capable of doing things that other generators aren’t capable of doing. For example, if your house has a tight lot lines, then this product can be placed as close as 18-inches to your home. That’s because they’re designed with a slim profile and meet stringent National Fire Protection Agency standards.

This unit also uses an exhaust system that’s reminiscent of the exhaust systems that are found on automobiles. This dampens the unit’s exhaust and makes it quieter. In fact, it’s specialized technology enables it to be up to 50-percent quieter than many standard portable generators.

Its efficient design isn’t just reflected in its profile and exhaust system, however. This model can also deliver up to 17,000-watts of steady, reliable power. This product uses a Symphony II Power Management System which balances out the needs of high-demand appliances with the needs of low-demand appliances. This allows the whole house to be easily powered, but do it in a more cost-efficient manner.

This unit has a 16-circuit 100-AMP switch which can help power the home, even air conditioner units up to 5-tons in size. All of these features, coupled with the low cost of this model, make this generator a good budget-smart choice for any homeowner.

How to Buy a Whole House Generator

Now that we’ve completed our home generators reviews, it’s time to turn our attention to a more pressing matter. Namely, what to look for in a home generator when you’re shopping for one. Sure, some people think that they can get by with just reading standby generator reviews, but that doesn’t always help when you’re searching for a model that may not have online reviews. In those instances, you’re going to have to know what you want to get out of a generator.

Keeping that in mind, we’ve decided to write an article on what to look for when searching for your next whole home generator. Once you learn the basics, it’s really not hard to decide which model is right for you, so let’s get down to work and tell you what you need to consider when purchasing one of these units.

Choose a Fuel Type

One of the first things you’ll want to do is to choose the fuel type the generator runs on. While portable units tend to run on gasoline, whole house models tend to either run on propane or natural gas. The type you choose is probably going to be based on the type of gas you use. If you have a propane tank for hot water, then choose a propane model. If your house uses natural gas, then choose that type.

If your home is all electric, then you are probably going to want to choose a propane generator. That’s because it’s cheaper and easier to get set up for propane service than it would be to have natural gas lines run to your house.

Choose an Appropriate Size

As you have probably already determined from reading the above reviews, generators come in a variety of different sizes. Before you buy your unit you need to decide what you want to power in your home during a power outage and how much electricity you’re going to need to power those things. Which means that you are going to have to do some homework.

While your home’s particular power needs are going to be unique to your situation, you can probably get a good idea of what these appliances use in electricity by checking out the following chart that contains some estimates for power usage.

  • Electric Range: 5,000 Watts
  • Electric Dryer: 5,000 Watts
  • Central Air: 5,000+ Watts
  • Microwave: 1,500 to 1,600 watts
  • Portable Heater: 1,300 to 1,500 Watts
  • Window Air Conditioner: 1,000 to 1,200 Watts
  • Refrigerator: 600 to 700 Watts
  • Sump Pump: 600 Watts
  • Computers: 300 to 600 Watts
  • Lights: 40 to 600 Watts (depending on individual light wattage)

As you can see, if you only need to power a refrigerator, microwave, television, a couple of lights and a sump pump, then you can probably get away with a 3,000 to 4,000 Watt generator.

If you add a portable heater, a couple more lights and a heating system to the equation, then you can probably do with a 4,500 to 8,500 Watt generator.

Add an electric range, a water heater and a central air conditioner to all of the previous items and you’re going to need at least a 10,000 Watt generator. And if you keep adding, you’ll need even more power.

If you add a clothes dryer, a washer to all of the things I mentioned, then you’re going to need a 15,000 Watt generator. 20,000+ Watt generators, as you probably already figured out, are designed for powering everything in a home.

Important Things to Consider

Transfer SwitchRemote MonitoringProfessional InstallationSafety Considerations

A transfer switch allows the unit to turn on and power the home once the electricity supplied by your utility company has failed, if your unit has an automatic start. Some of the units sold are sold with transfer switches, and some of them require you to purchase it separately.

If your generator does require it to be purchased separately, then make sure that you buy one that’s compatible with your generator, and that it is powerful enough to handle the load you need it to handle.

Not all transfer switches are created equally, however. There are basic models that can be used to route power to particular items in your home, and there are more advanced transfer switches which have far greater capabilities. For example, some switches are capable of prioritizing which circuits should get the electricity and which ones shouldn’t.

This feature is called “Load Shedding” and basically means that when the generator approaches its load capacity, the switch will turn off non-essential circuits to keep the essential circuits powered. As you can imagine, the more advanced the breaker, the higher the cost, so you are going to have to balance your particular needs with your budget to determine which transfer switch is right for you.

Another feature that’s worth having is remote monitoring. This feature allows the homeowner to check the status of their generator using their smartphone, tablet or PC. This feature can be a powerful tool that enables the homeowner to make sure that their generator is running properly when they aren’t physically at the home. It’s definitely a feature that’s worth having.

And those are the basics of buying a generator for whole home use. If you follow the above recommendations, then you should be able to purchase a unit that will power all of the accessories you want it to power during an power outage.

One part of the process that you don’t want to skimp on is the installation of your new generator. An improperly installed generator is not only more likely to fail but can also pose a severe safety risk.

That’s why the generator and the transfer switch should be installed by a professional who has experience with these type of installations. Sure, it’s going to add a little bit more to the cost of the unit, but it’s more than worth it in the end.

It’s also extremely important to make sure that you read the instruction which came with your generator and to follow them to the letter.

Generators can be dangerous if they aren’t properly maintained or used.

In Conclusion

If you take all of the above into consideration before you buy your new generator, then you’re sure to buy one that works well for you. These generators are a handy tool to have installed, and they are capable of really giving you some peace of mind. Everyone should take the time to buy and have one installed.