The Best Standby Generators of 2022

With a standby generator for backup power, you’ll ensure that your home can keep the lights on when the rest of the neighborhood is left in the dark.

By Timothy Dale | Updated Jun 20, 2022 5:44 PM

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The Best Standby Generator Options

Photo: homedepot.com

The purpose of a generator is to provide power to appliances, electronic devices, and lighting in remote locations, like campsites or in an RV, but when the power goes out at home, a portable generator isn’t going to have the necessary output to supply the entire house. If power outages are a regular occurrence or they are a significant concern for you and your family, then consider investing in a standby generator.

These large devices become semipermanent fixtures in your home with a line that runs directly to the electrical system, ensuring that when the power goes out, the standby generator will automatically start up and get your power back on within minutes. The list of products below highlights some of the top options available, and it’s a great place to start the search for the best standby generator for backup power at home.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Generac 22,000-Watt (LP)/19,500-Watt (NG) Air-Cooled
  2. RUNNER-UP: Briggs & Stratton 20000-Watt (LP)/20000-Watt (NG)
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Generac PowerPact 7500-Watt (LP)/6000-Watt (NG)
  4. BEST FOR SMALL HOMES: Champion 12.5kW Whole House Standby Generator
  5. BEST FOR LARGE HOMES: Generac Protector Qs 38000-Watt (LP)/38000-Watt (NG)
  6. BEST MONITORING: Generac Guardian 24,000-Watt (LP)/21,000-Watt (NG)
  7. BEST FOR WARM CLIMATES: Generac Protector Qs 32000-Watt(LP)/32000-Watt (NG)
The Best Standby Generator Options

Photo: walmart.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Standby Generator

Don’t rush the decision when trying to figure out which standby generator would be the best for your home. Take some time to consider important features like the power needs of the home, the size of the generator in power output, and what type of fuel source would be the most suitable. With a better understanding of these features, you will be prepared to make an informed decision about the best standby generator for backup power.

Power Needs and Size

When deciding on the best standby generator to provide power to your home, first consider the power needs of the home. Check the wattage on essential appliances, like the fridge, stove, freezer, and furnace. Add the wattage of all essential appliances together to find out the total wattage necessary to run the home. This wattage will typically fall between 5,000 and 7,500 watts, though it’s advised to find a generator that can provide more than the minimum required.

The size of a generator actually refers to the electrical output and not the physical size. Standby generators can range from as low as 7,500 watts for small homes to over 50,000 watts for large homes, though most fall between 20,000 watts and 30,000 watts. These units have a starting watts level that refers to the electrical output when the generator is first starting. It’s usually about 2,000 watts higher than the running watts output, which is the rating given to the continuous output of electricity when the generator has been running for more than a few minutes.

Always use the running watts rating when deciding on the best standby generator for your appliances because the starting watts rating isn’t a reliable measurement of the generator’s capabilities.

Fuel Source

There are several options to choose from when trying to figure out the best fuel source for the standby generator, including natural gas, liquid propane, diesel, and dual-fuel options.

  • Natural gas (NG) as a fuel source is relatively common when it comes to standby generators. The semipermanent installation of these large devices prompts some users to connect the generator directly to their natural gas line so they never need to worry about refueling the generator. However, natural gas is the least efficient fuel source available, though these generators make up for the inefficiency with a relatively clean exhaust output when compared to diesel generators.
  • Liquid propane (LP) as a fuel source is the most commonly used option for standby generators. Propane is a clean-burning fuel that’s more efficient than natural gas, and generators that run on propane can either be tied into the home’s primary propane tank or have a private tank specifically for the generator.
  • Diesel is a highly efficient fuel source that provides more power per gallon than both natural gas and liquid propane. However, diesel generators can be difficult to find, and they produce harmful exhaust fumes that may be a problem in a residential neighborhood depending on the size of the yard, the proximity of neighbors, and the presence of kids or pets.
  • Dual-fuel is a feature offered by many standby generator manufacturers, allowing the generator to function with either natural gas or liquid propane. Products with this option are a more versatile choice for users who aren’t sure which fuel is best.

Transfer Switch

A transfer switch is a common feature on standby generators that connects the generator to the home’s main electrical panel, allowing the user to switch or transfer between the utility’s power grid and the power produced by the generator. Some products have an automatic transfer switch (ATS) that will monitor the incoming power to the house and automatically switch to generator power when it detects a power outage. This process typically takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute, ensuring that the home is never without electricity.

Automatic transfer switches are a necessary feature to protect the home when the user isn’t around. Another great feature is remote monitoring, which allows the user to connect to the generator through Wi-Fi to get updates on the function of the generator. This service notifies you when the generator kicks on to provide continuous power, or if it is just turning on for a few minutes to recharge the starting battery, so you can relax knowing that your home is protected from power outages.

Additional Features

Standby generator manufacturers have added various features to make their products more appealing and functional for users, including automatic starts, remote start systems, system status lights, and corrosion-resistant enclosures.

  • Automatic start systems monitor the electrical system of the home, and if the power goes out, the system detects the outage, automatically starting the generator within about 1 minute. These systems also regularly run exercise cycles to keep the starting batteries charged.
  • Remote start systems can be in the form of a push button, a switch, or even a remote control. This starts up the standby generator without having to go to the transfer switch and can even include start commands from mobile devices through compatible apps and Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • System status lights alert the user to when it’s time to perform maintenance so that the user only needs to look at the generator to stay updated on the current status.
  • Corrosion-resistant enclosures are typically made of a composite material or aluminum. These materials prevent rusting, corrosion, and damage from rain, sleet, high humidity, and salt, protecting the generator from ocean spray in coastal cities.

Installation

The installation of a standby generator is significantly more involved than simply running a portable generator, so manufacturers will often provide detailed installation instructions, and some companies may even offer prepackaged and prewired systems to help make the installation process easier. However, before deciding to take on this project yourself, figure out whether you have the knowledge and experience to connect the generator directly to the electrical system of the home, whether you should be expanding the gas line, and whether you even know the correct permits needed to install a standby generator according to the local and state code.

If any of these tasks seem outside of your skill set, then it’s advised to hire a professional electrician to connect the wiring and a plumber or gas fitter to connect a natural gas or propane gas line to the home supply (if applicable). These professionals will know the correct permits you need, and they will have substantial experience installing standby generators, helping to ensure that the generator is truly reliable in emergency situations.

Our Top Picks

This list of top products was selected based on the important criteria mentioned above, including the power needs and type, the fuel source, installation requirement, transfer switch features, and overall quality, to help you find the best standby generator to keep the lights on when the power goes out.

Best Overall

The Best Home Generator Options: Generac 22,000-Watt (LP)/19,500-Watt (NG) Air-Cooled
Photo: homedepot.com

Generac is known for producing a wide range of standby generators, but the Generac 70432 standby generator blends affordability, substantial power, and an automatic transfer switch feature to provide users with a reliable product that meets their needs. While most homes only need 5,000 watts for essential appliances, this standby generator can produce up to 22,000 running watts, ensuring that the whole home has power, not just the essentials.

The standby generator is a dual-fuel product that can operate on both liquid propane (22,000 running watts) and natural gas (19,500 running watts). It can also connect remotely through Wi-Fi, so users can get regular updates on the status of the system. However, if that seems like a hassle, the generator also has exterior system status lights to keep users informed of maintenance needs.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 22,000 watts (propane) or 19,500 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 29 by 25 by 48 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel unit
  • Automatic transfer switch
  • WiFi-enabled unit for wireless monitoring
  • System status and maintenance LED indicators

Cons

  • Snow storms may cause the filter to freeze

Get the Generac 22,000-Watt (LP)/19,500-Watt (NG) Air-Cooled standby generator at The Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Runner-Up

The Best Standby Generator Option: Briggs & Stratton 20000-Watt (LP) 20000-Watt (NG)
Photo: lowes.com

The best standby generators, like this model by Briggs & Stratton, come equipped with an automatic transfer switch so that when the power fails, the generator automatically starts. Users can take advantage of the WiFi-equipped whole-house generator for remote monitoring through the InfoHub app. The app even sends maintenance alerts to help ensure the user is on top of maintenance tasks and that the generator is functioning properly.

This generator includes a low-oil detection system that will shut down the generator in order to prevent overheating and ongoing damage to the internal mechanisms. It can use either liquid propane or natural gas for convenience in emergencies, and the generator has a maximum wattage of 20,000 watts regardless of which fuel it’s using. It should also be mentioned that the generator uses an air-cooled system that is effective in most climates, though it may not be able to keep up with cooling demands in warmer locations.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 20,000 watts (propane) or 20,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 28.4 by 26.8 by 46.5 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel unit
  • Wireless monitoring through InfoHub
  • Relatively quiet operation
  • Low-oil detection system triggers automatic shutdown

Cons

  • Air-cooled system may struggle in hot climates

Get the Briggs & Stratton 20000-Watt (LP)/20000-Watt (NG) standby generator at Lowe’s or Acme Tools.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Standby Generator Option: Generac PowerPact 7500-Watt (LP) 6000-Watt (NG)
Photo: lowes.com

Keep a backup system ready to support the essential appliances in the home when the power goes out with this Generac PowerPact standby generator that comes with a digital controller with LED indicators for monitoring the generator status, utility power presence, and maintenance needs. The generator has a galvanized steel enclosure that protects it against rain and sleet. It also includes an all-weather composite mounting pad that is resistant to corrosion.

Connect either the home propane or natural gas system to the standby generator and get up to 7,500 watts of power on propane and 6,000 watts on natural gas, ensuring that the essential appliances can still run in emergencies; unnecessary systems, like televisions, may not be able to be used. The generator even comes with an automatic transfer switch to monitor the home’s power and automatically starts when a power outage is detected, though it can only power up to eight circuits due to the low wattage.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 7,500 watts (propane) or 6,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 25 by 27 by 36 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel system
  • Affordable generator for powering essential systems in emergencies
  • Digital controller with LED status indicators
  • Equipped with an automatic transfer switch

Cons

  • Low wattage

Get the Generac PowerPact 7500-Watt (LP)/6000-Watt (NG) standby generator at Lowe’s or Electric Generators Direct.

Best For Small Homes

The Best Standby Generator Option: Champion 12.5kW Whole House Standby Generator
Photo: zoro.com

While larger homes can require a substantial amount of electricity to continue functioning when the power goes out, smaller homes have the benefit of only a few essential systems that need to run to keep the home comfortable. The Champion standby generator can operate on either propane to produce up to 12,500 running watts or natural gas for 11,000 running watts. This electrical output is more than enough for the average 5,000 watts required for essential systems, allowing users to keep the home powered for a long period of time or use nonessential appliances, like televisions and game systems.

The generator comes equipped with an automatic transfer switch to monitor the electrical power of the home and automatically start the generator, returning power to the furnace, fridge, freezer, and other essential appliances. To keep the noise down in residential areas, the Champion standby generator also has a sound-dampening low-tone engine muffler, making it a good choice for tightly packed neighborhoods.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 12,500 watts (propane) or 11,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 40.2 by 30.1 by 50 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel system
  • Quiet operation due to the sound-dampening system
  • Equipped with an automatic transfer switch
  • Includes an all-weather composite mounting pad

Cons

  • Low wattage may not be suitable for larger homes

Get the Champion 12.5kW Whole House standby generator at Zoro.

Best For Large Homes

The Best Standby Generator Option: Generac Protector Qs 38000-Watt (LP) 38000-Watt (NG)
Photo: lowes.com

When a portable generator falls short of the power output necessary to run the home, the next step should be to look for whole-house generators that can provide electricity to the entire home during a power outage. Whether it’s needed to power a small commercial location or a large home, this Generac standby generator is an excellent option that can generate up to 38,000 running watts. Fuel the generator with liquid propane or natural gas, but make sure there is enough space for the bulky size, which measures 46.1 inches in height by 35 inches in width by 76.8 inches in length.

The entire unit is protected from water and salty sea air by an aluminum, corrosion-resistant enclosure. This WiFi-enabled generator allows users to monitor the current status of the unit wirelessly and keep up with scheduled maintenance tasks to ensure the generator works without a problem in an emergency. Just keep in mind that the high power output this unit is capable of generating comes at a high price.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 38,000 watts (propane) or 38,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 46.1 by 35 by 76.8 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel system
  • High wattage supplies power for the whole home
  • WiFi-enabled unit for wireless monitoring
  • Corrosion-resistant, designed for salty air conditions

Cons

  • Large size takes up a lot of yard space
  • High price

Get the Generac Protector Qs 38000-Watt (LP)/38000-Watt (NG) standby generator at Lowe’s, eComfort, or Electric Generators Direct.

Best for Monitoring

The Best Standby Generator Option: Generac Guardian 24,000-Watt (LP) 21,000-Watt (NG)
Photo: homedepot.com

In order to keep a close eye on the status of the generator without needing to walk out to the yard multiple times a day, Generac has designed this Guardian generator to communicate wirelessly with the Mobile Link app. Users can quickly check on the generator using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, as long as the device has access to an active internet connection. The generator also has an onboard multilingual LCD display in case the internet is acting up.

This standby generator can produce up to 24,000 running watts with liquid propane or up to 21,000 running watts with natural gas, so users can feel confident knowing that this unit will operate on more than one type of fuel in an emergency. It’s also equipped with an automatic transfer switch, allowing the generator to detect when the power to the home goes out and automatically activate to provide power. However, this generator is air-cooled, which means it may not be able to keep cool in warmer climates.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 24,000 watts (propane) or 21,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 29 by 25 by 48 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel unit
  • WiFi-enabled for wireless monitoring
  • Multilingual LCD display
  • Equipped with an automatic transfer switch

Cons

  • Air-cooled system may struggle in hot climate

Get the Generac Guardian 24,000-Watt (LP)/21,000-Watt (NG) standby generator at The Home Depot, Supply Works, or Menards.

Best for Warmer Climates

The Best Standby Generator Option: Generac Protector Qs 32000-Watt(LP) 32000-Watt (NG)
Photo: lowes.com

Capable of generating enough power for the entire home, this dual-fuel generator is a great choice for emergencies, and it’s designed with a liquid-cooled system that helps to prevent overheating in warmer climates. The aluminum enclosure has a powder-coated finish that is intended to resist rusting and corrosion, which is common in seaside communities due to the salt and moisture in the air.

Monitor the standby generator with the onboard LCD display or simply check the status of the unit wirelessly through the Mobile Link app. Just make sure to measure the yard and compare these measurements to the dimensions of the generator before deciding that this unit is the best option for the home. While it can produce up to 32,000 running watts with either liquid propane or natural gas, the generator takes up a lot of space, and it comes at a high price.

Product Specs 

  • Fuel source: Liquid propane and natural gas
  • Wattage: 32,000 watts (propane) or 32,000 watts (natural gas)
  • Dimensions: 46.1 by 35 by 76.8 inches

Pros

  • Dual-fuel unit
  • Liquid-cooled system prevents overheating in hot locations
  • WiFi-enabled for wireless monitoring
  • Aluminum enclosure is resistant to rusting and corrosion

Cons

  • Large size
  • High price

Get the Generac Protector Qs 32000-Watt(LP)/32000-Watt (NG) standby generator at Lowe’s, Electric Generators Direct, or eComfort.

Our Verdict

Get up to 22,000 running watts using liquid propane as a fuel source with the Generac 22,000-Watt (LP)/19,500-Watt (NG) Air-Cooled standby generator, or if you want to be able to monitor your generator wirelessly, the Briggs & Stratton 20000-Watt (LP)/20000-Watt (NG) standby generator offers direct access through the InfoHub app with your phone, tablet, or computer.

How We Chose the Best Standby Generators

Trying to choose the best whole-house generator from the wide range of available products isn’t an easy task. It was necessary to conduct extensive research into over 30 different generators to put together this list of the top standby generators for your home. The key factors we considered during the selection process included wattage, fuel source, transfer switch, and physical dimensions.

Low-wattage and high-wattage generators were chosen for this list because smaller homes don’t have the same power requirements as larger homes. Similarly, dual-fuel generators were preferred because it’s always better to have a generator that can run on more than one type of fuel in an emergency.

Typically, standby generators either come with a transfer switch or need to have one installed to transfer power to the home. Generators with automatic transfer switches make this process easy instead of needing to rely on the user to switch the power manually. Additionally, any standby generators with special features, like wireless monitoring or a liquid-cooled cooling system, were considered superior to similar products that lacked these features.

FAQs

Even after deciding on the best standby generator for your home, these complex machines can leave new users with a host of questions. Take a look below to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about standby generators so that you can feel confident in your decision.

Q: What’s the difference between portable and standby generators?

There are many differences between portable and standby generators. Portable generators are movable, while standby generators are stationary. Standby generators also output a much higher amount of electricity than portable generators, making them suitable for a whole home instead of only powering a camper. In appearance, portable generators are open with exposed engine parts, while standby generators are fully enclosed. Another feature of standby generators that sets them apart from portable generators is the automatic start function that detects when there is a power outage and automatically starts the generator within about 1 minute.

Q: How do I correctly size a generator for my home?

In order to determine the correct size of a standby generator for your home, find the wattage of the appliances in the home, like the fridge, stove, furnace, and freezer. Add up these numbers to find the necessary wattage to run the home, then look for a generator that can supply the house with a higher amount of electricity. Typically, the essential appliances in a home will use about 5,000 watts, so this should be the minimum size for a standby generator.

Q: How long can a standby generator run continuously?

The runtime varies with the size, appliance load, and the type of fuel, but typically a liquid propane generator with a 100-gallon tank of fuel will run for about 50 hours, while a 250-gallon tank runs for about 125 hours.

Q: Can an automatic standby generator replace the utility service?

No, an automatic standby generator is a poor replacement for standard utility service because the fuel costs greatly exceed the cost of electricity from the utility company.

Q: Can I install the generator myself?

It depends on your level of proficiency with electrical systems, fuel systems, and residential permits. While some manufacturers offer prepackaged and prewired systems with installation guides, it may be a better idea to employ a professional electrician to connect the generator to your home and consider using a plumber or gas fitter to connect a natural gas line. These professionals handle this type of work regularly, so there is less chance of a detrimental mistake that could leave you without power when you are expecting the backup.

Q: Does the generator have to be maintained?

Standby generators do need to be regularly maintained, including routine oil changes, replacing air filters, and semi-regular periods of operation to allow the generator to charge the starting battery.

Q: What’s the advantage of an aluminum or composite generator enclosure?

Using aluminum or composite enclosures on a standby generator helps protect the unit from rust and corrosion. These materials are also resistant to salty air and humid conditions, making them a good option for coastal areas.