Atima AY2000i Generator Quick Start Guide

A generator is a first line of defense against these problems. But with models ranging from small recreational units that cost a few hundred dollars and can power a single appliance to standby models that can cost $5,000 and power an entire house, choosing a generator can be daunting.

“Buy the smallest generator that will meet your power needs,” advises Dave Trezza, a Consumer Reports test engineer. “That will minimize the amount of fuel you need to keep on hand to run it.”

But how do you figure out which one that is? Keep reading.

Here, we offer guidance on how to choose the generator that’s right for your situation, details on each category of generator we test, and a CR recommendation and product review in each category.

You Experience Frequent Power Outages

Even worse, the outages are sometimes prolonged. This also applies if you live in an area prone to severe weather events, such as blizzards, ice storms, and hurricanes.

Generator Types to Consider

These three types have enough juice to power your entire household, and they can connect directly to your home’s circuit breaker panel, allowing you to control and run appliances that are hardwired, such as central heat and air conditioning, well pumps, sump pumps, electric ranges, and water heaters. If you have any of these and it’s essential for them to work in a power outage, be sure to have a transfer switch installed at your breaker box. A good licensed electrician should be able to handle the job.

You Have Occasional Outages

Sometimes they’re sustained, but not typically, and you don’t want to spend thousands on a home standby generator.

Generator Types to Consider

Unless you experience numerous power outages a year, you may not be willing to spring for the $10,000 or more it can cost to buy a stationary unit and have it installed. You can save thousands of dollars if you don’t mind having to pull your large inverter or portable generator out of a garage or shed and hook it up during the outage. You’ll still want to have a transfer switch installed.

You Rarely Lose Power

Even so, you want a generator for some peace of mind.

Generator Types to Consider

Midsized inverter generators have ample power to run a fridge and a window AC or space heater, as you can see in our interactive tool. Recreational models are compact enough to toss into the back of a pickup to power a TV and cooktop at a tailgate. Go Wildcats!

Safety First

Consumer Reports only recommends portable generators with a built-in sensor that triggers an automatic shutoff if CO builds up to dangerous levels in an enclosed space. We apply the same criteria to inverter models, though the technology has been slower to come to this category. 

With any generator, it’s extremely important to follow our longstanding advice of always operating a generator a minimum of 20 feet from your home with the exhaust directed away from it as well as from any windows, doors, AC units, or other structures.