Since generators release carbon monoxide, you must follow essential safety precautions, including operating the Generator outdoors within 20 to 30 feet of any building.
In a time when you can charge your smartphone with a battery that fits in your pants pocket, isn’t there an easier way to bring power back in the aftermath of storms? For instance, power an entire campsite without the continuous hum of a gas-fueled generator.
That’s the hope portable generators offer, often called battery-powered inverter generators. Essentially, they’re huge rechargeable batteries, about the dimensions of a microwave oven, that can be connected to a standard 110-volt outlet to recharge.
If duty calls it, you can safely operate the portable power station inside, as it produces no emissions. The station can supply power to a few tiny appliances for a limited period. With an array of outlets (standard 120-volt outlets, USB ports, and DC chargers), you can use this station for charging your electronics. They also come with solar panels that can be carried on the go to increase the charging capacity and runtime time.
“These generators have no fumes, and all of the models we tested made virtually no noise,” says the test engineer Dave Trezza, who oversees the testing of generators in Consumer Reports. “But, if these power stations go dead and you’re unable to use your solar panels, you can’t recharge them. You can’t just use another gallon of gas.”
We have models from companies like Goal Zero, Humless, K2, and Kohler on the Portable power stations rating. Certain companies, such as Goal Zero, market these portable power stations as ideal for preparing your home for storms (unlike single-family houses with yards that could house the Generator).
How Do We Test Portable Power Stations?
In our laboratories, CR test engineers evaluate five important measures for assessing the portable power station: runtime power delivery, power quality, user-friendliness of use, and noise.
To determine the duration of the runtime, we use an unabated 300-watt load for a simulation of powering a television and a few light sources.
Additionally, we hook each battery to a side-by-side refrigerator to determine how long it will last. The top model we tested ran the fridge for 44 hours on a single charge (the most faulty model only ran to last 13 hours). We employ multiple gadgets to determine energy delivery or how the model can maintain the voltage while working with various loads, such as a 1/2-horsepower submersible pump and 10,000 BTU air conditioner.
We also assessed the noise output and discovered in this class, the batteries are quiet. The models that we tested scored an excellent rating for their noise.
Our experts have shared some of the advantages and disadvantages of portable generators. Check out how the top models did in our evaluations and the Generator buying guides to see how mobile power units are to different types of generators.
They Can’t Deliver Nearly as Much Power as Gas Generators
Similar to their gasoline-powered counterparts, portable power sources require a switching device when you want to power items like your overhead lights, furnace, or anything wired in your home.
While a typical inverter generator is likely to keep the TV and a couple of lights running for up to 13 hours with a single gasoline tank, you’ll get anywhere from 3 to 9 hours of electricity, under similar circumstances and with the portable power station.
You will not be able to operate, for example, a good pump powered by electricity.
They Take a while to Charge
Our tests show that most of these models need several hours of charging (typically over the course of a night) to give you an energizing battery and the maximum use time.
If you’ve completely charged your battery before the weather forecast, a portable power station can give you the power to power a fridge or other essential appliance.
However, Trezza states that it’s impossible to charge after the battery dies when you’re not powered and in sunlight.
Charging With Solar Panels Can Be Iffy and Lengthy
If you’re experiencing power outages or are disconnected from the grid, charging your Generator with solar panels is the only choice, provided you’re blessed with sun and no obstructions.
Through our tests, we discovered that solar panels could add to the duration of the runtime; however, that could only be an additional hour or so of power when you use larger appliances.
They’re Not All That Portable
Portable generators are around the size of a microwave oven. However, they’re quite heavy. The majority of them in our tests weigh more than 80 pounds.
You’ll likely require an additional pair of hands to carry one of them into the back of your vehicle. Some models come with wheels, but not all are big enough, making moving over a lawn difficult.
They Don’t Come Cheap
Portable power generators that we tested cost between $1500 and $3500. Our most efficient portable gas generator is less expensive than the most costly powered portable Generator.
Before you purchase an electric power station, consider whether you’d be better off with portable generators. If you experience a power outage, you can add fuel, and portable generators generally have enough energy to keep large appliances in operation. Look at the buying guides for generators to find out which is the best for your needs.
Possibility of damaging storms can strike anytime. In the ‘ Sportz TV and Consumer 101 TV show, host Jack Rico learns from Consumer Reports expert Paul Hope how to stay out of the dark after the event of a power failure.