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7 Types of Generators for Off Grid Living

The best generator for off-grid living is the one that will meet your power needs. That means choosing a type and size that’s best suited to power all your critical appliances and devices.

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What will you do if you live off the grid and there’s been no sunlight for days to charge your solar system?

And what if your power-generating wind/water turbine is jammed and it will take days to get it to work again?

Do you stay in the dark inside your off-grid cabin or allow yourself to freeze from the biting winter cold?

A lot of off-grid preppers opt to install solar, hydro, or wind power systems. But, you should know that these systems can fail and generators are an excellent power back-up. What’s more, there are many types of generators that you can choose from.

The best generator for off-grid living is the one that will meet your power needs. That means choosing a type and size that’s best suited to power all your critical appliances and devices.

Also, the best off-grid generator does not fit in a single type. Instead, it could be portable and use diesel or be an inverter generator and use gasoline, and all four features are used to categorize generators.

You should thank the British scientist Michael Faraday, every time you use a generator to light up your off-grid bugging in cabin. His 1831 Faraday disk, the forerunner of today’s generator, was the first to convert mechanical power (cranking a wheel) into electrical energy via magnetism.

While the way a generator works might sound complicated, its ability to generate electricity is indisputable. In this article, we’ll breakdown for you the working of a generator and give you all the info you need to:

  • Decide the best type of generator for off-grid bugging in.
  • Appreciate the use of a generator while bugging in off the grid
  • Maintain your off-grid generator.
  • Understand the benefits and disadvantages of using a generator off the grid.
  • Know how to maintain your emergency backup generator.
  • Apply safety precautions when installing and using off-grid power generators.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Table Of Contents show

How Off Grid Generators Work: The Basics

Generators are devices that convert chemical or mechanical energy (motive energy) into electrical power that can be used in an external circuit.

The input energy of a generator can come from natural sources such as solar, wind, water, and steam, but today, it is mainly generated by burning fuel in an internal combustion engine.

Generators do not really create electricity. Instead, they force the electric charges from the power of mechanical energy to move through an external electric circuit. The flow of the electric charges is output by the generator as an electric current.

You can consider the analogy of a water pump: it pumps water but does not create it. In a similar manner, the generator does not make electricity, it lets it flow through it.

So, what are the types of generators for off grid? Most types of off-grid power generators are the same types of generators for homes. You only need to consider your off-grid power needs to decide the best type of prepper power generator for you.

We will discuss the types of generators that you can opt for when going off the grid. But first, a quick focus on why you should consider using a generator off the grid.

Why opt for a power generator when going off-grid?

In our article on how to go off the grid, we described going off grid as a way to be independent from public utilities and save the environment some carbon footprint using renewable energy.

So, doesn’t the use of generators contradict the environmental conservation intent?

Well, we will underline a few pros of using generators in a while, but it’s important to know from the onset that generators are majorly considered a backup power source, whether you are on-grid or off-grid.

Here are 4 benefits of using a generator for emergency backup power backup off the grid:

1. Lighting up the cloudy days

No matter how reliable and efficient your off-grid solar power system is, you are going to need a power backup when nature decides to be gloomy.

Running a generator on such days will help charge your battery to supplement your energy needs.

Consider a good emergency backup power generator especially if you go off grid in the Northern states where the sun is a rare gem in winter.

2. A substitute power source on main power system maintenance days

Every system needs scheduled maintenance to keep it functioning and avoid accidents and breakdowns from unattended wear and tear.

On days when your main power system (solar, hydro, or wind power system) undergoes routine maintenance, a backup generator will keep you going with your power needs.

Besides, you might need power for the maintenance work on the power system, and having a generator couldn’t be more opportune.

3. A standby power source when the main power source breaks down

Repairs on your main power source are inevitable. Especially if you have a wind turbine that is more prone to breakage, you’ll need a standby power source and nothing could be better than an emergency generator.

If you are not the expert repairing your power system, you won’t know how long it might take to repair it, and if it should take forever, you’ll be without power for that long. Besides, even if you were repairing your own power system, having a generator will save you from rushing the repair work.

4. Budgeting for the main power source

Installing a solar, hydro, or wind power system is not a cheap project. If you are just starting to live off the grid, postponing a major power project to be able to afford the other costs of going off grid can be aided by buying a generator. A good survival power generator will meet your power needs while you save to make a major power supply project.

Despite the above benefits of using a generator off the grid, using one also comes with some disadvantages.

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Disadvantages of using a generator off the grid

We’ll make a quick run through 3 of the most prominent disadvantages of using a generator off the grid.

Cost and fuel storage

Most generators have a high price tag and run on fuel or natural gas, which you have to purchase consistently. A standard generator can consume up to 8 gallons of gasoline if you run it all day, and that increases with the increase in generator wattage.

All that means you need to store gallons and gallons of fuel or keep going to a gas selling station to purchase more.

If you are bugging in off the grid due to an emergency, we would have to admit that a generator is not your optimal SHTF power source. It can only be a temporary solution.

Carbon emissions

Depending on the fuel used, most generators emit a high or low amount of carbon monoxide. For example, gasoline produces high emissions while solar generators are considered green.

If you consistently use a high-emission generator off-grid, that means a considerable contribution to environmental pollution.

Noise

Even the generator with a “super quiet” description produces a bit of noise. Solar and inverter generators produce the least noise while gasoline and diesel generators produce a lot.

If you are off-grid to stay away from trouble, a generator will sell you out. You’ll attract the attention of people that may be out to make trouble or your neighbors who may be without power and food. Because, let’s admit it, in a SHTF situation, if you have power, you certainly have some food too!

So, now that you know why you should (or shouldn’t) opt for a generator off the grid, it’s time to know the types you can choose from, and what the best offers for each type are in the market.

Types of Off Grid Power Generators

When it comes to generator types, everyone will give you a different number depending on their classification features:

  • The operating system
  • The type of fuel they use
  • Portable vs stationed

We give you a list of 7 different types of generators discussing each in reference to the above and other features.

Here’s a preview list of the 7 types of power generators for off grid living:

  1. Inverter Generators
  2. Standby Generators
  3. Portable Generators
  4. Diesel Generators
  5. Gasoline Generators
  6. Solar Generators
  7. Natural Gas Generators

Inverter Generators

An inverter generator uses an engine connected to an alternator. As such, it produces AC power which the generator then converts to DC power using a rectifier.

Inverter generators are one of the most efficient generators. Their invention changed the conception that all generators are extremely noisy.

Characteristics of inverter generators:

  • Compared to the conventional types, inverter generators have a more complex engine, which is why they have a fatter price tag.
  • They are much quieter because, unlike the conventional types which consistently run at full power once ignited, inverter generators automatically throttle up and down to respond to power demand. Besides, they also have a complex exhaust system which also aids in reducing noise.
  • Inverter generators are more efficient and produce less carbon, even though you’ll have to follow similar safety precautions as with other conventional types.
  • They are 20% more fuel-efficient compared to other conventional types of generators.

Inverter Generators Benefits

  • High efficiency.
  • Automatic regulation to suit power demand.
  • Good for power-sensitive appliances.
  • Can run longer and are quieter.

Inverter Generators Disadvantages

  • They come with a fatter price tag.
  • The power output is generally lower and can’t power heavy-duty appliances.

Our best inverter generator pick from Amazon: Champion Power Inverter Generator

We choose the Champion Power Inverter Generator because its size, 4250 starting watts and 3500 running watts, has a perfect wattage for a prepper power generator. (Read about running watts and starting watts in the buying guide section).

Champion Power Inverter Generator will power most of your appliances and devices including a cellphone, laptop, and TV among others. Besides, its starting power is good for medium-power appliances such as a refrigerator/freezer.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the Champion Power Inverter Generator:

  • 4250 surge watts and 3500 running watts.
  • An extended run time of 22 hours on a full gasoline tank.
  • RV ready with 1x 120V 30A plug, 2x 120V 20A household outlets, and 2 USB ports.
  • Parallel ready – can connect with another Champion inverter of up to 2800 watts to increase power output.
  • Quiet design – 64 dBA rating.
  • Clean power for sensitive appliances (˂3%THD – Total Harmonic Distortion).
  • Has an economy mode that can help save fuel and increase engine life.

For even more recommendations of inverter generators for either emergency preparedness or off grid living, check out our buyer guide on the 7 best inverter generators on the market.

Standby Generators

Standby generators are so-called because they are set to automatically run when the main power source fails.

See here how the automatic switch happens.

They are among the best types of generators for home but can be a good option for off-grid citizens who have high power needs, those connected to grid power, or those who plan to live off the grid for a long time.

They should be installed by a pro and may need state permits. You might also have to deal with noise restrictions and the location where you station it when in use.

Characteristics of standby generators:

  • They are quite pricey when compared to other types.
  • They are large-size generators, ranging between 5,000 watts and 20,000 watts.
  • Most of them are self-diagnosing and will give a sign when they need maintenance, according to manufacturer settings.
  • They will run on natural gas such as propane which has fewer storage risks than gasoline.
  • They are highly efficient and give an unlimited power supply.
  • They have larger fuel tanks and, therefore, a longer run time (48 hours or more)
  • They have a commercial-grade engine which explains their power size. They are also quite robust, hence, not easily portable.

Standby generators benefits

  • Convenient switch between systems, hence, no power interruption.
  • Sturdy commercial-grade engine that lasts for many years if well maintained.
  • Longer run time due to larger fuel volume.
  • Can provide consistent power during off-grid emergencies.

Standby generators disadvantages

  • Quite expensive.
  • Require frequent maintenance to stay functional.
  • Not the best for an off-grid option since they are not easily portable and are also costly to install.

Our best standby generator pick from Amazon: Champion Home Standby Generator

It seems that a lot of people in disaster-prone areas are opting for backup batteries as opposed to generators. So, standby batteries aren’t selling as much.

But, if you should opt for a standby generator for your off-grid power needs when your main system goes out, the Champion Home Standby Generator is a good pick.

We picked one of the smallest sizes in the series with 12500 watts, which would suffice to power all the appliances and devices in your small off-grid cabin including a washing machine and an air conditioner system if you have them.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the Champion Home Standby Generator:

  • Seamless automatic power transfer.
  • A quiet design (63dBA) thanks to the sound-reducing lining and low-tone muffler.
  • Reliable power supply 24/7.
  • Self-diagnosis programmed to take place weekly and preempt any power supply failure.
  • Dual-fuel function.

Portable Generators

Portable generators are unique for their ease of portability; they are usually light enough to carry around or are fitted with wheels to help you roll them rather than lift them.

They are also known for their combustion engine designed to produce and conduct temporary electrical power.

Portable generators can be powered by gas or diesel. They do not have a long run time and have a wattage as low as 2,000 watts, so they are recommended for off-grid livers with small to medium power needs like charging communication devices and powering a mini-fridge.

Characteristics of portable power generators:

  • They cost less than other types due to their limited size.
  • They normally run on gasoline or diesel.
  • They may have high carbon emissions, depending on the model, which means they should never be used in an enclosed space.

Portable generators benefits

  • They are cheaper compared to the other more complex types.
  • They are light and easy to carry around, often fitted with a carrying handle.
  • Great for tiny off-grid cabins.

Portable generators disadvantages

  • May not be as steady as other models.
  • High carbon emission (though manufacturers can improve them on this).

Our best portable generator pick from Amazon: Westinghouse iGen2500 Portable Inverter Generator

You can carry the Westinghouse iGen portable generator with ease when you go off-grid. By doing so, you’ll have 2,200 running watts and 2500 peak watts, good enough for your basic power needs while you figure out your main power source.

The Westinghouse iGen is an inverter generator, which comes with all the qualities of an inverter generator discussed earlier.

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Key features of the Westinghouse iGen2500 Portable Generator:

  • A perfect emergency power generator due to its small size (48lbs).
  • 10 hours run time at 25% load.
  • Extremely quiet – 52 dBA and ˂3% THD.
  • Rotating digital tracker for fuel level, run time, and power output.
  • Multiple outlets: 2x 120V 20A outlets, 2x parallel ports, and 2x 5V DC USB ports.
  • CARB Compliant. (Read about the California Air Resources Board in the buying guide section).

Diesel Generators

Diesel generators are classified so for the type of fuel they use. Diesel is one of the least flammable fuels and so suitable for use with generators.

Diesel generators combine a diesel engine with an electric generator. They are typically designed to run solely on diesel with consistent power output.

Characteristics of diesel generators:

  • Diesel generators are the most durable type in the market with both a sturdy engine and exterior body. They last long because diesel burns cooler than other fuels, which supports a longer engine life.
  • Diesel generators are low maintenance.
  • Low-heat engine running reduces the burden of the engine, producing more power.

Diesel generators benefits

  • Extremely durable.
  • Efficient and high power output.
  • Relatively cheap and affordable to run.
  • Their functioning is not affected by cold weather.

Diesel generators disadvantages

  • Will malfunction if exposed to rain or moisture.
  • High carbon emissions which are dangerous when inhaled.

Our best diesel generator pick from Amazon: Generac 6864 Diesel Powered Portable Generator

If you don’t want to go shopping for a power generator any time soon, purchasing the Generac 6864 Diesel Powered Portable Generator will save you the trouble. It’s made to be durable both in the engine and the frame.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the Generac 6864 Diesel Powered Portable Generator:

  • 5000 running watts and 5500 starting watts.
  • Sturdy fully-welded 1.25" steel frame.
  • Industrial grade diesel engine – Yanmar LW Series 435cc.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • 12-gallon tank and high power output.
  • 32.4 hours run time at 50% load.
  • Has an auto-idle control to conserve fuel and reduce noise, ˂5% THD.

Gasoline Generators

Gasoline generators, also known as gas generators, are the most common type of generator. Besides being the cheapest generators, they are also easy to run and are powered by a readily available fuel.

Characteristics of gasoline generators:

  • They are generally designed in compact portable sizes, which makes them optimal as off-grid survival power generators.
  • Because they are affordable generators, they are perfect for preppers and off-grid living.
  • Unfortunately, they can be noisy and produce higher carbon emissions.

Gasoline generators benefits

  • Easy to set up and run.
  • Easily portable.
  • Cheaper to buy and run.

Gasoline generators disadvantages

  • Quite noisy.
  • Higher carbon emissions.
  • Ignition may jam in cold seasons.

Our best gasoline generator pick from Amazon: Westinghouse WGen6000 Gas Powered Generator

We chose a medium-size generator (6000 watts) among the range of choices you can have with the Westinghouse series (from 2,500-9,500watts).

A gas generator of this size, like the Westinghouse WGen6000, will comfortably meet all your power needs without causing any worry of overloading.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the Westinghouse WGen6000 Gas Powered Generator:

  • 13 hours run time on a 6.6-gallon full tank.
  • 6,000 running watts and 7,500 peak watts.
  • It is transfer-switch-ready and has an electric start.
  • You can tell your tank’s status from the fuel gauge.
  • It has 2x GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter), 4x 5-20R 120V 20A outlets, and 1x L14-30R 120/240V 30A transfer switch outlet, all with rubber covers for extra safety.
  • Purchase of the generator comes with oil, an oil funnel, a user’s manual, and a tool kit.
  • It has an automatic low-oil shutdown and a digital output meter.
  • 420cc Westinghouse 4-stroke engine.

Solar Generators

Solar generators (often described as portable power stations) are the power response for off-grid citizens who want to go green all the way. They are extremely reliable and use sun rays to tap and store natural energy that is then converted into electrical power.

Solar generators rely on solar panels to tap the sun’s energy and store it in batteries, which means consistent power.

Characteristics of solar generators:

  • They have three components that work to convert solar energy to electrical power (batteries, inverter, and charge controller).
  • They convert stored natural energy into AC power, which is what most house appliances use.
  • They have a high power output.
  • They have no fuel costs since you are using renewable natural energy.
  • They are clean power generators, with no toxic emissions.

Solar generators benefits

  • High power output when solar conditions are favorable.
  • No fuel costs since they use renewable energy.
  • Low noise and no harmful emissions.
  • Extremely efficient for off-grid cabins

Solar generators disadvantages

  • Extremely expensive (it will cost you a fortune to buy solar panels, charge controllers, and batteries and set up the solar power system).
  • High maintenance especially for the batteries that get damaged easily.
  • Power supply is low or high depending on the presence or absence of sunshine.

Our best solar generator pick from Amazon: ECOFLOW Portable Power Station EFDELTA

Portable solar power stations are usually low wattage. Our choice of the Ecoflow Portable Power Station is informed by its high power production (3,300 watts surge power). This is an excellent range for both low and medium home appliances like the TV and fridge/freezer.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the Ecoflow Portable Power Station:

  • High charging speed (100% in 4 hours by solar panels through a 10-65V 10A input cable.
  • Though not advisable to use all the charging ports at the same time, you can charge 13 devices and appliances at the same time with the Ecoflow Portable Power Station: 6x AC outlets, 2x 60 watt USB-C ports, 4x USB-A Ports, and 1x 13.6V car port.
  • The generator comes with 3 types of charging cables, a carrying bag, and a user manual.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas generators have a similar make to diesel and gasoline generators. What sets them aside is their fuel efficiency. They run on propane or liquefied petroleum.

These generators are recommended for off-grid living due to their low cost, from the purchase of the generator to the running and maintenance costs, even though installation can be costly.

Characteristics of natural gas generators:

  • They are extremely low emission generators because natural gases are clean fossil fuels.
  • Natural gas is cheaper than other fuels like diesel and gasoline.
  • They are low cost and good for off-grid living: they cost less, use cheaper fuel, and are low maintenance.

Natural gas generators benefits

  • Sturdy and durable.
  • Cheaper to buy and run.
  • Lower carbon emission.
  • A much cheaper fuel source with lower operation cost.
  • Natural gases are readily available and easy to store.

Natural gas generators disadvantages

  • High installation cost.
  • Generator efficiency may be affected by extremely cold weather.

Our best natural gas generator pick from Amazon: DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Generator

The DuroMax XP12000EH Generator is a dual-fuel model that gives you the choice to go green by using propane or go for the readily available gasoline. It is EPA and CARB approved.  

It will power all your home appliances and devices including lighting bulbs and powering fridges and air conditioners.

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Key features of the DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Generator:

  • 9,500 running watts and 12,000 starting watts.
  • 8 hours run time.
  • RV ready and has an electric start.
  • 4-stroke DuroMax 18HP, 457cc OHV engine.
  • It has 2x 120V 20A outlets, 1x 120V 30A twist lock outlet, 1x 120/240V 30A outlet, and 1x 50A heavy-duty outlet.

While these 7 generators are the most common and will work perfectly off the grid, there are other less common types like hydrogen generators and renewable electricity generation technology generators that harness natural energy from sun, wind, heat, or water tides.

And now that you know which generator options you have for your off-grid power needs, you might want to consider some best-generator attributes. Doing so will help you know how to buy the most appropriate type to suit your specific needs.

How to Buy an Off-Grid Generator: Generator Buying Guide

If you are at a point where you are deciding on your power supply source(s) once you go off the grid, a few of these questions could be running in your mind:

  • Should I buy a generator?
  • What is the best time to buy a generator?
  • What attributes should I look for when buying a generator?

We, answer your first question by simply advising you to go ahead and buy a generator because it is a reliable standby power source when you are off the grid.

To your second question, our take is that the time to buy a generator is now, way before you need it for your emergency off grid power needs.

Your third question needs a little more focus. When you buy a generator, you want one that will answer to your power needs efficiently.

So, it’s important to know how to buy a generator by considering the following 7 factors and features:

  • Generator run time
  • Generator Size
  • Running Power vs. Surge Power
  • Power usage (Generator size vs your power needs)
  • Power outlet number and type
  • Emission rate
  • Other safety and efficiency features

Let’s discuss each one in detail.

Generator run time

Generators are not designed to run continuously. If they are fuel-charged, they need refueling and, for all generators, oiling of the parts to slow down wear and tear.

A generator’s run time is the amount of time it can stay on with a specific amount of fuel and a specific amount of power consumption (load).

Hence, run time is calculated by considering a generator’s energy production (in watts) and its fuel consumption/KWH (per kilowatt-hour).

The run time of a fuel-powered generator is normally expressed at “half load” (50% capacity) or “quarter load” (25% capacity) with a full tank.

For example, if a generator is rated at 8 hours run time at half load and has a 2000 watts running power, then it will run for 8 hours at 1000 watts (1000 watts is a half load for a 2000 watts running power).

Precise run time calculations are done with calculators that factor in variables like load, climate, and brands (these affect fuel consumption).

The run time of renewable power generators is expressed in watts/hour or “WH” because they do not have a fuel tank. As such, their run time depends on the size of the load, the amount of power needed to be fully charged (e.g. sun hours for a solar generator), and the amount of time needed to reach full charge.

Knowing how much run time your off-grid generator has is important so you have an idea of how reliable it will be when you need it and how constantly you’ll need to refill.

Portable generators are usually rated at 8 or 12 hours of run time and some have more. But it’s always better not to run your generator for too long without maintenance or allowing it to rest.

Generator size

The size of a generator is not measured by its physical dimension but rather its power output. Most portable fuel generators are categorized into 3 groups:

  • Those with a power output below 2000 watts
  • Those with a power output between 2000 and 7000 watts
  • Those with a power output above 7000 watts.

Generators in the below 2000 watts category are light (˂70lbs) and easy to carry around. Heavier portable generators may be designed in a wheeled-cart to facilitate portability.

Even though generator size is not measured in its physical dimensions, physically larger and weightier generators (200-300lb) are also linked to higher power production because they have a bigger engine and fuel tank.

Knowing your off-grid generator size is key in determining purchase because it will either meet or limit your power needs. (We’ll talk about generator size vs power needs in a bit).

Running Power vs. Surge Power

Generator power is considered at two levels: running power (running watts) and surge power (starting or peak watts). Both are measured in watts.

Running power, also known as rated watts, is the amount of power that a generator can provide to connected appliances and devices at one given time. It can also be understood as the total amount of power that plugged-in appliances and devices can draw from a generator at one given time.

Surge power, also known as starting power or peak power, is the amount of power needed to get an appliance running. High power appliances with a motor take up more surge power than running power, while those without a motor may not require any surge power.

Surge power is only sustained for a few seconds after which running power applies. Even though a generator has enough running power for a heavy-duty appliance, the appliance will not turn on if the surge power is higher than that.

Plugging in an appliance with a higher surge power than a generator wattage can also ruin both the generator and the appliance.

When buying an off-grid generator for bugging in, you should go for one with enough wattage for all the appliances and devices you’ll need to charge at the same time. Read about that in the next buying factor.

Power usage (Generator size vs your power needs)

We’ve already explained what you need to know about this buying factor in the previous one. The key aspect here is that you should be able to quantify your power needs (in watts) and compare them with the generator wattage (generator size).

Calculating your power needs against generator size answers the question: “What size of generator should I buy for my off-grid bugging in?”

To know the size of the generator you should buy, you need to calculate the wattage of all the appliances and devices you’ll be charging and see if the generator will meet that amount of wattage.

As a general rule, you should buy a generator with a higher wattage than the total wattage of the appliances you’ll be charging at the same time. A generator that runs at maximum wattage won’t last you very long.

To calculate how much wattage you’ll need, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Determine your power needs by totaling the running watts of all the appliances and devices you’ll be powering simultaneously.

You’ll know the wattage for each item by checking the wattage indicated on the appliances and devices, the product manual, or the manufacturer’s web site.

If the wattage is not indicated, you can check from available standard wattage tables. We’ll consider the Amazon wattage worksheet for our example in while.

  • Find the appliance with the highest surge watts among the ones you’ll be charging at the same time.
  • Total the two numbers. The total indicates the size of the generator you’ll need to buy for your off-grid power needs.

Example: If you want a generator that can simultaneously power a cellphone, a laptop, an AM/FM radio, a 27ʺ TV, and a Refrigerator/Freezer, here’s how you determine the size of the generator you need to buy.

 ItemRunning wattsSurge watts
Cellphone100
Laptop computer750
27ʺ TV5000
Refrigerator/Freezer6002,200

So, adding up the total running watts (1,185) and the highest surge watts (2,200) gives you 3,385 watts. Your generator cannot be smaller than this figure in wattage.

Power outlets number and type

Go for a generator with multiple power outlets. This aids in the distribution of power so the generator is stable.

Besides, it’s is not advisable to use all the outlets at the same time since this can cause the generator to overload and risk getting damaged or damaging the plugged appliances.

Having many outlets also means variety in the type of outlets. Most generators have 2 standard outlets (a 120volt 20amp plug and a 120/240volt 30amp plug).

So, when connecting devices, it’s important to check the volts and amps to ensure you are not plugging into the wrong outlet.

Also, a generator that is fitted with an automatic circuit breaker is a better choice. It will protect the generator as well as the sensitive devices by interrupting current flow when a fault is detected.

Generators may also have additional plug types such as USB and cigarette lighter ports. Consider the ports on your generator according to your power needs and the type of ports on your appliances and devices.

Emission rate

If you are going off-grid in states like California, you’ll need to adhere to state standards regarding generator emission rates.

In the US generally, the Tire-4 Standards apply. The standards refer to the latest emission milestone established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and apply to new engines in off-road equipment.

Tier-4 certified generators aim at emission reduction of up to 95% or more. As a prepper or off-grid citizen, you should consider low-emission generators, not just to meet laid down standards but as a consideration for the environment. Besides, it’s also recommended for your own health.

Other safety and efficiency features to consider when buying an off grid generator

When you buy an off-grid generator, you might want to consider whether they are fitted with particular safety and efficiency features including:

  • Automatic shut-off: to protect the generator from damage if the oil is running low or a fault is detected.
  • Fuel gauge: to help you keep track of the fuel quantity both in the tank and in your stock and avoid running out during an emergency.
  • Push-start button: while some portable generators have a pull start, this can be laborious. So, newer models are fitted with a push-start electric button which requires a battery. Older models can also be fitted with a push-start button by an expert technician.
  • Wireless remote start: this makes your work easier by allowing you to switch on your generator from a distance (around 80ft).
  • Mufflers: this is useful with fuel generators that make a lot of noise. Generators fitted with mufflers will not go completely silent but they can help reduce the noise.
  • Dual fuel: while most portable generators run on one type of fuel, others can run on more than two types of fuel or have a natural gas line. This makes them more reliable because you can go for one type of fuel if the other is not available.
  • Removable console: this feature allows you to connect devices and appliances directly to the generator without running the potential risks of using extension cords.

While all these features are key in ensuring the efficiency of your off-grid generator, generator efficiency is also dependent on maintenance and proper handling as we explain in the next sections.

Maintaining your off-grid generator

Every off-grid prepper or citizen buys a generator so it can provide power when the main source is unavailable, being installed, or under maintenance/repair.

To ensure this, you should see to it that your generator is always in good condition. You don’t want your generator jamming and leaving you “uncharged” on the day your favorite team is playing.

To help you have your generator always on standby in case of an emergency, we give you 10 crucial maintenance tips for a power generator:

  1. Change the oil of your new generator once it has run for 30 hours and repeat the same every 100 hours after the first change.
  2. Clean your generator’s air/oil filters regularly to remove any particles and prevent clogging. Air filters should be replaced every time you change the oil (every 100 hours).
  3. Check your generator’s cooling system often to ensure safe coolant levels, especially if you are using your generator a lot.
  4. Have your battery checked frequently to ensure optimal performance. Batteries are the fastest wearing part of the generator and, once faulty, they will cause harm to all the other battery parts.
  5. Check your generator to see if the electrolyte levels are balanced by running a comprehensive test run now and then.
  6. Replace your generator’s spark plugs at least once every year. Faulty spark plugs will compromise ignition, slow down your generator, and prevent oil from burning efficiently.
  7. Use fresh fuel in your generator and empty your generator of fuel before storing it. Stale fuel will ruin your generator. Alternatively, use a fuel stabilizer to prevent corrosion and ignition issues. A good fuel stabilizer like the STA-BIL (22214) Storage Fuel Stabilizer can keep your oil fresh in a stored generator for up to 2 years without needing to empty it.
  8. If you store your generator for long, start it every month and run it for a couple of minutes. This preserves the engine.
  9. Even if your generator is not sensitive to water, it is always better to shield it from moisture. Use a canopy over your generator when it is raining.
  10. Always read the user’s manual that comes with your generator and follow the specific maintenance guidelines recommended for your choice generator.

Following these maintenance tips will help you get the best power service from your off-grid generator.

But your generator is not the only one that needs care. You should also take safety precautions when using your generator.

Off grid generator Safety precautions    

Electricity is useful, but can also be dangerous even if produced by a generator. For this reason, you should be careful when installing and using a generator.

These 10 safety tips should be followed to ensure you don’t harm yourself when running a power generator:

Safety precautions when installing off grid generators

  1. Read the user’s manual thoroughly and follow generator set up/installation guidelines carefully. If you aren’t sure, seek professional help.
  2. Always run generators at least 20ft away from your or a neighbor’s home.
  3. Install your generator on in open area where fumes can be easily dispersed.
  4. Place your generator on a clear area (5ft on every side) and on an even ground/surface to avoid tripping and fuel spillage.
  5. Direct generator exhaust away from your home or a neighbor’s home. Also, ensure the direction of the fumes is not towards windows or doors as this could bring in toxic fumes.

Safety precautions when using off grid generators

  • Never run your off-grid generators in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. Generator emissions can intoxicate and kill in minutes.
  • Portable off-grid generators should never be wired directly into a home’s electrical system. Instead, always use an outlet.
  • Never run a generator near an open flame or any flammable substances. That could be the start of a fatal or destructive fire.
  • Never overfill your generator’s tank. Fuel expands and can spill over and cause harm to both the generator and you.
  • To avoid malfunction, ensure your generator is not exposed to dust or moisture.

If you’ve read the article up to this point, you should know all that you need to correctly choose your off-grid generator and use it safely and efficiently. Nonetheless, here are a few FAQs to complete your generator knowledge.

Types of Generators for Off Grid Living FAQs

Preppers and other citizens living off-grid often have plenty of questions about generators for off-grid bugging in. Here are 3 of the most common questions.

What is the best size for an off-grid generator?

The best size for an off-grid generator is the one the meets your power needs. Generator size is measured in watts.

If you have daily power needs of up to 2,500 watts, a 2,000-watt portable generator will not be good for you.

You’ll need a generator whose wattage exceeds the total wattage of all the devices and appliances you need to power simultaneously.

What is the difference between running watts and starting watts?

Running watts (running power) refer to the amount of power that a generator can supply to a certain number of devices and appliances at the same time.

Starting watts (starting power) is the amount of power needed to ignite a device or appliance. Low running power devices such as a cellphone have 0 starting power while high running power appliances like a fridge/freezer have high starting power (around 2,200 watts).

Starting power is only drawn for a few seconds after igniting/plugging in an appliance after which consistent running power is maintained.

For how long should I run my off-grid generator?

Generators often have the number of hours you should run them indicated on their frame or in a user manual.

It’s important to strictly follow the indicated generator run time because that means its engine and other parts can take that much strain. Ignoring this could mean a shorter engine life for your generator.

Most portable generators have between 8 and 12 hours run time depending on their fuel tank size, the load, and the model among other factors.

Final Thoughts On Power Generators For Off Grid Living

Power is an important resource when you go off-grid. Even though limiting the amount of electricity you consume is part and parcel of going off the grid, there are power needs we can’t do without.

Choosing the best type of off-grid generator is crucial in helping you meet these power needs while sticking to your off-grid power limits.

Go for a generator whose size (in watts) is a little higher than the total watts you’ll need at one given time. That way, you won’t be stuck without power or overload your generator, obviously ruining it.

Not all generators run on renewable energy. That means most generators make their contribution to the carbon footprint on the environment. Besides, generators are not meant to run continuously and need to be maintained after a number of hours.

As such, when planning for your off-grid power supply, it’s always important to remember that generators are majorly a standby power supply.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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