I’ve had a truckload of experience with generators at the user end. One of the sites belonging to the place I worked had no power at one stage and I bought a nifty little red Honda 2000W generator to run a heap of electrical appliances and lights which worked really well. Oh, until some idiot put diesel in it and it smoked like crazy. But we cleaned it out and it was as good as new. And we made a tidy sum renting it out to others. The Honda is a great and reliable unit, if a little spendy. That’s why it doesn’t make it to my list of Best Portable Generators. It’s a good machine, but not as much bang for buck. I learned a lot, such as cleanliness is vital. So treat your generator like a kegerator and keep those lines clean and clear. And, in my list of best portable generators, you’ll find a way of getting a 4000W generator without the massive expense of buying a biggie. Rather than do a scatter-gun long list of contenders, I’ve whittled down the choices to make it more manageable and included my top choices. So, to find a current list of best portable generators, read on ….
What Makes the Best Portable Generators for Tailgate Parties?
Factor #1 is that most sites are not powered. They are parking lots full of improvised tailgate party sites. We all know that there are many times at a tailgate party when you need power, but there’s just nothing to plug into. If you want to cook on site such as in a small pizza oven, keep food and booze refrigerated, be there for the long haul, play music, watch television, run a satellite link, hey, you are going to need a generator. Minimum 2000 watts. Most likely more.
Read on, as here’s some stuff you may not know. I have looked at many models as contenders for Best Portable Generators and the ones below are my final recommendations for tailgate party use. You don’t have to wade through heaps of portable generator reviews. I have done that for you. Oh, and all these portable generators will come in handy for the zombie apocalypse too. Oh, but if it is just a light or something small you need to rev up, there are some awesome battery packs we have reviewed earlier. Keep it charged up and it is great for a little power. But they just don’t do it for powering a kegerator though.
Here is a range of generators that will be suitable for tailgate partying and made it to my list of Best Portable Generators. These have the added bonus that in this global warming situation where doomsday prepping is at an all time high, you WILL be prepared. That is, if you remembered to buy some fuel. It qualifies as one of my Best Portable Generators as it is simple to use, compact and cheap.
The Hyundai HY2000siCa generator has an average running time (on full tank) = 4-6 hours. The makers claim 5.5 Hours at 50 percent load. You won’t need to run it at 100% very often though. Most uses are intermittent peaks of power.
Starter is Electric. But the Hyundai HY2000siCa generator does have a manual recoil as well. The electric starter requires batteries. It starts easily whether hot or cold.
Quiet?: Yes. 65 dB which is louder than the Honda generator but not unbearable.
Note that there is a non-CARB and a CARB compliant model, the latter costing a few more bucks. But hey, you want the CARB model, EPA and CSA Certified. Otherwise, your tailgate party will be noisy and gassy. You don’t want emissions of any kind as it can overtake your beer taste. So do select the CARB Hyundai HY2000siCa generator and the world (and your nose and ears) will thank you. A Non-Carb really should not be on the list of Best Portable Generators but it’s OK in some situations.
Tank Capacity = 1.2 gallons.
Price: Around 40% cheaper than the average popular equivalent.
Uses: You can run multiple small electrical items all at once or an air-conditioner using the Hyundai HY2000siCa generator. Great for a tailgate party and it will run the kegerator. Maybe not the TV at the same time unless yours is a small one. In other words, you can cook or you can watch TV. But you could cook and plug in an iPod and some nifty speakers. On the non-party days, you could also run any single large power tool (table saw, small 1 to 1.5 hp pancake compressor) with the Hyundai HY2000siCa generator and hey, it’s suddenly a business expense and you can take it tailgating at weekends.
Outlets: The Hyundai HY2000siCa generator has two 120V 16.6A AC and one 12V 8.3A DC outlet. That’s average and all you need. Plug in more and you will drain it fast. Its dependable circuit breaker system with overload protection is good to have as these gadgets can surge a bit due to dirty fuel or just problems . Low Oil Indicator for additional protection but note that by the time it activates, the oil may have all gone. Suggestion is that you top up the oil on a regular basis and keep the unit clean. 12V DC power for “On The Move” battery charges. Vehicle battery charge cables included
Fuel: Unleaded Gasoline. Use a smaller can (say, 1 gal.) for filling rather than the 5 gal. as then you can easily spill the fuel.
Weight: The Hyundai HY2000siCa is a lightweight generator and easy for one person to wrangle. Manufactured from 3mm Polypropylene to keep that weight down. I really like these poly generators more than I thought I would. They are resistant to dings whereas the steel ones scratch and dent quite fast.
Service: Make sure you clean the unit and check the spark plugs as these can wiggle loose with use. Tighten them up from time to time. Just as you would a lawnmower.
Running Time is stated as 5.5 Hours. With a spare can of fuel this will be enough for most tailgate parties. This unit is an actual ‘2000 watt – 16.7 amp output’ – whereas both the Honda and Yamaha 2000 inverter generators are actually only rated at 1600 watts – 13.3 amp. This makes the Hyundai HY2000siCa generator a better deal.
Maker’s guarantee: 2-Year Limited Warranty. It’s backed by a 2-year warranty for commercial or non-commercial use. Has a manufacturer’s help line and they are very attentive. Will replace the unit if they can’t make suggestions for fixing any problems. Made in China.
Comparable with the Yamaha and Honda 2000 W. but cheaper.
Users have advised taking a flashlight to light up the control panel as it is not lit at all. Also, it has no fuel gauge. You just need to keep it topped up each time you use it. However, as the cheapest at this level, it may be worth it to sacrifice the convenience for something that runs just as well.
Instruction book, tools for removal of access panels and draining of oil for storage. It has standard oil but you may get a better result using a good 5/30w Synthetic Oil instead.
Now let’s pause for an educational moment …. You’ll see CARB referred to a heck of a lot in relation to all sorts of products that may affect the environment. So ….
WHAT IS CARB?
The California Air Resources Board, also known as CARB or ARB, is the “clean air agency” in the State of California. Emissions rules in California are very stringent and CARB comes under the jurisdiction of the Californian EPA. They have made great inroads into Los Angeles’ clean up of air and noise and now you can see the Hollywood sign from almost the coast. unheard of in the bad ol’ smoggy days. Could be something to do with the invention of the Prius.
Bottom line is that CARB has some good insight into noise and air pollution, so whether you live in California or not, it would be wise to go with their call on what generator is good. In that spirit, I would not recommend the non-CARB model at all. A few extra bucks for the CARB approved model is way worth not getting COPD or tinnitus in your middle years.
BUT IF YOU INSIST:
NON CARB compliant. Ie. NOT for sale or able to be freighted to California. Made in China: Jiangsu Jiangdong Group. You may ask, why does it get on a list of Best Portable Generators ?
Well, the All Power America APG3014 is dirt cheap. The only way I could buy this one, though, is if I had a farm or plot of land surrounded by nothingness.
However, it is a good buy for a generator this size. 2,000 Watts Surge/1,400 Watts Continuous, 3 HP 4-Stroke Engine. The All Power America APG3014 is noisier than the equivalent Hyundai with 68 dB of grunt and that could be the main reason why it is not for sale in California. It would not be a perfect tailgate party purchase for the reason of noise pollution alone. You would need a long lead to keep the noise away from your tailgate party or you could baffle it with acoustic panels. However, it does come into the class of ‘better than nothing’ and everyone needs a bargain sometimes.
The All Power America APG3014 generator is lightweight, framed for easy portability durability as that metal frame protects it from dings.
Average running time (on full tank): It is claimed that it will run for 9.5 hours on a 50% load but I am skeptical in general about these predictions as there are so many variables. However, users do rate this highly and that is a good indicator.
Starter: Electric. Plus Manual recoil.
Quiet?: The All Power America APG3014 is not super quiet but more like the roar of a lawnmower – 68 dB but seems louder. Needs a better muffler. But then it has a powerful 3 HP OHV engine so there’s a trade-off. You COULD house it in a sound attenuating box and these can easily be made with some panels of specific acoustic material. Be sure to allow ventilation though.
Size of fuel tank: All Power America APG3014 ‘s Tank Capacity is 1.3 gallons.
Price: Around 60% cheaper than the average popular equivalent which gives it a place on the Best Portable Generators list.
Uses: The All Power America APG3014 would be OK on a building site or a power backup for storms but not really my pick for a social occasion like tailgating due to its noise and emissions. But it is really at the low end of costs.
Outlets: Two AC 120V outlets, one DC 12 V output Voltage as measured (not as claimed) is actually 122.5 Volts
Fuel: Unleaded Gasoline. Again, use a smaller can (say, 1 gal.) for filling rather than the 5 gal. as then you can easily spill the fuel though this fuel tank is more accessible that the Hyundai.
Weight: 54 pounds which is a bit of a hefty load.
Service: As with all vibrating motors, make sure you clean the unit and check the spark plugs as these can wriggle loose with use. Tighten them up from time to time. Just as you would a mower.
Running Time is supposedly 9.5 hours at half load allowing for peaks. I don’t think it would really last that long consistently.
Maker’s guarantee: All America has a manufacturer’s help line and they do respond to problems rapidly.
Not comparable with the Hyundai, Yamaha and Honda 2000 W but a lot cheaper and there is some discrepancy between their claims of 2000W and the reality of the power output. However, as a super cheap buy for emergency use or as a backup for your tailgate party, I can’t really object to it. High up on the Best Portable Generators list? Well, only just. But be sure to clean it, use quality gas and oil (avoid ethanol) and it should perform well.
What’s included: Instruction book, oil. Details on link to website for helpline. The actual size of the unit is larger than advertised: height 14 3/4 in., width 13 3/4 in., and length 18 1/16 in.
A HANDY WAY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT SIZE GENERATOR YOU NEED
You can use this handy calculator to help estimate how many watts you require to run your appliances. Are you asking my why I don’t recommend Briggs & Stratton and why they are not on the Best Portable Generators list? Well, they are more expensive and also, are not the B & S of old days. My ol’ Pa had a self propelling slasher, for instance, from the old Made in America days and it is still going strong even though it’s almost the same age as I am! But now …
If you are running a kegerator, and I hope you will be, then substitute that for the refrigerator category.
Once you’ve done the math, you would realize that 2000 W – the most popular generator – is really not an optimum choice for a full service tailgate party power source. They are no longer the world’s Best Portable Generators but do have some good insight into what generators can do.
I ran through that list and calculated on my appliances – kegerator, electric pizza cooker, TV, a light for the gloomy days, tablet charger – at minimum I figured on ramping up the Watts to 3000.
So here’s my pick of the 3000 watts generators. Anything BIGGER than that is going to need a bigger truck to haul it and also going too large means it is harder for one guy to wrangle unaided, and I am thinking of the post-party pack-up here.
Bear in mind that this little beauty is over 80 pounds so it will be a bit of a power lift every time you take it to your tailgate party. The wheels are rubber and smooth so that’s a help so it’s made it to the list of Best Portable Generators on the basis of its user-friendly design.
Having said that, the Champion Power Equipment No.75531i is quieter than the Honda or the Hyundai 2000 W and that is quite amazing. I’m not exactly sure what difference a few dBs will make because usually, our tailgate parties are raucous enough to drown out any generator. Shame on us for not being CARB compliant and don’t get me started on our tailgate party emissions.
My pal Seth, a faithful tailgate party pioneer, swears by the Champion Power Equipment No.75531i as it easily can run the kegerator small to medium sized, and a small TV plus has the capacity to plug in and charge everyone’s i-whatevers. Phone, pad, pod etc. etc.. The inverter (that bumps the price up) is actually worth it as it ensures clean power to sensitive appliances (eg. a smart tv, ipad, computer). Quiet, lightweight and portable by virtue of the aforementioned large rubber wheels and stowaway handle, the Champion 3100W Inverter Generator is really versatile and can be the centerpiece (off-stage!) of your tailgate party. Note that the description says it is 2800 Watts Rated, 3100 Watts Maximum output which is powerful enough to run a 15,000btu air conditioner so with that in mind, the gadgets of the tailgate party are a snap.
Inverter Technology provides clean power which means it won’t have the sort of surges most cheap generators have so will be safe for sensitive electronics such as your small smart TV (eg. A 32”).
The engine of the Champion Power Equipment No.75531i automatically idles lower when electrical load is reduced, which gives you a saving of fuel and engine wear. I like that feature a lot and it is a reason I added it to my Best Portable Generators list. Does not power 220 volts. That’s a whole different ball game.
Mysteriously, it says it will run for 8 hours on a full tank of gas at 25% load. I’m thinking that its performance is way better than that.
Note that the Champion Power Equipment No.75531i is EPA/CARB approved for sale in 50 states including, of course, California.
Quiet – only 58 Dba. Powered by a Champion 171cc OHV engine designed specifically for the 3100 Watt inverter generator will run 8 hours on a full tank of gas at 25% load.
Average running time (on full tank) it will go all day powering a 25% load but really, the power pull can be higher than 25% just not flat out all the time. Overload Protection, Low Oil Sensor and Economy Mode Switch.
Starter: Recoil. This generator has a choke, but remember not to run it on full choke. Flooding will occur and the auto cut-off will kick in. Auto choke saves your poor handling into being a major problem.
Quiet?: At 58 dB the sound of the Champion Power Equipment No.75531i can be drowned out by anyone’s Jimmy Buffett downloads.
Tank Capacity: 1.6 gallons which is a little bigger than most.
Price: Under $1000 which makes it a lot cheaper than the 2000W Honda! Bargainacious!
Uses: Strong enough to run a kegerator, TV and even a small air con for a few hours. Can be noisy when it is outputting a lot of power but very much an all rounder.
Maker’s guarantee: All product technical, service and warranty inquiries must go through Champion. There’s a 24/7 tech line. Note that Champion products cannot be returned to a retail store or e-tailer, but you can email the company for the procedure for any replacement. All Champion products are cover by a Lifetime Free Technical Support and 2 Year Limited Warranty. Made in China.
Outlets: 1 – 120V Duplex outlet (5-20R), 1-12V DC Outlet w/cables included, and 1 – TT30 Receptacle – RV Ready.
Fuel: Unleaded Gasoline.
Weight: 80 pounds.
Size: 19.7 inches x 24.2 inches x 18.5 inches – seems manageable.
What’s included: Instruction book, oil, handy funnel. You will need a screwdriver.
Bottom line: This generator gives you that extra oomph and seems to me to be the right size for tailgating. You would look after your beer, your food and your games, plus the visual entertainment (TV) and music system and they would all run off this for the duration of the party. It won’t fit in the trunk of a sedan but would be OK in your SUV or truck.
Is this THE Best Portable Generator for tailgate parties? Yup!
Here’s my top pick for Best Portable Generator. One of the great selling points of this CARB compliant unit is the remote start – a perfect system for tailgate parties when you are stuck at the grill or playing a game. You don’t want to leave that beer unattended. After all, that is what you are there for. The remote start works up to 75 feet away. It’s a unique design which also features an electric start. Prime and switch on and you’re up and running.
The second great feature is that you can buy two of these for less than most other generators to give you 4000W. That’s enough to run a heap of gear you would need for a tailgate party. See the note below on the parallel option which gives you versatile and compact power and the great thing about that is that you and your buddy can buy compatible systems and link up only when you need that extra grunt. And I’m looking at you, Matt! Rather than categorize Best Portable Generators as ‘the most expensive’, I have figured out ways to get more power to your site for less money. This is definitely a great way to do it. More money for beer.
Average running time (on full tank) of the Powerhouse PH2100PRi is versatile. Continuous run time (hr) Full load; 3.0 hrs; 1/4 load; 7.5 hrs. This is a conservative estimate. Other users have reported better results due to the variable speed which conserves fuel as your use ebbs and flows.
Starter: Electric. You need to charge the battery when you unpack the box. The Powerhouse PH2100PRi generator has electric start, recoil and remote, an Auto choke that switches off to prevent smoking. There’s an easy primer. Some users have reported that the unit is difficult to start especially in extremely cold areas. We didn’t find that but if you have problems, call the service number immediately. It also has an engine-reset button that will automatically restart the engine if the unit shuts down due to engine overload, and an internal circuit breaker. The other thing I did notice was that users have some nifty ways of getting around this. #1 read the instructions. #2 check out some of the really long posts about the unit on amazon.com which explain about cleaning and little cheats to prevent flooding. Most are applicable to all generators and are handy to know. The more you can get to know your unit the better!
Quiet?: Users say the Powerhouse PH2100PRi is quite acceptable, not silent but not intrusive. A longer lead will keep it away for the tailgate party fun. Keep it under the 75 feet so that you can use the handy remote.
Tank Capacity: 1.3 gallons.
Price: You could buy two Powerhouse PH2100PRi generators plus the optional connector kit for a lower RRP of one 3500W Honda from some sellers who cost these at way over $2000. That feature alone makes it a natural to be on the list of Best Generators and the invertor will stop your appliances from frying.
Uses: The parallel-ready PH2100PRi inverter generator can be connected through an optional kit to provide over 4000w of power. All you do is connect two compatible Powerhouse generators. For example, you could connect two PH2100PRi models for 4000 watts, or pair the PH2100PRi with a PH2700PRi generator for 4600 watts of total power. Follow the links to the parallel kit here.
Outlets: A full range. As pictured.
Fuel: Unleaded Gasoline.
Service: As with all vibrating motors, make sure you clean the unit and check the spark plugs as these can wriggle loose with use. Tighten them up from time to time. Just as you would a mower.
Run time: Continuous run time when powering a full load is 3.0 hrs; 1/4 load; 7.5 hrs but that’s conservative. Has variable and constant speeds and conserves fuel when the load is lower.
Maker’s guarantee: 2-year consumer warranty (1-year for commercial use); EPA, CARB, and CSA compliant.
It is important to keep the fuel and the generator clean. Any grit in fuel lines will make starting very difficult so keep it clean and covered when not in use and make sure you service it regularly. Don’t over-prime when you start it. One push is enough.
What’s included: Powerhouse PH2100PRi portable inverter generator; oil jug; two keys; two remotes; oil drain pipe; spare fuse; spark plug wrench; screwdriver; spare spark plug; internal charging cable; battery charge kit; operating instruction book.
This is by no means a listing of every generator available just those I believe are the Best Portable Generators suited to tailgate parties, and in general, not the high end machines. Better to spend your dollars on beer.
Don’t ever run a generator inside. They are designed for outdoor use only, be sure they are well ventilated. You can die of the fumes so keep plenty of air around them.
Be sure to read the instructions. EVERY generator has its own little quirks. Another good way to gather information is to read reviews on amazon.com as many of the users have some unique ways of dealing with issues such as hard-to-start or flooded systems.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the exact fuel recommended for your model.
Buy a good container for gas storage with a funnel top to avoid spillage. Keep it safely away from your house in a garage or shed. I always recommend a small bottle as it is too easy to spill fuel from the large ones.
Justrite AccuFlow 7210220 Type II Galvanized Steel Safety Can with 5/8″ Flexible Spout, 1 Gallon Capacity, Yellow is great and they have larger sizes for longer term storage.
Upscale the oil that you use. Get the best 100% synthetic oil you can buy.
Make sure that wherever you site your generator, you place it on a level surface. Wobbly generators, even slightly, will be way noisier. Plus it does affect the spark plugs’ performance by loosening them.
Buy a long lead and also I would recommend some kind of heavy duty bike lock with something you can secure the genny to a tree, a pole or other non-removable post. They do get stolen! We recommend double chaining it with two tough locks. At least it will slow down any attempts to hijack it.
Keep it very clean. Wipe it down after every use and store it in a box once it has cooled down.
Flame retardant foam panels are good at being silencers for the generator. Doesn’t have to be a total white-trash fix-up – you can make them quite professional looking without a little thought.
F’rinstance, you can clamp these together to make a simple blimp:
Or buy these more upmarket ones that are a NASA spin-off:
Buy a generator a size up from what you think you will need if you can afford it, but DON’T scale up beyond what you actually need to run your tailgate party. Factor in a place to store it, the time to clean and service it. But of course, you will almost always find other uses and people will want to plug in to charge phones, iPads etc. and mooch off your power. If you want to run a TV of a decent size, then 4000 (which can also be sold as a 3500W) is most likely what you need. Having said that, remember the more appliances you plug in, the shorter your run time and you will go through gas much faster which will cost mucho dinero. So there you have it: the current crop of generators that will make your party zing.
But the use of a generator in a powerless tailgate situation can lift your party into a complete stratosphere of awesomeness. IMHO. No, remove that ‘H’.