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Portable Generator: Gas, Solar, Diesel, and Natural Gas Options Compared!

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  1. Introduction
  2. Gasoline Generator
  3. Solar Generator
  4. Diesel Generators
  5. Natural Gas Generators
  6. Key features and factors to consider
  7. Recommendations for outdoor adventures
  8. Conclusion


Portable generators have become essential equipment for outdoor enthusiasts and emergency preparedness. They provide an independent power source when utilities are unavailable, allowing you to continue enjoying hobbies like camping, tailgating, and recreational vehicles.

Whether you need to power a few lights, chargers, and small appliances, portable generator provides the backup power that outdoor adventures and unforeseen situations demand. With options like gas, battery, and solar generators, there is a portable power solution for just about any need.

Portable Generator

Gasoline Generator

The most common and affordable portable generators run on gasoline or propane fuel. Gas generators typically can produce 2000-3000 watts up to 10000 watts or more for high-demand uses. However, it is far from perfection:

  • Runtime is limited by the capacity of the fuel tank, usually around 6-10 hours of continuous use per tank. Refueling frequency depends on the wattage and runtime needed.
  • Gas generators tend to be more noisy than other types due to the combustion engine. Lower-end models typically range from 60-95 dB so that they can disturb others nearby. Higher-end models have improved mufflers for lower noise levels.
  • Emissions: Gas generators produce carbon monoxide and other pollutants through burning fuel. Proper ventilation and maintenance are important for safety.

Solar Generator

Portable Generator

Solar generators use built-in solar panels to charge the batteries during the day so they can provide power at night or in an emergency. They are environmentally friendly but often have lower power outputs than gas generators.

  • Power outputs range from 100 to 2000 watts depending on the size and number of solar panels. Enough for basic charging and running small appliances but not large power demands.
  • Long run times, the specific running time depends on the capacity of the solar generator and the total power of the operating equipment. It also supports charging while using.
  • Typically more expensive than comparable gas or battery generators upfront due to the solar panels and lithium batteries. Prices range from $300 to $3000.
  • Very quiet since they have no combustion engine. Noise levels are typically below 55 dB, which is ideal for uses where noise is a concern.
  • Fully eco-friendly and emission-free. No toxic fumes or greenhouse gases, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Additional features: Solar charge controllers to regulate charging, inverters to convert DC power to AC, built-in AC outlets, and DC ports.
  • Good for basic camping, tailgating, emergency backup power, and power a few small essentials when off-grid.

Diesel Generators

Diesel generators run on diesel fuel, which has a higher energy density than gasoline so it provides more power for its size and weight. Diesel fuel also has a longer shelf life.

  • Diesel generators typically produce higher power outputs than comparable gas generators, in the 3,000 to 10,000 watt range or larger for commercial/industrial uses. So they are good for running more heavy-duty equipment.
  • Higher power means larger size and weight due to the larger diesel engine and alternator. Portable diesel generators start at around 60-100 lbs, up to 500 lbs for high-powered permanent installation generators.
  • Noisier than gas generators due to the larger engine, around 70-90 dB. Proper insulation or an enclosure can help reduce noise.
  • Higher fuel costs than gasoline can offset some benefits over time. Diesel fuel also has lower energy density than propane, so less runtime per gallon.
  • Longer maintenance needs like oil changes, filter replacements, and tune-ups required due to the more heavy-duty and complex engine.
  • Higher upfront costs, typically 2-5 times more than a comparable gas generator. Prices range from $3000 to $10,000 or more for large commercial generators.
  • Pros: The highest power-to-weight ratio and power output of all portable generators can power most critical loads during an outage or emergency. Diesel fuel has greater energy density than oil for prolonged operation.
  • Cons: Heaviest, largest, loudest, and most expensive type of portable generator. Higher fuel costs and more complex maintenance needs. Limited runtime per tank compared to propane or lithium-ion batteries.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas generators run on natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LP gas) rather than gasoline or diesel. Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel.

  • Typically produces lower emissions and is more energy dense than propane, so generators tend to be quieter and longer running. However, natural gas is not renewable and still produces pollution.
  • Power outputs range from 5,000 to 100,000 watts for various residential and commercial uses. Enough for powering single homes or large facilities with multiple stages.
  • Larger size and higher cost than comparable gas generators due to the larger natural gas engine and turbine required, especially for higher power outputs.
  • Can be permanently installed or portable, depending on the size. Portable natural gas generators start around 60 lbs up to 800 lbs.
  • Tend to be more expensive upfront and per unit of energy than gas-based fuels like gasoline or propane. Prices range from $2000 to $40,000 or more for high-power commercial generators.
  • Additional features may include electric start, fully automatic operation, multi-fuel capability (able to run on propane in an emergency), and weatherproof construction.
  • Pros: Typically lower emissions and more efficient than gasoline, energy-dense natural gas provides longer runtimes on a tank. Can power critical loads on- or off-grid. Read more about: 10 Off-Grid Communities Paving the Way to Sustainability.
  • Cons: Higher upfront costs than comparable gas generators, larger size, and weight for the same power output, non-renewable fuel source still produces air pollution. Noisier than propane generators.

Key features and factors to consider

When choosing a portable generator, pay attention to several key specifications.

First, determine the power output in watts or kilowatts that will adequately run the electronics and equipment you need to power. More power means larger generators but also greater fuel efficiency. Consider the runtime possible on a full fuel tank or charge, aiming for at least several hours of continuous use if running large appliances.

The generator's noise level is also important, as lower dB ratings translate to less noise pollution. Look for "whisper quiet" or decibel-specific claims to know if a model will disturb you and others. Ease of use, including how easily the generator can be started, refueled, transported and maintained, will impact your experience. Safety is also key, checking for features like ground fault circuit interrupters, overload protection, tip-over switches, and circuit breakers.

Other factors include the generator's weight and portability, warranty length and quality, and cost. Prices range from under $200 to $2,500 or more for high-end, heavy-duty models. Ensure any generator will meet your needs reliably for years to come before investing a significant amount. By considering power, runtime, noise, and other specifications, along with your planned uses, you can determine the right balance of features and budget for the perfect portable generator.

Portable Generator

What size of a portable generator will run a house?

The size of portable generator needed to run essential items in a house during an outage is determined by calculating the total starting wattage required by those items. Generally, a portable generator that can provide between 500 and 1,500 watts would be enough to backup power essential appliances of a typical house.

Recommendations for outdoor adventures

For outdoor adventures and temporary power needs, the Growatt VITA 550 + 100W Solar panel is an excellent all-in-one solution. This portable solar generator provides 538 watt-hours of power from built-in LFP battery storage.

The Growatt VITA 550 uses a powerful MPPT solar charge controller to rapidly charge its battery bank during the day from an integrated 100W solar panel, ready for nighttime power or emergencies. It has industry-leading safety features and provides multiple AC power outputs plus DC ports.

Growatt solar generators are high quality, durable, and come with a 2-year warranty. The VITA 550 is perfect for camping, boating, tailgating, RV use, and remote portable power. It eliminates the loud noise, toxic fumes, and high costs of fuel from gas generators. With the ability to power everything from lights and small appliances to space heaters, air conditioners, and power tools, the Growatt VITA 550 is the all-purpose portable solar energy solution outdoor enthusiasts seek.

Portable Generator

Whether finessing campsites or distant off-grid excursions, the VITA 550 keeps adventures going strong through the night and into the next day. Its versatile performance and eco-friendly solar power ensure the confident enjoyment of hobbies without sacrifice. Campfires can remain a social delight, optional for energy. Any outdoor lover seeking freedom from the grid will appreciate the Growatt VITA 550 Solar Generator. With nearly endless runtimes, and a charge from the sun, this pivotal portable power station delivers unparalleled convenience, cost savings, and environmental benefits. Adventure awaits with the ability to extend each journey further than ever, thanks to the Growatt VITA 550.


Portable generators provide invaluable freedom and independence when utilities are unavailable, allowing you to continue enjoying a range of hobbies, activities, and lifestyles. Whether camping, tailgating, boating, staying at an RV park, or needing backup home power in an emergency, there is an affordable solution to meet your power needs temporarily without interruption.

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