A lightbulb that's being powered by a home standby generator.

When the power goes out, a generator is the best tool to help you keep the lights on—and your fridge running and your phone charged. A home standby generator, also known as a stationary generator, is the gold standard in backup power.

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“These are really the tools you want if you live in an outage-prone area, particularly if outages often last a day or more,” says Dave Trezza, who oversees generator testing at Consumer Reports. “They’re the most expensive type of generator, but when you have an outage you’ll barely even notice since they kick on automatically and can power just about everything in your house.”

Home standby generators are permanently installed in your yard and run on natural gas or propane. Aside from starting automatically and powering all your electronics and appliances, their biggest advantage is run time. Most can run at least a week when connected to a standard 275-gallon propane tank, and all home standby generators can run indefinitely on natural gas, since that’s provided in a continuous feed by your utility company.

A portable generator, by comparison, might burn a gallon of fuel every hour when running at peak capacity, so you’ll need to store dozens of gallons of gas, with fuel stabilizer, to weather an extended outage.

The luxury of uninterrupted power doesn’t come cheap. The home standby generators in our ratings range from $2,000 to $4,400, and you could easily spend that much or more on installation. That makes it all the more important to get the purchase right. Start with our generator buying guide to zero in on the style that’s right for you. And browse our generator ratings, which in addition to home standby models include portable and inverter generators.

Read on for our selection of the best home standby generators in our ratings.

Best Small Home Standby Generators

Champion 100174
Price: $2,000
Output: 8,500 watts (propane); 7,500 watts (natural gas)
Average run time: 291 hours (on propane)
CR’s take: For some, this smaller model from Champion will hit the sweet spot. Its lower output keeps the cost down to $2,000, making it the least expensive whole-house generator in our ratings. But it’s still plenty capable; 8,500 watts is enough to power a gas furnace and water heater, or even a small central air conditioning system, along with some other household essentials, such as the refrigerator. This model delivers steady, reliable power, earning ratings of Excellent in both our power delivery and power quality tests. And given the performance you get for the money, we named it a CR Best Buy.

Winco PSS8B
Price: $4,400
Output: 8,600 watts (propane); 7,600 watts (natural gas)
Average run time: 258 hours (on propane)
CR’s take: This Winco offers performance on a par with the Champion. Output is nearly identical, and it earned scores of Excellent for both power delivery and power quality, dealing well with surges in demand. This model also has three standard outlets, a nice bonus, so you can use it as a source of outdoor power for an electric string trimmer, pressure washer, or other tool. 

Best Large Home Standby Generators

Champion 100179
Price: $2,800
Output: 12,500 watts (propane); 11,500 watts (natural gas)
Average run time: 198 hours
CR’s take: It’s hard to beat this higher output Champion for whole-house power. It earned ratings of Excellent for both power delivery and power quality, meaning that it steadily delivers ample power, handling occasional surges in demand (like when your refrigerator’s compressor kicks on) without dropping voltage. It’s nicely designed, too, with smooth-opening doors that let you access various parts for maintenance, including the internal breaker.

Generac 7031 
Price: $3,100
Output: 11,000 watts (propane);  10,000 watts (natural gas)
Average run time: 253 hours
CR’s take: This top-of-the-line Generac earned ratings of Excellent for both power delivery and power quality. So, like the Champion above, it steadily delivers power and handles surges in demand without dropping voltage. And while it's pricier than the Champion, it's also more efficient, meaning it costs less to operate. And if you're running it from a standard-sized propane tank, it can run for two days longer than the Champion.

Best Standby Generator for a Big House

Kohler 14RESAL
Price: $3,700
Output: 14,000 watts (propane); 12,000 watts (natural gas)
Average run time: 182 hours
CR’s take: This Kohler ties the top-rated Champion for performance, earning the same ratings of Excellent in both power delivery and power quality. And while it’s expensive, it’s also the highest output generator in our ratings, delivering a staggering 14,000 watts consistently and reliably to power just about anything under your roof.