Portable Semi-Professional Generator Buyer's Guide
How to Pick the Perfect Portable Semi-Pro Generator
What in the world is a semi-professional portable generator? After all, there's no such thing as a semi-professional electrician, or a semi-professional firefighter.
We use the term semi-professional to give you an "in between option" if you're a serious DIYer or "prosumer" but don't like the professional generator price tag.
Semi-professional generators are heavy-duty machines with up-scale features, but without all the bells and whistles found on professional units. Here are some of the upgrades you'll find.
Semi-pro portable generators often feature a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet for added safety.
Unlike traditional outlets, which have two wires (neutral & hot), GFCIs have a third called a ground wire. When the GFCI detects an imbalance of power flow, it can automatically cut off power to the circuit in as little as 1/30th of a second and protect you from electric shock.
The National Electric Code requires GFCI outlets for swimming pool lights, construction sites, bathrooms, outdoor use, unfinished basements, laundry sinks, etc. Since electricity and water don't mix, having GFCIs on your generator is a safer option if you plan to power these applications.
An unlubricated engine is a disaster waiting to happen. All portable semi-pro generators have oil-lubricated engines, but the brainy engineers charged with their design developed a safeguard to prevent a disaster: low-oil shutoff.
Your generator engine can be damaged if it runs without good oil for too long. However, the engines on semi-pro generators will either warn you of a low-level or shut down when it is detected. This is especially important if you're not near your generator while it's running.
An electric-starter is a nice feature found on some semi-pro generators. It will allow you to turn on your generator by turning a key or pressing a button.
The other option is a recoil-starter where you pull a rope to fire up the generator. The nice thing about electric start generators is if the battery for the starter is dead, you can still start it with the recoil option.
Some models of semi-pro generators feature power bars, alerting you to the power output of the generator. It's essentially like having a built-in wattage meter on your generator.
This is a great feature to have because you can see how much wattage you have left to use. Overloading your generator and tripping a circuit will force you to stop what you're doing and reset the circuit. More importantly, a power overload on the generator could damage the items you're powering.
Semi-Professional generators are a great step-up from the basics if you want a more premium generator experience without the professional price tag.