Whether you are buying or have already bought a portable generator, you probably noticed the extensive list of accessories first-party vendors either include with the generator or third-party vendors offer on the side.
- Mobility Accessories
- Adapters and Extension Cords
- Bonding Plugs
- Parallel Kits
- Transfer Switches
- Extended-run Fuel Tanks/Extended Fuel Systems
- Maintenance Accessories
- Accessories for Extreme Cold and High Altitudes
- Remote Start Kits
- Tuning Your Portable Generator in Ways We Cannot Recommend
- Final Remarks
But do you really need these, or are they just a waste of space and money?
Since many of our dear readers reached out to us for our opinions and suggestions on portable generator accessories, we decided to write a comprehensive guide which covers them all.
First and foremost, we would like to address the topic of third-party accessories. We highly recommend sticking exclusively to the official accessories supplied and recommended by the manufacturer of your portable generator. These will always fit best and work best with your particular brand and model. The manufacturer always provides information on compatibility and typically, installing the recommended accessories does not void your warranty.
Depending on their type, third-party accessories may require caution. Although the market offers many reputable third-party manufacturers, they typically do not and cannot guarantee compatibility, safety, and pre-modification performance. Moreover, using third-party accessories may break the terms of your warranty, especially if it involves modifying your generator’s hardware. We must therefore strongly caution you to use third-party accessories at your own risk!
Unless you are a powerlifter, you will find that many portable generators are portable only in name. They can simply be too heavy to carry around. However, certain accessories can enhance their portability.
Wheel kits enhance horizontal mobility.
Wheel kits typically consist of attachable wheels (two to four) and a folding handle. Any “portable” generator on the market that weighs over 110 lbs usually comes with a wheel kit, but exceptions do apply (we always list this information on the product page).
If your generator does not come with a wheel kit, you can buy it separately from most manufacturers.
Wheel kits can cost anywhere between $30-150. If you have trouble moving your generator around, you should probably get one.
Lifting Kits and Hanger Kits
Lifting kits and hanger kits enhance vertical mobility. They usually include a steel crossbar, which is to be bolted atop of a portable generator’s frame. If your generator needs a crane to be transported, it will most likely already have one of these included. However, they are also sold separately.
If you do need a lifting eye for your generator, expect to shell out $20 to $50 for a kit that will fit your unit.
Adapters and Extension Cords
Portable generators are equipped with multiple outlets. However, these are not always sufficient for whatever you wish to plug into them.
Maybe your appliances/devices/panels just don’t fit – this is typical for RV outlets, as not all generators are RV ready. An adapter does the trick. Adapters come in two shapes – normal (linear) and “dog bone” (bent). The key is knowing which outlets your generator has and which outlet you need to adapt them to.
To help you with understanding that, have a look at our article explaining the diverse types of generator receptacles.
The most common adapters are for RV purposes. They are the L5-30P to TT-30R and the L14-30P to 14-50R. Expect to pay around $20 for them.
But maybe whatever you wish to plug into your generator (which should always be outdoors) is simply too far away from it. Then you’ll need an extension cord.
These run from 2 to as far as 100 feet and are widely available in any store. For portable generators, you will typically want a heavy-duty cord (10- to 12- gauge) which allows you to power almost any device. To respect all generator safe-usage rules, you should also ensure that the cord is long enough to keep the generator at least 20 feet away from your home.
Extension cords are a must-have for every portable generator owner. Since you’ll be looking for a heavy-duty cord of decent quality, you will most likely have to pay somewhere between $50 to $200 to extend the reach of your portable generator, depending on the required cord length.
Your portable generator has two possible grounding conditions – a floating neutral and a bonded neutral. However, some electrical protection products can read floating neutral as an open ground (ungrounded) condition and not pass the current through. A bonding plug solves the issue by establishing a neutral-to-ground bond.
Bonding plugs, also called Edison plugs, are really only useful for advanced users running a floating neutral. They should not cost you more than $20.
Some folks find running multiple generators in parallel more practical than buying a single one with a higher output. It also provides flexibility, as you don’t always need a heavy, powerful generator, e.g., when going camping or tailgating.
With a parallel kit, most inverter generators can do that. Parallel kits typically look either like simple cables or small boxes with two inlets and a single outlet which provides the combined output of the two generators plugged in. However, power output is always limited by the upper limits of the parallel kit and therefore is not necessarily additive.
Parallel kits are rarely included with inverter generators. You’ll only ever need to buy one if you got two compatible inverter generators that you plan to use in parallel. Since most portable generator manufacturers offer first-party parallel kits, we recommend sticking to them if you can. Expect to pay $50-$100, depending on the brand, type, and output power.
Information about your portable generator’s output is key. Most generators nowadays feature a data center which track runtime, but also output amps, voltage, wattage, can remind you when the generator is running low on fuel. However, what if your generator does not have a data center? Then it is up to you to take the measurements! We recommend two types of meters for portable generator users.
Clamp Meters (Voltmeters, Current Testers)
Clamp meters are the most suitable type of multimeter for measurements on commercial electrical appliances.
They allow you to safely take measurements at different points of an electrical circuit, providing information about a generator’s output at each socket, as well as consumption of each connected appliance.
Clamp meters allow you to easily determine starting and running watts of any appliance, which is useful for sizing a generator before you actually buy it. Therefore, they are a must-have if your generator doesn’t have a data center and recommended even if it does.
$50 should get you a clamp meter that will allow you to get current, voltage and frequency readings. If you do not know your running and starting watts needs but do not want to invest in a clamp meter, you may also try our wattage calculator.
Vibration-activated Hour Meters
Keeping track of the generator’s runtime will allow you to keep up good maintenance (filter and oil change in recommended intervals).
However, some generators will not track their runtime. If you are looking for an extra chore, you may do so yourself with a stopwatch.
If you are more practically minded, use a vibration-activated hour meter instead. A vibration-activated hour meter tracks the time a device spends vibrating, which is a suitable measure for any appliance or device running an engine, portable generators included.
We consider this accessory a must-have if your generator has no means of tracking runtime. It will only set you back $15 or so and will greatly help you stick to your maintenance schedule.
If you want the option of using your portable generator as a backup power source for your house, you will need a transfer switch.
A transfer switch connects a portable generator to your household’s circuit and allows switching its power source between the electrical grid and the generator. Cutting your circuit from the grid is mandatory to prevent (illegal) backfeeding.
There are two types of transfer switches, manual and automatic.
In an event of a power outage, manual transfer switches require you to switch the power source manually. Automatic transfer switches (ATS) are an attractive alternative which do the job for you.
However, most portable generators on the market do not support automatic startup with ATS transfer switches (our database currently features only one, the DuroMax XP9000iH). Therefore, even if you do install an ATS, you will most likely need to go outside and switch your generator on manually, rendering them somewhat pointless.
Technically, a transfer switch is more of a piece of home equipment than an accessory for your generator. However, for both safety and convenience, it is a must-have if you plan to power your house with a portable generator. A basic Reliance Controls 30-amp transfer switch will cost you several hundred dollars.
Extended-run Fuel Tanks/Extended Fuel Systems
Some users find the runtime of their generator insufficient. Runtime is tightly linked to a generator’s fuel tank capacity. Extended-run fuel tanks or (extended fuel systems) allow you to overcome this challenge by extending their capacity.
There are two ways of transporting gasoline into a generator’s engine: with gravity or with a fuel pump. The majority of portable generators are gravity-fed, which is why the fuel tank is normally located on the top of the unit.
The simplest extended run fuel tanks are designed for gravity-fed engines, and merely refill your unit’s tank through a hose similarly as you would yourself, using a funnel. In order to work, these extended tanks have to be installed higher than the generator itself.
More advanced extended run fuel systems feature their own pumping system and can bypass the original fuel tank. Since these systems will require modifications to your unit’s fuel lines, portable generator manufacturers do not recommend them. They will most likely void both your warranty and emission rating.
Expect to pay at least $100 for a basic extended run fuel tank, which will come with a fuel hose and a modified fuel cap.
When we talk about maintenance, we typically imagine dusting, repairing and replacing portable generator hardware. But did you know that even the fluids you feed your generator require your care?
Feeding your engine chronically messy fuel can cause havoc. Fuel stabilizers are necessary unless you drain your generator’s carburetor and gas tank after each use, especially if you are an occasional user and leave your generator standing still for weeks.
Fuel stabilizers prevent gum development, protect your carburetor, and may extend the lifetime of your generator.
We highly recommend having some fuel stabilizer always on hand. Even if you regularly use your portable generator, you may still need some for that old gas-powered chainsaw or lawn mower that you only use a few times a year.
Magnetic Oil Dipsticks
Although oil is not exactly a maintainable component of a portable generator, the oil tank is.
Over time, metal shavings develop in the oil, which can accelerate engine wear. These shavings are commonly dealt with by an engine’s oil filter, but many small engines lack one.
Magnetic oil dipsticks are a neat tool that allows you to extract them manually.
We highly recommend magnetic oil dipsticks, but keep in mind that they come in different thread sizes. You should carefully check which size will be suitable for your unit. Magnetic oil dipsticks typically cost $15 to $20 .
Maintenance kits pack all you need to maintain a generator for a few months of active use.
These usually include filters, oil, spark plugs, but also cleaning equipment and funnels to make maintenance easier.
Buying a maintenance kit from the generator’s manufacturer will save you time spent shopping around for its contents separately.
However, maintenance kits can be more expensive than their contents. Moreover, you will most likely run out of oil sooner than you run out of spark plugs, or vice versa, which renders repurchasing the entire kit impractical.
We recommend buying a maintenance kit from the generator’s manufacturer if you are a first-time buyer and thereafter resupplying it by need, unless buying the entire kit again is a better deal.
You spent hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on your portable generator. So, why would you leave it unprotected from dust and harsh weather? Use a cover!
All generator users should own a storage cover. A storage cover protects your generator from dust.
Many manufacturers sell covers which fit their models precisely – the best option. If a manufacturer does not sell a storage cover, third-party covers are the way to go. We recommend going preferentially for model-specific covers.
If these are not available, you must consider the dimensions of your generator, buy a slightly bigger one and hope for the best.
Note that storage covers cannot be used during operation, and most are not sufficient for outdoors!
They are a highly recommended purchase. There’s not a huge price difference between first-party and third-party covers. Fit and material quality may vary. They should cost you $10 to $30, depending on their brand and size.
Storm Covers (Running Covers)
Storm covers are heavy-duty covers which allow you to run your generator in rain and storms.
Unlike storage covers, storm covers are equipped with a sturdy backbone that should withstand the force of strong wind. They should also be always water resistant or waterproof.
Currently, the biggest player in the running cover industry is GenTent (opens in a new tab), which also manufactures Champion Power Equipment-branded storm covers. Their running covers are fully manufactured in the USA and typically go for around $150 to $200. They are highly recommended if you intend to run your generator in bad weather.
Accessories for Extreme Cold and High Altitudes
Running your generator in extreme conditions is a desirable, yet not such a great idea. Generators are not made to withstand excessively low temperatures, nor high altitudes. However, there are ways to get around that.
Cold Weather Kits
Most cold-weather issues arise due to condensed water freezing in the crankcase breather tube. The frost blocks the airflow and leads to oil leaks, preventing the generator from working properly.
Cold weather kits consist of a heating coil that fits the breather tube and prevents water condensation from freezing inside it.
They are recommended if you are using a generator in freezing weather. You’ll probably need to get someone to install it for you, but once installed, they can remain on the generator and operate year-round. Since their price varies a lot by manufacturer, you should count between $100 and $300 for the part.
Altitude kits are a set of carburetor jets of various diameters.
They adjust the carburetor flow to the air density at a given elevation, allowing the carburetor to perform similarly to sea-level conditions.
Note that modifying the carburetor may void your warranty. Read our article on running your generator at high altitude to learn more.
Altitude kits are typically recommended if you intend to use your generator above 2000 feet. Make sure you know what you are doing, since operation using an alternative jet at elevations lower than its recommended minimum altitude can damage the engine. Altitude kits usually only cost a few dollars.
Remote Start Kits
A decent number of generators have a remote start feature, which allows the user to start their generator remotely, similarly as they would turn on their TV.
Some generators without such feature, but with an electric start, can be equipped with a remote-start kit. A few first-party manufacturers offer these, notably Honda and Yamaha. However, third-party remote start kits are plentiful.
We recommend these only to advanced users, as such modification will void your warranty unless sanctioned by the manufacturer. Moreover, they’re usually very expensive for what they do.
If you don’t have your unit yet, and really want to be able to start it with a key fob, we recommend browsing our list of generators with remote start. It may be more advantageous for you than to retrofit a remote start kit, since these quite often go for between $200 and $500, installation excluded.
Tuning Your Portable Generator in Ways We Cannot Recommend
Fuel Conversion Kits
But what if you don’t own one?
A dual-fuel (or even tri-fuel) conversion kit may allow you to get around that problem.
However, these kits can only be bought from third-party manufacturers and using them (in the best-case scenario) violates the warranty and possibly the emission regulations your engine is certified for. Since your entire generator is designed to run on a certain fuel, force-feeding it another will most likely decrease its performance and cause some form of damage in the long run.
Portable generators can be annoyingly loud, especially if you don’t own one of the 10 quietest generators currently on the market.
Silencers and mufflers may sound like a great way to solve that.
However, they do require modifying your exhaust, which will restrict and may even block the exhaust flow if done incorrectly. Silencers and mufflers are also third party accessories, likely voiding your warranty upon installment.
We do not recommend silencers. If you really need to reduce your noise emissions, you should either choose an inverter generator, or consider investing in a soundproof enclosure such as ZombieBox (opens in a new tab).
Exhaust extensions are a really stupid idea.
The underlying motivation behind exhaust extensions is to run your generator indoors and extend its exhaust out the window to prevent poisoning yourself by carbon monoxide.
No. Always run your generator outdoors. They could ultimately cost you your house and your life.
We hope to have answered your questions regarding portable generator accessories in full. However, there are still many more out there. You have likely noticed that some can be functional, some practical and some technical. One way or another, you will end up buying one or more of these, even if it’s just an extension cord. Therefore, getting to know the most common accessories is mandatory for all portable generator users.
If you feel we have missed any, feel free to send us your suggestions and we will add them to the list.