Week 42, 2017: Standby vs. portable generator for home backup, Briggs & Stratton Q6500 review

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 42, 2017

Q. In your column about generators you mentioned that the plumbing and electrical work for your standby generator was around $1,000. What generator did you get, do you think it was worth it?

-J.R., Boise, ID

A. Though I did get estimates, at the time I postponed installing a standby generator as I have not experienced many power outages the past few years. This summer’s storms caused me to reconsider, and until recently I thought a permanently-installed standby generator was the only way to provide electricity to a good part of the house and power my electronics safely. That changed with the Briggs & Stratton QuietPower Q6500 Inverter Generator, and I found its price, performance and capabilities are what I have been waiting for to make the leap and implement a backup power solution.

Inverter generators are the best portable generators available, due to the clean, electronics-safe power output, better fuel efficiency leading to longer run times per tank, and quieter operation. The expense is what has kept this superior technology from taking over, as an inverter with enough power for several rooms and a furnace fan (5,000-6,000 watts) has typically sold for around $4,000. Getting all this capability in the Q6500 for $1,499 is a game-changer, and it makes conventional generators look much less attractive despite their lower cost.

Comparing the Q6500 to an ordinary generator is like comparing an iPhone to a flip phone. It has a decidedly non-industrial look and is quite small for the amount of power it provides, and the cleanly designed, smooth-sided enclosure keeps noise low. A suitcase-style telescoping handle makes it easy to move around, and two USB ports are built-in for charging portable devices, a testament to its clean power. It comes fully assembled and all you have to do is add oil (included) and gasoline.

The Q6500 is manual-start only. If you find it difficult to pull-start power equipment you should consider a generator with electric start. Even at full power it is quieter than a lawn mower and has a deeper, less intrusive sonic tone, and overall noise levels are nothing like the ear-splitting racket of a typical portable generator.

With its 5,000-watt continuous output and 6,500 starting watts, the Q6500 provides almost the same amount of clean power as a $2,000 natural gas standby generator. The only item requiring professional installation (by a qualified electrician) is a manual transfer switch with outdoor inlet box. Just flip the switch and connect the generator to the outdoor inlet to send power through your home. Because the generator is portable it can be used for tasks besides emergency backup, such as powering electric leaf blowers and hedge trimmers far from a household outlet. This was another deciding factor for me.

For my situation, the biggest limitation is my sump pump will not have power automatically in the event of a power outage. My compromise solution is a pump with battery backup, which should cover things until I can set up the generator, or hopefully until power is restored if I am away. If you have a sewage or sump pump you should take this into consideration as well.

Though I have listed many of the objective advantages of the Q6500, for me the biggest advantage is the peace of mind it provides. Besides the security of knowing I can quickly restore power in the event of a major storm, I can also use anything in the house with confidence, knowing I won’t damage sensitive electronic circuitry. In these days of refrigerators with touchscreens and microprocessors, this cannot be overstated.

See the Q6500 at briggsandstratton.com