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Best Diesel Generator for Home Use – Diesel Generator Comparison

emergency diesel generator for home use

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Generators come in all shapes and sizes, with models and capacities to fit seemingly every situation. When discussing portable generators, many people immediately think of small inverter generators, or perhaps older style open-frame models. However, when you need more serious power, diesel is the answer.

Diesel is often the quieter, more efficient, and more reliable choice with you have a large load to supply. Of course, not all diesel generators are created equal, so you need to know what to look for to find the best portable diesel generator. We’ve compiled some of the best options on the market for a variety of needs.

Here’s what you need to know when shopping for the best diesel generators.

Products Reviewed in This Article

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our Top 3 Best Diesel Generators for Home Use Compared

Generac RD03022ADAE Protector Series 30 kW Single Phase Diesel Generator
Our Top Pick
Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts, Diesel Powered Portable Generator
Output: 30Kw
Output: 5Kw
Voltage (V): 12
Voltage (V): 120/240
Size (LxWxH): 95 x 35 x 68 in.
Size (LxWxH): 33.1 x 22.5 x 25.6 in.
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Capacity (gal.): 132
Fuel Capacity (gal.): 12
Generac RD03022ADAE Protector Series 30 kW Single Phase Diesel Generator
Output: 30Kw
Voltage (V): 12
Size (LxWxH): 95 x 35 x 68 in.
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Capacity (gal.): 132
Our Top Pick
Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts, Diesel Powered Portable Generator
Output: 5Kw
Voltage (V): 120/240
Size (LxWxH): 33.1 x 22.5 x 25.6 in.
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Capacity (gal.): 12

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Diesel Generator Reviews

Our Top Pick Generac 6864, 5000 Watt Diesel Portable Generator

Generac is one of the most renowned manufacturers for large generators. Although they are perhaps best known for their home-backup generators, they make an incredibly comprehensive line of portable and stationary models for all needs. Regardless of the specific model you choose, there is one thing you can be sure about with a Generac: it will be top quality. The 6864 is no exception. 

Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts, Diesel Powered Portable Generator

For a diesel generator, this model is relatively small. As with any diesel-powered unit, you won’t be slinging it over your shoulder anytime soon. However, it is nonetheless reasonably compact and easy to handle with the wheel kit. Portability was a priority when they designed this unit. The frame is exceptionally rugged, so you don’t have to be concerned about rough-housing this generator when you transport it. They even included a lifting hook that allows you to use a small hoist or block and tackle to load it into the bed of a truck. In terms of packaging, they did a superb job.

Reliability should also be top-notch. Many manufacturers use third-party engines from dubious sources. These are often fine, but you never truly know what you’re going to get. Generac put the worry to bed though by powering this generator with a Yanmar LW Series 435cc air-cooled direct injection diesel engine. In terms of small diesel engines, no one surpasses Yanmar. Yanmar has made industrial and marine engines for decades, and their engines are often seen powering anything from freezer trucks to sailboats for tens of thousands of hours. There is little question that the engine in this generator will last for decades.

Despite its small size, the 6864 puts out a lot of power. It is rated for 5,000 running watts, with a peak of 5,500. It is designed to run at full capacity full-time, so you don’t need to worry about how much of a load you put on this unit. Although this would serve beautifully as a job-site or large RV generator, many owners will likely use this unit for home backup power. Generac included a lot of features with this purpose in mind. The 6864 includes an electric start feature that not only makes starting the unit more convenient, but it allows it to be wired with a remote or auto-start feature, ideal for power outages. Beyond this, this model can output 240-volts of power. It is extremely common for smaller generators to be limited to 120-volt, so the option for 240 here is much appreciated. This functionality allows the unit to be used for welders or for running the variety of 240-volt appliances in many homes.

This is a generator for anyone who puts quality at the top of their priority list. Although there are less expensive units on the market, the combination of Generac design and Yanmar power means there aren’t any that are better built.

PROS

  • Yanmar engine
  • Designed for sustained loads
  • Extremely efficient
  • Large fuel tank
  • Surprisingly portable

CONS

  • Slightly louder than some competition 
  • No outlet covers

CHECK PRICE HERE

Generac RD03022ADAE Protector Series 30 kW Single Phase Generator, Diesel

Although portable generators are fantastic for the convenience and flexibility they provide, they simply don’t provide enough grunt for some applications. There are many situations which demand large amounts of off-grid power. For example, many people choose to build large houses in areas where utility companies cannot feasibly service. Others live in areas where the climate makes reliable power an impractical pursuit. Needing electricity is often not just a matter of comfort and convenience, but a matter of safety. Having the ability to heat and cool your home or run vital equipment can be a matter of dire importance. For these situations, you need a generator with enough power to seamlessly run an entire house. You need the Generac RD03022ADAE.

Generac RD03022ADAE Protector Series 30 kW Single Phase Diesel Generator

The RD03022ADAE is a brute by any measure. Although its physical size may seem a little imposing, it is quite compact given its capacity. This model can output up to 30kW, meaning it has more than enough power to run even large homes without any impact on usability. Air conditioning, electric heat, washers and driers, and more can all be powered by this unit without a second thought. 

Although it can serve as a primary source of power for off-grid living, the primary use case for this unit will be back-up power for homes in areas with questionably reliable power. For this use case, this Generac is the pinnacle of convenience. Once wired into your home’s electrical system, this unit can be programmed to automatically start running and activate a transfer switch. Thus, if the power goes out, this unit will automatically restore power to your home without any intervention whatsoever. Its knack for automation continues in terms of maintenance.

Because this generator has the potential to be idle for long periods, Generac engineered numerous features that ensure it will be ready to go when you need it. First, it can be programmed to automatically run occasionally, even if there is not a power outage. This makes sure that the oil is well circulated, that fresh diesel is in the lines, and that the unit is otherwise ready to go. Further, Generac includes a standard block heater and fuel line heater. Diesel engines can sometimes be more difficult to start in extremely cold environments. Making sure the oil and fuel are warm makes it certain that this generator will start immediately as soon as you need it.

Without question, this generator is an investment. It is not a trivial expense, and it does require professional installation. However, the reliability and reputation of Generac make it well worth the expense. Generac is the premier brand in generator backup power. Thousands of homes and businesses around the world trust their existence to Generac units, including hospitals and other mission-critical operations. They even provide back-up power to entire towns when their electrical grids are irreparably damaged. Thus, if you need a vast amount of power to ensure your home and family will be safe and comfortable regardless of what events unfold, the Generac RD03022ADAE is the diesel generator for home use you could imagine.

PROS

  • Incredibly powerful
  • Automated operation
  • Very reliable 
  • Automatic maintenance cycles

CONS

  • Not portable
  • Requires professional installation

CHECK PRICE HERE

Yanmar YDG5500W-6EI Portable Generator, 5.5kW

One of the primary complaints that many prospective generator shoppers have is the inherent complexity of many models. In the past, diesel engines were inherently simple devices. Without the need for a traditional ignition system, they required no electronics whatsoever to run, making them excellent candidates for any emergency preparation or off-grid needs. However, as the various manufacturers have progressed through their models, diesel engines have gotten increasingly complicated. Many modern diesel engines, generators included, require extremely complex electronics to function properly. This makes them difficult to repair, expensive to buy parts for, and susceptible to damage via electrical interference. In this context, the Yanmar YDG5500W is a breath of fresh air. It is a back-to-basic generator, but the engineering and craftsmanship are astoundingly high. As a survivalist off-grid solution, it is among the best. 

Beyond its admirable simplicity, the Yanmar YDG5500W is impressive for a myriad of other reasons. First, it is surprisingly compact for a 5.5kW diesel model. Of course, my intention is not to mislead. At slightly under 300lbs, this generator will never be confused with backpacking equipment. However, even small diesel generators can be extremely bulky, and this one is among the lightest in its class. It is hard to overstate the durability of this unit. As I mentioned above, Yanmar is among the oldest diesel engine makers, and their reputation is unparalleled. Thousands of generators, boats, and vital equipment around the world have been powered unwaveringly by Yanmar engines for decades. Thus, for a generator you need to depend on, seeing “Yanmar” emblazoned on the side of this unit is a welcome sight.

With Yanmar’s long history of building such reliable and serviceable units, the attention to detail on the YDG5500W is superb. Because Yanmar engines are so often employed in difficult situations, they emphasize ease of repair. Every aspect of this generator is easy and trouble-free to access. Whether you need to change a glow plug, check an injector, and replace a fuel filter, the process is intuitive, quick, and affordable. The unit is specifically designed to use as few unique fasteners as possible. Thus, even the most basic tool kits are more than adequate to repair anything that might arise. In a world of over-complicated equipment where engineers and accountants beat out mechanics, it is incredibly refreshing to see a unit designed to simply work with a minimum of fuss.

For off-grid use, the elegance of this model shines. It is air-cooled, so you don’t need to worry about repairing or maintaining a cooling system. Further, while it has a convenient electric start, this model is somewhat unique in that it features a redundant pull-start option. Thus, if you ever find yourself without a usable battery, you can simply pull the compression-release false, yank the start cable, and be back in business.

Fuel efficiency is another highlight here. The tank is a relatively small three gallons. However, the efficiency of the Yanmar engine allows this generator to run at full capacity for up to 16 hours on a single tank. Further, it is set up for a remote fueling system, so if you need additional capacity you can simply employ an auxiliary tank. At that full capacity, the Yanmar YDG5500W can produce 5.5kW of power. Thus, this unit has more than enough power to run a small home, power a job site, or provide adequate power to any reasonable off-grid need. Although it won’t be running any mansions single-handedly, it is an excellent size that provides a balance between size, capacity, and fuel usage.

Overall, there is not much bad to say about the Yanmar YDG5500W. In many ways, it seems like a generator from a by-gone era. It is simple, elegant, and efficient. For the moments where reliability outweighs having all the bells and whistles, the YDG5500W is one of the portable small diesel generators.

PROS

  • Superbly rugged
  • Easy to repair with simple tools
  • No electronics
  • Fuel-efficient

Cons:

  • Slightly louder

Cummins Onan Quiet Series Diesel 0HDKCA-11506 RV Generator – 10 kW

As you can tell from this roundup, portable diesel generators often fall into one of two categories. There are the rough-and-ready models designed for abuse, like the Generac 6864 or the Yanmar YDG5500W. Then, there are the luxury-oriented models geared towards providing seamless power in any circumstance. Although it is designed to withstand some abuse, the Onan 0HDKCA-11506 is rooted firmly in the latter camp. 

Cummins Onan Quiet Series Diesel RV Generator - 10 kW, Model Number 10HDKCA-11506

High-end motorcoaches and toterhomes are staples of luxurious travel. These mansions on wheels are often used in campgrounds where power is available, but many spend more time on the road or in boondocking situations. Whether you are in your race transporter in the middle of a remote paddock, at an equestrian center waiting for your next event, or enjoying luxury in nature in a national park, it is important to have reliable and quiet power to keep your RV comfortable. The Onan HDKCA-11506 delivers that need in spades. At 10kW, this is a very large generator compared to most RV units. It can run up to three rooftop air conditioning units with more power to spare. If used for a racing transporter, it has more than enough amperage to keep your team cool in A/C while also running welders, compressors, and any other gear you need. As an addition to your coach, this unit is a jack of all trades.

Despite being impressively powerful, however, the most remarkable thing about this generator is how quiet it manages to be. Via a combination of insulation and liquid cooling, this generator produces only 61dB at full load. Thus, this 10kW powerhouse is actually quieter than many minuscule suitcase generators. More importantly, it is quiet enough to be within the noise restrictions of most national parks, and it won’t annoy your neighbors in the local fairground or paddock. In terms of quiet and reliable power, this is an incredible showing.

Finally, the quality of the power that this unit produces needs to be acknowledged. Many lower-end generators produce a “noisy” power signal that can struggle to run certain devices. In the worst situations, it can even damage some electronics. The Onan HDKCA-11506 uses a high-capacity voltage regulator in concert with a constant-RPM generator head. This combination means that the HDKCA-11506 produces an incredibly consistent 60hz 120VAC output, regardless of the conditions or the load. Thus, whether you’re running floodlights or a laptop, you don’t need to worry.

This is a generator designed to provide the quietest power possible in the most reliable fashion imaginable. Whether you are using it to run your race team operations or keep your coach cool and comfortable, this is one of the best diesel generator models available for an RV.

PROS

  • Extremely quiet
  • Regulated power
  • Very powerful

CONS

  • Casing makes maintenance slightly more difficult 

CHECK PRICE HERE

What To Look For in Diesel Generators

There are a lot of options to consider when looking for diesel generators, and choosing the wrong one can be a costly and frustrating mistake. Thus, it is important to know what matters when shopping for an off-grid power solution. Here are the most important considerations. 

Who Made the Engine?

Ultimately, a generator is a fairly simple device. Most models are simply a gasoline or diesel engine coupled to a “generator head” which, when spun by the engine, produces electricity. Given the simplicity of this combination, it is extremely important to always purchase a generator that uses an engine from a reputable brand. Many lower-end generator models use off-brand diesel engines, typically Chinese-built, in an attempt to save costs. While these engines typically perform well at first, they often have long-term reliability challenges. Worse, they can be difficult or impossible to find parts for should the need arise.

In the world of small diesel engines, a few brands reign supreme. Cummins-Onan, Yanmar, Perkins, and Kubota are the primary players in this game. While brand loyalty can vary, you cannot go wrong with an engine from any of these makers. This is an area where a slightly higher initial investment will more than pay for itself in reliability and serviceability. 

Consider Ease of Maintenance

In a matter related to the engine, always choose a unit that is easy to maintain. Many off-brand generators use a needlessly complicated variety of parts, fasteners, and panels that can make maintenance a veritable nightmare. 

Ultimately, the more hassle it is to maintain a generator, the less likely you are to do it. The key here is to stick with major brands. The major generator manufacturers like Onan and Generac have the experience necessary to build an easy-to-service unit.

In fact, many of these manufacturers offer a “maintenance kit” that includes all of the needed gaskets and filters in one container, making maintenance and easy one-stop-shop. 

Is Noise a Factor?

Noise should be a consideration when shopping for any generator. Depending on the environment where you intend to use your generator, having an excessively noisy unit can be a detriment to your work or play. When shopping for diesel-powered generators, this is an even more important consideration. Although diesel generators have a bevy of advantages such as reliability, power, and fuel-efficiency, they have a downside in terms of noise. As a general rule, diesel-powered engines will be louder than their gasoline-fueled equivalents. 

This is not to say that a diesel-powered model cannot be quiet. Many of the units in this very roundup are incredibly close to silence. However, if noise output is an important consideration, make sure to look for a unit that will conform to your needs. If you are looking for the quietest possible unit, look for a liquid-cooled model. Compared to their air-cooled cousins, liquid-cooled engines are generally the quieter option. Further, look for enclosed units. Generators are typically offered in two configurations.

There are “open-frame” models, where the engine and generator head are suspended in an open cage. These are lighter and easier to service, but also louder. In contrast, enclosed generators encase the moving components into a cabinet that allows for sound insulation and vibration dampening. Although this adds weight, it also leads to a quieter experience. 

What Type of Equipment Will You Be Running?

When shopping for any generator, always consider what type of equipment you intend to power. Just as all generators are not created equally, the power they produce can also vary wildly. Lower-end generators often produce unregulated power. This means that the voltage and frequency of the power generated can vary significantly. More equipment, like lights and power tools, this may not be a concern. However, for more sensitive devices such as welder or electronics, this unregulated power may be a detriment.

Regulated generators monitor the output of the generator head to ensure that the power being produced is consistent. In the US, the power produced from a public electrical grid is 120-volts of alternating current at 60Hz frequency. Thus, a properly regulated generator can mirror this signal carefully and produce a “cleaner” power output. If you need to run more delicate devices that may respond negatively to variable power, look for a regulated unit.

How Much Capacity Do You Need?

One of the most important considerations to make when buying a generator is how much capacity you need. Most people are accustomed to their wall outlets providing them as much electricity as they need, so having to estimate your power needs can be an intimidating task. However, this is an important consideration to make sure you find a generator that is well suited to your needs.

When considering power consumption, HVAC systems are often the most power-hungry devices. Whether you are heating or cooling a house or RV, heaters and air conditioners demand a lot of electricity. Thus, for every air conditioner or electric heater you need to power, you will need at least 2 kW of energy. Cooking appliances are also a high-demand category.

Microwaves, electric kettles, and electric stoves all use at least 1.5 kW of energy. Everyone’s needs will vary depending on what they need to power and for how long. However, it is worth spending the time to add up the power consumption of the devices you intend to use to ensure your generator will support them. Purchasing a model that is too large, or too small, can be a costly mistake.

Conclusion

When shopping for generators, diesel-powered units are often the most durable and powerful models available. While gasoline-powered generators are rarely available in models larger than about 7kW, diesel generators can be 50kW or more for commercial units. Diesel engines are known for their simplicity, reliability, and efficiency, so when you need a generator that you can rely on to run non-stop indefinitely, diesel is an excellent choice. 

However, as this roundup shows, there is a lot of variety among the diesel generator options. Portable diesel generators for home use or mobile use can be relatively compact devices for off-grid power, or they can be 30kW behemoths that can power your entire street. Whatever your needs entail, there is a model for you. 

Given this variety, choosing a winner from such a varied roundup can be a challenging prospect. Yet, certain qualities must be consistent throughout. The best diesel generator models should be reliable, efficient, and cost-effective. Further, the best model will always be made by a reputable brand and using a reputable engine. With these aspects in mind, the Generac 6864 rises to the top. The combination of Generac engineering and a Yanmar engine combine to create a generator that will unquestionably provide reliable power for decades to come. These components come together to create a beautifully efficient, compact, and affordable unit that is excellent for diesel generator home use or mobile needs. Although every unit in this roundup has distinct uses and advantages, the Generac 6864 is the best choice for the broadest set of circumstances.

Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts, Diesel Powered Portable Generator
18 Reviews
Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts, Diesel Powered Portable Generator
  • Durable, fully welded 1 1/4" steel frame
  • Yanmar LW Series 435cc air-cooled direct injection, industrial-grade diesel engine
  • Diesel power requires less maintenance, is more efficient, and provides a long life
  • True Power Technology provides less than 5% total harmonic distortion for clean, smooth operation of sensitive electronics, tools and appliances
  • True Power Technology provides less than 5% total harmonic distortion for clean, smooth operation of sensitive electronics, tools and appliances

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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