The Generac GP5500 can power most appliances and lights in a medium-size home, but many owners complain about fuel leaks, malfunctions and customer service that won't honor the warranty. The GP5500 has automatic voltage regulation, but Generac doesn't recommend it for use with sensitive electronics. One version of this generator -- model #5945 -- is California Air Resources Board (CARB)-compliant.
Powers an average-sized home. The 5,500-watt GP5500 offers peak power of up to 6,875 watts and automatic voltage regulation, but Generac posts to its own website that this doesn't make the generator suitable for powering the most sensitive electronics. The GP5500 gets excellent scores for its power delivery in one comparative test, where experts say it provides clean power.
Reviewers at ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com say the GP5500 can power quite a lot, including sump pumps, well pumps, a refrigerator and a freezer. One owner who weathered Hurricane Sandy lists all the conveniences it ran: "heat, sump pump, refrigerator, couple of HE lights, plasma TV, DirectTV receiver and DVD." Another says "the generator kept our freezer, refrigerator, microwave, cable, phone and TV [running] along with a few lights working throughout three days of power outage."
Standard equipment. The Generac GP5500 has four 5-20R outlets and a heavy-duty L14-30R twist-lock outlet for a 240-volt appliance. On the CARB-compliant version, designated as model #5945, the four 5-20R outlets have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets to protect against electrocution in wet conditions. All of the GP5500's outlets are covered. It has no DC outlet.
On the noisy end. "Quiet -- guess again," writes one owner at ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com. Another expert source calls the GP5500 fairly noisy and recommends hearing protection when you're close by, but doesn't offer specific decibel readings.
Truth in advertising. The manufacturer predicts 10 hours of runtime at half load, from a 7.2-gallon tank of gas. Although owners don't have a lot to say about the runtime, they agree that they can get through the night without having to refill. One comparative expert test showed runtimes ranging from eight to 14 hours.
Easy to use, but tends to leak. The Generac GP5500 has a nice selection of features, including a fuel-shutoff valve and a low-oil shutdown to protect the engine. It also comes with an hour meter and fuel gauge to help you monitor usage and time oil changes. At 171 pounds, it's reasonably maneuverable on 9.5-inch solid wheels.
The GP5500 receives very good marks for ease of use in one comparative test; owners say it usually starts with just a couple of pulls. However, we found a number of complaints about quality-control problems, especially fuel leaks. Several users note poor customer service in their reviews, saying Generac won't honor its two-year warranty on this generator.
Review Credibility: Excellent The editors of ConsumerReports.org test 14 generators, 11 of which are portable, including the Generac GP5500. They evaluate each model in several categories including power delivery and noise, and each is assigned a comparative overall ranking.
Review: Generator Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of November 2012
Review Credibility: Good More than 30 users review the GP5500 on Amazon.com, giving it a score of 3.3 stars out of 5. Many of the negative comments center around Generac's poor customer service.
Review: Generac 5939 GP5500 6,875 Watt 389cc OHV Portable Gas Powered Generator, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012
3. Electric Generators Direct.com
Review Credibility: Good The Generac GP5500 gets an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5 from more than 110 owners here, and reviews are uniformly positive. One writes, "It started for my 10-year-old son on the first try! It runs smoothly and has a solid, quality feel to it. I highly recommend this model - plenty of power for most people (both my brothers-in-law purchased this after me) at a reasonable price." A few people complain that it's very loud.
Review: Generac GP5500 - 5500 Watt Portable Generator, Contributors to ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com, As of November 2012
Review Credibility: Poor Only a couple dozen of the roughly 250 reviews here were posted to HomeDepot.com; the others are pulled straight from Generac's website. Several owners complain that Generac won't honor their warranty.
Review: Generac GP 5500-Watt Portable Generator, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of November 2012