The Generac GP5500 can power most appliances and lights in a medium-size home, supplying up to 6,875 watts through four covered outlets and a heavy-duty twist-lock outlet for a 220-volt appliance. Owners say it's easy to use, with a reliable pull-cord starter, fuel gauge and oil dipstick. Engine noise is average for this size of generator, though some say it seems pretty loud. The 7.2-gallon tank runs up to 14 hours, according to professionals.
Convenient features. The 5,500-watt Generac GP5500 offers peak power of up to 6,875 watts, which is sufficient backup power for most homeowners. The user-friendly design, which includes a fuel shut-off valve and low-oil level shutdown, gets 4.5 stars from Popular Mechanics tester Joseph Truini, partly because it's so easy to maintain. "Look! A dipstick and a large oil-fill opening," Truini says. "Every generator should have them." Popular Mechanics also praises the Generac's "thick vibration dampeners, a heavy frame and a comfortable fold up handle." The CARB-compliant version -- the 5945 -- features four ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) 5-20R outlets to protect against electrocution in wet conditions.
Powers an average-sized home. "With ease, it runs my refrigerator, a handful of lights, TV, cable box, modem, space heater and an occasional microwave use," says an owner at HomeDepot.com about the Generac GP5500, noting, "It was averaging 12 hours of run time before needing to be refueled for the 96 straight hours of use before our power came back." This Generac doesn't include an electric start, but users say the GP5500 reliably starts in one or two pulls of the cord. With automatic voltage regulation, the power is smooth enough to safely operate a laptop computer, according to Popular Mechanics, though they note that the GP5500's voltage isn't as steady as some.
Easy to operate and maintain. Reviews say assembling and learning how to use the Generac GP5500 is pretty straightforward. It "worked flawlessly right out of the box," says one user at ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com. At Generac.com, an owner says with the "ease of operation, efficiency of the engine and simple maintenance, it all adds up to a quality product." In their five-generator comparison test, Popular Mechanics says the GP5500's 85 decibels is just under their average reading. Owners report some durability problems -- most frequently with fuel leaks -- though these aren't consistent issues. Generac includes a two-year limited warranty for consumers, though a few owners have a difficult time with warranty service.
The editors of ConsumerReports.org test 27 generators -- 20 of which are portable -- including the Generac GP5500. They evaluate each model in categories such as power delivery, ease of use and noise; each generator is assigned a comparative overall ranking.
Review: Generator Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of February 2014
2. Popular Mechanics
Testers with Popular Mechanics compare five generators, including Generac's GP5500. It scores 4.5 stars out of 5, tying with the Briggs & Stratton 30468 for second place and ranking below the winning Ridgid RD905712. Editors praise its solid construction and user-friendly design; it's the only generator with no disadvantages listed.
Review: Portable Generators, Roy Berendsohn, October 2013
More than 50 users review the GP5500 on Amazon.com, giving it a score of 3.5 stars out of 5. Owners say the GP5500 is easy to assemble and start. Its noisy operation is a frequent complaint, and a few also say their GP5500 has fuel leaks and durability issues.
Review: Generac GP5500 5,500 Watt 389cc OHV Portable Gas Powered Generator, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2014
4. Electric Generators Direct.com
The Generac GP5500 gets an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5 from almost 150 owners here. Reviews are uniformly positive, giving the GP5500 high marks for its features, quality, performance and value. A few people complain that it's very loud.
Review: Generac GP5500 - 5500 Watt Portable Generator, Contributors to ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com, As of February 2014
About 100 of the roughly 430 reviews here were posted to HomeDepot.com; the others are pulled straight from Generac's website. Most owners say the generator is built well and runs reliably, though a few say it's pretty loud. It's questionable if Generac allows negative customer reviews on the manufacturer's website.
Review: Generac GP5500 5500-Watt Gasoline Powered Portable Generator, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of February 2014