Generac vs Kohler Generators: Which Is Right for You?

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Last updatedLast updated: April 07, 2021
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If you’re in the market for a new backup power generator for your home or business or for a portable generator, you’re likely to see a lot of closely matched offerings from Generac and Kohler. These two companies each have storied histories of producing generators, and the high quality of their products can make it hard to choose between Generac vs. Kohler generators.

Generac generators tend to be a little bit quieter and more affordable than their Kohler counterparts. However, many long-time generator users will be quick to tell you that you simply can’t beat the quality and durability of a Kohler engine. To help you decide which brand is right for you, let’s take a closer look at how these two companies and some of their most popular generator offerings stack up.

Brands comparison

Generac has been producing generators since 1959. Over its 60-year history, the company has put an emphasis on producing affordable generators without sacrificing innovation. Generac has been at the leading edge of inverter technology and advances in dual-fuel technology for backup generators. The Wisconsin-based company still builds its products in the US, so you can count on the quality of an American-made generator.

Kohler is the oldest generator company in the world, which gives it some serious stature in the industry. The company started producing generators with their own Kohler motors in 1920. While times and generator technology has changed, Kohler has remained a major industry player and its products have stood the test of time.

Generac vs Kohler Generators: Which Is Right for You?

There are a lot of similarities between generator offerings from the two companies. It’s easy to argue about which brand has more reliable engines, but this argument tends to come down to which company users are more familiar with – both Kohler and Generac engines are designed to be extremely long-lasting. Generac has a slight upper hand in that its generators tend to be slightly less noisy than Kohler generators, as well as more affordable for the same amount of power. But, Kohler generators are clearly well-designed and are crafted to be a bit more versatile than their counterparts from Generac.

One important area to compare Generac and Kohler is the two companies’ warranty policies. For backup generators, they are evenly matched – both companies offer five-year warranties. While Kohler limits your warranty to 2,000 hours, this is not an issue for the vast majority of users. For portable generators, Kohler and Generac both offer three-year warranties. However, Generac drops its warranty to just one year for commercial users, whereas Kohler does not.

Generac vs Kohler: Comparing popular models

In order to see how Generac vs. Kohler generators compare, let’s take a look at some of the companies’ most popular models. We’ll examine both standby and portable generators to get a sense of the full product lines.

Kohler 12RESVL100 vs Generac 70331

Kohler 12RESVL100Generac 70331
Fuel typeNatural gas or liquid propaneNatural gas or liquid propane
Rated kW LP12kW10kW
Rated kW NG11kW9kW
Fuel consumption128 cfh (NG at 1/2 load)57 cfh (LP at 1/2 load)101 cfh (NG at 1/2 load)36 cfh (LP at 1/2 load)
EngineKOHLER Series 7000 V-twin OHV engine, 3600 rpm, single phaseGENERAC G-Force 400 Series, single cylinder
Noise level67–71 dB(A)57–61 dB(A)
Dimensions30.6 x 28 x 32.4 in48 x 25 x 29 in
Warranty5-year or 2000 hour limited warranty5-year limited

The Kohler 12RESVL100 and Generac 70331 are both relatively compact and modest standby generators. The 12RESVL100 is capable of producing 12 kW of surge power and 11 kW of continuous power, while the 70331 is capable of producing 10 kW of surge power and 9 kW of running power. Importantly, both generators can run on either natural gas or propane, so you can connect them to your gas line but use propane if the gas line is cut during a blackout.

It’s important to think carefully about how you’re likely to use your generator when considering the fuel consumption of these two models. The Kohler generator is significantly more fuel-hungry, using up to 128 cfh of natural gas and 57 cfh of propane at a 50% load. However, this may not be an issue if you only expect to run the generator for a few days at a time or have plenty of fuel on hand.

Noise production is another major difference between these two standby generators. The Generac model is impressively quiet, putting out just 61 dB of noise when running at full power. By contrast, the Kohler unit produces 67 dB of noise when you turn it on and is 10 times louder than the Generac at full power.

The Generac also blows the Kohler generator away on price. You can get the Generac standby generator for under $3,000 with a WiFi-enabled transfer switch included. The Kohler generator costs about $1,000 more, although it also includes a transfer switch.

Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS vs Generac 7043

Kohler 20RESCL-200SELSGenerac 7043
Fuel typeNatural gas or liquid propaneNatural gas or liquid propane
Rated kW LP20kW22kW
Rated kW NG18kW19.5kW
Fuel consumption161 cfh (NG at 1/2 load)82 cfh (LP at 1/2 load)228 cfh (NG at 1/2 load)92 cfh (LP at 1/2 load)
EngineKOHLER Command PRO® engine, 3600 rpm, single phaseGENERAC G-Force 1000 Series, OHV, 3600 rpm
Noise level64–69 dB(A)57–67 dB(A)
Dimensions48 x 26.2 x 29 in48 x 25 x 29 in
Warranty5-year or 2000 hour limited warranty5-year limited

For more heavy-duty home and business power needs, Kohler offers the 20RESCL-200SELS and Generac offers the 7043. The Kohler generator produces 20 kW of surge power and 18 kW of running power, while the Generac unit produces 22 kW of surge power and 19.5 kW of running power. Both generators are powered by 3,600 rpm engines with 999cc displacement, so there is relatively little difference other than the brand behind the engine.

Once again, the Generac generator is significantly quieter – even though it produces more power. This generator tops out producing 67 dB of noise, which is pretty quiet given that its drawing 19.5 kW of power at that volume. The Kohler generator is fairly close, though, producing 69 dB of noise at full power. At lower power draws, though, the Generac generator is 5 to 10 times quieter than the Kohler generator.

Not surprisingly given its extra power, the Generac 7043 draws more fuel at a 50% load than the Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS. However, this is most noticeable when you’re running the generator on natural gas, in which case you have a relatively unlimited fuel supply. On propane, the two generators are nearly evenly matched in fuel draw. That’s a big plus for the Generac generator, since it means you can step up your power without risking that you’ll run out of propane.

Despite its higher power load, the Generac generator is significantly more affordable than the Kohler generator. The difference is around $1,500, even after accounting for the fact that both units come with heavy-duty transfer switches. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to buy a battery separately for the Generac generator to auto-start when the power goes out.

Kohler PRO3.7E vs Generac GP3500iO

Kohler PRO3.7EGenerac GP3500iO
Peak watts3700W3500W
Rated watts3000W3000W
EngineKohler Command PROGenerac OHV
Fuel tank3.4 gal.2.37 gal.
Run time9 hrs (1/2 load)8 hrs (1/2 load)
Outlets(1) 120/240V 30A 4P NEMA L14-30R; (1) 125V 30A 3P NEMA L5-30R; (2) 125V 20A NEMA 5-20R GFCI; (1) 12V DC Battery Charging(1) 120V 20A 5-20R Duplex, (1) 120V 30A L5-30R Twist Lock, (2) 5V DC 1A/2.1A USB ports
Start typeElectric and recoilRecoil
Dimensions24.3 x 19.2 x 19.2 in219.3 x 16.9 x 16.4 in
Weight138 lbs74.3 lbs
Warranty3-year limited (residential and commercial)3-year limited (residential), 1-year limited (commercial)

The PRO3.7E and GP3500iO are portable inverter generator offerings from Kohler and Generac, respectively. These two units push the bounds of inverted power delivery, so they’re great if you want the benefits of an inverter model but also need a lot of power. The Kohler generator produces 3,700 watts of surge power and 3,000 watts of rated power, while the Generac generator produces 3,500 watts of surge power and 3,000 watts of continuous power.

Although the engines these two generators are built around are fairly similar, the Kohler generator has a 3.4-gallon fuel tank while the Generac generator only has a 2.4-gallon fuel tank. Curiously, there’s only a one-hour difference in runtime – signaling that either the Generac is extremely fuel efficient or the Kohler is not very efficient. The latter seems more likely when comparing to other inverter generators on the market.

Where the Kohler shines is in the outlet panel. This generator is capable of switching between 120-volt and 240-volt power, while the Generac competitor is not. Both generators have a 30-amp twist-lock outlet, but the Kohler unit has two 120-volt duplexes, an additional twist-lock outlet, and a 12-volt DC outlet. The Generac model has a pair of USB charging ports, but these are less versatile than a single DC outlet.

Importantly, Kohler went above and beyond in protecting you against electrical hazards. The 120-volt duplexes are GFCI-protected, which you won’t find on the Generac generator. It also has an electric start feature, which is great for making the generator easier to use. Both models have an LED hour meter on the outlet panel so you can track your wattage output and fuel usage.

The only real downsides to the Kohler generator are weight and cost. The generator is 138 pounds, nearly twice what the Generac model weighs. However, Kohler did mount it on a set of burly wheels and attach handles to the steel frame. The Generac generator needs to be carried by hand by two people.

As for price, the Kohler generator retails for just over $1,000, compared to around $600 for the Generac generator. However, this seems very reasonable considering how many more features the Kohler model is packed with. For commercial users, getting a full three-year warranty from Kohler as opposed to a shortened one-year warranty from Generac may be reason enough to cover the price difference.

Final thoughts

Generac vs Kohler Generators: Which Is Right for You?

Both Kohler and Generac have earned reputations as quality generator manufacturers that stand behind their power products. However, Generac is a bit ahead in the world of standby generators since its offerings tend to be quieter and fairly fuel efficient compared to Kohler’s generators, even when Generac offers more power. It also doesn’t hurt that Generac units tend to be significantly less expensive.

In the world of portable generators, Kohler has the upper hand. The company’s offerings are still more expensive. But, this is more than justified by the number of features that they’re packed with, the length of the commercial warranty, and the overall thought that went into the design.

At the end of the day, choosing between Generac vs. Kohler generators comes down to how much power you need, what features are most important to you, and how much you’re willing to spend on a generator. Both companies make extremely high-quality products, so it’s hard to make a bad choice.

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