Family-owned Northern Tool + Equipment has been producing high-quality generators at affordable prices for nearly 40 years. NorthStar generators are trusted by contractors, home DIYers, and everyone in between, and for a good reason. These generators are reliable and durable machines, capable of taking on any power requirements.
In order to help you find the best NorthStar generator for you, we looked at a number of features that differentiate the NorthStar lineup. To start, we considered the engine build and the amount of power it can produce for you. We also looked at the size of the fuel tank and the total amount of time you can run the generator without refueling. Finally, we considered helpful extras like electric starters, specialized outlets, and more.
We spent tens of hours poring over technical specifications from Northern as well as hundreds of customer reviews of NorthStar generators. The result is our pick of the 5 best heavy-duty generators from the NorthStar lineup with the NorthStar Portable Generator - 13,000 Surge Watts as our Editor’s Choice, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each generator and our buying guide, which covers everything you need to know about choosing the right NorthStar generator for you. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite generators from NorthStar.
This 13,000-watt generator from NorthStar is designed to handle a wide variety of applications, from the home to industrial facilities. It is essentially a mirror image of the company’s 15,000-watt generator, with a slightly more compact build, a lower price tag, and longer run time. The price difference is significant enough that we’d highly recommend this generator over the 15,000-watt NorthStar model for anyone who doesn’t need the extra wattage.
This generator uses a Honda GX630 engine, which offers a massive 688cc capacity to provide plenty of power. In fact, the engine is slightly oversized for this generator’s output, which means that it can last for years without burning out even if you consistently run the generator near its full output. Unfortunately, you don’t save any noise production with this generator compared to the larger 15,000-watt generator, which uses Honda’s GX680 engine.
The outlet panel is equipped to allow you to power any appliance – it even includes a heavy-duty 50-amp outlet for commercial-scale applications. Two 30-amp locking outlets and fully eight 120-volt outlets ensure that you’ll never need to run the risk of plugging a power strip into this generator. Plus, an hour meter lets you keep track of your fuel consumption and total power draw, so you always know how much wattage you have left.
Unfortunately, NorthStar didn’t throw in any extras with this generator. You’ll need to purchase a battery separately for the electric starter to work, and NorthStar sells the wheel kit as an add-on. Given that the generator weighs over 300 pounds, the wheel kit hardly seems optional.
This small yet powerful 5,500-watt generator from NorthStar is perhaps the most versatile generator in the company’s lineup. With a price tag of just $1,200, it’s also one of the more affordable models that NorthStar offers and is priced very competitively compared to generators in this size range from other manufacturers.
The generator uses a Honda GX270 engine, which is powerful and reliable without being overly noisy. This generator creates just 73 dB of noise at a 25% power load, which still requires ear protection but is noticeably quieter than some of the larger NorthStar models. The generator also weighs under 175 pounds, which means that it can feasibly be carried over short distances by two people – although three to four are still recommended for longer moves.
The outlet panel on this generator is generously equipped with eight 120-volt outlets. Power tool users will appreciate that the 30-amp outlet is capable of providing 240-volt power, although some users would have liked to see a second 30-amp outlet on this generator as on all of NorthStar’s larger generators.
In addition, this is the only NorthStar generator we reviewed that doesn’t come with an electric start. Thankfully, users found that the recoil starter was very easy to use and typically started the engine from cold in a single pull.
The thing we liked most about this generator was its run time. Capable of providing power for over 14 hours at half-load, this generator can easily handle a full day of work without forcing you to stop and refuel. Plus, the Honda engine is relatively fuel-efficient.
This 8,000-watt generator from NorthStar is an all-around performer that can be used for a wide variety of applications. It’s significantly smaller than some of the more powerful generators in NorthStar’s lineup, although it’s worth noting that the 206-pound weight is almost equivalent to the 10,000-watt generator model. However, the much smaller GX390 Honda engine is somewhat quieter, producing only 74.5 dB of noise at a 25% load.
Notably, the outlet panel does away with the 50-amp outlet found on NorthStar’s larger models. This won’t be a problem for the vast majority of users, and there are still eight 120-volt outlets, so you never run out of space to plug in appliances and tools. Plus, one of the two 30-amp locking outlets can be converted to 240-volt power for heavy-duty appliances.
An important advantage to this generator is that NorthStar backed up the electric starter with a recoil starter. This is essential for using this generator in an emergency situation, as not having a recoil backup puts you at the mercy of your generator’s battery.
We would have liked to see a slightly larger fuel tank on this generator, as NorthStar shrunk the reservoir along with the rest of the unit. As a result, the generator is limited to a run time of just 10 hours at half-load, even though it should be significantly more fuel efficient than larger NorthStar models with longer run times. In addition, NorthStar does not provide a wheel kit for this generator, even though it would take at least four people to safely lift it.
This massive commercial generator from NorthStar is designed for the most heavy-duty applications. The 688cc Honda engine is capable of producing an impressive 15,000 watts of surge power, or 13,500 watts of running power. On top of that, the NorthStar outfitted the outlet panel with a 60-amp outlet so you can draw huge amounts of power quickly for commercial-scale appliances and tools.
You wouldn’t know this generator is as large as it is just from hearing it, either. Producing just 79 dB of noise at a 25% load, NorthStar limited the sound from this machine to be on par with their 8,500-watt generator. On top of that, a large 11-gallon fuel tank means that you can run this generator for up to eight hours at half-load without stopping work.
NorthStar didn’t stop at a 60-amp outlet, building one of the most thorough outlet panels we’ve seen on any generator. There are eight standard 120-volt outlets, as well as two 30-amp outlets. An hour meter allows you to keep track of how much power you’re drawing from all these outlets, so you don’t overdraw the engine.
The main downsides to this generator are its size and cost. This generator is almost as expensive as buying several inverter generators and wiring them together in parallel. In addition, for the price, we’d like to see NorthStar include the optional wheel mount kit – it’s almost impossible to move the generator without a set of wheels.
If you’re looking for a generator for home use in the event of an extended power outage, look no further than this 10,000-watt NorthStar generator. With 8,500 watts of running power, this generator is plenty powerful enough to keep all of the appliances in your home running smoothly – not just the basic essentials. Plus, it sports a massive GX630 Honda engine – the same engine found on NorthStar’s larger 13,000-watt generator – so you never have to worry about overpowering the engine with your home appliances.
Helpfully, the generator’s outlet panel offers eight 120-volt outlets so you won’t run out of space to plug in your appliances. The 50-amp outlet is overkill for most home uses, but having two 30-amp outlets and the ability to switch one of them to 240-volt output can be extremely useful for heavier appliances like a washer or dryer. Perhaps best of all, the generator features a massive 11-gallon fuel tank so you can run it at half-load for up to 11 hours without having to stop and refuel.
Still, there are some serious drawbacks to this generator. Since it uses the same engine as the larger 13,000-watt NorthStar generator, you’re paying almost as much for significantly less power. It also produces the same amount of noise, 79 dB, which is likely to draw complaints from neighbors if you run it for more than a few hours at a time. The 100-pound weight savings is significant, but you’ll still need to pay extra for a wheel kit so you can actually move the generator out of your garage.
If you’re in the market for a heavy-duty generator that’s as rugged as it is reliable, look no further than the NorthStar lineup of generators. That said, it can be hard to pick out the right NorthStar generator for your needs given the company’s many choices. In our Buying Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to pick the right NorthStar generator for you.
There are a number of features that differentiate NorthStar generators, and they can have a significant impact on how you’ll be able to use your generator. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the features you should know about in order to get the best NorthStar generator for your needs.
The wattage output of your generator determines what you’ll be able to use it for. While you never want to run out of power from your generator, more wattage is typically more expensive, uses fuel more quickly, and produces more engine noise. So, it’s important to estimate how much power you’ll need and get a generator that offers at least that much power, but not an excessive amount more.
When considering generator power, there are two ratings to understand. The surge wattage is the amount of power that the generator can sustain for a few seconds in order to handle the power requirements of motor-driven appliances like refrigerators and freezers. The rated wattage is the power that the generator can sustain for hours – the sum of all the running power requirements of your appliances should be less than the rated wattage of your generator.
NorthStar offers generators with a wide range of output wattages, from 4,500 watts to a whopping 13,500 watts. Most basic households could run without a hitch on around 8,000 to 10,000 watts, while RVs can run on as little as 4,000 watts.
NorthStar generators are typically built with engines from respected engine manufacturers, which provides excellent value without your having to pay for custom research and development. All of the NorthStar generators that we reviewed are built with genuine Honda engines, which are renowned for their relatively low noise production and incredible reliability. Importantly, you can rest assured when buying a Honda-powered NorthStar generator that your machine will last for many years to come.
NorthStar generators are built with a wide variety of outlets that can be adapted to just about any use. RV users will be particularly interested in having a 120-volt, 30-amp twist-lock outlet, available on all of the NorthStar generators we reviewed, because this can be adapted to provide power directly to your RV’s grid.
Contractors and homeowners will want to look for an outlet that is capable of supplying 240 volts rather than the standard 120 volts. This is also available on all of the NorthStar generators we looked at and can be used to run large appliances and power tools.
Finally, NorthStar generators with 8,500 watts of running power and up are supplied with outlets capable of delivering electricity at 50 amps. This is useful for extremely heavy-duty power applications, but is typically only necessary in commercial settings.
Powering down your generator and waiting for it to cool off before refueling can mean a long stoppage in work time. That’s why having a generator with a relatively long run time is very important.
Run time is the result of fuel tank size and engine efficiency. Since efficiency decreases with power output, run time is usually measured at half-load – expect to get longer run times if you draw less than 50% power, and shorter run times if you draw your generator’s full available power.
Thanks to large fuel tanks, run times on NorthStar generators are impressively long. The 5,500-watt generator boasts a 14-hour run time at half-load, while even the massive 15,000-watt generator can run for eight hours at 50% power.
Unfortunately, large generators produce a lot of noise. NorthStar’s 5,500-watt generator produces around 73 dB of sound at a 25% load, roughly the equivalent of standing next to a busy highway. At higher power outputs, it will produce even more sound. NorthStar’s commercial-scale generators are actually not much noisier – just 79 dB at 25% load – thanks to Honda’s quiet engine technology. However, you will want to plan on wearing ear protection whenever operating any of the NorthStar generators we reviewed.