Should I get a Portable or Standby Generator? A Comparison Guide

Portable and standby generators are a great way to keep your home running during a power crisis. However, for homeowners, the biggest challenge when choosing a backup power is whether to go with a home standby generator or a portable one. Both options offer their own set of pros and cons and either get the job done, so ideally, the choice between the two comes down to power needs and budget constraints.

Portable generators

Portable generators are an ideal choice for those looking for a compact and less expensive generator that they can carry along for a weekend-long camping trip and other emergency uses. With a portable generator, you can save a lot while allowing you to easily power your computer, TV, and even lights in a user-friendly manner.

Other than home use, contactors and welders appreciate the flexibility that portable generators bring to the worksite. You can bring your generator and welder out in the field or wherever your job takes you.

Pros of portable generators

1. They don’t require installation

The best part about a portable generator is that they require no installation. In the event of a blackout, all you need is to bring your generator outside, preferably 20 feet from the house, and set it up. Most people prefer to run an extension cord from the generator to the appliances they need to power, but it is always a good idea to install a transfer switch.

2. Emergency power

Businesses that provide essential services benefit from portable generators to provide power, especially in times of prolonged blackouts. They are live savers for emergency health workers who need to deliver quality and timely health care to patients. At home, a portable generator can help prevent wastage, especially food wastage, by keeping most appliances up and running.

3. Recreational uses

The ease of use and compact construction of portable generators makes them ideal for recreational use. For instance, a portable generator will come in handy when you need lighting during a family camping trip. Additionally, if you have an RV, a portable generator is an invaluable asset and a convenient way to ensure comfort and security away from home.

And as if that is not enough, you can hold outdoor events such as weddings and sporting events anywhere, thanks to the convenience and comfort provided by portable generators. Also Read – The Average Cost of Window Replacement: A Guide for Homeowners

Cons of portable generators

1. They do no start automatically

Unlike standby generators, which start automatically when the power goes out, portable generators are operated manually. You’ll need to move the generator out, fuel it and connect it to your system through a transfer switch or an extension cord. Although this is a pretty simple procedure, some people may still find it inconvenient. Also, if you are away from home and there is a power outage, you’re likely to return home to an array of inconveniences.

2. They require refueling

Portable generators run on either gasoline, propane, or both, and you’ll need to refuel them regularly, especially during long power outages. As such, it is important to have an adequate supply of fuel if a crisis is anticipated.

3. Limited scope of operation

Since most portable generators are small-sized, they may not be able to power all appliances in your home. You may want to determine the most critical items like refrigerator, lighting, or alternate the items that you need to run at any given time. This is where power management comes in place to help you power more devices with a small generator.

4. Risk of carbon monoxide

Portable generators emit carbon monoxide, which can put your health at risk when inhaled. Ensure to use the generator away from the house to keep you and your family safe. If you must place the generator in a garage, ensure all doors and windows are open to encourage free air movement.

Standby Generators

Standby generators or stationary generators are permanently installed by an electrician to keep your home running during times of emergencies. They are designed to kick on automatically when the power goes out, and they can run all appliances in your home concurrently. Additionally, they run on natural gas or propane, so they can run for weeks or indefinitely if powered by natural gas.

Pros of standby generators

1. Start automatically

The biggest advantage of a standby generator is that it will automatically go on when utility power goes out. The generator turns on within seconds, eliminating any intervention from your end while keeping your essentials running during extended power outages. No matter where you are, it will give you peace of mind knowing that the generator will swing into action when the power goes out.

2. Damage prevention

A standby generator automatically disconnects or isolates your system from the utility lines when the power goes out to protect your devices from random power surges. Furthermore, it ensures a safe transfer to the utility, protecting you from voltage fluctuations and power surges when the power returns.

3. Permanent installation

Standby generators are installed permanently, so you don’t have to run extension cords to set up your power backup in the middle of a power outage. This will help ensure a safe operation, especially during harsh weather conditions, as you try to improvise a backup during an emergency.

4. No refueling

Ideally, a standby generator is connected to natural gas or propane connection, so you don’t need to refuel midway. Although the initial installation of gas lines is costly, the convenience of not worrying about refueling outweighs the high cost.

5. More power

Home standby generators are typically rated for more power output, which means they can run more appliances in your home. With a portable generator, you may need to choose what devices you want to keep running. But with a standby generator, you can have your entire home running- including lighting, home security, heating, and more. Related Article – How Much Does It Cost to Build a Garage? A Price Guide

Cons of standby generators

1. Expensive than portable generators

The most notable drawback of home standby generators is probably their high cost. They are significantly more expensive than their portable counterparts, but they outperform the latter in all parameters. They also require extensive installation, which can cost you double the price of the generator itself.

2. They are immovable

The negative side of the permanent installation is that once the generator is installed, you cannot move it or carry it along with you as you travel.

3. High maintenance cost

A standby generator requires occasional maintenance, so you may want to factor the additional cost into your budget. Some may require to be serviced regularly, while others only need yearly inspection to ensure they remain in tip-top shape. Maintenance requires planning, so it may be a good idea to get a maintenance contract.

4. High cost of fuel

A standby generator consumes a considerable amount of fuel, considering that it is sized to run your entire home. The cost may even go up higher, especially during winter or storms if you need to heat your home or during a lengthy power outage. You may also want to factor in the fuel you need to exercise the generator weekly as a maintenance measure.

Portable generator vs. Standby generator: Which is right for you?

This will largely depend on your power needs and what your budget allows. You may want to make a list of the appliances you’d like to power and try to strike a balance between safety, comfort, and budgetary constraints.

Standby generators are expensive units, but they provide automatic and reliable power to keep your home running when utility lines fail. If you can afford it, we’d recommend getting a standby generator to allow you to continue operating normally during emergencies.

If price is a major consideration, or just want something temporary to meet your baseline needs, then you can go with a portable generator.