Standby vs Portable Generator – Which one is a Better Choice?

While looking for a generator, the first question that comes to your mind is how much power you need from your generator, and either you want a standby generator or a portable generator. The question of power and standby vs. portable generator is interlinked.

In this article, we will examine the best generator for you, the pros and cons of both, and what circumstances influence your choice.

Standby vs. Portable Generators

Portable Generators

Portable generators are small generators that can provide you with less power as compared to standby generators. A portable generator usually provides power between 1000-8000 watts and is priced at approximately $500-$3000.

Standby Generators

They also have the same purpose: to produce electricity during times of blackout. They are larger in size and production capacity. Standby generators have a minimum output power of 7000 watts and an extensive range of power. Their prices are also high and start around $7-8 K.

Let’s look at the fundamental differences between the two, and then we will suggest which one is best for you.

Operation and Monitoring

Portable Generators – Portable generators need to be started manually. It would help if you carried them out of storage at the time of need. Add fuel, start it, and then plug the appliances you need to run via a transfer switch. If you are not at home, portable generators will not start automatically. Portable generators are best for occasional power outages and for people who travel a lot on their RVs and make frequent camping tours. Portable generators work with either propane or gasoline or can be dual fuel generators.

Standby Generators – Standby generators are more of an automatic machine when the power goes out. They can start automatically because they have sensors installed in them. There is no need to physically start them or refuel them at the time of power outage. Standby generators work on gasoline, diesel, natural gas, or propane. Usually, the fuel tank is large enough to run the generator for 8-10 hours without any issues. You do not need to monitor the fuel tank after every hour, as in the case of a portable generator.

Installation

Location for generator installation

Portable Generators – Installing portable generators is not a big deal. All you have to is unpack the box, install a transfer switch for home use, or buy a high-quality power cable extension to make electrical connections to the desired appliances. For outdoor use, even a transfer switch is not needed.

Standby Generators – Standby generators need proper installation. You may need to identify a site for the building which is near to the mains supply control. The manufacturers usually carry out the installation. They will inspect the site, guide you about the process, and then make the installation. They will also ask you about attaching the fuel source to your generator. If you are using propane, the technician will connect the generator to the head. You would need to inspect the connections periodically to ensure that there are no leaks. It can prove to be very catastrophic if propane is leaking. Your generator can catch fire.

Costs

We have already outlined the cost estimates for both generators. Standby generators are very costly as compared to portable generators. There are several reasons behind this; they can produce more power, are large, have advanced technology and sensors, which make your life easy. One crucial dimension of estimating the cost is the fuel cost. Standby generators consume a lot of fuel as compared to portable generators. If your portable generator runs 48 hours for $30-35, a standby generator can drink this much fuel in a lot of less time. However, the per-unit cost of producing electricity is less for standby generators. The reason is large generators are energy efficient as compared to smaller portable generators.

Installation Location

The simple rule: any generator either, portable or standby must be installed outside of your home. While a standby generator cannot be installed inside your home, you may be tempted to run a portable generator inside during rain or thunderstorms. Could you not do it? You are messing with your life. Standby generators will be installed in your yard, back of the garage, or in any suitable open area. You will have to build a concrete pad for its installation and cover it for protection against rain and sun. The best location for both generators will be near the place where electricity enters your home.

Maintenance

Standby generator maintenance

Portable Generators – They need less maintenance as compared to standby generators. All you have to do is ensure that there is no fuel in the carburetor when you store it for a long time. A monthly inspection of the air filter, spark plug, and regular oil change will keep your portable generator in mint condition for its lifetime. Storing them properly and running them in a tent and protecting them from harsh weather will give them a long life.

Standby Generators – Standby generators need more care than portable generators. The reason is that they have sensitive components inside them, which can malfunction if dust accumulates on them. You need to run your generator for at least 30 minutes once a week to ensure everything is fine with it. Standby generators would tell you if something is wrong with them, like a battery problem, sensor problem, or they need oil replacement. The best way to get rid of maintenance tension is to hire a company that offers yearly maintenance plans with monthly visits. They charge around $350-450 and are responsible for the wellbeing of your generator. If you can manage maintenance yourself, there is no need to spend extra on such services.

Noise

Both generators produce noise while running. Surprisingly the running sound of a standby generator is less than a portable generator. There are a couple of reasons behind this. Standby generators are enclosed in a soundproof cabin with high-quality mufflers installed in them, which limit the sound. Portable generators sound like a lawn mower, whereas standby generators just produce a tolerable constant buzz in your home. The noise from the generator can be reduced by installing quality mufflers and turning the exhaust away from your house.

Uses

Portable Generators – As they come in different sizes, their uses vary but are mostly limited to running a couple of appliances in your home like a refrigerator, your lighting system, TV, and charging your phone and laptop. You can also use it to run a security system, stove, or microwave ovens. You may need to take off one appliance before adding the other one. Load management is critical for using portable generators. For outdoor purposes, portable generators are used to power your RV’s AC, water heater, sound system, TV, and recharge your phone and laptop.

Standby Generators – Standby generators deliver a lot of power and can be used to power everything in your home. If you have a standby generator that can power every electrical appliance in your home, you would never need to make any changes. If your standby generator’s capacity is less, you may only be able to run appliances that you have connected to it. Most people buy standby generators to power up their critical appliances like water pumps, refrigerators, furnace, lights, security systems, well water pumps, and other appliances as per their feasibility.

Interesting Question Answered: Can A Portable Generator Run A Furnace?

Exhaust

Both generators exhaust carbon monoxide and other harmful gases and vapors, which are detrimental to your health. You should never inhale near the exhaust of your generator and keep the little ones away from generator exhausts.

Value Addition

Portable Generators – Portable generators do not add value directly to your property. They make your life easier during times of power outages and when you are planning outdoor activities. They are a great addition to your arsenal for camping and emergency power backup. You can take your portable generator when you move to a new location.

Standby Generators – They increase your property value, especially in the areas where power outages are frequent due to natural disasters or infrastructure malfunctioning. If your standby generator is well maintained, you can expect a return of 60% of actual value when you sell your property or just sale out the generator.

Portable Generators

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Less costly to repair
  • Easy to carry around
  • Occupies less space
  • Easy to store and handle
Cons
  • Manual operation and requires frequent refueling
  • Noisy
  • Limited power production
  • You have to face the few second problems in portable generators
  • Store large amounts of gasoline and mix it with stabilizers before adding it
Portable Generators Reviews

Standby Generators

Pros
  • Able to power the entire home and heavy appliances
  • Automatic operation
  • Large fuel tank
  • The better resale value of your property
Cons
  • Expensive to buy
  • Costly repair and maintenance
  • Takes up large space for installation
  • Installation costs
  • Requires regular weekly running to keep it fit
Standby Generators Reviews

Conclusion: which one is best for you?

The answer to this question depends upon your usage and your budget. If you live in an area where power outages are not frequent and you just want to run a few appliances now and then, a portable generator is the best for you. If you suffer frequent power outages for extended periods and want to power your entire home, you should get a standby generator. We understand that a one-time cost is a bit high, but it is worth it. A standby generator makes your life easier and gives you a multitude of benefits compared to portable generators. Your final choice must be based on your usage.

1 thought on “Standby vs Portable Generator – Which one is a Better Choice?”

  1. Thank you for being clear about standby generators and how powerful they are. Our house is quite large, so any kind of power outage would necessitate a really good backup system for us to continue to work and study in peace. If I can find an electrician in the area that offers standby generators, I’ll definitely have them install one for me.

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