Should You Choose a Standby or a Portable Generator?

Americans have become more and more dependent on their devices, and said devices run on electricity. What’s more, systems in the house depend on electricity to run. A blackout impacts more than a homeowner’s ability to turn on the lights or television. An extended blackout can cause food in your refrigerator to spoil and make life miserable.

To that end, some homeowners have considered a backup generator, which takes over producing electricity just seconds after a blackout begins. However, you can also choose a portable generator, which is much smaller than the standby model. Read on to learn about these two options.

What Is a Standby Generator?

A standby generator consists of an engine and an alternator, which generates the electricity. These two large components are located outside and are surrounded by a box that protects the unit from the weather. The box also deadens the sound because generators can be loud when they’re operating.

The other main component of the standby generator is the automatic transfer switch, which is located inside the house. The switch is the sensor which determines when the power has gone down, thus necessitating the generator to produce electricity. The switch also transfers the power the generator produces to the house circuits connected to the emergency panel.

Standby generators have three fuel options. Natural gas is the ideal option because you don’t have to monitor fuel usage. However, if you’re not already connected to a natural gas line, you’ll likely choose a generator that runs on propane or diesel.

What Is a Portable Generator?

A portable generator does a similar job to the standby variety but in a more compact form. The portable generator consists of a power generator head, an engine, and a fuel source. When you power up the generator, the engine rotates the generator head, which produces electricity via magnetism.

A standard portable generator doesn’t feature an automatic transfer switch. So, to access the power it’s generating, the unit provides power outlets. More powerful generators feature multiple outlets with multiple prong holes. You must run a long extension cord from the generator to the house.

You can also choose to hook the generator up to an manual transfer switch. You’ll still have to move the generator to its proper spot and power it up. However, you won’t have to navigate a system of cords because the circuits will already be hooked up to the emergency panel.

With a portable generator, you don’t have the option of hooking it up to a natural gas line. So, you’ll choose between propane, gasoline, or diesel fuel.

Which One Is Best?

One of the biggest factors affecting which type of generator you choose is price. Simply put, standby generators are more expensive, including both the unit itself and the professional installation. Portable generators cost much less at the outset, and you have no installation fees.

The big counter to cost is convenience, especially as it relates to safety. When the power goes out in a storm, you don’t have to do anything for a standby generator to kick in. However, portable generators necessitate wheeling the unit outside. You can’t set it up inside your garage because this generator needs ventilation so dangerous fumes don’t build up in your home.

You should also consider the convenience of running your generator. If you have a gas-powered or propane-powered generator, you’ll have to refill the tank if the blackout is lengthy. Portable generators usually have smaller tanks that need filling more often. A natural gas-powered generator requires no refueling.

Another trade-off is in the amount of power you receive. A standby generator is a much larger unit, so it produces enough electricity to power your whole household for several days. A portable generator will only power the main items of your household, such as the lights and refrigerator.

Both options have pros and cons. If you live in an area with frequent blackouts, don’t be left in the dark by a power outage. Hook up your home to a generator. When you’re ready for a new generator, contact Oak.

Get Started with Oak Electric Today

Whether you need service for your HVAC system, generator, or any other solar or electrical system, Oak Electric is here to help!

Awards & Affiliations

Scroll to Top