Portable vs. Home Standby Generator

  • February 03, 2022

Preparing for a power outage is crucial. But how do you decide what type of backup power is best? Here are some considerations to help you choose the best option for your home.

Nobody enjoys being without power. But with more people working from home, an outage can be more than an inconvenience; it can hinder productivity and even lead to lost wages or damage your personal equipment if a power surge occurs.

If you have solar electric (photovoltaic) panels on your roof or property, the best way to protect your home from power outages is to add a battery to your solar system. By installing solar panels plus battery storage, you can store the clean energy your system generates and use it at a later time – such as at night or whenever the grid goes down.

However, once the stored energy in your solar battery runs out, you'll be without power unless you have another source of power, like a home backup generator.*

Why You Might Need a Generator

Coast to coast, severe weather events are straining the power grid. In 2020 alone, the average American household endured over eight hours of power interruptions.* As extreme weather events like wildfires, flooding, snowstorms, and hurricanes increase, it's becoming even more important to prepare our homes for more widespread electrical outages.

What is a Pull Start or Portable Generator?

A pull start generator, also known as a portable generator, offers backup power that you can take wherever you need it. While not all start with a pull cord anymore, many still use the same method as a lawn mower to get going. Portable generators are a good mobile option for temporary power. These are the generators you'd take camping and use for power tools.

Portable generators have a gas-powered engine that powers an on-board alternator, which generates electrical power. Rather than being built into a home electrical panel, these portable generators have different outlets that allow you to plug in extension cords, electric-powered tools and appliances. While this may limit how many things you can power at once, it wouldn't require professional installation.

What is a Home Standby Generator?

A robust backup power option, home standby generators are professionally installed outside your home in a durable metal casing, much like your central AC system. Wired directly into your home's electrical panel, these stationary generators are designed to start up automatically whenever the power goes out. That way, your home and your family will be protected whether you're home or not.

Home standby generators have insulated weatherproof housing that keeps them relatively quiet, providing peaceful power compared to their noisy portable counterparts. Often fueled by natural gas or liquid propane, these whole-home generators can power everything in your home at once if properly sized.

Because of their permanent installation outside your home, standby generators are a safer option than their portable counterparts. Aside from having to run (potentially hazardous) cords throughout your yard and home, a portable generator can lead to anything from carbon monoxide poisoning to electric shock to a home fire, if used improperly. In fact, from 2005 to 2017, more than 900 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning while using a portable generator indoors, or without following safety instructions, according to data from Consumer Reports.*

What Types of Fuel do Different Generators Use?

Portable generators can be powered by various fuel sources, but the most common is gasoline. While gas is often readily available, it might be hard to come by during an emergency. That's why it's important to plan ahead and stock up on extra fuel if you decide to rely on a small portable generator. Keep in mind that gasoline is difficult to store long-term, as it absorbs moisture, so you don't want to plan too far in advance.

You may also see portable generators running on small solar panels. Using the power of sunlight, a solar-powered generator is a good option for camping trips, when you have ample sun and plenty of space for the panels to lay out and charge.

A permanent fixture, standby generators are connected to an existing fuel source in your home, either natural gas or propane. That's nice because you're unlikely to run out of either of those as soon as you would a small gasoline tank. So, even if you're caught off guard by an outage, you'll have automatic power backup power for a while longer.

Benefits of a Pull Start Generator

  • Portable and convenient
  • Ideal for recreational uses (outdoor events, sound systems, RV appliances)
  • Less expensive to purchase
  • No professional installation needed
  • Available on the shelves of home improvement stores

Benefits of a Home Standby Generator

  • Less expensive to run than gasoline-powered generators
  • Fuel sources don't need to be refilled quickly
  • Provide whole-home power
  • Automatically turn on and off, providing backup power even when you're away
  • A safer alternative to gasoline-powered generators

Whether you opt to protect your home against power outages with solar panels plus battery storage, or go with a portable or home standby generator, or with some combination of these, investing in backup power is crucial. Severe weather events and grid interruptions are becoming more common. Take charge of your home energy and enjoy the freedom to live life uninterrupted.

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