Portable Generators as Compared to Standby Generators

You may want to consider an alternative source of power if power outages frequent the area where you live. A backup power generator will power your lights, refrigerators and other appliances allowing you to swing back into action until your power is restored.

Generally, generators come in two primary forms, a standby generator also known as generators and a portable generator. Both versions perform the same basic tasks, but the two are far apart when it comes to power, price, and convenience. This guideline is a breakdown of the two types to help you choose the right one for your home or business.

Comparison of Portable and Standby Generators


A standby generator is permanently installed onto your home, usually by a professional of the company selling it. Also, you will need a plumber to connect the generator to the fuel source, natural gas, or propane, where your fuel supplier will do the inspection. The control panel can be installed indoors near the electrical panel.

Portable generators, on the other hand, require no installation. When the power is gone, all you have to do is set it up, fix the fuel, plug the extension cord, and then and turn it on. These generators require proper storage as most run on gasoline, which can be dangerous if it is not stored correctly.


Standby generators start automatically when the power goes out. You don’t need to be there when there is a drop in power. The process is almost seamless, and as such, you will only experience few seconds of blackout before your generator comes on.

Additionally, they run on either propane or natural gas, which is more consistent in terms of supply and storage. As such, you don’t have to worry about refueling the generator midway and the risks associated with storage.

Portable generators are operated manually with a pull of a cord. This means that you need to be there to take it out of storage and set it up.  This is a drawback because you might come home to an array of problems if the power goes out when you are away from home. You will need to have your fuel source on standby, and it should be stored properly to avoid accidents.

Scope of Operation

Standby generators come in many sizes, and usually, your installer will take you through the total power load. Overloading the generator will make it shut down, or it may also result in a burnout. You can use a standby generator to run appliances such as well pump, lights, furnace, and other small appliances. However, it may not be able to run some appliances such as stove and home security system concurrently, especially during a prolonged power outage.

Just like standby generators, portable generators are also sized accordingly which is the primary determinant on the things that you can run on them. Generally, a portable generator can comfortably run your lights, refrigerator, and your HVAC system. Some are big enough to run your security system. In some cases, you will need to alternate the items that you need to power.

Noise Level

While both types will produce some degree of noise, portable generators tend to be noisier than their standby counterparts. However, even standby are loud enough to be heard by a passerby. Also, a standby generator needs to run for a few minutes once a week to establish if it needs maintenance. You can have this arranged at a time when you are not at home to keep away from the noise.

Placement Position

Both types should be used outside. They must be placed on level ground and near the electrical panel so that they can be hooked into the system quickly. Portable generators should be stored empty in a storage room of choice, probably at the garage until a need arises. The fuel should be stored in a separate container designed for storing the type of fuel in use. As mentioned, standby generators should be permanently installed on a sturdy stone pad at the preferred location in the yard.


Portable generators require very minimal to no maintenance that involves ensuring that the fuel tank is empty before storage. Also, you should ensure that there are no loose wires or corrosion before you start your unit.

Standby generators, on the other hand, require advanced maintenance. It needs to be serviced regularly on top of running it once per week to check for any defects. Some require yearly inspections while others will emit a yellow or red flash to signal when it’s time for maintenance.  Also, you will need to service your generator if it has been running for more than 24 hours non-stop. You can also have the oil and filters change if you have been running it for more than ten days. Maintenance fee varies from one company to the other.


As expected, it will cost you more to have a standby generator running your home. The initial cost is generally high due to its scope of operation. Installation and maintenance will also attract some little charges. As for portable generators, the only additional cost involved is in the purchase of the fuel and small maintenance practices such as changing damaged fuel pipes.

Which Generator is Right for You?

This will largely depend on the amount of power you want and budgetary constraints. Standby generators are more convenient, reliable, and safe to operate. The only drawback involved is the high cost of operation.

Portable generators will provide you with limited emergency power, and the good thing is that they are a less expensive option. You are only required to plug a few extensions cords and that way you will have your refrigerator and a few other items supplied with power during a power outage. However, you must start it yourself and refuel it regularly in between lest it leaves you in darkness.

Keep in mind that you will need to balance between your baseline needs and what is essential for your safety and comfort and also what your budget allows.

You may also like to read: Dual Fuel Generator vs. Gas Generator

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