Portable vs. Standby Generators: What’s the Difference?
Written on: July 6, 2021
Did you know that major power outages occur 10 TIMES more frequently today than they did in the 1980s, and more than twice as often as they did less than 20 years ago?
Those are some scary statistics – and with many states (including Pennsylvania) pushing for increased electric use for home eating (something that will cost you in a big way – more on that in a future blog), those outage numbers are sure to rise even more in the coming years.
The problem with power outages, of course, is that they are more than an inconvenience – they can be costly or even dangerous for a homeowner in PA. Without power, your sump pump and even home emergency medical equipment won’t work – not to mention your heating system, refrigerator, and other critical appliances.
The good news is that a backup generator can help keep the power on and keep your family safe during an outage. But not all power generators are created equal: when shopping for a generator, you need to choose one with a wattage output equal to what you need to power.
Let’s take a closer look at generator choices for your Pennsylvania home.
Portable vs. Standby Generators: Pros and Cons
Portable generators are standalone units that are typically powered by gasoline – although they can also be powered by diesel or propane. They connect manually to your circuit breaker, and you have to start them yourself.
- Less expensive – Smaller portable generators cost between $500 and $1,500 – far less than standby generators. They also don’t need professional installation to work effectively. Low up-front costs are the primary reason why many homeowners choose a portable generator. But as we’ll see, up-front costs aren’t the only factor to consider when choosing a generator.
- Smaller – Portable generators aren’t connected to your home, so they don’t need to take up space unless they’re in use.
- Manual operation – Portable generators are easy to use, but require manual operation and close monitoring. This is an important difference to consider: if you leave for vacation the day before a power outage, for example, you could return to headaches ranging from a flooded basement (due to a failed sump pump) to a refrigerator full of rotten food. This won’t happen with a standby generator, which turns on automatically when grid power shuts down.
- Less power – Portable generators provide enough energy to back up a few appliances (think microwave, lighting, TV, etc.) for a shorter period of time. But its power is limited: if you want a generator that will keep your home heating and cooling system running, you’ll need a standby generator.
- Noisy – A portable generator sounds a bit like a slightly quieter lawn mower, so if you’re sensitive to loud noises, it may not be the choice for you.
Standby generators (also called backup or whole-house generators) are permanently-installed units that can be powered by gasoline, diesel or propane. They must be professionally installed and integrated with your home HVAC and electrical systems. A generator unit is about the size of your air conditioner’s outdoor condenser unit.
- Whole-house power – A standby generator can power just about any appliance your family wants to use, including your home HVAC equipment, home security system, emergency medical equipment, and more (as long as the generator is sized correctly – one big reason to have your generator installed by a pro).
- Extreme convenience – Standby generators turn on immediately as soon as power from the grid is interrupted, whether or not you’re home. They operate quietly and consistently, as long as they’re properly maintained and filled with propane. Once power is restored, your standby generator shuts down.
- Durable value – Standby generators last about 15 years, and they typically add enough to the resale value of your home to recoup much of the cost of installation if you intend to sell. Refrigerator
- Costly to install – You don’t have to lift a finger to operate your standby generator, but that convenience doesn’t come cheap. Including professional consultation—critical to sizing your generator – and installation, a standby generator can cost $10,000 or more. However, when you consider that the average amount of damage from a flood is about $4,000, it can quickly make itself a great value for your family – especially if you intend to sell your home in the next 10 years.
Whatever You Choose, Power It With Propane
Whether you choose a portable or stationary standby whole house generator, be sure to power it with propane gas. Propane provides consistent, clean-burning power that works reliably in any weather, including the low temperatures we often see in Pennsylvania in January and February. It’s also cheaper per gallon than gasoline or diesel, which can really add up during a lengthy outage.
Considering installing a propane standby generator? We can help! Contact Ace-Robbins today to learn more about propane generator installations in Wyoming County, PA. Need a propane delivery for your current generator? We can help there, too – contact us today for propane deliveries in eastern Pennsylvania!