Standby Vs. Portable Generators: A Comprehensive Guide

Power outages can be a major inconvenience, leaving you in the dark and disrupting your daily routine. To help you stay prepared for such situations, this comprehensive guide will explore the differences between standby and portable generators, two popular solutions for backup power.

We’ll cover essential aspects such as features, pros and cons, applications, cost differences, and factors to consider when choosing a generator that best suits your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Portable generators are smaller, less expensive, and more versatile than standby generators. They can be easily transported and used for camping or outdoor events.
  • Standby generators provide reliable backup power to an entire home or business.during extended outages. Though they require professional installation, they offer a long-term maintenance-free solution.
  • Both types of generators have pros and cons that should be carefully considered before making a purchase decision. Factors like fuel type, power capacity, noise levels, and cost differences should also be taken into account.
  • It’s essential to prioritize safety when operating any generator by following manufacturer guidelines. Assessing your power needs accurately will help you choose the best generator for your specific requirements.
Portable Vs. Standby Generators

Portable Generators: An Overview

Portable generators are small, lightweight power sources that can be easily transported and used in a variety of settings such as campsites or construction sites; they typically have a capacity of 0.9 to 20 gallons and run on different fuel types such as natural gas, diesel, gasoline, or propane.

Definition And Basic Features

Portable generators are versatile, compact, and easy-to-use power sources that come in handy during power outages or for providing electricity while camping or attending outdoor events.

They typically feature small to medium-sized fuel tanks and can run on various fuel types such as gasoline, diesel, propane, or even natural gas.

Some popular examples of portable generators include the Honda EU2200i Inverter Generator and the Westinghouse WGEN7500 Portable Generator. These devices are capable of producing power from a few hundred watts up to several kilowatts depending on the model you choose.

Another important aspect to note about portable generators is their noise levels – manufacturers like WEN have designed quieter models like the 56200i with noise levels as low as 51 decibels (dB).

Pros And Cons

In this section, we’ll break down the pros and cons of portable generators to help you understand their benefits and drawbacks. To make it easier for you, we’ve prepared a handy table comparing their various advantages and disadvantages.

Lower upfront cost than standby generators.Less powerful than standby generators.
Portable and easy to transport for various uses.Manual switching and transfer switch required.
Suitable for outdoor activities like camping and tailgating.Higher carbon monoxide emissions and safety risks.
No professional installation needed.Higher maintenance and refueling needs due to gasoline fuel source.
Provides cleaner electricity and less noise than standby generators.Shorter runtime and lower power output compared to standby generators.

By taking these pros and cons into consideration, you’ll be better equipped to decide if a portable generator is the right choice for your power needs.

Applications And Use Cases

Power outages can happen anytime, and it’s crucial to be prepared with reliable backup power sources. Portable and standby generators offer various applications and use cases to meet your specific needs:

  1. Home Emergencies: Both portable and standby generators provide backup power during blackouts, ensuring essential appliances like refrigerators, lights, security systems, and medical equipment continue to function.
  2. Construction Sites: Portable generators are essential for supplying power to tools, machinery, and lighting in areas where grid electricity is unavailable or insufficient.
  3. Outdoor Events: From camping trips to festivals or tailgating parties, portable generators can provide the necessary electricity for cooking appliances, lighting systems, audio devices, and charging stations.
  4. Commercial Use: Businesses can benefit from having backup power sources such as standby generators that support continuous operations during outages – especially in critical sectors like medical facilities, food industry establishments, data centers, telecommunication systems (cell towers and radio towers).
  5. Rural Areas: Standby generators ensure residents living in remote locations have access to consistent electricity during weather-related or infrastructure issues causing power disruptions.
  6. Workshops and Garages: For those who require power tools in their workshops or garages at home but lack direct access to electrical outlets from the main house panel – portable generators offer enough energy for most small-to-medium scale projects.
  7. RVs & Boats: Travel enthusiasts can enjoy consistent electricity in recreational vehicles (RVs) or boats using portable generators – powering everything from air conditioning units to onboard electronics while on the move.

Remember that each generator comes with its own set of advantages depending on the individual application – carefully consider your requirements before investing in the right solution for you.

Standby Generators: An In-Depth Look

Standby generators are permanent fixtures that automatically turn on during power outages and are ideal for residential or commercial use.

Definition And Key Characteristics

Portable generators are self-contained units that provide power on-the-go. They are smaller and more lightweight than standby generators, making them perfect for outdoor activities like camping or tailgating.

Standby generators are permanently installed units designed for residential and commercial use. These generators have higher power output capacity than their portable counterparts and can be fueled by diesel, propane, or natural gas.

Standby generators also come with an automatic transfer switch that detects a loss of utility power and automatically turns the generator on within seconds. This ensures continuous electricity supply even during power outages.

Advantages And Disadvantages

In this section, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both portable and standby generators. This information will help you determine which type of generator is best suited for your needs and preferences.

Portable GeneratorsStandby Generators
AdvantagesMore affordable than standby generators.Versatile and can be used for outdoor activities and in recreational vehicles.Easy to transport and store.No professional installation required.Can be connected to the home’s electrical panel using a transfer switch.Provide reliable power during outages.Automatically turn on when power goes out.Have a longer runtime due to larger fuel tanks.Emit less carbon monoxide, making them safer to use.Built to withstand harsh conditions (e.g., Briggs & Stratton models).
DisadvantagesLess powerful than standby generators.Require manual switching.Carbon monoxide hazards make them best suited for outdoor use.Shorter runtime due to smaller fuel tanks.May require frequent maintenance.Higher initial cost and long-term expenses.Require professional installation and regular maintenance.Take up more space due to their larger size.Less versatile and cannot be used for outdoor activities or in recreational vehicles.Fuel storage and availability may be a concern.

Typical Applications

Portable generators are great for a variety of applications, including:

  • Providing electricity during a power outage or blackout
  • Powering small tools and appliances on job sites
  • Running lights and electronics while camping or RVing
  • Supporting outdoor events like concerts or fairs

Standby generators also have a range of typical applications including:

  • Providing backup power to an entire home during extended power outages
  • Powering critical systems in commercial buildings like hospitals, data centers, and grocery stores
  • Ensuring uninterrupted power supply for telecommunications systems such as cell towers or radio towers.

Regardless of the application, it’s important to consider factors like fuel type, power capacity, and installation requirements when choosing between a portable or standby generator. A whole-house generator sizing calculator can help determine the appropriate standby generator for your specific needs and budget.

Comparing Portable And Standby Generators

When comparing portable and standby generators, it is essential to consider their size and weight, power output and capacity, fuel types and efficiency, installation requirements, maintenance needs, safety features, noise levels, and cost differences.

Size And Weight

As a potential customer, it’s crucial to consider the size and weight of the generator you plan to purchase. Here’s a comparison between portable and standby generators to help you make an informed decision:

Generator TypeSizeWeight
Portable GeneratorsSmaller and more compactLighter, ranging from 50 to 250 lbs
Standby GeneratorsLarger and require more space for installationHeavier, typically 400 to 5,000 lbs

When choosing between a portable and standby generator, remember that portable generators are easy to transport and store, while standby generators require a designated installation area. If you have limited space or need a mobile power solution, a portable generator may be the better choice for you. On the other hand, if you require a more powerful and permanent solution, a standby generator is worth the investment.

Power Output And Capacity

When it comes to power output and capacity, there are significant differences between portable and standby generators. The table below provides a clear comparison of their capabilities.

Generator TypePower Output RangeCapacity
Portable GeneratorsUp to 15 kilowattsSuitable for homes up to 3000 square feet
Standby Generators8 to 100 kilowatts or moreCan power an entire house, regardless of size

As you can see, standby generators have a much higher power output than portable generators, making them a more reliable option for powering essential appliances and electronics.during an outage. Keep in mind your specific power needs when choosing between these two options.

Fuel Types And Efficiency

Fuel efficiency is a crucial consideration when selecting a generator. The most common types of fuel used in portable and standby generators are diesel, gasoline, propane, and natural gas. Each fuel type comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages regarding cost, availability, and environmental impact. To make an informed decision, let’s compare the fuel types and efficiency for both portable and standby generators in the table below:

Fuel TypePortable GeneratorsStandby Generators
GasolineMost common fuel type for portable generators; less fuel-efficient; can be easily found but has a shorter shelf-life.Rarely used in standby generators due to its shorter shelf-life and greater risk of combustion.
DieselOffers better fuel efficiency and longer runtime; less common in portable generators.Commonly used in standby generators; known for its energy density and longevity.
PropaneEnvironmentally friendly and has a long shelf-life; lower energy density than gasoline and diesel.Widely used in standby generators; requires proper storage and can be more expensive.
Natural GasNot commonly used in portable generators due to its reliance on a gas line for fuel supply.Popular choice for standby generators; connected to a gas line, providing constant fuel supply and eliminating storage concerns.

Fuel efficiency should be factored into your decision-making process, as it will influence your long-term costs and the overall performance of the generator. While diesel generators are known for their efficiency and power output, propane and natural gas generators provide a cleaner and more environmentally friendly option. Ultimately, your choice of fuel will depend on your specific power needs and preferences.

Installation And Maintenance

Proper installation and maintenance are crucial for both portable and standby generators to ensure safety, efficiency, and longevity. Let’s compare the installation and maintenance aspects of portable and standby generators.

AspectPortable GeneratorsStandby Generators
InstallationSet up is relatively easy and can be done without professional help.Requires professional installation due to permanent nature and connection to the home’s electrical panel.
Permits and RegulationsSome local regulations may apply but are typically less stringent.Subject to local building codes, permits, and inspections.
Transfer Switch InstallationRequires a transfer switch to safely connect to the home’s electrical panel, as mandated by the National Electric Code.Transfer switch installation is included in the professional setup process.
MaintenanceRegular maintenance includes checking oil levels, cleaning air filters, and inspecting fuel lines.Periodic professional maintenance checks to inspect components, test performance, and ensure smooth operation.
Longevity and DurabilityPortable generators have a shorter lifespan and may require more frequent replacement.Standby generators are built for durability and can offer more extended service with proper maintenance.

Consider these differences in installation and maintenance when deciding between a portable or standby generator for your home or business.

Safety And Noise Levels

Safety and noise levels are crucial factors to consider when choosing between portable and standby generators. To help you make an informed decision, I’ve outlined the key comparisons between the two generator types in the table below.

Generator TypeSafetyNoise Levels
Portable GeneratorPortable generators emit more carbon monoxide, which can be hazardous if not properly ventilated. It’s essential to place them outside and far away from buildings to minimize exposure (Fact 7). They also require proper grounding to avoid electrical accidents.Portable generators typically operate between 50-70 dB, which is about the same noise level as a normal conversation to a vacuum cleaner (Fact 4). Using a cover can help protect your investment and reduce noise (Fact 6).
Standby GeneratorStandby generators emit less carbon monoxide, making them safer than portable generators (Fact 1). They can also be set up to come on automatically during a power outage, eliminating the need for manual switching (Fact 8).Standby generators generally operate at a quieter noise level, around 50-60 dB (Fact 5).

Always prioritize safety when operating generators, regardless of the type you choose. Be sure to follow all safety guidelines and precautions for best results.

Cost Differences

When it comes to generator options, cost is an essential factor to consider. It’s important to understand the differences in price between portable and standby generators to help you make an informed decision. Below is a comparison of the costs you may encounter with each type of generator:

Cost FactorsPortable GeneratorsStandby Generators
Upfront CostsRange from $500 to $1,500 depending on size.Around $5,000 including installation, but can vary based on generator size and features.
InstallationEasy to assemble and typically do not require professional installation.Require professional installation, which can cost between $2,000 and $20,000.
Fuel CostsDependent on the type of fuel used, which can include gasoline, propane, or diesel.Usually run on natural gas or propane, which can be more cost-effective than gasoline or diesel in some cases.
MaintenanceRequire more frequent maintenance, which can lead to additional costs.Less frequent maintenance, but repairs or part replacements may come at a higher price.
WarrantyVary depending on the manufacturer, but may not be as comprehensive as standby generators.Briggs & Stratton offer a comprehensive warranty for their standby generators, ensuring that any issues can be resolved easily.
Long-term CostsLower upfront costs, but require more planning and work, which can add up over time.Higher upfront costs, but offer more power and durability, potentially saving money in the long run.

Remember to assess not only the initial investment but also the ongoing costs of fuel, maintenance, and potential repairs when choosing between portable and standby generators.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Generator

When selecting a generator, it’s crucial to assess your power needs, budget, installation requirements, fuel availability and storage options.

Assessing Your Power Needs

Assessing your power needs is a crucial step in choosing the right generator for your home or outdoor activities. Consider what appliances and devices you need to power during an outage, such as heating and cooling systems, refrigerators, lights, and medical equipment.

You will want to determine the wattage needed for each device by checking their labels or user manuals.

It’s also essential to consider starting watts versus running watts when assessing your power needs. Some appliances require more wattage at startup than they do while running continuously.

This includes devices with motors like air conditioners, refrigerators, and furnaces.

When considering portable generators for camping or outdoor events, think about how many electronics you will use simultaneously and for how long.

Budget And Long-term Costs

As you consider buying a generator, it’s important to think not just about the upfront cost but also the long-term costs. While portable generators may seem like an affordable option, they can end up costing more in fuel and maintenance expenses in the long run.

Standby generators, on the other hand, are generally more expensive upfront but offer better fuel efficiency and require less maintenance over time.

Additionally, when you factor in potential power outages and how much damage they could cause your home or business, investing in a reliable standby generator system is well worth it.

Installation And Space Requirements

Before purchasing a backup generator, it is essential to consider the installation and space requirements. Standby generators are usually large and require professional installation.

This type of generator needs to be connected directly to your home’s electrical panel, which may involve additional costs for wiring and permits. You also need a suitable location where the standby generator can sit permanently outside your home.

On the other hand, portable generators come in various sizes and do not require permanent installation.

When installing a backup generator, it’s crucial to adhere to the manufacturer guidelines on distance from walls or combustible materials like trees or shrubs.

Some municipalities have specific zoning laws regarding noise levels emitted by standby generators during operation, meaning there might be limitations as to where you install one based on an area’s rules.

In conclusion, when choosing between portable and standby generators, make sure you factor in your available outdoor space and budget for the necessary installation costs involved with each option carefully.

Fuel Availability And Storage

Another important factor to consider when choosing between portable and standby generators is fuel availability and storage. Portable generators can run on various fuels such as natural gas, propane, diesel or gasoline – each with their unique advantages and disadvantages.

However, it’s crucial to note that storing fuel for extended periods can be a hazard.

Standby generators typically use natural gas, propane, or diesel with a direct connection to an existing fuel source such as a residential gas line. This eliminates the need for manual refilling of fuel tanks while also ensuring there’s no interruption in power supply during extended outages since the generator will automatically switch over once a power outage occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the safety guidelines for operating generators? How long can portable and standby generators run continuously? Can you perform a DIY installation for standby generators, or should it be done professionally? Are portable generators suitable for camping and outdoor events? These are just some of the frequently asked questions about standby and portable generators that we’ll answer in this section.

Lifespan Of Portable And Standby Generators

As a customer looking to invest in a generator, you may be wondering about the lifespan of both portable and standby generators. Portable generators typically have a lifespan of up to 1000 hours with proper maintenance.

It’s important to note that how long your generator lasts also depends on factors such as usage frequency and environmental conditions.

Continuous Runtime For Portable Generators

As a homeowner, you may be wondering how long your portable generator can run during an outage. The continuous runtime of a portable generator depends on its fuel capacity and load, usually ranging from 7 to 10 hours at 50% load.

It’s essential to assess your power needs before investing in a portable generator and factor in the length of potential outages when choosing the right model for you. If you’re looking for longer runtimes without refueling, dual-fuel or tri-fuel options allow for longer durations between fill-ups.

Safety Guidelines For Operating Generators

Operating a generator can be dangerous if not done properly. To ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, it is important to keep in mind these guidelines:

  1. Always operate generators outdoors in a well – ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  2. Keep generators away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to enter the home or building.
  3. Follow recommended maintenance guidelines for your specific generator model, including regular cleaning, oil changes, and filter replacements.
  4. Use grounded extension cords to connect appliances to the generator, and do not overload the generator with too many devices.
  5. Never refuel a generator while it is running or hot – wait until it has cooled down before adding fuel.
  6. Turn off all appliances connected to the generator before shutting it down.
  7. Use caution when handling gasoline or propane fuel for portable generators – they can ignite easily if exposed to sparks or flames.
  8. Store fuel in appropriate containers away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
  9. When using a standby generator, have it installed by a professional electrician to ensure proper connection to your home’s electrical system
  10. Always follow manufacturer instructions for starting and operating your specific generator model.

By following these safety guidelines, you can enjoy reliable backup power without risking personal injury or property damage.

DIY Installation For Standby Generators

One of the advantages of portable generators is that they are easy to set up and operate, requiring little technical know-how or professional assistance. However, standby generators are a whole different ball game.

Installing them requires advanced electrical knowledge and expertise that may be beyond the scope of an average user.

That said, it’s still possible for experienced DIYers to install a standby generator themselves with the right tools, guidance materials, and safety precautions. Nonetheless, doing so comes with some risks and challenges such as complying with local building codes and regulationsconnecting to natural gas lines or propane tanks correctlywiring ATS switches accurately, grounding properly for electrocution prevention purposes amongst others.

Portable Generators For Camping And Outdoor Events

As an avid camper and outdoor enthusiast, I know how crucial it is to have a reliable power source when in the great outdoors. That’s where portable generators come in handy.

With their small size and easy portability, they’re perfect for powering your camping gear or RV while off-grid.

When shopping for a portable generator for outdoor events, you’ll want to consider factors like weight (usually under 50 pounds), runtime (6-10 hours on a single tank), noise level (decibel rating below 60dB), and fuel type (gasoline or propane).

It’s also important to follow safety guidelines by keeping the generator away from tents or enclosed spaces to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.


When it comes to choosing between standby and portable generators for your power backup needs, there are several factors that you need to consider. Portable generators are great for outdoor events, camping trips, and emergency situations in small homes.

They’re affordable, lightweight, and easy to store.

No matter which type of generator you choose, make sure to assess your power needs accurately before making a purchase decision.

In summary: Standby vs.


1. What is the difference between a standby and portable generator?

Standby generators are permanently installed units that can automatically turn on and provide continuous backup power during an outage. Portable generators are smaller, mobile units that can be moved around as needed and typically provide temporary power for specific appliances or devices.

2. What factors should I consider when choosing between a standby or portable generator?

Consider your power needs during an outage, how frequently power outages occur in your area, budget considerations, installation requirements, fuel source availability, noise level preferences and portability needs.

3. Do standby generators require professional installation?

Yes, standby generators require professional installation by experienced technicians who have been trained to safely install and connect the unit to your home’s electrical system.

4. Can I use a portable generator indoors?

No, it is not safe to use a portable generator indoors due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes. Always make sure to operate any generator outside in a well-ventilated area away from open windows or doors.

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Skyler is an outdoor adventurist and avid RV-Fan. He loves to explore the world and all its beauty, but he's just as happy relaxing at home with his family. His favorite pastime is taking weekend trips in his RV with his wife and kids, where they can get away from it all and enjoy nature. He’s also a self-proclaimed expert on all things portable generators and can often be found reviewing the latest models on our website.

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