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Portable or Standby: Which Generator Type Is Best?

A generator
Portable and standby generators both provide backup power by turning fuel into electricity. However, the two types of generators have important distinctions to consider when selecting a generator for emergency or remote power needs.

In some cases, a portable generator can serve your needs when no other power source is available. But standby generators are usually the better options where power interruptions could cause physical or financial harm. Here are a few selection tips to consider when shopping for a generator.

Portable Generators

Portable generators offer convenient access to power even in the most remote locations. You simply fill the generator tank with fuel — usually gasoline or diesel fuel — and start the motor to generate power. Outlets are often situated directly on the generator for convenient access to power.

But portable generators have drawbacks for emergency home and business use. Portable generators must operate out-of-doors, leaving them vulnerable to theft and other damages. A portable generator must also be monitored to ensure the motor doesn’t overheat, the fuel is adequate, and the load is not too high for the generator's capacity.

Your portable generator also must be able to keep up with both the running and start-up wattage of the devices it supports. But portable generators often cannot support larger devices that require a lot of power. If your air conditioner or refrigerator uses a lot of power to cycle on, the generator could be switched off every time these appliances draw power.

A portable generator offers the following pros and cons.

Pros:
  • Can run for hours on one tank of fuel
  • Can generate 1,200 to 10,000 watts
  • Costs between only $400 and $6,000
  • Doesn't require installation (unless wired in)
Cons:
  • Can be too heavy for easy movement
  • Makes a lot of noise
  • Cannot be fueled while hot
Budget-friendly portable generators can generate enough wattage to run a few devices and one or two appliances, while top-of-the-line generators can often power most of your basic devices and appliances.

Most portable generators can't be connected directly to your home's wiring. A transfer switch must be present before you attach your generator directly to your electrical system. If you don't have this type of switch installed on your portable generator system, you create dangerous conditions for linemen restoring the neighborhood power.

Standby Generators

A standby generator is connected to a structure's wiring, either on the main circuit or on a separate electrical system. A switch almost instantly starts the generator when a power loss is detected. The same switch then shuts the generator off when power is restored.

Modern standby generators run on propane or natural gas, since these fuels remain more stable over time than diesel or gasoline. The units are stationary, so you don't need to maneuver the generator in place during emergencies.

Other features of a standby generator include the following:
  • Is often quieter than portable generators
  • Doesn't need constant monitoring
  • Has built-in safety shut-offs and a transfer switch
  • Can run for days or weeks
  • Generates up to 22,000 watts of power
  • Costs between $3,500 to $6,000, plus installation
If you must keep vital medical, commercial, or agricultural equipment running during a power outage, a standby generator is the better choice for your structure. Your generator installation crew can set up your electrical grid to provide power only to key branch lines during power outages, so the generator is only powering the most important equipment.

As long as you have access to propane or natural gas, you can refuel your standby generator every eight to 15 days. A portable generator must be continually refueled during the day, and you must have a source of (and transportation for) the diesel or gasoline fuel. Schedule installation of a standby generator to have the most convenient access to vital electricity during power outages.

Whether you want a standby generator or only need a portable generator, contact Precision Heating & cooling today to install a backup generator for your residence or business in Northwestern South Carolina. We install localized standby generators for structures of all types in the Greater Greenville region.