Owning a backup power generator for your home or business is an often forgotten investment with the ability to ease the discomfort of regular power outages and provide additional safety for your home and family during natural disaster scenarios. It’s important when buying a generator to make sure that it is well suited to your power needs and that you understand its limitations as well as the necessary safety precautions for operating a generator. Here we’ll look at some of the differences between standby generators and portable generators as well as some basic safety precautions for operation.
An important first step before you go out and buy a generator is determining the approximate wattage that you are likely to need during a power outage or disaster scenario. Identify electrical items that you may need to use simultaneously and tally the individual wattage (watts can be found by multiplying volts x amps) to find a rough estimate for how strong your generator needs to be. An average sized home will usually require between 5,000 and 7,000 watts to power essential items during a power outage or disaster.
Portable generators are the cheaper and more versatile option if you are looking to buy a home generator for emergencies. A nice bonus when compared to standby generators is that portable generators can be used in other locations like fishing or camping trips. Portable generators are typically run with gasoline and include a number of 120 volt power outlets (some may come with an additional 240 volt outlet). These are typically cheaper than the standby alternative and will usually cost somewhere between a few hundred to a several thousand dollars. Portable generators should never be used in an enclosed space as they will output dangerous quantities of carbon monoxide. Most portable generators are slightly limited in their power output and depending on the model and price can usually output between 1,000 and 8,000 watts.
Standby generators are typically used as permanent fixtures for homes or businesses. These can be wired into your electrical system and (some models) will even automatically activate in case of a power outage and deactivate when power returns. Standby generators are generally both much more expensive and much more powerful than their portable counterparts. Prices can range from $1,500 to $15,00 and are able to provide up to 45,000 watts (though most provide between 10 and 20 thousand watts). Unlike portable generators, standby generators typically run on propane or natural gas and almost always require certified professional installation.
In general the right option for you is going to come down to personal wattage needs, price, and purpose. If your business deals with refrigerated goods or it is imperative for your security system to be up 24/7 a standby generator might be the best option. If you are simply looking for a way to ease the stress of a power outage and don’t have extensive power needs a portable generator may suffice.