What’s the Best Generator to Buy – Portable or Standby?

We all know that power outages can happen any time of year.

They may be caused by bad weather, traffic accidents, animals, and a host of other problems that crop up somewhere between the utility company and your property.

That’s what makes a generator such a smart investment for your home or business — it lets you keep using at least some electricity in the event of a power outage.

But with so many manufacturers vying for your attention and your dollars, how do you know which generator to buy?

Today let’s look at the two main types of generators: portable and standby.

What Is a Portable Generator?

Ideal for short power outages, a portable power generator keeps your most crucial appliances working until your normal power comes back on.

  • Many portable generators are sufficient to power your lamps, TV, computer, and small appliances.
  • Some larger models can handle more substantial loads, including kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, or perhaps your AC or furnace. It may be necessary to stagger the use of these large items to avoid going over the generator’s wattage rating.
  • It sets up on a dry, flat surface on the outside of your home, and connects to appliances or your electrical circuits using extension cords.
  • If you’d like to minimize the need for extension cords, a certified electrician can install a transfer switch that connects to your main service panel. All you have to do is connect your generator to the subpanel using a single cord, flip the transfer switch, and voila! You’re now safely connected to your home’s electrical circuits. Remember — you still need to manage your power usage so you don’t overload the generator.
  • A portable generator usually runs on gasoline and releases carbon monoxide. For this reason, you must NEVER use one inside of a house or garage, or place it under a carport. Keep your generator at least 10 feet from your house and make sure the exhaust is pointed away from doors, windows, and vents. Always have a CO detector installed before you begin using your generator.
  • Gasoline must be stored in legally approved containers and safely out of reach of children or pets. Use stabilizer to keep gasoline from degrading while in storage.
  • A portable generator usually comes with wheels so it’s easier to move out of storage and start using when you need it.
  • It’s also less expensive than a standby generator.

What Is a Standby Generator?

A standby generator connects permanently to your home’s electrical system and starts automatically whenever your primary source of power is interrupted.

  • Also called a stationary generator, a standby can handle larger loads than most portable generators. Some can even power your entire electrical system, including your furnace or AC, and large appliances, until normal service is restored.
  • It uses an automatic transfer switch that detects a power outage and turns on the generator within seconds.
  • Standby generators usually run on propane or natural gas, both of which are safer to store than gasoline.
  • You typically don’t need extension cords to connect it to your appliances.
  • A standby must be installed by a licensed electrician.
  • It’s more expensive than a portable generator — you could pay as much as $15,000 for a larger, more powerful unit.

Which Generator Should You Buy?

When you’re shopping generators for sale, the key is determining how much electricity you need in case of a power outage.

  • List the appliances you need to use, and which ones you can live without until normal power is restored.
  • Add up the total wattage of the appliances you need. Allow a small amount of extra wattage to allow for a power surge when the appliances come on.
  • Determine which circuits are connected to the appliances you need.

Not sure how to do all of this? Need help with generator installation?

Contact us at Complete Electrical.

Our certified electricians will do a walk-through with you to determine how much power you need when the power goes out, and the best generator for meeting those needs.

Your safety and comfort matter to us!

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