Portable vs. Standby Generators. What's the Difference?

| by Mike Gersmeyer
Portable vs. Standby Generators. What's the Difference?

As strong weather patterns have seemed to become more prevalent throughout the country in recent years, I’ve found homeowners now have a fairly good understanding that there are ways to keep a home’s lights and appliances powered even if utility power is knocked out. They also usually know that a backup generator is a solution to that problem, but oftentimes that’s as far as their familiarity goes.

So, what are the options available once a homeowner knows backup power is a want or need for the home?

Two Common Types of Generators

The first step is finding the right type of backup power solution to meet an individual family’s needs. The two most common types of residential backup power options available are portable generators and standby generators.

Portable Generators

A portable generator is an immediate but temporary backup power solution for a home. As its name suggests, it’s a portable unit that is not permanently installed on a home’s property. 

Typically powered by gasoline, it’s lower in cost (a decent portable unit can be purchased at a big box store for around $400) and doesn’t require installation time. This benefit makes a portable gas generator the best solution when a family has just experienced a power outage and needs to purchase something quickly to get its lights or a few of the home’s appliances up and running. However, portable units can only provide backup power for a few items, for a few hours. 

It is important to point out that portable generators need to be operated properly to prevent injury. Generators emit carbon monoxideduring operation. Therefore, they must always be run outside away from windows and doors and  not under overhangs.

Standby Generators

A standby generator is an automatic, permanent backup power solution. A standby generator turns on automatically during a utility power outage to keep a home’s lights, furnace, AC units and other appliances on while the power is out for an extended period of time. Thanks to the automatic transfer switch, your home will transition from utility to backup power seamlessly. This means a home will be without power for a matter of seconds before it is up and running again on backup power.

Unlike its portable counterpart, a standby generator is powered by either natural gas or liquid propane and is professionally installed outside on a home’s property, so some lead time needs to be taken into account after purchase before a standby generator is operational. 

Technological advancements in the GE Symphony II power management technology have allowed standby generators to power virtually everything in a home with a smaller, more affordable generator. Some homes can receive this whole-house power for around $4,000 after generator installation.

GE generator financing options, now available through manufacturers including GE, make standby generators a realistic solution and not an unaffordable luxury.


Companies: GE Generator Systems


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