Standby Vs. Portable Generators
Portable or standby: deciding which generator is right for you.
One of the biggest choices when buying a generator is whether to get a portable or stationary unit. Obviously, for trips and constant traveling you will need a portable generator. And, of course, the Hoover dam is not running on a little (or big) portable system. But for a homeowner running an average load during a power outage, which one is the better option? Let's see.
The difference between these two options used to be in their power sources. A stationary model can be connected to an external source (ex. natural gas line) and therefore supply continuous power. A portable model will need to constantly be refueled and so the run time is limited. There are now portable models that can be connected to external sources as well. This alleviates the issue of constantly refueling. These, however, still lack the convenience of instant transfer. In the event of a power shortage or other need, an owner would need to take the portable generator out of storage, connect it, refuel or run a line to natural gas line, and start it manually. The beauty of stationary sets is the instantaneous results.
Portable units are small and compact enough to put into storage when not in use, and can be used for emergency or recreational purposes. Basically, portables are energy on the go. On the other hand, running a portable generator during an outage requires connection cords, wires, and tubes, which are cumbersome, bulky and messy. In addition, you often have the inconvenience of constantly refueling, and, remember that stored fuel loses its efficacy after a short time
Standby gen sets have an automatic transfer, offering constant run time. They offer higher power level output and long-term usage availability. As with a portable, there are several cons, as well. Aside from the actual units being more expensive (standbys start at $2000 for a basic 7kW can go up to $15000 for 45kW), there are lots of additional costs such as an ATS, hiring an electrician for installation, and often contracting a cement landing pad for the generator to rest on. They are space consuming, require a flat surface for the mounting pad in a well-ventilated area, and must be professionally installed. In addition, standbys are always there, but they're always there. No packing them away into a discreet corner when you want. Many homeowners don't have the space luxury for such an obtrusive addition. Further, NG generators may require a new or additional gas meter to provide the appropriate level of gas pressure, and a regulator to ensure the rest of your home receives its proper levels as well (Note: this issue is solved by using propane, but then you have the inconvenience of having to refuel, unless you install a propane gas tank). Installation and any fuel tanks may require permits, as well.
Conclusion: Permanent gen sets are best for large homes and businesses that have heavy loads and will require long-term usage (especially if you live in an area where room is not an issue). If room or money is a consideration, portable generators are a great value and certainly do the job well. For more information about generators from buying to building, review Uncle Bob's generator section.
GENERAL WARNING: Never run generators in closed spaces like garages or basements. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a frequent occurrence when dealing with electric generators. Keep area well ventilated. Storing fuel can also be hazardous. Store in specialized containers, mix with stabilizers, and refresh supplies regularly.
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