A generator is one of those appliances that you don’t know you need, until you need it. Because of this, many homeowners wait until the last minute before buying a generator, often choosing the first one they can get their hands on without doing much research. But how do you know if you’re choosing the right generator for your home?
When it comes to a whole house generator vs. portable generator, which type of generator is the best choice and why?
Whole House Generator Vs. Portable Generator – What’s The Difference?
Before diving into it, we should get to know what the difference is between whole house generators vs. portable generators. These are the two main categories when it comes to generators and the differences are huge.
Whole house generators, sometimes referred to as standby generators, are stationary units used to power the entire home. Requiring professional installation, whole house generators are directly wired into the home’s power grid. When the power goes out, standby generators automatically turn on so there’s no down time.
Portable generators are smaller units used to power just a few appliances at a time. As the name suggests, portable generators are smaller, storable generators that need to be hooked up and started every time the power goes out.
When it comes to cost, there’s an easy winner: portable generators. Because they are much smaller and less complex than whole house generators, portable generators are typically the less expensive option.
The thing about portable generators vs. whole house generators is that you’re truly getting what you pay for. With a portable generator, you get a less expensive stop-gap to help you get by when the power suddenly goes out. With whole house generators, you’re investing in non-stop comfort and convenience.
Average Cost of a Portable Generator: $500 – $2000
Average Cost of a Whole House Generator: $10000 – $20000
Size & Power Ratings
As far as sizing and power ratings go, these two types of generators generally fall into two completely different classes. Portable generators are typically much smaller than whole home generators, helping them maintain their portability.
However, whole home generators come in much larger sizes with much higher power ratings than their portable cousins. While portable generators easily keep the lights on and a couple appliances running during a storm or power outage, that’s pretty much their limit.
Whole home generators, as the name suggests, keep your entire home humming while the rest of the neighborhood sits in the dark. Keep in mind, all of this power comes in a pretty big package. These generators are definitely not portable.
Average Size & Power Rating of a Portable Generator: 1,000 Watt – 7,500 Watt
Average Size & Power Rating of a Whole House Generator: 10,000 Watt – 25,000+ Watt
Another big differentiator in the Great Generator Debate comes down to fuel. Portable and standby generators have two very different approaches to fuel consumption and storage. Each has their own perks.
Portable generators use gasoline, diesel, or propane. While it is pretty easy to get the fuel you need for portable generators and they’ve become much more fuel efficient in recent years, you’re still going to need to make sure you have extra fuel on-hand for when it runs out.
Whole house generators on the other hand, never need to be refueled. These large generators are hooked directly into your natural gas line ensuring you’ll never run out of fuel. Without needing to store extra fuel in your shed or garage saves you tons of space. Not to mention saving you the extra effort of having to go outside and refuel your generator.
Fuel Requirements for a Portable Generator: Gasoline, Diesel, Propane; Refueling Necessary
Fuel Requirements for a Whole House Generator: Hooked Into Natural Gas Line; No Refueling Necessary
Something that people may not consider when buying a new generator for their house is safety. These machines don’t just produce electricity, they also produce heat and carbon monoxide. Both of these are incredibly dangerous in confined spaces.
Portable generators need to be set up in a well-ventilated area to avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide in and around the home. Without proper ventilation, a portable generator becomes a ticking time bomb. It’s also important to remember to properly hook up the extension cords needed to send power to the appropriate appliances.
In the middle of a power outage or storm, the last thing you’re going to want to be worrying about is “Am I setting this generator up right?”.
Because whole house generators are professionally installed outside and hooked up to the home’s power grid, they aren’t as dangerous as portable generators. There’s no wires to worry about and all of the carbon monoxide disperses safely outside.
Safety Concerns With Portable Generators: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Fire
Safety Concerns With Whole House Generators: None When Professionally Installed Outside
As far as convenience goes, there’s no competition; whole house generators take the cake.
Imagine this: a violent storm blows in, knocking out the power and plunging you and your family into darkness. With a portable generator you need to go out into your garage or shed (in the dark, in the middle of a storm), find the generator, find the fuel (or go get some), refuel the generator, safely hook it up, and start it. Then you’re just waiting until it’s out of gas before you have to go back out and refuel it.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the opposite of convenience to me.
With a standby generator, you can literally kick back and relax. Standby generators don’t require any set up, they don’t even require you to turn it on. As soon as the power goes out, the standby generator kicks on and your power turns right back on. You don’t even have to refuel a standby generator because it’s directly hooked into the natural gas line.
Are Portable Generators Convenient? NO
Are Whole House Generators Convenient? YES
Along with convenience, comfort plays a big part in choosing the right generator for you. Comfort, after all, is the whole point of having a generator in the first place: to avoid the discomfort of losing power.
Portable generators definitely provide some comfort… That is, after they’re set up, refueled, and turned on. Everything up to the moment you turn it on is pretty uncomfortable. Not to mention the fact that you need to go out and refuel it every few hours. Even then, portable generators don’t power everything, so you’ll need to give up some comfort no matter what.
Don’t even get me started on how loud these bad boys are. So, while you’re sitting semi-comfortably in your semi-powered home, you and your entire neighborhood get to listen to your portable generator chugging and coughing until the power comes back.
A whole house generator is the key to comfort in a blackout. When the power goes out, you don’t have to lift a finger. The generator kicks on automatically and powers up your ENTIRE house, not just some of it.
They’re much quieter than portable generators too. A professionally installed whole house generator is enclosed in an insulated case to protect it from the weather and protect us from the noise.
Do Portable Generators Provide Comfort? Some – Too much to Set Up and Way Too Loud
Do Whole House Generators Provide Comfort? Yes – Max Comfort
Upkeep and Maintenance
Generators are complex machines with tons of moving parts and lots that can go wrong. Because of this, it’s important to keep in mind the general upkeep and maintenance required to keep your generator humming.
Portable generators require much less rigorous upkeep and maintenance than their larger counterparts. Sure, they need to have their oil and filters changed, but it’s fairly easy for anyone to do.
Whole house generators are much larger than portable ones, and they’re nestled inside a large, insulated case for protection. Because of this, it’s more difficult to perform maintenance on these machines yourself. However, there are some fantastic and comprehensive maintenance programs available for whole house generators. In fact, here at Mrs. Michael we’ve got an excellent maintenance service to keep your generator in perfect working condition.
Upkeep and Maintenance for Portable Generators: DIY-Possible
Upkeep and Maintenance for Whole House Generators: Call the Professionals
Invest In a New Generator From Mrs. Michael Electricians
At the end of the day, a new generator is an investment into comfort and safety. A brand new whole house generator, professionally installed and hooked into your home’s power grid, gives you and your family the peace of mind knowing that no matter how bad it gets out there, you’ll still have power. As a Michigander, that really means something. Give us a call at Mrs. Michael Electricians for a brand new generator installation, repairs, or general maintenance.