Want To Know More About Portable Vs. Standby Generators? Let Us Explain!

Portable vs. Standby Generators

Too often lessons from the past come back to haunt us. The most recent storm was just the catalyst needed to reconfirm those who fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it. Not only were surrounding utility companies caught off guard by the ferocity of the winds but many homeowners found themselves left in the dark to ponder something they swore would never happen again after Super Storm Sandy. The end effect then and now is a massive run on generators of every size conceivable in a frantic effort to keep the lights on and hopefully save the refrigerated food before it spoils. 

Okay, the worst is over; for the most part, power has been restored to our region, the sting of procrastination fades and it is now time to decide the best course of action.

In general, generators come in two variations to supplement utility power; portable or standby (also called ‘stationary’).  


Portable generators are stored at home and rolled out by the homeowner and manually activated to back feed energy into the home’s electrical distribution system. The majority of portable generators run on gasoline. Dual fuel systems have become popular operating on both gasoline and/or propane.

Units that produce from 3500 watts all the way to 15,000 watts are available to consumers from retailers, both brick and mortar and on-line. Many of these on-line retailers provide free shipping. Various transfer systems are on the market and are required to be installed by knowledgeable licensed electricians. There are many ways to connect the portable power to house current but only one way that meets required codes and ensures safe, reliable distribution.


Standby generators do the same thing only effortlessly and automatically, always at the ready 24/7. Stand by generators are stationary and therefore can be much larger, capable of a larger supply of power, often enough to support the entire house regardless of size. Power supplies of natural gas or propane require proper connection by a licensed plumber as well as an electrician to route the backup power into the house through the ATS (automated transfer switch). 


In simplified terms, a (fossil) fuel-powered engine drives a shaft that spins a magnetized rotor within a stator (a coil of copper wiring) thus producing AC current. The current is then delivered to assorted outlets on the control panel of varying amperages depending on the capacity and size of the generator. A fan at one end driven by the same shaft cools other parts of the generator.

Both systems provide a certain degree of peace of mind, but many factors go into weighing portable versus stand by for the protection and comfort of your loved ones. Here are just a few of the pros and cons of both to ponder, hopefully not in the dark.



·    Relatively inexpensive when compared to a standby generator

·    Quick to set up, no utility red tape to draw out the process

·    Good for homes from 1000 sq ft to 3000 sq ft.

·    Only one trade is required-licensed electricians

·    Compact and easy to store, either in the garage or shed

·    Transfer system is quick and simple even though it is manual

·    New versions have built-in carbon monoxide detection that turns the engine off when levels of CO gas exceed a predetermined amount.


·    Someone must be home in the event of a sudden outage to set everything up and oversee the continued operation during the duration of the storm and ensuing outage.

·    Set up is often required to be performed in inclement weather

·    Dangers of electrocution exist if not handled and activated correctly

·    Danger of explosion if the engine is not maintained properly

·    Large amounts of gasoline need to be stored indoors

·    The production of carbon monoxide gas necessitates the generator be kept a distance from doors and windows

·    Portable generators are heavy and require a degree of strength to roll into position

·    Gas engines are notoriously loud

·    Portable generators require monthly start-up by the homeowner

·    Gasoline is needed every 5-10 hours to keep it running

·    Servicing often requires the homeowner to bring the generator into the local repair shop on their own, usually after 200 hours of operation

·    Limited in the amount of overall house coverage

·    A basic knowledge of engines, although not requisite, is helpful

·    Repeated trips to the gas station as most portable generators burn between 12-20 gallons a day.

·    Portable systems lend themselves to installation by ‘weekend warrior electricians’



·    Hands-free automatic start-up, usually within 10 seconds of sensing an outage through an ATS (automatic transfer switch)

·    Self-exercising on a scheduled weekly basis

·    Whole house protection offered for large homes

·    Quieter than a gas, diesel, or a dual fuel portable generator through unique sound attenuation

·    15 to 50 gallons of propane or natural gas can be burned daily for extended periods of time without any effort or attention on the part of the homeowner


·    Costs can be excessive including permits, purchase, installation, maintenance, and utility fees in the event your natural gas service is insufficient for the but demand of the generator

·    Permitting and inspections to ensure proper installation with both the municipality and utility are mandatory

·    Two trades, both plumbers and electricians are needed for this installation

·    The production of carbon monoxide gas necessitates the generator be kept a distance from doors and windows

·    Annual maintenance fees apply

·    Setbacks from property lines must be maintained as determined by your municipalityWhichever system you choose, know the decibels created by your generator will be music to your ears when running as the storm rages outside while your family is well provided for inside. 

The plumbing, building and electrical codes are very specific, complex, and challenging for even the seasoned tradesmen. Therefore, entrust your next electrical back up system to a licensed, trained, and knowledgeable electrician like Lippolis Electric. Our years and experience in providing back up power for our customers span 36 years. Estimates are free and as easy as dialing 914-738-3550.


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Lippolis Electric, Inc. | 538 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564 | 845-855-1426 | lippoliselectric.com