Generators: Stationary vs Portable

Many homeowners own a generator, and both stationary and portable generators have increased in popularity in recent years. Both types have their pros and cons, and I’d like to briefly review those in this article for anyone thinking of purchasing a generator as a back-up power source.

Generators always make me think of four or all-wheel drive vehicles. They are rarely needed; but in those rare moments when they are needed, they seem like life savers we can’t live without.

Generators exist in two primary types: portable and stationary. Stationary generators are often referred to as “whole-house” generators because they are securely mounted, come on automatically during a power outage, and are capable of powering most of the home’s power needs.

As their name suggests, portable generators are easily moved from one location to another. This affords several benefits, but the choice of going with a stationary or portable unit ultimately depends on your particular needs.

So why are generators useful? Well, one main reason is food preservation. Regardless of the season, your food will eventually spoil, resulting in loss of both food and income, if the electricity is out for too long. Likewise, if your heating/cooling system is inoperable for too long, the temperature and humidity levels in your house may become nearly unbearable. Living without electricity for a short time is certainly bearable, but modern lifestyles are typically very dependent on electricity, and an unexpected, long-term power outage can be devastating in some cases.

So, given the benefits of owning a generator, how can you determine which type to purchase? The benefits of portable generators are that they are movable and less expensive. Contrarily, stationary, whole-house generators are pricier and cannot be moved, which most people would consider cons. However, portable generators are not capable of supplying the amount of wattage that a stationary generator can supply, and they require more manpower (cons), whereas stationary generators (if working correctly) require no labor to operate. This point is very important for elderly and/or disabled people who are not capable of easily operating a generator manually. Portable generators do not require permitting, but some municipalities require permits for whole-house units prior to installation. If your home experiences frequent power outages, you are likely better off with a whole-house generator.

In short, your choice in a generator should depend mostly on your needs. If you own a home and a small vacation cabin, you may be better off going with a portable generator so it’s available for use at either property. If cost isn’t a factor and your goal is to power all or most of your home’s electrical needs in a power outage, you are likely better off with a stationary unit.

If you opt for a portable generator, be sure to get a high quality unit from a reputable manufacturer (like an inverter-powered Honda), and always fire up the unit prior to plugging in any extension cords to avoid a power surge. Prioritize providing power to the most important items in the home (refrigerator, deep freezer, heating/cooling system, etc.), and do not waste electricity (and gas) on less important items. Use candles for lighting, deal with somewhat uncomfortable temperatures as long as you can, and – above all – be safe! When powering a furnace with a portable unit, ensure that a qualified electrician has reviewed the unit’s grounding for use with a portable generator, and be sure that your generator provides power in a clean manner so components of the system are not harmed.

In most cases, power outages do not last for very long and you may not even need to use a generator. When the need arises, though, having a quality generator will prove invaluable and you will be very glad you have one.

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Author: hillinspections

I am a Certified Master Inspector (CMI) and the owner and operator of Hill Property Inspections LLC, the top-rated inspection company in the greater Johnstown, PA area, based out of western Pennsylvania. I specialize in property inspections and environmental testing services and have a passion for helping my own clients and other families in learning to properly maintain their homes. I’m also the owner of Hill Pest Control, LLC and a pest management professional committed to helping our clients rid their homes and businesses of unwanted pests. I am an Army veteran, former State Farm Insurance Agent, and real estate investor with experience in all facets of real estate construction, transaction and insurance. I am also the founder and President of the Southwestern PA Chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and an affiliate member of the Cambria-Somerset Association of Realtors (CSAR).

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