Portable vs Automatic Generators

Portable vs Automatic Generators

Power outages are typically sporadic and hopefully short lived. Occasionally they last for several hours, but can be days or even weeks. Many homeowners have purchased portable generator units. Portable generators are a convenient means of powering a few lights and small appliances during an outage but they have many disadvantages in comparison to automatic standby generator systems.

Portable generators require the homeowner to be present during an outage. The homeowner must retrieve the unit from the garage or wherever it is being stored, fill the unit with gasoline and plug in the extension cords. Portable units must also be protected from weather and placed at a safe distance from windows and doors to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. While many manufacturers suggest 10 ft to be a safe operating distance, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study shows that homeowners may need to operate portable generators as far as 25 ft from their home to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly. During an extended outage most gas stations will also have no power, making it difficult to keep gasoline for a portable generator. If you decide on a portable generator, make sure you include a manual transfer switch. This will safely disconnect power from the utility for these selected circuits, so that you will not electrocute a lineman working on the utility line, due to back-feed of your system. It is also important to test your generator every month and add fuel stabilizer to keep fuel in the system as fresh as possible.

Standby generators are permanently mounted beside the home in an enclosure that protects the system from weather and assists with noise reduction. They operate automatically and do not require the homeowner to be present during a power outage. Within seconds of losing utility power, the automatic transfer switch starts the generator and switches the home to backup power. There are no extension cords to run and no need to keep a sufficient supply of gasoline on hand. Natural gas systems have an indefinite fuel supply and propane systems are limited only by the size of the homeowner’s propane tank. The ability to get e-mail or test message alerts about the power out, via the generator is also a nice feature.

While portable generators are easy to overload, standby generator systems are capable of managing loads throughout an entire household. The homeowner may choose which major appliances will remain on continually, such as a refrigerator, furnace, septic, or well pump, and which major appliances will only run when sufficient power is available, such as an electric oven, electric clothes dryer or central air conditioning unit. This load management system will automatically turn on, making the system seem-less. Typically with load management you can install a smaller generator, saving you cost on the product, installation, and fuel. Automatic generators can also work in any climate and are outfitted with cold weather kits, rain proof enclosures, and other features, depending on your climate. If you are unsure of what size portable or automatic generator you need, give us a call. Midwest Electric and Generator, Inc 612-284-1550