Portable vs Standby Generators: Which is right for you?

Decide between portability and power with our generator guide.

The Pacific Northwest faces power outages due to a number of reasons. Whether it be wind storms, wildfires, or ice storms, staying prepared is a necessity. Loss of power is never a good thing, but could be even more detrimental in commercial settings.

When making the decision to provide backup power for your building, it is very important to consider what you’ll be powering. Because generators are often thousands of dollars, making the right choice can often seem like a daunting task.

We have compiled this comparison of portable and home standby generators to help make the important decision process easier.

Portable Generators

At times when power isn’t readily accessible, these generators can be used when needed and then easily removed. Portables are ideal for use when traveling, in areas without proper electrical infrastructure, or when utilities are temporarily shut off for maintenance.


  • Portables are often much cheaper than standby generators.
  • If the correct connections are set up, some portables have the capability to power almost as much as standbys.
  • The units come with built-in outlets for extension cords in case an automatic transfer switch hasn’t been installed.


  • They aren’t as effective in emergency situations because they have a much lengthier setup. Each time, the unit has to be wheeled out of storage, connected to the transfer switch, and turned on.
  • Standby models run on some kind of fuel supply, which is typically propane. In order to stay prepared, users have to keep a stockpile of gasoline and fuel stabilizer on hand. Although there are some models that can run on natural gas or liquid propane.
  • Potential safety issues concerning carbon monoxide poisoning and portable generator exhaust have arisen over the years. However, newer models include safety features such as an automatic shutoff when carbon monoxide levels reach a certain level.
  • The units will have to have some sort of weather protection set up when in use.
  • Portable generators are often much louder because they are not encased in the same way standbys are.
  • Their power capabilities typically are much lower than standby generators.

Standby Generators

Standby generators are a great option to stay prepared for any emergency. Because they are much more permanent than portables, they are always ready for surprise power outages. Due to their permanent nature, standby generators kick on automatically when the power goes out, unlike portables.


  • Standby generators tend to have more running power and are more reliable due to their power capabilities and sturdiness.
  • They are typically strong enough to power an entire home’s electrical system.
  • They turn on automatically when the power goes out.
  • Because of their fuel tank, these generators run for days or even weeks without refueling.
  • Typically, they are much quieter than portables. This is because the units are often placed into an insulated structure that protects them from the elements.
  • Because they are already covered, weather protection isn’t necessary.


  • The standby units are typically much more expensive than portables. Their price range falls around $2,000 to $5,000.
  • Because the installation is done by a professional, the installation costs can be higher as well.

Professional Generator Installation

If you choose to install a standby generator in your home or business, you’ll need a trusted team of professionals. Prairie Electric has just that. With over 35 years of experience, we guarantee that the job will be done well and done right.

We work with common sense and responsiveness. We don’t just hire people who are qualified – we want people who can think. Click here to learn more about our passion for our customers.

Our Certified Maintenance Programs
In addition to installations and generator replacements, Prairie Electric offers several maintenance programs that will help keep your generator ready to go. Annual inspections, monthly testing, and tune-ups as needed will ensure your generator will meet or even exceed its expected lifespan.

Contact us today with any questions or concerns you may have. We’re looking forward to assisting you with your next commercial or residential power project.

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