Standby Generators vs. Portable Power Stations: Which to Choose? 

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With energy insecurity on the rise due to increasingly unreliable grid infrastructure and escalating extreme weather events, you may be considering a standby generator or PPS to keep the lights on during a blackout. 

But what’s the difference between a traditional standby generator and a PPS — and which one is right for you? 

Let’s take a look at the differences, benefits, and disadvantages of each and help you choose what’s right for you.

What Is a Standby Generator? 

Also known as fixed or whole-house generators, standby generators are permanently installed outside the home, much like components of a central HVAC system. Most standby generators kick in automatically when the electricity goes out, whether you’re at home or not. 

Standby generators are typically connected to a home’s natural gas or a liquid propane (LPG) system. Being hooked up to a constant fuel source eliminates the need for refuelling with gasoline or diesel. A standby generator integrates with your home wiring and delivers essential backup power when you need it most. 

Standby generators can also be used to power your home off-grid. Typically weatherproof with an insulated cover, a standby generator can be used outdoors regardless of the season.

As mentioned above, standby generators typically burn natural gas supplied by your local utility, but they can also operate on propane, gasoline, or diesel. Using a transfer switch, standby generators can be configured to start automatically in the event of an outage, making them an excellent option for homeowners who need uninterrupted access to electricity. 

As long as you don’t run out of fuel, you should be able to operate your essential appliances and home systems indefinitely.

Advantages of Standby Generators

  • Powerful
  • Weatherproof
  • Auto-start function
  • Option to integrate with existing wiring
  • Reliable as long as the fuel source is uninterrupted

Disadvantages

  • Permanent installation (not portable)
  • Must operate a safe distance from your home — typically a minimum of 20 feet (6M)
  • Less versatile than a portable power station
  • Ongoing fuel costs 
  • Utility fees, permitting costs, installation, and more one-off or ongoing expenses
  • Burning fossil fuel for electricity increases your carbon footprint by emitting greenhouse gases that contribute to human-made climate change
  • MUST be operated outdoors due to deadly carbon monoxide emissions
  • Noisy

What Is a Portable Power Station?

As the name suggests, a portable power station is designed to be compact and easy to move. Unlike fossil fuel standby generators, a portable power station can safely be operated inside your home. Portable power stations like those from EcoFlow are designed to be compact and easy to move.

You also have a wide range of electricity storage, AC output, and charging options. From the RIVER 2 Portable Power Station that can fit in your backpack up to the mighty DELTA Pro — the cornerstone of the Smart Home Ecosystem

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EcoFlow’s portable power stations offer a minimum of four charging options, including solar panels. With rigid, portable, and flexible PV panels available, you can take electricity to go or opt for a permanent rooftop installation. 

Solar panels allow you to harness power from the sun’s rays, lower your carbon footprint, and gain access to clean, renewable energy wherever there’s sun. 

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Even the DELTA Pro portable power station can easily be transported anywhere with its suitcase-style wheels. 

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Or for a more permanent installation — especially useful for RVs and tiny homes — EcoFlow’s modular Power Kits are a robust off-grid electricity solution. 

Advantages

  • Highly compact, portable design
  • Clean, renewable electricity when using solar panels
  • Safe to use indoors
  • No toxic emissions or fumes
  • Lower your carbon footprint
  • No ongoing fuel costs
  • Long-lasting
  • Multiple charging options
  • DELTA series is expandable to meet your needs
  • Smartphone app control

Disadvantages

  • Charging is required for the PPS to operate
  • Depending on the size of your home and electricity consumption, the maximum AC output may not be enough to suit your needs
  • Require the EcoFlow Smart Home Panel to integrate with your home wiring

6 Key Differences Between Standby Generators and Portable Power Stations

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1. Power Source

Standby generators operate on diesel, gasoline, propane, or utility-supplied natural gas — all of which emit greenhouse gases. Portable power stations have multiple charging options, including AC (household) electricity, a car adaptor, or solar panels. By embracing solar energy, you can lower your carbon footprint and save money on energy bills! After your solar payback period is complete, any money you save on electricity goes straight into your pocket.

2. Run Time

In theory, a traditional standby generator can run for as long as it has fuel. However, running a fossil fuel generator for over 500 hours continuously isn’t recommended. 

A portable power station can operate indefinitely as long as you’re using solar panels to keep it recharged or another charging source to keep it topped up. Storage capacity is also crucial. 

For example, the EcoFlow DELTA Pro offers 3.6kWh of storage, but you can achieve personal energy independence with the right whole home generator configuration.

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3. Portability

Portable power stations win out in terms of portability — they have “portable” in their name! 

Standby generators are installed outside your home permanently. However, with a portable power station, you can move it from room to room during a blackout to be wherever it is most useful, or even bring it with you on your travels! 

4. Versatility

Standby generators are meant to be installed permanently. They’re heavy and bulky and aren’t going with you on a road trip. Standby generators pretty much only do one thing: provide a backup electricity source during a power outage And that may be precisely what you’re looking for!

By contrast, you could have a DELTA 2 PPS plugged into an AC outlet in your home so it’s fully charged for the next blackout. Any appliances plugged directly into the DELTA 2 will run on grid power until there’s an outage.

 With a ~30ms switchover time, you’ll hardly notice a blink if the lights go out. 

Add a 220W bifacial solar panel, and you can generate your own electricity until the grid comes back up. 

The difference in versatility is enormous. With a PPS, you can take the comforts of home on a road or camping trip. A standby generator simply isn’t built to offer you this kind of flexibility.

5. Maintenance

Traditional standby generators operate using internal combustion engines — similar to a car. That means a lot of moving parts — and a lot of things that can go wrong.

Standby generators require routine maintenance to perform optimally. 

On the other hand, a portable power station has almost no new moving parts and can last up to a decade of regular use without needing any maintenance. 

6. Installation

A standby generator requires professional installation. 

Not only is an installer needed, but a plumber will likely be required to connect your generator to a fuel source. An inspection also needs to be performed by the fuel supplier. This typically requires a permit and can also need additional approval from the fire department for professional installations. 

Portable power stations, however, do not require professional installation. Their plug-and-play design allows you to simply charge them up and begin enjoying reliable access to backup electricity. 

Many EcoFlow DELTA series portable power stations — like the DELTA 2 Max — also have the expandable storage capacity to grow your system further with products like the DELTA 2 Max Smart Extra Battery — again, no professional installation is needed! 

When Should You Choose a Standby Generator for Home Backup?

Standby generators are a solid option if you need an uninterrupted off-grid energy source for extended periods. For example, many hospitals rely on sizeable commercial standby generators to ensure a blackout doesn’t bring patient care to a standstill.

However, newer technology like a PPS with solar charging capacity may be the better choice for residential use.

When Should You Choose a Portable Power Station for Home Backup? 

A portable power station is an excellent option if you want something versatile and compact that’s part of an ever-expanding ecosystem! Especially if you value access to clean, sustainable, and reliable energy options, check out EcoFlow’s DELTA Series Solar Generators.

If you like the idea of a portable power station for your home power backup needs but want the traditional benefits — such as ready access to fuel — that come with a generator powered on LPG or gas, consider adding the Smart Generator (Dual Fuel) to your system for extra peace of mind if not enough solar or AC. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Portable Power Station Better Than a Standby Generator? 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question — it depends on your specific needs. However, there’s a portable power station set up for just about anyone, and they’re a far more versatile option.
This is especially true when you consider adding the EcoFlow Smart Home Panel into the mix. You can connect up to 10 of your home circuits and switch over to your DELTA 2 Max or DELTA Pro in ~10ms. 

Final Thoughts

Continuous access to electricity has become taken for granted in nearly every facet of our modern lives. 

When a power outage occurs — as they do with increasing frequency — you quickly find out how dependent on electricity we’ve become. 

Standby generators and portable power stations can both provide reliable electricity backup when the inevitable blackout occurs. 

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the benefits and disadvantages, you can make an informed choice between a traditional fossil fuel and a more modern (and greener) option.

EcoFlow offers a wide range of portable power stations, from the ultra-portable RIVER 2 series to the robust and powerful DELTA series

Whatever your needs are for power generation, there’s an option for you in EcoFlow’s ever-expanding off-grid electricity ecosystem. 

ECOFLOW
ECOFLOWhttps://www.ecoflow.com/
EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

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