Portable vs Standby Generator: Which One Is Right for You?

Whether you’re looking to power an off-grid adventure or provide energy security for your home, there’s a generator that’s right for you.

Up until recently, traditional fossil fuel portable and standby generators were the only option for off-grid electricity.

But thanks to inverters, dual fuel, and particularly solar generators, you’ve got more choice than ever before.

What’s best suited for your needs?

A portable or a standby generator?

Is there an option to have both in one unit?

Find out below. 

What Is a Portable Generator?

A portable generator supplies electricity for use in off-grid locations and as a backup power solution during a blackout.

Unlike fossil fuel standby generators, a portable generator should be easy to move and provide electricity pretty much anywhere you’d like. 

Traditional portable generators burn fossil fuel — typically petrol or propane — to produce electricity. 

Recent innovations like inverters and dual fuel generators burn less fuel more efficiently, but they still share many of the disadvantages of traditional portable generators.

On the other hand, solar generators don’t consume propane, gasoline, or diesel. They’ve become smaller and comparable in price to fossil fuel generators.

What are the benefits of purchasing a LiFePO4 solar generator rather than a traditional generator for your portable or standby power needs?

Read on to find out.


What About Solar Generators?

Solar generators use photovoltaic panels to capture clean, renewable energy from sunlight and a portable power station to convert, store, and supply DC and AC (household) electricity. 

Unlike traditional generators, solar generators do not produce hazardous emissions of greenhouse gases when operating.

Take a look at the primary differences between solar generators vs. fossil fuel generators.

Fossil Fuel GeneratorSolar Generator
Safe For Indoor Use
Ongoing Fuel Costs
Requires Routine Maintenance
Emits Poisonous Fumes (Carbon Monoxide)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Loud (80 – 100 decibels)

As you can see, fossil fuel generators tick all the WRONG boxes — and nowhere near enough of the right ones compared to solar generators.

Are Portable Generators and Portable Power Stations the Same?

Not necessarily. Depending on the manufacturer, a portable power station (PPS) can simply be a high-capacity battery that you recharge by plugging into a wall socket.

EcoFlow portable power stations, on the other hand, offer at least five charging methods — including solar charging. You can add portable solar panels to any EcoFlow DELTA or RIVER series PPS and recharge with sunlight using the photovoltaic effect.

All of EcoFlow’s portable power stations are also available bundled with solar panels and sold as solar generators. Everything you need to generate electricity is included — just add sun!

Portable fossil fuel generators also differ greatly from portable power stations for all of the reasons covered in the table above.


  • Portable generators are easy to transport to wherever you need power
  • Available options include portable power stations that can generate electricity from solar power
  • Can operate close to your home (or inside if it’s a solar generator) 


  • May not output sufficient to operate high-wattage appliances
  • Traditional portable generators require frequent refilling and constant access to fuel
  • Portable fossil fuel generators require routine maintenance 

What Is a Standby Generator?

The term “standby generator” usually refers to a large, fossil fuel-powered home backup generator with a fixed installation.

Extremely common in rural communities where grid power is prone to failure or unavailable, traditional standby generators typically run on diesel, natural gas, or propane. 

For many years, homeowners had no options other than fossil fuel for whole home backup and standby generators. 

However, recent advances in LiFePO4 battery technology allow for greater storage capacity and AC output, making solutions like EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra a superior alternative for many households.

Traditional standby generators must be installed a minimum of 5 feet (1.5m) away from your home. However, many standby generators and all fossil fuel-powered portable generators must be installed at least 20 feet (6m) from the house.

Depending on size, weight, and surface, installing a standby generator may also require you to construct a concrete pad on your property to support the unit. Depending on your location, permits and an inspection may be required.

By contrast, EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra can operate inside your home. It’s lightweight and small enough to still be considered portable but offers enough AC output and storage to power your entire home. 

Thanks to its modular design, EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra is expandable from 5kWh of electricity storage up to 90kWh — enough to keep your home running for up to a month off-grid.

Its maximum AC output of 21kW is about 3x what it takes to run the average 4-bedroom home. With a maximum solar charge capacity of 16.8kW with 3 inverters and 42 x EcoFlow 400W Rigid Solar Panels, you can generate enough clean, renewable electricity to run your home indefinitely without needing to be tied to the grid.

Connecting to the grid is also an option, one that you should take advantage of if you live in a location that offers net metering.

If you only need to run essential appliances during a blackout, a smaller EcoFlow DELTA series solar generator may be sufficient.


  • Sufficient AC output and storage to run essential appliances or a whole house during an extended power outage
  • Doesn’t require frequent refilling
  • Instant switchover during a blackout


  • Routine maintenance required
  • Ongoing fuel costs
  • Heavy construction may be required for the installation
  • Permits and an inspection are likely required 
  • Must be installed outdoors at a minimum of 5 feet to 20 feet distance from the house (depending on the model)
  • Noisy
  • Emits toxic fumes and greenhouse gases

What Is the Difference Between a Portable Generator and a Standby Generator?

The difference between a traditional portable generator and a standby generator largely comes down to size.

By definition, a portable generator should be relatively easy to move from place to place. Standby generators are designed for permanent installation.

Neither option is inherently superior, and it really depends on your use case. If you’re looking to supply electricity on the road or for a workshed, a portable generator is your best bet. 

However, before you purchase an old-school fossil fuel generator, check out an innovative option like the EcoFlow DELTA 2 solar generator. With a 220W bifacial portable solar panel and up to 2200W of AC output, EcoFlow offers more power than a 1500W portable generator, and there are no ongoing fuel costs.

Plus, you can expand the storage capacity up to 3kWh and power up to 90% of high-wattage home appliances for hours on end.

If you’re looking for essential home backup in a blackout, EcoFlow DELTA Pro is a solid choice.

The days of having no option but to purchase a fossil fuel generator are over.

Choosing the Right Type of Generator for Your Needs

It doesn’t matter if you opt for a traditional fossil fuel generator or a modern portable power station. 

Either way, there are common factors to consider before making a purchase decision.

Here’s what to assess.

AC Output

Add up the starting and running watts of everything you want to run simultaneously. 

Starting watts — also known as surge power — is the amount of electricity you need to start a device. Fossil fuel generators typically only offer additional surge power of +10%, whereas EcoFlow’s portable power stations provide double their running watts thanks to proprietary X-Boost technology.

There’s no point in buying a generator if it won’t start or operate your devices and appliances.

Carefully calculate the minimum AC output you need and exceed it by at least 10%. 

Storage Capacity

Now that you know what you can run, think about how long you need to run it.

With a fossil fuel generator, you can operate appliances indefinitely as long as you don’t run out of petrol.

With a solar generator or portable power station, you can keep everything running as long as your AC output doesn’t exceed your solar input and your storage.


Are you down with routine maintenance?

If so, a traditional portable or standby generator is a viable option.

However, if you don’t carefully maintain a fossil fuel generator according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it might let you down when you need it most.

Portable power stations require no routine maintenance. You can keep a PPS plugged into AC power and/or solar panels until you need it.


Do you need your generator to move around with you?

Or are you happy with a fixed installation that can keep your house running in an emergency?

Traditional portable generators are best for task-specific applications. Need power for your shed? A fossil fuel genny could be a viable option.

If you need a whole home standby generator, portability is not an option with fossil fuel. 

On the other hand, EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra is portable and operates indoors. Why not have the best of both worlds?

Fuel Source 

Traditional portable and standby generators are dependent on a finite resource. As long as petrol, diesel, natural gas, or propane is available, they’ll keep running.

However, you’ll need to constantly refuel, which leaves you subject to price instability and service interruptions.

On the other hand, solar generators rely on an inexhaustible fuel source: the sun.


The primary advantage of portable generators is that they’re easy to transport. 

As a general rule, the more compact the generator, the less output and storage capacity it offers. 

This is particularly true of fossil fuel generators, which require either a utility connection for natural gas or a storage container for gas, propane, or diesel.

Traditional generators MUST be kept outdoors, and fossil fuels are heavy. The more storage capacity you need, the larger the storage tank and generator needs to be.

Standby generators typically require a concrete pad as a foundation to ensure stability and stability. Depending on the size of your property, this can be a significant hindrance. 

All natural gas and most fossil fuel generators also require inspection and permitting.

Contrast that with a portable power station like EcoFlow DELTA Pro, which is plug-and-play, quiet, and safe enough to operate in your bedroom. 

Carefully consider the lifestyle impacts of a standby or portable generator before making a purchase decision.


Last but certainly not least is how much money you can spend.

Traditional standby and portable generators may cost less upfront, but the long-term return on investment tends to be minimal.

With a solar generator, any money you save on fuel or electricity bills after your solar payback period is over is money earned. 

Not only that, standby generators like EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra are eligible for the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit — officially known as the Residential Clean Energy Credit — as well as many other government incentives.

Coupled with no-to-low financing options when you purchase directly from the manufacturer, you can achieve solar payback — and energy independence — in less time than ever.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use a Standby Generator as a Portable Generator?

Probably not. Traditional fossil fuel generators tend to fall into two categories: portable and standby. Portable generators are designed to deliver off-grid electricity virtually anywhere. However, requiring a constant source of fuel severely impacts portability. By contrast, traditional standby generators have substantial storage capacity and require fixed installation. Innovative portable power station + solar generator solutions can be used for standby and portable applications.

Is a Portable Generator Better Than a Standby Generator?

It depends on your use case. Standby generators offer more AC output and storage. Portable generators are designed to be compact, lightweight, and easy to transport. If you’re looking to power your home during a blackout, a standby generator will power more appliances for a longer period. If you’re looking to use power tools or go camping off-grid, a portable generator is a better option. Check out solar generators for a quiet, eco-friendly solution.

Final Thoughts

The days of having to choose between traditional portable or standby generators.

Thanks to EcoFlow’s DELTA series of solar generators, you can have both.

If you just need off-grid electricity for clean energy on the go, the RIVER 2 series offers portability and power at a reasonable price.

No matter what your use case, EcoFlow has a solar generator solution for you.

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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