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Standby vs Portable Generator: Which is Best for Your Needs?

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When the lights go out and you’re left in the dark, a reliable generator becomes more than a convenience—it’s a lifeline. Whether you’re preparing for unexpected power outages or planning to power your next outdoor adventure, choosing the right generator can make all the difference.

Standby generators offer robust, seamless power solutions for your home, while portable generators provide versatile, on-the-go electricity for various needs.

But which one is right for you?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the pros and cons of standby versus portable generators, helping you make an informed decision tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle.

The types of diesel generators available

Diesel generators are significant investments, but their reliability and ability to offer consistent power make them worth it for many businesses and homes. However, you’ll want to make sure you choose a suitable generator, which means it’s important to understand the different types available.

Standby generators

Standby generators are permanently installed in a business or home and often remain in the background until a power outage occurs. Modern generators have an ATS (automatic transfer switch), which enables them to activate when you lose access to your main power supply.

A standby generator runs on diesel fuel, which is more affordable than other fuel types. Models are available in all sizes and are suitable for small premises and large-scale operations.

Portable generators

A portable generator could be beneficial if you often have power needs while on the go. These generators are usually smaller than standby models, enabling you to carry them when working on off-grid projects.

Traditional portable generators usually run on gasoline or natural gas, but diesel models are available. While some generators are smaller, high-capacity portables are also available for outdoor events.

Should I get a standby or portable generator?

Consider your immediate and long-term needs when choosing between standby and portable generators. Both have many benefits, but their differences will help you make the right decision. With that in mind, let’s explore the key characteristics of each generator type.

Energy efficiency

Traditional standby generators can run on diesel, natural gas or propane – with diesel offering the most efficiency. Diesel generates more energy per unit than liquid propane and natural gas, making it ideal for businesses and homes that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Portable generators often use gasoline, but some might use diesel. There are many reasons why diesel generators are better than gasoline generators, but you might struggle to find a suitable portable model.


As backup generators are permanently installed in a home or business, they usually require a professional service. In contrast, you can carry a portable generator, making it a plug-and-go solution for camping trips or off-grid construction projects.

However, installing a standby generator means you receive access to a seamless electricity supply, where the automatic transfer switch instantly activates. You can also use a professional installation service, which makes the process easier and ensures you don’t have to lift a finger.

Power output and capacity

The price of your generator depends on how much power you’ll need. For example, a home standby generator often has a lower capacity than a standby model designed for large businesses.

Luckily, diesel generators come in a variety of sizes, providing reliable backup power as and when needed. Portable generators often have a lower output as they support emergency or off-grid usage.

It’s also worth considering whether a portable power station will suit your needs more. These stations can power laptops, phones and other sensitive electronic equipment, making them ideal for camping trips.

Safety features

Installing a standby generator is usually safe—as long as you know what you’re doing. In many cases, they’re suitable for outdoor locations, reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Portable generators that run on gasoline can carry some risks if you don’t know how to operate them safely.

Adequate ventilation is always best when opting for a portable generator or permanent installation. This prevents carbon monoxide, protecting your and others’ health.

Things to consider when choosing between a portable or standby generator

So, now you know the key differences between standby and portable generators, it’s time to decide which is right for your home or business. Asking yourself the following questions will simplify the task:

How are you using the generator?

If you’ll only be powering a few tools or camping equipment, a portable generator is often more affordable. It also means you won’t need a higher capacity, making transporting the generator easier. A standby generator is more effective if you need to power your entire house or business.

What’s your budget?

To clarify, business and whole-house generators are more expensive outright because they need to power large-scale operations. However, the long-term savings of diesel-powered generators can make them more affordable than constantly using and upgrading portable generators.

What’s the generator powering?

Households might be able to install a portable generator if they only use it for certain appliances. For example, a portable model will deliver if you only want to protect your fridge, freezer or business equipment. However, standby generators can provide power for your entire home or business.

Will maintenance be an issue?

Standby generators with automatic transfer switches are easy to operate and often stay in the background until they’re called into action. Periodic maintenance is usually enough to maintain peak performance, and professional servicing and maintenance plans are available for convenience.

A portable generator usually operates manually, which means it requires more maintenance. However, the level of maintenance depends on the model you choose.

Explore diesel generators today

Once you invest in a generator, you can look forward to something money can’t buy: peace of mind. With standby generators that offer seamless performance, you can keep your home or business fully operational and avoid the costs of lost productivity or wasted resources.

Solent Power has a range of models available from reputable manufacturers. As an authorised distributor of diesel generators, we also offer installation and maintenance packages. Please browse our available generators today or contact us if you require support.

Paul Phelps Solar Power Owner
Paul Phelps
Paul is the MD of Solent Power and specialises in emergency power solutions, helping to protect your facilities from power loss. Get in touch with us today to discuss the different power brands that we can offer and how they can suit your needs.
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