With the duration of power outages growing longer each year, backup power is becoming a necessity for people everywhere. Gasoline and propane generators have been a mainstay in the backup power space for years and are readily available in various sizes, making them an easy solution for homeowners across the country. In the last several years, advancements in home batteries and portable power stations have made a mark on the power industry and giving a new option to those looking for power security at home. So, generators or batteries, how do you choose?
Generators, Large and Small
Traditional generators are broken into a couple different categories; small, portable inverter generators, and larger permanent installations designed for backing up homes. Both rely on moving parts to generate power from a fuel source during the combustion process. Larger generators are installed outside your home, wired into your circuits through a transfer switch, and run off piped natural gas or propane. Although powerful, they’re significantly more expensive and require professional installation. They also come with a level of noise annoyance, harmful exhaust, and required maintenance to ensure proper working order (much like a car engine).
Smaller, more portable generators typically range from 2000W to 4000W (2kWh to 4kWh) and are only capable of running necessary appliances during brief power outages. When running devices in a home, these portable generators must be placed outside in a well-ventilated area with extension cords to bring power inside. It’s important to never run a generator inside, or near open windows and vents due exhaust and noise levels. These portable generators also require careful consideration for gasoline storage to prevent fires.
Home Batteries and Portable Power Stations
Batteries differ from generators in the fact that they store power, they don’t produce it. They have to be plugged into an energy source, like solar panels or the grid, to collect and store power. Most home batteries and power stations rely on lithium-ion batteries, allowing for a high energy density rating and the ability for high surge capabilities through an inverter. Power stations differ from a home battery in portability; they can be wired into your home to run select circuits via a transfer switch, then unplugged and taken with you on a camping trip or tailgating party. So gas vs. Portable Power Stations, how do they compare?
With little to no moving parts, power stations operate with little to no noise. Even with quiet portable generators, owners can expect at least 49dB noise level. Installed generators can be slightly lower in noise level, but still produce an audible annoyance.
Generators require a fuel source to generate energy on demand. As convenient as dumping gasoline into a tank may seem, it also requires careful storage for a long-term power solution and in some scenarios, accessing fuel can be near impossible (think gas rationing after a hurricane). Power stations store power from a source, rather than generating it on-demand, and must be recharged once internal batteries are depleted. That can range from plugging it into an outlet to collect grid power, or pairing it with a renewable source, like a solar panel, to recharge from the sun.
Generators will run as long as needed, granted you continue to fill the tank with fuel and no mechanical issues arise. Power stations need to be recharged once their batteries run out, and in a power outage you can’t recharge them from grid power. That being said, some power stations can pair with renewable sources, like solar panels, and recharge even when the power is out.
As mentioned before, gas generators must run in a well-ventilated area due to carbon monoxide, heat, and exhaust. For homeowners with property this isn’t as big of an issue, for those living in an apartment or condo it’s a deal-breaker. A power station can run safely inside and outside, making it a viable option for those without a backyard.
The beauty of a power station is the ability to take it with you. Portable gas generators, albeit portable, are heavy when loaded with gasoline and require caution when moving (no one likes spilled gas).
Maintenance and Cost
Large and small generators require constant maintenance to ensure they’re ready to work when needed; oil changes, fuel stabilizers, and more all add to the lifetime ownership cost. Power stations should be checked and recharged on occasion, but require little in the way of maintenance and additive costs over the lifetime of the product. There are portable gas generators whose upfront cost may be lower than a power station, but the gas generator requires ongoing maintenance and fuel costs.
If you don’t mind the noise and on-going costs, then a gas generator might work for you. In most situations, a power station could be an easier (and cheaper) solution to your backup power dilemma.