Whole House Generator vs Portable Generator - Cagle Service Heating and Air
whole house generator outside of home

Whole House Generator vs Portable Generator

It’s never an enjoyable time when our power goes out, especially in the dead of Winter or in the extreme heat of Summer. For this reason, many homeowners own some sort of generator that allows them to power important systems and appliances in their home. And, this is where the whole house generator vs portable generator debate comes into play. Which type of generator is better? What are the benefits of each? Are whole house generators worth it? We’re going to answer all of these questions and more in our blog post below.

Let’s get started!

Whole House Generator Benefits

Whole house generators, as the name implies, are able to power an entire house. Rather than having to pick and choose the most essential items to power, a whole house generator can power everything that your standard electricity would power. And it does so automatically. It’s as if your power never really goes out. And that’s just the beginning of the benefits of these standby generators. Other benefits include:

  • They start automatically when it senses the main power is out (whether you are home or away). No need to start it manually yourself.
  • They are powered by natural gas or propane so its fuel source doesn’t have to be constantly refilled during operation.
  • These generators can run for days or weeks if needed.
  • They are much less noisy compared to portable generators.
  • Whole house generators are safe to run in inclement weather, such as rain. Portable generators, on the other hand, are not.
  • Whole house generators add value to your home and much of the cost can be recouped if the home is sold.

As you can see, there’s a lot to like when it comes to whole house generators. They provide assurance, peace of mind, and convenience for homeowners.

Now, let’s take a look at the benefits of portable generators in comparison.

Portable Generator Benefits

Portable generators are also valuable assets if there is a power outage. While they may not be quite as sophisticated as whole house generators or provide the same benefits, they are still very useful. If you’ve ever had your power go out and had a portable generator to rely on, you’ve experienced how helpful they can be.

In most cases, portable generators are used to supply power to specific items in your home that you deem necessities. For example, most people would consider their furnace to be a necessity, especially in the middle of Winter. Portable generators can be used to supply power to items such as your furnace, refrigerator, and hot water heater, along with other important appliances. Other benefits of these portable generators include:

  • They are portable, so they can be taken on the road with you (such as camping trips) and be implemented for uses not related to your home.
  • They can be used to power other items such as power tools or used in situations where an extension cord won’t reach.
  • Portable generators are less expensive than whole house generators so, in comparison, they will certainly provide savings.
portable generator running outside of home
Portable generator outside of home

To summarize and compare the features of whole house generators and portable generators, see the table below.

FeaturesWhole House GeneratorsPortable Generators
Power entire house:YesYes, in some cases (with extra modifications)
Turn on automatically:YesNo (must manually set it up and start it)
Manually refueling required:No (natural gas or propane supplied)Yes
Portable:No (permanent installation)Yes
Quiet operation:YesNo (run off a gas powered engine)
Carbon monoxide poisoning risk:NoYes (due to the gas burning engine’s exhaust)
Safe for electronics (TVs, computers, etc.):YesIn most cases, no (only inverter generators are considered safe)
Safe to run in rainy/wet conditions:YesNo (not recommended to be exposed to rain or moisture)

As you can see from the table above, whole house generators are better overall in terms of the quality of benefits that they offer. But, you might have noticed that the table states portable generators are capable of powering an entire house. This is true, but there’s more to it than that. I’ll explain more on that below!

Can a Portable Generator Power a House?

Of course, we know that a whole house generator can power and sustain an entire home (hence the name), but can a portable generator power a house? There are instances when a portable generator can power an entire house, but you will need a very high-powered generator and some extra costs, such as a transfer switch with professional installation by an electrician. This setup can cost up to $6,000 or more so if you are willing to spend this amount of money, we recommend considering a whole house generator instead.

Another problem is that, in most cases, a portable generator that is large enough to power an entire home isn’t likely to be that portable. The more power a generator can supply, the larger the generator will be – thus increasing its weight. Most portable generators that are capable of powering a home weigh 220 pounds or more.

Lastly, although some portable generators CAN power an entire home, it might not be good for your sensitive electronics such as your TVs, computers, game consoles, etc. Most portable generators can, at times, supply uneven power which can result in surges and fluctuations in the voltage. These power surges and fluctuations can fry your important sensitive electronics. To avoid this, if choosing to go with a portable generator, it’s recommended to choose an inverter generator which reduces the risk of power surges, but at the cost of a more expensive price tag.

After going over the information above, it seems like a whole house generator is the best choice if you want to be able to power your entire home, but are they worth it?

Great question. Let’s jump into that question next!

Is It Worth Getting a Whole House Generator?

As we’ve already established, whole house generators are the best of the best. They power your entire home (without a problem), they turn on automatically, and they don’t have to be refueled manually. But, getting a generator with all of these benefits does come with a somewhat expensive price tag. Purchasing one of these standby generators and having it installed can have an average cost of anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000. For those who want convenience and peace of mind when it comes to their home’s power supply, the cost of these standby generators is probably worth it. Not to mention, they can add value to your home and last up to 40 years.

Generac whole house generator
Generac whole house generator

Whole House Generator vs Portable Generator: Which is Better?

Now that we’ve gone over the whole house generator vs portable generator comparison, you should have a good idea of which option is best for you. If you want a generator that powers your entire house and doesn’t require much help from you, then a whole house generator is the best choice. If you want a generator that can power certain essential items in your home while also being portable enough to take with you on the road, a portable generator is your best bet.

Similar to whole house generators, portable generators can be used to power your home. But, due to the required size of the generator needed, they are likely going to lose their portability and diminish much of their cost savings potential. For this reason, if the goal is to have a generator that powers your entire home, we recommend choosing a whole house generator.

What has been your experience with home backup generators? Do you use a portable generator or do you have a whole house generator installed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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