Sooner or later you are going to be without power. Between hurricanes, floods, lightening storms, the need for backup power is becoming a necessity for people everywhere. Gasoline and propane generators have been the “go to” as the backup power source for years, and are readily available in various sizes, making them an easy solution for homeowners across the country. But what if you live in an apartment or can not operate a full size generator? In the last few years, advancements in home batteries and portable power stations have become a popular alternative and gives a new option to those looking for power security at home. So, generators or batteries, how do you choose?
Traditional generators can be broken into a couple different categories; small, portable inverter type generators, medium sized generators for the home or job site, and larger permanent installations designed for backing up the whole house. All rely on moving parts to generate power from a fuel source like propane, natural gas, gasoline or diesel fuel. Larger generators are installed outside your home and can be wired into your home circuits through a transfer switch. Although powerful, they’re significantly more expensive and require professional installation, also NOT usually found in an apartment complex or condo. They also come with a level of noise, harmful exhaust, and required maintenance to ensure proper working order just like your 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 a traditional generator in a home, they 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
Home batteries differ from generators in the fact that they store power, they don’t produce it. Home batteries need to be plugged into an energy source, like solar panels or the electric 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. Portable power stations differ from a home battery in portability. Portable power sources 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 Sources, how do they compare?
What About The Noise
With little to no moving parts, power stations operate with little to no noise. Even with quiet portable generators, you can expect at least 49dB noise level. Installed home generators can be slightly lower in noise level, but still produce an audible annoyance.
Refueling vs Recharging
Traditional generators require a fuel source to generate energy on demand. As convenient as pouring gasoline into a tank might be, 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 energy source, like a solar panel, to recharge from the sun.
Think About Runtime
Generators will run as long as needed, as long as 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.
Indoor vs Outdoor
Traditional generators must run in a well-ventilated area due to carbon monoxide, heat, and exhaust. For homeowners with a yard this isn’t a big issue, for those living in an apartment or condo it’s just not an option. A power station can run safely inside and outside, making it a great option for those without a backyard.
The beauty of a power station is the ability to take it with you. Portable gas generators are portable, but they are heavy, and when loaded with gasoline require caution when moving (think of spilled gas).
Traditional Generator Maintenance and Cost
Large and small traditional generators require constant maintenance to ensure they’re ready to work when needed; oil changes, fuel stabilizers, tune ups and more all add to the lifetime ownership cost. Portable power stations should be checked and recharged on occasion, but require little in the way of maintenance and additional costs over their lifetime.
If you don’t mind the noise and on-going costs, then a traditional gas generator may work for your situation. In most cases, a power station could be an easier (and cheaper) long term solution to your backup power needs.