Whole-House Generators vs. Portable Generators

Severe weather like powerful storms can wreak havoc on a home’s utilities, especially electric. To avoid losing power for hours or days at a time, more homeowners are investing in power backup generators. You can ensure your family is never left without power again, offering comfort and the total peace of mind that only a generator can provide.

But do you want a portable generator that supplies limited power to key equipment at home, or do you want the greater power capacity of a whole-house generator? Knowing the difference between these options gives you everything you need to make the right choice. Simons Heating & Cooling can help. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between them, and why a whole-house generator might be more of what you’re looking for.

Whole-House Generators vs. Portable Generators

A whole-house generator is a large, permanent backup power system installed outside. It automatically supplies electricity during power outages, using natural gas or propane as fuel. A whole-house generator is designed to last through extended power failures, providing uninterrupted access to power for essential systems such as lights, HVAC, refrigeration and medical equipment.

Portable generators are smaller power sources. They also run on gasoline or propane, but can be taken from room to room or outdoors. Portable generators are typically less expensive than whole-house generators because they offer less power output and will run out of fuel more quickly. At the same time, they are easy to move, making them ideal for emergency situations out and away from the house. While portable generators don’t need professional installation, remember to only use them in well-ventilated areas to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Picking the Right Generator for Your Home

Backup generators come in various sizes ranging from as little as 800 watts to 41 kilowatts and up. The size you’ll ultimately need depends on power demands for the house and what appliances need to be powered. Simons Heating & Cooling is proud to work with one of the most popular generator manufacturers–Generac Power Systems. They offer a very convenient calculator for whole-house generators as well as a portable model calculator to help you understand the best options for your home and individual needs.

As mentioned earlier, whole-house generators are more expensive compared to buying a portable generator. At the same time, they also provide much more power, maintaining full coverage for everything at home.


According to GeneratorMag.com, the national average cost for a stand-by/whole-house generator ranges between $2,500 and $15,000 (equipment only). On the portable generator side, average costs sit around $200 to $8,000. Since portable models don’t require installation, the up-front system cost is all that you will pay for aside from the fuel to operate the generator.


Both whole-house and portable generators are safe if installed and maintained properly. However, like any electrical equipment, there is a risk of fire, carbon monoxide poisoning or even electrical shock if safety guidelines are not followed. We recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors and transfer switches for a complete safety net at home.

There are some additional considerations to keep in mind with portable generators. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for ventilation, using extension cords and avoiding direct contact with water. Additionally, using portable generators in an enclosed space or for extended periods without ventilation can lead to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide buildup. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, misusing portable generators results in approximately 70 deaths each year, often due to the generator being too close to the home where CO2 is not properly ventilated.

Contact Simons for Generator Installation and Service Today

As you can see, there are many factors when investing in a generator. If you are thinking about installing a whole-house generator, give Simons Heating & Cooling a call at (518) 839-2602 to explore the options available and receive your complimentary installation quote!”