Portable Generators vs. Standby Generators vs. Solar: What’s Best?

Written by Guest Blogger, Richard Korthauer, VP, Home and Distribution Business.

Last week’s intentional power shut-offs across parts of California may have prevented devastating wildfires. However, they left homeowners wondering when — not if — it’s going to happen again.

Climate change, natural disasters, and growing power demands are putting pressure on our aging electrical grid. These factors and more are contributing to an increase in power outages across the United States.

If you’re worried about the next outage, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are good options in the market that will help you keep your home powered during outages. Let’s explore three ways you can ensure your home’s power stays on, regardless of what’s happening with the electrical grid.

One problem. Three solutions.

Prepare for the next outage by weighing the pros and cons of short-term versus long-term fixes.

1) Short-term: portable generators 

Let’s start with portable generators: a quick and easy power source for your home. These affordable machines, which average around $1,000 installed, typically run on either gasoline or diesel fuel. To play it safe, budget at least $30 per day for fuel costs.

Choosing the right size portable generator is important because it’s possible for them to overload. Overloads happen when you use more watts than your generator can handle, resulting in machine deterioration, fire, and possibly even an explosion.

Some portable generators are capable of powering an entire home. However, if you invest in an undersized model, you will need to pick and choose which loads to power manually. For example, you may want your refrigerator and lights to remain on but can do without your washer, dryer, and dishwasher.

The bottom line: Portable generators for the home are suitable when you require immediate power to your critical loads with low upfront costs, but they require manual startup, set up time with each event, and incur ongoing fuel costs.

2) Long-term: Pad-mounted generators

Pad-mounted generators, also referred to as standby generators, are a permanent household fixture installed outside your home on a concrete pad. The size of generator you need depends on your home’s square footage. During an outage, pad-mounted generators power on automatically and continue running indefinitely, most often using your home’s natural gas.

Although they cost considerably more than portable models when you factor in installation — between $4,000 and $9,500 in the United States, their automatic operation and stress-free refueling provide peace of mind to homeowners in energy-inconsistent regions.

3) Long-term: Solar with battery backup

One of the cleanest energy solutions during an outage comes from solar power. However, the majority of household solar panel systems feed directly into the main power grid, meaning they stop working during an outage and won’t produce energy again until the utility starts up.

To maintain power when the grid goes down, you can purchase either an off-grid residential solar power system or install a battery backup that stores energy generated from the solar panels and switches on in the event of a power failure.

The cost of residential solar varies depending on where you live, but averages between $15,000 and $21,000. You should also factor in the price of battery storage, which tacks on another $7,000. However, once installed, energy generated from your panels is free and will power your home’s critical loads indefinitely if the solar array is sized correctly.

Prepare now by understanding your energy use

While we can’t predict the next big outage, we know that with worsening weather conditions and increased stress on the existing grid, it’s just a matter of time.

Prepare early by taking control of your home’s energy use. To do this, consider installing a home energy management system, such as the Wiser Energy™ smart home monitor. This system captures data on your household’s energy consumption and provides a clear picture of how many watts each appliance is using. Armed with this information, you can determine the best backup power solution and size it appropriately.

Data from Wiser Energy systems are also useful during an outage. Whether you choose to use a generator or solar battery, the smart home monitor will continue to operate. It will collect real-time information on your energy use and allow you to make split-second decisions that extend the life of your energy storage.

Now’s the time to gain control of your home’s power and start living Wiser.

About the Author

Rich is the Vice President of the Home and Distribution business for Square D by Schneider Electric. His BOLD idea is to digitally connect the home electrical service focusing on comfort, lifestyle, convenience and savings…to provide the home owner with a superior living experience. .


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