It is easy to be confused by the terms generator and portable power station. A generator produces current for immediate use, while a power station has onboard batteries that can store current for use at a later time and which can also be drawn from immediately.
The key difference is that as long as the generator has a continuous fuel source, power can be produced while the power station will run out of battery.
We have an entire article on the intricacies of gasoline generators and solar generators if you would like to explore the topic further. The rest of this post will look at portable power stations vs generators.
The heaviest generator in this comparison weighs 352 lbs. and can generate 12.0 kW continuously.
At the lower end, the GENMAX Portable Inverter Generator only weighs 5.64 lbs and produces 2.2 kW.
- There are several different types of generators that use different fuels. These include gasoline, Biofuel (dual or hybrid), diesel, and solar generators.
- The general rule that applies to generators is that the bigger and heavier they are, the greater the power they produce.
Types Of Portable Power Stations
As long as the battery in a portable power station is charged, the unit can supply AC or DC power immediately and silently, making them environmentally friendly and suitable for indoors and socially acceptable.
Power stations consist of the following primary components:
An inverter to convert the Direct Current (DC) stored in the battery to a usable Alternating Current (AC) of 120 and/or 240 volts, depending on the power station model and where it is used.
A charge controller that moderates the current from an external power source when the unit is recharged.
A battery. The latest models of portable power stations tend to use Lithium-ion or lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry. Older model mobile power stations may use lead acid or gel batteries.
Types Of Generators
Although some solar units are called solar generators, in reality, the technology is closely tied to mobile power stations. These have been included in the comparison.
An internal combustion engine powers generators in the traditional sense and uses the following fuel sources:
- Bi-fuel (dual fuel or hybrid fuel)
The lists that follow below provide more details about each type of generator by fuel source, and I’ve included solar for a holistic viewpoint.
Bi-Fuel Generators (Dual Fuel Or Hybrid Fuel)
Bi-fuel generators are generally sold as being compatible with gas and propane (LPG).
There is a vast range of Bi-Fuel Generators. In the following, we compare two generators in each category, from small generators to larger units.
Power Output Of The Generators
Available power output rages are listed below.
|Make and Model||Type||Gas / Diesel Power||Propane Power|
|GENMAX Portable Inverter Generator||Gas Only||2.2 kW||120 Volts||50 amps||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||Gas Only||3.8 kW||120 Volts||30 amps||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||Gas and Propane||3.0 kW||120 Volts||25 amps||2.7 kW||120 Volts||25 amps|
|Westinghouse 15000 Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||Gas and Propane||12.0 kW||120-240V||50A (240V)100A (120V)||10.8kW||120-240V||45A (240V)90A (120V)|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||Diesel||3.5kW||120-240V||14.6A (240V)29.2A (120V)||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||Diesel||5.5kW||120-240V||22.9A (240V)45.8A (120V)||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||Solar||0.6kW||120 Volts||5 Amps||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||Solar||3.0kW||120 Volts||25 Amps||n/a||n/a||n/a|
Run Time Of Generators
The run times of Bi-fuel inverters range between 9 hours (Firman, 1.8 gas tank) to 11 hours (Westinghouse gallon gas tank)
|Make and Model||Type||Gas Tank||Run Time (Gas/Diesel)||Run Time(Propane)||Using|
|GENMAX Portable Inverter Generator||Gas Only||1.00 Gal||6 hours||n/a||1.1kW|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||Gas Only||2.20 Gal||8.5 hours||n/a||1.9kW|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||Gas and Propane||1.80 Gal||9 hours||5 hours||1 kW|
|Westinghouse 15000-Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||Gas and Propane||10.5 Gal||12 hours||7 hours||12 kW|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||Diesel||3.43 Gal||8 hours||n/a||1.75kW|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||Diesel||5.00 Gal||14 hours||n/a||2.5kW|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||Solar||n/a||0.5 hours||n/a||0.6kW|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||Solar||n/a||1.7 hours **||n/a||3.0kW|
🎓 Editors Note: If the Bluetti EP500Pro is connected to solar panels (1.2kW array), the machine can be used indefinitely, assuming ideal weather conditions.
How Portable Are Generators?
Bi-fuel generators range in degrees of portability.
|Make And Model||Size||Dry Unit Weight||Ease Of Transport|
|GENMAX Portable Inverter Generator||11.42L x 12.2W x 7.09H in||5.64lbs.||Very portable and easy to carry|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||23.2L x 18,0W x 20.1H in||99.2Lbs.||Even with wheels – weighing 99.2 lbs., it is a heavy device; however, it is much easier to transport than the bigger machines.|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||23.2L X 17.8W X 17.9H in||90lbs.||At 90 pounds, it is still heavy; however, it is much easier to transport than the bigger machines.|
|Westinghouse 15000-Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||34L X 31W x 35H in||352lbs.||This is a large device, and although it is fitted with wheels, it is not easily transportable except within the home.|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||26.8L x 18.9W x 23.8H In||187lbs.||This is not a portable generator. It does not have any wheels either.|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||38.3L x 23.5W x 26.5H In||253lbs.||This is not a portable generator|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||10.04L X 7.09W X 7.20H in||10.14lbs.||Very portable|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||11.1L X 22.8W X 29.9 In||167lbs.||Although it has wheels, this is not a portable unit.|
Which Generators and Power Stations are Rechargeable?
None of the gas, propane, or diesel machines have a storage battery (other than the starter battery in the Westinghouse) and therefore, are not rechargeable in the traditional sense.
Recharging entails refilling the tank with propane or gas. The Charge times for the Solar generators are listed below.
|Wall Socket||solar panel||Car Cigarette Lighter|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||1.3 hours||2.0 hours (200w)||3.0 hours|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||2.5 Hours||5.0 hours (1.2kW)||n/a|
How Much Do Generators Cost?
The cost of each machine is listed below. Apart from periodic maintenance, very little needs to be spent to keep them running.
|Make And Model||Cost|
|GENMAX Portable Inverter Generator||$369,99|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||$799.99|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||$1,167.61|
|Westinghouse 15000-Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||$2,749.00|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||$4,525.00|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||$6,995.00|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||$239.00|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||$5,399.00|
What is the Environmental Impact?
The environmental impact of each device is listed below. Diesel is the worst emitter, followed by gas and then propane.
|Make And Model||Propane emission per tank||Noise levels||Noise intrusiveness|
|GENMAX 50-Amp RV Ready Inverter Generator||8.69 pounds of CO2||n/a||58 dBA||As loud as an electric toothbrush|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||19.13 pounds of CO2||n/a||57 dBA||As loud as an electric toothbrush|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||18.17 pounds of CO2||12.17 pounds of CO2||58 dBA||As loud as an electric toothbrush|
|Westinghouse 15000-Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||106.37 pounds of CO2||74.26 pounds of CO2||74 dBA||As loud as a washing machine|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||76.85 pounds of CO2||n/a||82 dBA||As loud as an alarm clock|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||112.52 pounds of CO2||n/a||TBA||TBA|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||Zero||n/a||TBA||Low|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||Zero||n/a||TBA||Low|
You’ll notice that solar products emit very little noise. If you are interested in knowing why, this article answers the question of solar-powered generators’ quietness.
The maintenance needs of the different fuel types differ.
Gas/Diesel and Propane Generators:
As a rule, all generators have very low maintenance requirements. An annual service usually is sufficient to keep them running in good order. The service requirements will typically include the following steps:
- Change all of the filters (oil, fuel, and air.)
- Empty the old oil and replace it.
- Change the spark plugs (gas-powered generators.)
- Ensure the crankcase breather is clean.
- Flush the cooling system.
- Test the current that the system produces to ensure it is still operating at spec.
- Check that the coolant levels are in order.
Solar Generators Require no maintenance until the battery requires changing.
The following lists the typical applications for which each generator is most suitable.
|Make And Model||Home Back Up||Camping||Recreational Vehicle||Portable Commercial|
|GENMAX 50-Amp RV Ready Inverter Generator||Yes (Partial)||Yes||Yes||No|
|WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready||Yes (Partial)||No||Yes||No|
|Firman WH03041 Dual Fuel Inverter||Yes (Partial)||No||Yes||No|
|Westinghouse 15000-Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup||Yes (Full)||No||No||No|
|Yanmar Portable Diesel Generator||Yes (Partial)||No||No||No|
|Voltmaster Portable Diesel Generator – XDR60EL||Yes (Full)||No||No||No|
|BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station||No||Yes||No||No|
|BLUETTI EP500Pro Solar Power Station||Yes||No||Yes||No|
Generators are designed for different purposes. Despite the growth in the popularity of solar units, the gas/diesel and propane units remain the most flexible and useful for most purposes.
The price of generators ranges from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The smallest units are useful to provide basic power for LED lights, phone chargers, and the like.
Larger units can produce 10kWh or more and are effective backup systems when there is a disruption in the utility power supply.
Ultimately, your requirements will determine what’s best for you. At Bloom Centre, we advocate for a more sustainable approach. This article explaining how solar-powered generators work should help you better understand portable solar.