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Portable Generators Vs. Portable Power Stations

Author: name From: name Modify: Jun. 17, 2020
Feb. 11, 2022


Portable Power Station

Power equipment terminology can be confusing. See for example trimmers and brushcutters, which are often mistaken for each other, even by the most experienced outdoorsman. Portable generators and portable power stations are another example of equipment pairs with confusing names.

What follows is a brief overview of the characteristics of each of these devices, and what their advantages and disadvantages are.


What is a portable generator?

Portable generators are devices that convert fuel, gasoline or propane (for dual-fuel units) into electrical energy. Their output ranges from approximately 1,000 watts to over 20,000 watts (for the most commonly used 1-10 kW units). Their output is mainly limited by the displacement (volume) of the engine.


Naturally, any increase in generator power output comes at the expense of increased noise, fuel consumption, size and weight - and therefore, at the expense of their portability. The most powerful portable generators (> 10 kW) are essentially only nominally portable and require the use of (often included) wheel kits to move around.

Portable Power Station

 Portable Power Station

What is a portable power station?

Portable power stations (also known as airless generators or battery-powered inverter generators) are devices that can store electrical energy in an internal battery for later use. Essentially, they are huge mobile power sources. Best portable power stations typically provide up to 1000 W of power, but there are exceptions and higher capacity devices may be encountered on the market. However, their portability is questionable.


Because most portable power stations are not necessarily large and are powered by batteries, they are usually much lighter than units using internal combustion engines. Some of the lightest units weigh less than 10 pounds.

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Advantages of portable generators

The control panel of a portable generator can include a variety of outlets and functions. Portable generators are capable of powering homes and RVs, but may require the purchase and installation of additional connections. Modern units can also come with USB outlets, digital panels, carbon monoxide detectors, and can even be linked to apps.

All portable generators are supplied with at least one standard household power outlet. Many units also provide 240 V output for more demanding appliances.

Portable Power Station

 Portable Power Station

Disadvantages of portable generators

Portable generators have some obvious drawbacks. While portable generators do provide alternating current (AC), their THD is usually not suitable for powering sensitive electronic devices (such as cell phones, laptops, etc.) unless they are so-called inverter generators.


Given that portable generators are powered by internal combustion engines, they can make a fair amount of noise. They also require you to handle flammable fuel, which is a fire hazard. This also prevents you from refilling the fuel tank while the engine is still running, as the hot surface of the generator can cause combustion.


Advantages of Portable Power Stations

Portable power stations do not burn any fuel. They do not have engines or any other "moving parts". As a result, they are quiet, do not cause major fires, and require little maintenance. Unlike portable generators, portable power stations do not produce any carbon dioxide, which means they can be used safely indoors.


All portable power stations operate by converting the direct current (DC) from the battery to alternating current (AC), which means they are suitable for powering any electronic device. This includes cell phones and laptops.

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