At first glance, portable power stations and traditional generators appear quite similar. After all, both are used to power a range of devices during blackouts and off-grid trips.
In reality, there are significant differences between the two. For one, portable power stations store electrical power for later use, while traditional generators turn propane, fuel, and gasoline into electrical power. Additionally, portable power stations can run sensitive electronics like laptops and phones, while traditional generators can’t, unless they are inverter generators.
Read on to learn more about portable power stations vs. generators. We’ll cover their characteristics, functionalities, limitations, and what they’re used for. By the end of this guide, you’ll know which is better for you.
How Does a Portable Power Station Differ From a Traditional Generator?
Generators vs. portable power stations have many differences, including:
Portable power stations have lower power consumption than traditional generators do. Most models have battery capacities of around 1,000 to 3,000 watt-hours, which means they can provide their maximum output for one to three hours.
In contrast, traditional portable generators have high power consumption. The amount of fuel a generator consumes depends on the model and fuel type, but the average five-kilowatt generator consumes around 0.75 gallons of gas per hour. Larger models, such as 30-kilowatt models, can consume up to three gallons per hour on a full load or 72 gallons of gas per day.
Because they consume so much fuel, traditional generators can power a range of devices, homes, and offices for eight to ten hours. Some high-end models can even power homes for 15 hours.
Traditional generators usually have higher power outputs than traditional generators do. Traditional generators can provide power up to 20,000 watts, while portable power stations often only go up to 1,000 watts.
However, there are exceptions. For instance, the EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3600W Portable Power Station has a power rating of 3,600 watts and an impressive 3.6-kilowatt battery capacity that can be expanded to 25 kilowatts. That’s enough power to charge your phone over 300 times and run lights for four days.
Source of Energy
Portable power stations also have different power sources than traditional generators.
While traditional generators run on gasoline, propane, or natural gas, portable power stations run on electricity. As a result, you can charge portable power stations in three different ways: through alternating current (AC) outlets, car ports, or solar panels. Solar generators are particularly great for travelers and other high-mobile individuals.
Traditional generators can only be used outside because they produce carbon monoxide (CO). If you use a traditional generator indoors, the CO will kill you in a few minutes. On the flip side, power stations don’t produce CO, so you can use them wherever you like.
Types of Appliances Powered
Portable battery stations vs. generators usually run different types of appliances.
Power stations are usually for powering single devices or multiple low-energy devices, such as:
- Small electric stoves
- Air conditioners
In comparison, traditional generators can charge large appliances simultaneously, including:
- Full-size fridges
- Entire homes, RVs, and offices, including smart home and smart office systems
Traditional generators are generally very loud. This is because they are actively burning fuel to produce power. On the other hand, portable hand stations are quiet because they don’t burn any fuel. They also don’t have engines or other “moving parts” that create a lot of noise.
Portable power stations usually hum no louder than mini-fridges, while most generators are as noisy as a truck, hairdryer, or busy street corner. However, some traditional generators are quieter. Case in point: Honda has produced a series of super quiet generators that are quieter than a normal conversation.
Last but not least, traditional generators are much heavier than portable power stations.
Thanks to their large fuel tanks and engines, traditional generators often weigh over 100 pounds, with first-rate models often weighing over 200 pounds.
In contrast, portable power stations usually range from four to 22 pounds. As such, they’re much more portable than their traditional cousins are. Their lightweight and compact design make them an excellent fit for travelers, campers, hikers, tailgaters, and other highly-mobile people.
When Should You Use Gas-Powered Generators?
Traditional or gas-powered generators are best used for certain situations, including:
Emergency Power During Power Outages
A gas-powered portable generator can help you run appliances, homes, and offices during severe power outages. They can be a lifesaver for homeowners in areas prone to severe thunderstorms, heavy blizzards, and other dangerous weather events.
The Best Portable Gas-Powered Generator for Emergency Power
Brands like Westinghouse, DeWalt, and other big names are known for producing reliable gas-powered generators for emergency power. These models can run for over 10 hours and have enough power to run multiple appliances simultaneously.
Let’s take a look at the best portable generator for emergency power.
Westinghouse WGen7500 7500W Generator
The formidable Westinghouse WGen7500 7500W Generator is ideal for running larger appliances. With an 11-hour runtime, this baby provides 9,500 peak watts and 7,500 rated watts.
This generator features a push-button electric start, making ignition effortless. It’s also transfer switch ready, which means it connects straight to your home or office. Say goodbye to annoying power strips or extension cords.
This beast has two GFCI 5-20R household duplex outlets and a transfer switch-ready L14-30R twist-lock receptacle.
Other standout features include:
- A high-performing 420cc four-stroke OHV Westinghouse Engine
- A sturdy steel frame with a foam grip handle, roll bars, and a wheel kit
- Rubber outlets for added protection
- A three-year limited warranty and lifetime technical support
- An operating volume of only 72 decibels
- Automatic low oil shutdown
- Overload protection
- Automatic voltage regulation
If you need to use power tools while living or working off-grid, get a gas-powered generator. These beasts can reliably power all of your hand tools, even if you’re living in the middle of the forest and have no access to grid power.
The Best Portable Gas-Powered Generator for Working Off-Grid
Some gas-powered generators are better for working off-grid than others. A great example is the Honda EU3000is 3000W Inverter Generator.
Honda EU3000is 3000W Inverter Generator
Fuel-efficient and super quiet, the Honda EU3000is 3000W Inverter Generator can power a wide range of tools and appliances, including hand tools, fridges, furnaces, and more.
Unlike most models of this caliber, it’s incredibly quiet. It only operates at 50 to 57 decibels, which is quieter than a normal conversation. As such, this baby is ideal for working in an area with sound ordinances.
Thanks to Honda’s exclusive Eco Throttle System, the Honda EU3000is 3000W Inverter Generator is also extremely fuel efficient. Depending on the load, it runs from 6.9 to 19.6 hours on a single tank.
If you need more power to run your tools, you can add a second Honda EU3000is 3000W Inverter Generator for additional power. Use an optional cable to hook the two models together.
Additional features include:
- Advanced inverter technology: This gas-powered generator comes with inverter technology, which means you can use it to power laptops, phones, and other sensitive equipment.
- A three-year commercial and residential warranty: This product is covered from bottom to top for three full years.
- Oil Alert protection: Oil Alert protects the generator by shutting the engine off when oil is low.
- Circuit protection: This feature protects the generator from being overloaded.
Power Larger Appliances
Gas-powered generators are the go-to choice for powering larger appliances, especially fridges, freezers, and ovens. Some models can also power RVs, mobile cooking gear, and smart homes.
The Best Portable Gas-Powered Generator for Powering Larger Appliances
The best gas-powered generators for running larger appliances have big tanks, powerful engines, and other unique features. This includes:
Champion 200965 3500W Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Convenient and versatile, the Champion 200965 3500W Dual Fuel Portable Generator is ideal for running fridges, ovens, and other large appliances. It has a wattage of 3,500 and a 208cc engine that can run on either propane or gasoline. It can provide up to 10.5 and 14 hours of runtime on propane and gasoline, respectively.
Many users were impressed by the wide range of appliances this baby can run. Besides fridges, freezers, and air conditioners, it’s great at running RVs and outdoor cooking equipment.
The Champion 200965 3500W Dual Fuel Portable Generator boasts the following outlets:
- A 120-volt TT-30R RV outlet
- A 120-volt 30A outlet (L5-30R)
- Two 120-volt household outlets (5-20R)
Additional features include:
- Volt Guard: Champion’s Volt Guard technology protects this generator from electrical voltage sparks.
- Intelligauge: Use this system to keep track of runtime hours, voltage, and frequency.
- First-class support: This product comes with a three-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support.
Every purchase of this generator comes with:
- A propane (LPG) hose
- An oil funnel
- Engine oil
When Should You Use Portable Power Stations?
Although gas-powered conventional generators have higher power output, they’re not ideal for many situations. Here’s when you should use a portable power station:
When You’re In Need of a Backup Power Source
Portable power stations are essentially juiced-up battery packs. As such, they’re the go-to option for people seeking backup power sources. A reliable portable power station can keep your computers, laptops, phones, mini-fridges, and other small appliances charged.
The Best Portable Power Stations for Backup Power
Some brands and models are better at providing backup power than others are. Here are our best picks:
EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3600W Portable Power Station
The EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3600W Portable Power Station is EcoFlow’s premier home battery. With a capacity of 3,600 kilowatt-hours that can be expanded to 25,000 kilowatt-hours, this portable power station can be directly integrated with your home circuits through the Smart Home Panel.
This beast is also great for powering devices on the go. It features a suitcase-like extendable handle and wheels that make transportation easy. It has a dedicated AC outlet and Anderson port for outdoor adventures and road trips.
Every purchase of the EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3600W Portable Power Station comes with:
- An EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3600W Portable Power Station
- An AC charging cable
- A car charging cable
- A solar charging cable
- A DC5521 to DC5525 cable
- A handle cover
- A user manual
Goal Zero Yeti 6000X 2000W Portable Power Station
The Goal Zero Yeti 6000X 2000W Portable Power Station is an industry-leading inverter power bank that lets you run a range of appliances. It provides enough power to charge:
- A smartphone 501 times
- A tablet 201 times
- A headlamp 1202 times
- A Light-a-Life 350 for 1336 hours
- A lightbulb for 547 hours
- A pellet grill for 100 hours
- A mini-fridge for 172 hours
- A full-sized fridge for 85 hours
- A TV for 60 hours
- A WiFi router for 241 hours
This baby has seven different output ports, including:
- Two 120-volt AC inverter ports
- Regulated 12-volt
- Fast-charging 60-watt USB-C PD power delivery
- Multiple USB-A ports
Additional features include:
- Yeti App 3.0: Use this app to monitor, optimize, and control your power usage from anywhere.
- An industry-leading inverter: This model has an increased 2000-watt (3,500-watt surge) inverter that empowers you to run power-hungry appliances and devices with confidence. This inverter can handle surges from medical devices, power tools, and appliances, including full-size fridges.
- Solar panel compatibility: Like other Goal Zero products, this portable battery can be recharged via a compatible solar panel.
Every purchase of this product comes with:
- A Goal Zero Yeti 6000X 2000W Portable Power Station
- A 48-watt power supply
To Power Electronics Like Laptops and Cell Phones
All portable power stations invert their battery’s direct current (DC) into an AC, which means they can safely power sensitive electronics.
In contrast, gas-powered stations usually have a Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) that is unsuitable for powering sensitive products. The only exceptions are gas-powered inverter generators.
The Best Power Stations for Powering Sensitive Electronics
Let’s take a look at some of the best power stations for powering sensitive electronics.
BLUETTI EB55 700W Portable Power Station
Compact and lightweight, the BLUETTI EB55 700W Portable Power Station is one of the best picks for powering sensitive electronics. Thanks to its built-in 700-watt inverter, it can safely run mobile phones, projects, laptops, and more. You can use this beast to run 13 devices simultaneously.
This power station has the following ports:
- Output: Four AC, one car port, one USB Type-C, two DC, one wireless charging pad
- Input: One AC adapter, a solar input of 200W, and a car input
You can recharge this baby in four ways: through a wall outlet, generator, solar panels, and your car outlet.
Every purchase of this product comes with:
- A BLUETTI EB55 700W Portable Power Station
- An owner’s manual
- A charging cable and AC adapter
- A car charging cable (XT60-F)
- A solar charging cable (MC4 to XT60-F)
- A warranty card
Goal Zero Yeti 200X 200V Portable Power Station
Another great choice for charging phones and laptops is the Goal Zero Yeti 200X 200W Portable Power Station. Compact, quiet, and portable, this inverter portable power station offers 187 watt-hours of lithium power. It’s capable of charging:
- A smartphone 16 times
- A tablet eight times
- A laptop four times
- A DSLR camera 11 times
- A headlamp 38 times
- A lightbulb for 17 hours
- A portable fridge for eight hours
You can recharge this portable battery with a Goal Zero solar panel, 12V car port, or a wall outlet.
The Goal Zero Yeti 200X 200V Portable Power Station offers the following ports:
- Two 5-volt USB-A ports
- A 12-volt car port
- A 12-volt 6-millimeter output port
- A 13 to 22-volt 8-millimeter charge port
- A 5 to 12-volt USB-C port
- A 5 to 20-volt USB-C PD port
Every purchase of this product comes with:
- A Goal Zero Yeti 200X 200V Portable Power Station
- A 48-watt power supply
To Power Medical Devices
Finally, you can use portable power stations to run medical devices when you don’t have access to electricity. Depending on the make, model, and brand, your portable power station may be able to power:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices
- Home dialysis equipment
- Breathing machines
- Insulin pumps
- Power scooters and wheelchairs
The Best Power Stations for Powering Medical Devices
To keep medical devices running during blackouts and off-grip trips, you need powerful and durable medical devices. Here are some of the best power stations for powering medical devices:
Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station
Included in the “Best Portable Power Station for Use in the Outdoors” by Digital Trends, the Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station is a natural choice for running medical devices. Its pure sine wave inverter can power medical devices without minimizing their life span or causing other problems. It’s also extremely lightweight — at only 6.6 pounds, you can easily take it with you on hiking and camping trips.
The Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station has a formidable 240 watt-hour lithium battery pack and features the following ports:
- Two USB-A ports
- One DC input outlet
- One DC car port for charging other travel essentials, such as lights, phones, and cameras
- One pure sine wave AC outlet (100 volts, 200 watts, 400-watt peak)
Besides medical devices, you can use the Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station to power a broad range of devices, including mini coolers, laptops, lights, fans, and phones.
Other cutting-edge features include:
- Three ways to recharge: You can recharge this device through a Jackery SolarSaga solar panel, a wall outlet, or a car outlet.
- Green power supply: This power station has a built-in Maximum Power Tracking Point (MPPP) that provides efficient and effective solar recharging. Reaching this baby with Jackery’s SolarSaga solar panel only takes six hours.
- Quality guaranteed: Like other Jackery products, this power station has a reliable battery management system (BMS) for short circuit protection, temperature control, and voltage control. Other safety features include:
- A lithium Nickle Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC) battery, which is the same kind of battery that Tesla uses in Powerwall units
- An LCD screen with discharge and charge and battery life status
- A switch with an on/off indicator light for output ports
Every purchase of the Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station comes with:
- A Jackery Explorer 240 200W Portable Power Station
- A car charger cable
- AC and AC cable (two parts)
- User manual
Rockpals 300W Portable Power Station
Another great choice for running medical devices is the Rockpals 300W Portable Power Station. Equipped with a 288 watt-hour rechargeable lithium battery, this beast’s design gives you enough power to run small as well as heavy-duty devices. Besides insulin pumps, CPAP machines, and other medical machines, this portable battery can run LCD televisions, laptops, mini-fridges, and other appliances.
It has eight ports for maximum connectivity:
- One pure sine wave 110-volt AC
- Two 12-volt DC ports
- 12-volt car or cigarette lighter port
- Two USD 3.1 ports
- One USB-C PD port
- One 3.0 USD port
This portable battery can be recharged by:
- An AC wall outlet for six to seven hours
- A USB-C 30-watt PD input by a wall outlet
- A carport for about six to seven hours
- A Rockpals 100-watt solar panel for five to seven hours
Which Is Better: Portable Gasoline Generators or Portable Power Stations?
Are portable gasoline generators or portable power stations better? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The answer varies depending on your specific needs and preferences.
In general, you should get a portable gasoline generator if you want to:
- Power multiple large appliances, such as fridges and ovens
- Power your home, office, or RV
- Work off-grid for extended periods of time
However, you should get a portable power generator if you want:
- A backup power source
- To power sensitive electronics like computers, laptops, and phones
- To power medical devices like CPAP machines and insulin pumps