In an emergency, having a generator on hand provides your family with some backup electricity. Fossil-fuel-powered generators have their advantages. With the average American home consuming an average of 917 kilowatt hours per month, having a back up to run essential items like lighting and freezers is a good idea. In this post, we lay out the pros and cons of gasoline and propane generators, so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your family.
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- Very efficient
- Burns cleaner
- Propane is easier to store than gasoline
- 10−15% less power than a gasoline generator
- Propane prices can fluctuate
- Must go to a propane dealer or have propane delivered to get an economical price
Propane is much easier to store than gasoline. You can store a propane tank almost anywhere because it won’t emit fumes. With a properly stored tank, the chances of a spark or flame causing trouble is minuscule at most. However, gas emits fumes, and any leaks or spills can be hazardous and hard to deal with.
Propane also doesn’t require transferring the fuel. Attach the propane tank to the generator, and you’re good to go. With gasoline you have to pour the gas in and refill periodically. Propane tanks come in larger sizes. For example, you can hook up a 100-pound propane tank and enjoy 33−50 hours of power, depending on your generator’s size. Generally, a propane generator burns 2−3 pounds of propane per hour.
Of course, it can be a hassle to get propane at a reasonable cost. Buying or exchanging 20-pound propane tanks at a gas station or grocery/big box store is expensive. Those 20-pound tanks are filled with only 15−17 pounds of propane. At a propane dealership, they’ll fill the tank completely for far less, but you have to haul your tanks there, wait for them to help you, and then drive the tanks back home. If the dealership is far, it can be a real hassle. Propane tanks must also be inspected occasionally, and you can’t rely on a dealer to do it. Recently, my husband and I took some tanks to a dealer. Because they were Blue Rhino exchange tanks with expired inspections, it was a wasted trip and we had to exchange them at a gas station.
This is one of the few generator brands that only run on propane. ALP generators run for up to 60 hours at a 25% load on 20-pounds of propane. Since there’s no noisy gasoline motor, you can enjoy power that is very quiet. ALP generators operate at 52 decibels, making them about as loud as an electric fan or a running refrigerator—sounds we’re used to hearing in the background of daily life anyway. The ALP 1,000-watt generator weighs just 30 pounds, making it super portable and easy to handle.
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- Easy to find fuel during normal times
- Easy to find
- Requires serious ventilation compared with a propane generator
- Gas prices can fluctuate a lot and have been on the rise
Gas generators are perhaps the most common and affordable generators available. Gasoline is usually quite easy to find, but in the US, it went up 42% between September 2020 and September 2021. During natural disasters, gasoline can become hard to find and supplies can run out entirely.
Gasoline is harder to store, especially for extended periods of time. Gas caddies that safely store 30−35 gallons are available, but at $300-$500, they’re cost prohibitive for many.
If you’re looking for a small portable gas generator at a great price, consider the All Power America. For around $300, you get a small backup power option for emergencies. At 55 pounds, this generator is fairly portable and doesn’t take up a ton of storage space when not in use.
The engine is a 4 stroke 3HP 98 cc that operates at 65 decibels. The gas tank holds 1.3 gallons, and it has a low oil shut off feature to protect your generator from damage if it runs out of oil.
It features two 120V AC outlets and a single 12V outlet. If you need more because you’re running various small devices, you can use splitters. But be careful not to exceed the maximum load on any cords or the generator itself.
This gasoline generator has a great safety feature. The CO sensor shuts the generator down if it detects dangerous CO levels.
A 3500-watt load is enough to power some appliances or supply power to an RV. The 4-gallon fuel tank will keep the power flowing for 10 hours at a 50% load. A power surge alternator provides an extra burst of power for starting motors on larger appliances and tools.
The S3500 runs on a 208 cc Briggs & Stratton Powerbuilt OHV (overhead valve) engine that is designed to run cooler, so your generator will last longer.
The WGen3600v offers 4,650 peak watts, so it has the starting power larger motors need. The 4-gallon fuel tank provides up to 13.5 hours of backup power. The WGen3600v has one 5–20R 120V household duplex receptacle, one RV-Ready TT-30R 30 amp receptacle, and one L5-30R 30 amp receptacle, all with rubber covers for maximum safety.
The engine is a 212 cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV engine featuring a long-lasting cast iron sleeve with automatic low oil shutdown, so you can rest easy.
At $350 this is an amazing deal on a name brand gasoline generator.
Gasoline/Propane Hybrid Generators
- Allows you to use two different fuel types
- Good for RV living
- Costs more than a gas generator
If you want the option of using either gasoline or propane, you can purchase a hybrid generator. This can be handy if there is a supply disruption or increase in the price of either type of fuel. Because there are a lot of taxes on gasoline, propane is always cheaper. However, gas is more prone to supply disruptions, especially during a natural disaster like a hurricane.
More and more people are choosing to live in camper vans or RVs. But many smaller RVs and pull-behind campers lack sufficient electrical systems, especially if they are older and have not been upgraded. That’s why many travelers have some type of external power source, such as a power center that can be charged with solar power or via the 12V outlet in any vehicle.
A generator that can use both gasoline and propane is great for those with a pull-behind camper trailer or a smaller RV that uses gasoline rather than diesel. Since RVs almost always use propane for cooking and heat, those who travel or live in them tend to have extra fuel available. At the very least, you have the option of using both types of fuel on the road.
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The Duromax 4,850-watt generator offers plenty of power when you need it. You can run lights and a refrigerator or have the power you need to keep tools going while working on projects. You can use the generator for 120V and 240V at the same time, a handy feature if you’re using it for household backup power during an emergency.
The Pulsar is one of the more powerful dual fuel generators available. A powerful 12,000 peak watt rating means you have all the power you need and more for home backup or life out on the open road. This generator is an excellent choice for remote construction projects where you can haul in some fuel but regular electricity is out of the question.
The Pulsar features drop-down handles and never-flat tires, so it’s easy to move around.
There are plenty of outlets to plug in your appliances, tools, lights, and more. With the Pulsar, you get four 120V 20A AC outlets, one 120V/240V 30A twist-lock outlet, one 120V/240V 50A outlet, and one 12V DC outlet.
At under $1,100, that’s a lot of power generation potential! The Pulsar is an outstanding value for those who want a dual fuel generator that can take on big jobs.
The 8-gallon gas fuel tank will keep you up and running for 12 hours of continuous operation at a 50% load.
The Westinghouse has some neat features that make it a great choice for those who only need a moderate amount of power. For starters, you can control this generator with a handy remote. That means you don’t have to go outside to make adjustments. That can be quite nice when it’s cold out or when you just don’t want to have to make the trek. The remote even allows you to start your generator from up to 260 feet away. That means that when it’s snowing and storming, you can stay nice and cozy.
This generator also makes it easy to switch fuel types. Just flip a switch, and you’re good to go.
Converting A Gas Generator To Propane
If you have a gas generator but have decided you’d rather have a propane generator, you can convert it so you can use gas, propane, or natural gas. You can purchase a kit, or if you have the know-how, you can buy the supplies separately. Most people find it’s best to just buy a kit like the one below. Of course, you should ensure that any kit is compatible with your brand and model of generator before you buy it.
Hutch Mountain Compatible with Honda Eu2200i Propane – Gasoline Natural Gas Trifuel Generator Conversion Kit
You’ll need tools to convert a gasoline generator. Crescent wrenches, a power drill and bits, and a socket wrench are must haves. You should also consider whether it makes financial sense to convert your gasoline generator. For example, if your generator cost $600 new and a conversion kit is nearly half that, you may be better off selling your gas generator and buying a new hybrid dual fuel generator. But if you have a $2,000 generator and the conversion costs $300, it’s worth it to do the conversion.
If you don’t own the tools to do the conversion and can’t borrow them from a friend, this could also make the conversion financially impractical.
Tips for Using Your Generator Safely
- Always run generators outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which is odorless. The only way to safely run a gas, propane, or diesel generator is to run it outside. Generators should be at least 15 feet from any open windows.
- Keep generators out of direct rain. It’s best to run them under a canopy. An Eazy Up or similar structure can work well.
- Disconnect your normal power source at your home by shutting off the main breaker. This prevents the power from your generator being sent into the power grid.
- Use heavy duty extension cords to run appliances and other devices. Never run more power through an extension cord than it is rated for.
- Always turn your generator off and let it cool before refilling the gas tank.
Propane generators are not as efficient as gasoline generators. They produce fewer BTUs per gallon of fuel than gas generators.
That depends on how many of your regular appliances, lights, and devices you feel are necessary to keep running during an emergency. Running a propane or gasoline generator is more expensive than the power your utility company supplies. Make a list of the crucial items that need backup power and add up the total wattage they consume. For most people, the critical needs are keeping refrigerators and freezers going, having some lighting, and the ability to run laptops or charge a cell phone or e-reader for communication and entertainment.
A 20-pound propane tank contains 4.5 gallons of propane. It’s useful to know this if you’re having a tank filled and the prices are by the gallon. The weight of the tank when empty is around 17 pounds, so a full 20-pound tank weighs 37 pounds.
As long as propane tanks are not exposed to impacts or a lot of inclement weather, they’ll last indefinitely. Propane can leak out the valve at the top if it gets knocked and opened up. Propane tanks are made to withstand being outside but they should be painted occasionally to keep rust at bay. All propane tanks must be inspected by a qualified professional every 5−10 years, so if you store one for a long time and then use the propane and want to refill it, you’ll have to get it recertified.
A backup generator is a great way to have peace of mind in case of short emergencies. Hybrid generators are great because you can choose to use gas or propane. Although propane is usually more expensive, it’s much easier and safer to store compared with gasoline, which degrades over time and is a seriousfire hazard. The fumes and smell of gasoline are additional reasons to choose propane if possible.
Hybrid dual fuel generators cost more than gasoline generators, but the convenience is worth it for most people.
Regardless of which fuel you use, it’s critical to always use a generator outdoors and under a canopy if there is any chance of rain or inclement weather. Generators should never be used within 15 feet of any open window because carbon monoxide can enter and build up indoors.
When used correctly, generators are an excellent addition to make any household more prepared for emergencies.