Propane vs Gas Generator

Natural disasters can happen at any time without any notice or warning. But, it is important to prepare for such situations well in advance. Having a generator at home provides homeowners with peace of mind knowing that you will have a continuous flow of power during those unexpected power outages. With most of our lives running around electricity, generators help us run lights and appliances such as refrigerators, heaters, pumps, and more when the power is down.

Generators are quite complex machines and need a bit of investment. So, before making a decision, make sure to check the different types of generators available in the market before buying one as you will have to live with it for at least a few years.

We have different needs to fulfill when it comes to picking a generator. Whether you are looking to buy a generator as the main source of power, for your RV when you go camping, or for an emergency during power breakdown, one important thing to consider is the fuel source.

Two popular types of generators available in the market today are propane or gas generators. There has been an ongoing debate on which is better between propane and gas generators and why.

While the decision to buy a propane or gas generator largely depends on your personal preference, there are certain differences in the capabilities of both these types of generators. Both of these generators have distinct advantages and need a more in-depth look at their application alongside personal preferences. From reliability and easy availability to the cost and emission regulations, it is critical to examine the key aspects of both types of generators to determine which one is most suitable for you. 

What is Liquid Propane?

propane vs gas

Liquid propane is a liquid form of fuel used in generators. It is one of the byproducts of natural gas processing and also during petroleum refining. Liquid propane is a popular fuel type used in many standby generators. Since most generators do not run on liquid and require gas to run, the liquid propane is boiled within the generator to produce an airy gas that powers the generator. 

What is Natural Gas?

gas or propane

NG or Natural Gas contains methane (CH4) and a few other gases. It is produced from gas wells or during crude oil production. It is not in the form of liquid at room temperature and can directly power your generator. It is mostly used in backup generators. 



Is it Cheaper to Run a Generator on Propane or Gas?

One of the biggest factors that you should consider when choosing a generator is the fuel it will run on and how much it will cost you. Most people think that they can make a choice based on the cost of running the generator alone. But, it is not so easy. It is impossible to completely compare the cost of running a generator on either fuel type – propane or gas. 

A 20-kilowatt generator will burn about 3.45 gallons of propane in an hour. The price of a gallon of propane is hovering between $2.00 and $2.75 in the US as of 2021 February. The cost to run a portable generator for 24 hours that consumes about 83 gallons would cost about $200. Standby generators with huge tanks allow the offsetting of some costs since you can purchase propane in bulk. Even then, the cost of running a standby generator is somewhat equal to its portable version of $200 per 24 hours.

Generators that run on natural gas are growing in popularity since most homes already have a supply of natural gas. The cost of natural gas is currently $3.25 per thousand cubic feet in the US. A 7-kilowatt generator uses about 118 cubic feet of gas per hour, so the cost of operating a generator is about $0.82. For larger generators of 15 kilowatts, the operating costs are around $1.71 per hour. The cost of running a generator on natural gas is about $20-$40 per 24 hours, depending on the type of generator used.  

The above estimates provide you a better idea of how much it will cost you to run generators of different fuel types.

Still, the cost alone should not always be the only factor when picking a generator using a certain fuel type. One of the top variables that can increase or decrease the costs of running the generator is power load since modern generators come with half-load and full-load fuel modes. There are many other factors that also need to be considered to help make the right choice.

Pros and Cons of Propane as a Generator Fuel Source

Propane has long been used for outdoor grills, but modern generators also use it as a fuel source. One of the top benefits of using propane as a generator fuel source is that it has a long shelf life. You have the option to store the propane gas in tanks or cylinders for as long as you would want. The long shelf life of propane gas allows you always to have fuel handy when there is a need to use a generator.

In case of any spills, propane evaporates into the air and does not cause any serious harm. Another advantage of using propane gas as generator fuel is that it is environmentally friendly as it does not produce any soot or ash when burnt. It is also readily available during area-wide power outages when you can’t draw fuel from any gas station. 

The engine of propane generators is quiet compared to gas generators, and you can also opt for larger tanks if your area has frequent power breakdowns. In most states, propane is very cheap, and there are no restrictions on the amount of propane you can store at home.

Propane, being in liquid form, is very easy to store at home compared to gaseous power fuel. A 200-gallon tank full of propane can easily last for about a year. You can also opt for smaller tanks and keep refilling them as and when needed. Thus, in areas where hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters are common, generators that use propane fuel can allow you to be tension-free. 

One biggest disadvantage of a propane generator is that it is quite complicated, and it makes propane generators hard to repair when they fail. Thus, if your propane generator breaks down, it will cost much more to fix than a gas generator. The installation of propane generators is also complicated, and you will need a professional to ensure that the fuel system plumbing is done perfectly.

The initial installation cost of a propane generator is also on the higher side, which might not be feasible for everyone. Also, in areas that experience extreme cold conditions, propane generators are not a wise choice as they cannot be used under 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Pros and Cons of Gas as a Generator Fuel Source

Gas generators are quite common, and you can choose from a variety of models in the market according to your needs. Gas as a fuel is also readily available everywhere and obtainable no matter where you are. If there is a gasoline station nearby, you can easily keep your generator running for a long time without worrying about exhausting it.

Gas generators are also quite compact, making them easy to store even for small homes. These also tend to be less noisy depending on the models you pick. Gas generators are also less complex and very easy to fix compared to propane generators. 

Gas generators also have certain disadvantages. Even though the costs of gas generators are relatively lower than propane generators, gasoline is expensive. Since the price of has often goes up when there is a shortage, it is not the most economical option you can find in the market.

Gas as a fuel source is toxic and highly flammable, and proper need is required during storage. It has a shorter shelf life and can only last for about 12 months. There are certain restrictions on the amount of gas you can store at your home, so make sure you know the local rules before storing them.

It is also not easy to find gasoline during natural disasters. Also, gas is not as efficient or environmentally friendly as other fuel sources. 

Propane vs Gas Problem Solved – Dual Fuel Generators

DuroMax XP5500EH propane or gas powered generator
Click on the image to find out more details about this gas or propane generator at Amazon

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Consider yourself in the middle of a week-long power outage due to a major storm. You are running at the grocery stores to stock up on your daily needs. There are huge lines outside the gas station, or the local gas station might be low on supply. So, what do you do? One way to avoid such chaos is by investing in a dual-fuel generator that provides a reliable power solution during difficult times. 

These kinds of generators are fast gaining popularity due to their higher flexibility and reliability. These can run on two different types of fuel – propane and natural gas. These fuels can be used alone or even mixed together depending on the situation and the kind of engine the generator utilizes. This mixture provides for a more efficient way of producing power for different uses. These are usually large in size and less portable in comparison to single fuel generators. Most models come with a fuel selector knob that allows you to switch between the two different fuel types.  

It is important to pick a high-quality dual-fuel generator that offers higher electrical output and will cost less in fuel. Here are the three top dual-fuel generators in the market right now – 

Champion Power Equipment Dual Fuel Portable Generator 

Champion Power offers quality dual fuel generators from 3,500 to 7,5000 watts depending on how much you need to power. You can Read our In-depth Review of the Champion 7500 Watt Generator Here.

DuroMax XP55000EH Generator

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DuroMax XP5500EH Generator might be one of the best dual-fuel generators in the market right now, the generators’ premium features make it well worth it investing in. This portable generator has 5,500 Watts of peak power and 4,500 Watts of running power, making it perfect for daily use on job sites, emergency backup at home, or occasional uses at camping and tailgating. It also comes with many safety features, the most significant being its automatic shutdown function when the generator is low on fuel.

The generator comes in a solid steel frame with two wheels for easy portability. You can choose from two different options when it comes to starting the generator. It comes with a backup recoil cord and electric start making it very convenient to use. It can comfortably run for 8.92 hours on half load on gas and about 7.63 hours on propane. It has a full power panel with multiple power outlets, circuit breaker, oil warning lights, and voltmeter. It comes loaded with a quiet muffler that helps reduce noise.

The DuroMax XP12000EH Generator is affordable, compact, and versatile. If you are in the market for a dependable dual-fuel generator, this is a great option.

Firman H08051 Electric Start Gas or Propane Dual Fuel Portable Generator

The Firman H08051 is another great choice for those looking for a powerful, dependable, and portable dual-fuel generator. You have the option to choose between gasoline and propane as the fuel option. This generator gives a starting power of 10,000 Watts and running power of 8,000 when run on gas and 9,050 Watts and 7,250 Watts on propane.

Like other Firman generators, the Firman H08051 also boasts high-end features rare in other generator brands. It automatically shuts down on low oil levels that help safeguard the engine from damage.

There are varieties of power outlets on its control panel, allowing you to hook up many different appliances and machines to the generator at one go. Another great feature of this generator is the voltmeter on the control panel that estimates how long the generator can run depending on the fuel level inside the unit. It also uses mufflers to keep the sound of the engine to a minimum.

Firman H08051 is highly durable and designed for heavy use, such as on job sites like a construction site. This one is our top-rated dual-fuel generator as it offers the best value for your money.

Propane vs Gas Generators in Summary

Now that you have some knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of the two primary fuel sources for generators, you should be in a position to consider the best type for your particular needs.

If you can’t decide and are still on the fence regarding propane vs gas-powered generators, then consider dual-fuel. This will give you the best of both worlds and allow you to switch from propane tanks to gas easily.