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People’s lives have become increasingly reliant on electricity. It is required by preppers to power supply freezers and charge essential gadgets. For these reasons, an alternative source of electricity is essential in the event that the grid fails when SHTF.
Two common generators that are frequently used as a backup power supply in homes are propane and gas-powered generators. There are several factors to consider when determining which one is best for you.
- Fuel Type
- Generator Lifetime
- Cold Start
What is a Generator
A generator is a machine that transforms one type of energy into another. The mechanical force produced by an internal combustion engine is converted into electricity in the case of a fuel-powered generator. Generators run on a variety of fuels. Gasoline, diesel, propane, and natural gas are examples of these.
Main Differences Between Propane vs Gas Generators
The following are the primary distinctions between propane and gas generators:
Propane generators use less fuel than gas generators, which produce more BTUs per gallon.
Propane generators burn cleaner than gasoline generators, which emit more toxins into your generator’s engine.
Factors to Consider When Choosing A Generator
Each fuel has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered when selecting a type of generator. Both gasoline and propane are liquids that can be stored. Uncompressed gasoline is stored in gasoline safe containers. Propane, on the other hand, is stored in pressurized tanks (Liquefied Petroleum Gas aka LPG, LP tank), but when released, it quickly turns to gas.
Availability of Fuel Supply
When selecting a generator, the first thing to consider is the availability of supply. Because gasoline is stored in massive underground tanks, it is easily obtained from gas stations. Propane, on the other hand, is less readily available because the tanks are refilled outside the city limits and must be transported back into the city.
Despite claims from various sources that gas station pumps do not work during a power outage, these pumps can be manually operated to pump gasoline. In an emergency, the pump’s cover can be removed to reveal the internal mechanism, which can be hand-cranked or suctioned to extract fuel.
Shelf-Life and Storage Safety
The following factor to consider when selecting a fuel type is its shelf-life and storage safety. Gasoline is the most widely available in stores, but storing large amounts of it is hazardous. According to safety regulations, it is best to store it in containers no larger than 5 gallons. Furthermore, it degrades quickly and requires stabilizers for longer storage.
Gasoline has a shelf life of 3 to 6 months without stabilizers and up to 2 years with stabilizers. Furthermore, because of its high volatility and extreme flammability, it should be stored in a separate location 50 feet away from any source of heat, spark, or flame.
Propane tanks, on the other hand, can last up to ten years if kept cool and dry. It should be kept in a well-ventilated, dry place away from the elements. It will also help in the event of a leak because propane easily dissipates into the atmosphere, avoiding the risk of explosion that is often seen when propane gas accumulates in an enclosed space.
The cost of running the generator will be affected by its efficiency. That is, how long it can run on a gallon of gas. According to the US Department of Energy (2021), a gallon of gasoline can convert 97 to 100 percent of its volume into energy, whereas propane can only produce up to 73 percent of energy per gallon when compared to gas.
A 5kW gasoline-powered generator will use 18 gallons of fuel per day (0.75 gallons per hour). A 5kW propane generator, on the other hand, will consume 20.64 gallons of fuel per day (0.86 gallons per hour). When using a smaller capacity generator, the difference may be minimal.
The larger the generator, however, the greater the difference, and the more efficiently the gasoline generator performs. A Champion 7500watt (7.5kW) Dual Generator will run for 8 hours at half load (3750watt consumption) on gasoline, compared to just under 6 hours on propane.
The lifetime of a generator is the estimated number of hours it can run for. It is not measured in years because the hour of use has a greater impact than the unit’s overall age. In general, a 1-10 kW generator powered by both propane and gasoline is expected to last 250-1000 hours. However, the generator’s running condition and cooling system will have an impact on this.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that gasoline generators outlast propane generators. It’s a dubious claim because, in theory, propane generators should last longer because of the cleaner burn they provide, which prevents too much carbon residue buildup in the engine.
Because generators are similar to engines, they have oil and filters that must be changed and cleaned.
Because of the propane generator’s lower and cleaner emissions, it can run for a longer period of time before requiring an oil and filter change. Gasoline generators produce carbon deposits in the engine and exhaust, necessitating more frequent oil changes and cleaning.
Additionally, gasoline deposits residues in fuel lines and system components, which must be cleaned. Propane has none of these issues; however, the supply line will need to be checked for leaks on a regular basis.
If the generator is not used frequently, the oil and filter should be changed once a year.
Level Of Noise
Propane generators are quieter than gasoline generators. At 23 feet, a 7kW Generac propane generator will typically produce 68dB. At 23 feet, a 6.5kW Gillette gasoline generator produces 77db. A conversation between two people has a volume of 60-70db, whereas a vacuum cleaner has a volume of 77db.
Cold Start Abilities
A gasoline generator will take longer to start in extremely cold weather. The lower the temperature, the more viscous and gel-like gasoline becomes. It can cause supply lines and engine parts to become clogged. Propane does not have this issue and will continue to flow reliably even at low temperatures.
Address Upkeep and Troubleshooting
For many homeowners, the most significant disadvantage of propane generators is their complicated mechanics. This increases the likelihood of failure and makes them more difficult to repair in an emergency.
Cost to Operate A Gas and Propane Generator
The only true way to compare generator operating costs is to calculate your cost per kilowatt-hour ($/KWH). Because prices vary by location, I calculated the cost of gas vs propane for a Champion 76533 (3,800W) generator using average US prices.
Although this generator is reasonably fuel-efficient, the ratio of propane to gas consumption rates is roughly the same for all dual fuel generators. As a result, it provides a good starting point for comparing fuel costs. Propane prices in the United States range from $12 to $18 per 20 LBS (on average $15). Gas prices range from $2.13 to $3.29 per gallon (average $2.50). The following are the running costs based on these average prices:
- Gas: $0.47/KWH
- Propane: $0.83/KWH.
You spend (on average) $8.50 to fill the Champion 76533’s gas tank, and you get 9 hours at 50% rated load.
You spend (on average) $15.00 to refill a 20LBS propane tank, and you get 10.5 hours at 50% load.
When the cheapest propane price ($12.00) is compared to the most expensive gas price ($3.29), the cost to fill the same gas tank is $11.19 vs $12.00 for propane. Gas is still slightly less expensive: $0.65/KWH vs. $0.67/KWH for propane. While gas will always be cheaper, the difference may not be significant. That would be determined by your local gas vs. propane prices.
Storm Season Notes And Using Your Generator
Prepare for power outages or disasters in other ways after you’ve decided on a generator. To begin, assess the types of disasters that may occur in your area and plan accordingly. If there is a blizzard or major storm, make sure you have enough non-perishable food and water for each member of your family to last three to four days. Canned goods are an excellent addition to any kitchen.
Don’t forget to include entertainment in your plans. If you have small children, you can entertain them during power outages by playing games that do not require electricity. To pass the time during a blackout, some common road trip games can be played. Pack a closet full of board games, cards, and flashlights — even if you have a generator, you’ll want to keep your power usage to a minimum during an outage. Remember to pack a first-aid kit, sanitation supplies, and extra blankets.
Three Reasons You Might Not Want Propane to Power Your Generator
Of course, there are some reasons why you might not want a propane-powered generator. Three disadvantages are as follows:
Propane is not as widely available as gasoline and diesel, and propane tanks sold at gas stations are more expensive than propane purchased from a dedicated propane provider. These providers are frequently located outside of city limits, which means you’ll have to drive miles to get to it if it can’t be delivered to your home.
Propane engines have a shorter service life than diesel or gasoline engines. When it comes to engine longevity, diesel engines are unrivaled. A well-maintained diesel engine will last thousands of hours longer than a similarly maintained propane or natural gas engine. This means that you must replace a propane generator before gasoline or an electric generator.
While this distinction exists, be wary of online sources that exaggerate the disadvantages and limitations of propane/natural gas generators versus diesel models. For example, one website claims to demonstrate that diesel generators are superior in every way, but it compares a small, low-output propane generator to a larger, higher-output diesel generator. This is not a like-for-like comparison. It’s also worth noting that the authors of these blogs only sell diesel generators. Their viewpoints are far from objective.
Another disadvantage of propane fuel is that it burns faster than gas or electricity. While propane is less expensive than diesel or gasoline in general, it has a lower energy density. The energy density of diesel is 35.8 megajoules per liter (MJ/L), while gasoline has a density of 34.2 MJ/L. Propane, on the other hand, has an energy density of only 26 MJ/L, which is nearly a third less than that of diesel and gasoline. When comparing costs, you’ll ultimately spend less on fuel in an emergency situation if your generator runs on diesel or gasoline rather than propane.
The Best Choice For Generators
Dual generators have become more common and efficient in recent years. Dual generators are hybrid engines that can be powered by either gasoline or propane. As a result, it is the best type of generator to have in an emergency.
- Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment WGen9500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- Durostar DS4850EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
However, because of its combined fuel source, some of the advantages of a single fuel generator are lost. Even though propane is used as fuel, it is as loud as a gasoline generator. Furthermore, as long as its tank is full of gasoline, it will necessitate frequent maintenance. Despite these disadvantages, dual generators are the best type of generator to have when SHTF.
Is It Better To Get A Propane or a Gas Generator Bottom Line
Propane is typically easier to deliver and replace. It is also safer to store and can be used straight from the container rather than having to refill a fuel tank. Obtaining gas in an emergency is difficult.
Because of the increased demand, gas stations run out of gasoline, and there are fewer opportunities for that gas to be replaced until other issues, such as road damage, are resolved. Which source is best suited to your needs?
Except in the coldest of climates, propane works well for storage. If you live in an area where the temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, gasoline may be a better option. Gas storage is an issue for me because we are so prone to wildfires, and gas is highly flammable.
The most important question(s) of all is how much energy you use and what options you have for supplying that energy. Propane is the best option for me and my situation because I can safely store more of it and have backups that replace how I use power.
As a result, the answer to the question of which is better – gas or propane – is highly subjective. There is also no one-size-fits-all solution, and any solution you devise should be supported by your preparedness strategy.