Power generators can prove invaluable in times of crisis. Propane and gas generators are the most sought-after options, but which is better?
You probably live in a home powered by electricity. You rely on the electric company to power your lights, refrigeration, heat, and TV. While some things you can live without, like live football, other electricity-powered items are more essential. Having a generator on standby can be extremely useful if your primary electricity system fails. For preppers that live off the grid or have an established bug-out location, a generator is also crucial.
When shopping for generators, you’re likely to come across two main types: propane and gas. Here we’ll cover the pros and cons of each option to determine which is best.
Propane generators work much like any other type of generator by converting energy produced from the combustion of propane to create electricity. Propane is simply a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. You can find propane generators in both standby and portable options which can be used to run a number of appliances and machinery if needed.
When used as fuel, propane can deliver a number of key benefits not found in other types of generator fuel. Propane is clean burning and has a relatively long shelf life. A propane tank with a 100-pound capacity or less has an average expiration date of 12 years from the manufacturer date. Once the tank has reached its expiration date, it will need to be replaced or inspected to determine if re-qualification is possible which can provide an additional five years of service.
Another major perk that comes with using a propane generator is that the supply of propane would not be disrupted if a natural disaster or similar emergency should occur. While you could expect the gas pumps to stop running after a short amount of time, the supply of propane should remain steady for much longer. Propane is stored in cylinders which not only makes it easy to access but also to store for the long-term.
While you can plan for the future, you never know how long or if you will ever need to use your generator. This means that your fuel could sit for many years untouched before you find a need to use it. What gives propane an advantage over other fuels like gasoline and diesel is that propane does not deteriorate. If kept in its original tank, it will also not become contaminated. This allows for the storage of larger volumes of the fuel without fear that it will deteriorate or become contaminated over time.
Propane is a clean and environmentally-friendly type of fuel that has low noise levels. The fuel burns cleanly, meaning it produces a low amount of carbon monoxide (CO) which in larger amounts can lead to suffocation. Carbon monoxide can also be harmful to plants and other living creatures. The very low amount of CO in propane makes the fuel far less harmful to humans and the environment.
Propane is generally stored in bulk cylinders or safe tanks which eliminates the risk of waste or spillage during storage and fill-ups. Unlike gasoline which is highly flammable and can be dangerous to store near a home, propane is a safer option. Of course, propane should never be stored indoors. Ideally, it should be stored on a flat, non-flammable surface, such as concrete, outdoors and away from any source of ignition.
While propane generators are one of the best options in terms of environmental safety and longevity, it does have its downfalls. Propane generators are more expensive than affordable gasoline generators. In addition, propane generators are known to put out as much as 30 percent less heat than gasoline-fueled machines. Propane generators also tend to be larger in size than gasoline generators, making them difficult to maneuver.
Gasoline-powered generators remain one of the most popular types of generators due to their effectiveness and affordability. Gas generators work using an internal combustion engine that forces a rotating shaft to turn an armature. The armature is what creates the electromagnetic induction that helps make the gasoline generator work.
There are a number of perks to choosing gas generators over propane. One of the most common reasons people choose gas is price. Gasoline generators typically cost much less to purchase and to install. Basic portable generators for use at home or camp sites can range from $500 up to $4,000 or more, depending on the specific model and features. It’s important to choose a generator that will have the ability to power all of the appliances that you expect to need during a crisis.
You can expect to pay an average of $300 to $500 per kilowatt for a standby generator, including the cost of installation. Ideally, you want to budget for a 12kW unit which can cost upwards of $4,000 to $6,000 if you only need a smaller unit. For a larger 75kW unit, you can expect to pay up to $20,000 or more.
Gas generators also put out more heat than propane, about 30 percent more for the same amount of fuel. Unless you live in an area where propane is considerably cheaper than gasoline, a gas generator will typically be cheaper to operate. Due to their smaller size, gas generators are also more portable too. Unlike propane generators which tend to have exterior tanks, gas generators have on-board tanks which make them easier to maneuver.
Of course, there are also some downsides to choosing a gas generator instead of a propane-powered one. Unlike propane, gas degrades over time when left in a generator tank. The fuel needs to be replaced on a regular basis to maintain its quality. Ideally, you should replace gasoline left in a generator or other tank at least every six months if you want it to remain fresh.
Gas is also not as eco-friendly as propane. As a dirtier fuel, it has more harmful effects on the environment. This is an important element to consider before choosing a fuel. Gas generators are also not as convenient as their propane counterparts. Unlike propane which can be connected to a propane tank and will remain ready for use at any time, you will need to go to a gas station to get fuel for your gas-powered generator. In the event of a crisis that affects businesses like gas stations, it may become difficult to find and purchase fuel.
Choosing a Generator
When choosing a generator, consider which aspects of the fuel are more important to you. If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind having to replace your fuel on occasion, an affordable gasoline generator may be the best choice for you. If you prefer a fuel that will not deteriorate over time and are willing to pay more for it, a propane generator may be the suitable choice.
In addition to choosing between a propane and gas-powered generator, you will also want to consider other important features. These include:
- Automatic Start – With an automatic start, your generator will simply turn on when the power goes out. This can highly convenient if you rely on your generator to maintain important machinery at all times.
- Electric Start – If automatic start is not a necessity, an electric start can be a highly convenient alternative. With an electric start, your generator can begin working with the push of a button.
- Fuel Gauge – Having the ability to check to see how much fuel remains in your generator can be a great feature, especially during more extended blackouts.
- Multiple Outlets – Even if you don’t expect to have to plug that many items into your generator, having multiple outlets can come in useful if the occasion arises.
- Removable Console – While not a necessity, having a removable console can be a great safety feature. A removable console allows you to plug in appliances without having to run extension cords outdoors.
When the power goes out, having a generator on-site can help ensure that your home remains cool or warm, you are able to continue cooking, and that important appliances remain running undisturbed. As not all generators are the same, it is important to consider all types and features to determine which is the best choice for you. While there are several common types of generators available, propane and gas are the most common.
Some portable generators allow you to use both fuels, which gives you the affordability of gasoline with the availability of propane. However, when faced with a crisis having either option can be a lifesaver.