A Propane Generator – Is It the Best Fuel Source?

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You just purchased a propane generator as a backup power source and you’re wondering if you made a good choice. Your neighbor has a diesel-powered unit and swears by it. And the house down the block uses a gasoline powered generator and is convinced it’s the only way to go. So, who’s right? That depends on who you talk to, and on individual priorities and needs.

Let’s face it, power outages can happen at any time. And when they last longer than a few minutes, they are not only inconvenient, but can be costly. According to Propane.com, a single power outage can cost a family an average of $1,250 – in spoiled food, hotel costs, eating out, damage to home electronics, and lost wages from home businesses.

So now that you know you need one, which type of generator makes the most sense.

We’re here to show you that propane is not just a wise choice, it’s the right choice. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the four main types of generator fuels –propane, gasoline, natural gas, and diesel.

Propane Fuel for Generators


A propane generator is your best option. Propane-fueled generators are a more logical choice than gasoline or diesel-fueled generators. Here’s why:

With Propane, You’re Always Ready

It’s important to prepare for outages before they occur. Having a propane-fueled generator allows you to be ready whether the power goes out tomorrow or two years from now. Propane will not evaporate or degrade over time like gasoline. It has a limitless shelf-life.  And because of propane’s longevity, you don’t have to add expensive stabilizers to keep it from going bad. Also, with propane generators you can refill the tanks even if the power is out. If you use gasoline, the gas pumps usually can’t operate when there is a power outage.

Propane is the Safest Fuel Option

Propane is non-toxic so it will not cause health issues for homeowners. Also,

propane tanks are equipped with safety valves, so they’re far less likely to spill than gasoline and diesel fuel, whose storage containers have no valves. This safety relief valve is designed to protect your propane tank from rupturing in case excess pressure builds up in the tank.  And propane is also less flammable than other fuels.

Propane Gives You More Energy for Your Money

Compared to natural gas, propane provides more than twice as much energy per cubic foot. Natural gas provides about 1,040 BTUs per cubic foot, while propane provides 2,490 BTUs per cubic foot. Therefore, you’ll burn more than double the amount of natural gas as you would propane over the same period. During longer power outages, running out of fuel is a concern. Propane is a better choice because it will last longer. And although a larger propane generator can have a higher installation cost than diesel or gas units and require more maintenance, propane’s longevity and higher fuel efficiency, make it more cost-effective in the long run.

Less Damage to the Environment with Propane

We all need to do our part in protecting the environment. In the unlikely event of a leak, propane won’t pose a danger of contamination to soil or water unlike other fuels.

Propane is considered a “clean-burning” fuel. It produces fewer pollutants than diesel and gasoline — only half as much carbon monoxide (CO) as gasoline. And it isn’t considered a greenhouse gas like natural gas. Propane is also non-toxic and is released as a gas. There is no risk of spillage during fill-ups because deliveries (for larger tanks) use a safe hose and valve attachment to connect your propane tank to the propane truck. Therefore, there’s no danger of soil contamination. Conversely, with gasoline, there is a risk of spillage from having to fill a gasoline container and then fill the generator tank.

By comparison, here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons of other common fuel choices:

Gasoline

Pros:

  • Easiest fuel source to obtain.
  • Very simple fueling process.
  • The most suitable fuel for portable and smaller standby generators.

Cons:

  • Shelf life of only 12 months
  • Highly combustible – ignites easily if spilled.
  • Not very fuel-efficient.
  • Gasoline generators are expensive to run for long periods of time. (A conventional unit will burn about 18 gallons of gasoline in a 24-hour period.)
  • Large quantities can pose a safety hazard for on-site storage and some local governments prohibit storing more than 25 gallons at a time.
  • Somewhat expensive as demand for it always increases during an emergency.
  • Least suitable for cold weather conditions as compared to other fuel sources.

Natural Gas

Pros:

  • Unlimited fuel source.
  • Does not require refueling.
  • Out-performs all other fuel sources in freezing weather conditions.
  • Clean burning.
  • More available during a power outage.
  • Quieter engine noise level.
  • More emission compliant.
  • More convenient fuel source

Cons:

  • Less power output than other fuels.
  • Higher consumption rate compared to other fuels.
  • Natural gas lines are not available in many areas.
  • Hurricanes or earthquakes can obstruct the flow of natural gas lines with up-rooted trees.
  • Highly explosive, resulting in a severe fire hazard if the pipeline bursts or leaks.
  • More expensive install and operation compared with diesel and portable gasoline generators.
  • Emits more carbon dioxide and Greenhouse Gasses than other fuel source generators. 

Diesel

Pros:

  • It’s easy to obtain.
  • Can be stored on-site for quick and easy refueling.
  • Safer to store than gasoline.
  • Much lower risk of igniting if spilled.
  • Longer shelf life than gasoline.

Cons:

  • Diesel generators are significantly louder than natural gas and propane units.
  • Shelf life of only 18-24 months without additives.
  • Less effective in very cold temperatures so it must be used with another fuel source.
  • It’s not a clean-burning fuel. Its pollutants and emissions are greater than either natural gas or propane.
  • Diesel generators need more maintenance compared to a gas unit.
  • Unlike a natural gas or propane generator, a diesel generator must be run at or around 80% of its capacity to avoid “wet stacking,” a condition where unburned fuel finds its way into the exhaust system, becoming oily and congested unless burned off by increasing output.

Trust Levco

Levco is a leader in helping customers understand and adhere to industry standards for the safe LP-Gas storage, handling, transportation, and use of propane. Levco offers automatic propane delivery using tank monitors, installation of new propane tanks, as well as our Propane Exchange program. Whether you use propane to heat your home, fuel appliances or as a backup power source, Levco is the premier choice! Thousands of homeowners have trusted Levco to keep their tanks full since 1980! Give us a call at (203) 533-8249 or contact us today!

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