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There are various types of generators on the market today, with plenty of options available to us when it comes to size, capacity, and fuel type. Figuring out the type of fuel you want your generator to operate on is perhaps the most important choice to be made here for a number of reasons. With that, can it run on propane?
A generator can run on propane. It is a good choice when it comes to running generators. Different generator models will use different fuel types, but propane is a popular choice due to its high energy output, environment-friendly characteristics, affordable cost, and overall convenience.
Being a product of petroleum refining and natural gas processing—propane makes for a great energy source. In this piece, we’ll take a look at what makes propane a good choice when it comes to generator fuel and what your options are. We’ll also take a look at how you can have the best of both worlds, even if you already have a gas or diesel generator.
Why Choose a Propane-Fueled Generator?
When it comes to generator selection, the most basic classification is the type of fuel it uses, and your options will range from diesel, gasoline, bio-diesel, natural gas, to propane. Depending on what factors you consider most important, you might find that one of these might be more suitable for your needs than propane.
To help you figure out whether propane is the answer you seek, let’s go on a point-by-point exploration of this fuel type’s qualities in comparison to the options available.
The effect our activities have on the environment is an increasingly important consideration for all of us, especially in recent years, where the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Propane is a stellar performer here. It is considered a clean-burning fuel due to its significantly lower carbon content than other fuel types such as natural gas, diesel, gasoline, and others.
Propane is a non-toxic fuel source, meaning that if it is somehow released into the environment in its natural, pre-combusted state, there will be no harm caused to the water or soil it comes into contact with. Additionally, it doesn’t contribute to atmospheric pollution as it is not a greenhouse gas.
The tanks we get commercial propane in are fitted with safety valves that are highly effective in preventing possible spillage or leakage. This contrasts with the containers that store fuels such as diesel and gasoline, which do not usually have this safety feature.
Even should your propane somehow escape its containment, the damage will only be in terms of the inconvenience and financial loss you might incur—the environment will not be harmed.
While propane might be more expensive than alternatives such as diesel in most parts of the country, it outperforms many of them when considered in light of its uses. If you’re in the market for a standby generator, for example, to be used domestically, then you will want a fuel that will provide you with the longest possible length of ‘up-time’ before running out. This is especially so if you reside far from your nearest source of fuel.
Propane will produce more than double the energy per gallon that natural gas will, meaning that twice as much natural gas will be expended for the same energy output compared to propane fuel.
In many cases, standby generators don’t see widespread usage. You might have to keep your fuel in storage for months or even years at a time before needing a refill. In this scenario, it becomes important to select a fuel type that will not degrade over extended lengths of time. Most common fuels have a shelf-life of between 18 to 24 months unless they are infused with additives, after which they begin to degrade due to oxidation stability.
Oxidative instability is the quality of fuels such as diesel and gasoline to degrade and form materials such as gums, thickeners, sediments, and acids. These materials are the causes of hard particulate formation, injector deposits, corrosion, filter clogging, and various other troubles that might wear out your generator or see it fail completely.
The amount of maintenance that needs to be carried out to keep a propane generator functioning at optimal levels is considerably less than what is required in diesel or gasoline generators, for instance. These maintenance tasks are mostly necessitated by the accumulation of carbon deposits upon the internal parts of the generator, the fuel lines, and its exhaust.
Being sure that you can get access to fuel for your generator whenever you need it is a major consideration to take into account. While diesel or gasoline is mostly available at gas station pumps, should there be a power outage at these outlets, the fuel pumps will be rendered inoperative.
The fact that you can purchase a tank of propane at numerous outlets, as well as gas stations, means that it is a more readily available fuel source even during blackouts, earthquakes, hurricanes, and comparably disruptive events.
Downsides to Using a Propane-Powered Generator
Of course, there are some caveats to keep in mind when making a choice to go for propane generators. You should also consider these factors when figuring out what will work in your particular circumstances.
Cold Weather Impact
Propane is prone to feeling the effects of extreme cold conditions, such as those that affect certain regions of the United States during wintertime. Because propane sits in liquid form while in the tank, the extreme cold might prevent it from turning into a gaseous form, this results in a lowering of the pressure in the tank and might even lead to a seeming reduction of your tank’s propane volume.
This is the reason why those living in areas that experience extremely cold seasons are advised to insulate or store their tanks underground. A convenient solution might be the use of a heat cable for pipe freeze protection, which will work just as well when wrapped around your propane tank’s sides.
You will begin noticing the negative effects of cold weather on your propane setup’s performance once temperatures fall near and below -20 degrees.
Lower Energy Density
The biggest charge against propane for many users is the comparatively lower energy density of the fuel when held up against diesel or natural gas, for instance. While diesel packs a BTU per gallon of 139000, propane will only give us 91330 BTU per gallon. The upshot is that you will need to refuel more often when using a propane generator than you would while using a diesel or gasoline unit.
Making the Switch From Gas to Propane
You might be pleased to learn that you can quite easily make the change from gasoline to propane usage by installing a conversion kit onto your generator assembly. This will actually allow your generator to use gasoline or propane, making it a truly reliable electricity source.
With a few readily available tools, you can accomplish the conversion yourself. However, you will need to make sure that you have the proper conversion kit for your particular engine. These are mostly categorized by brand, such as the Hutch Mountain New Honda EU2200i TriFuel conversion kit, which will actually allow you to use propane, natural gas, or gasoline to power your generator.
To give you an idea of what installing such a kit will entail, here’s a great video from Fate Unbound:
Whatever you need your generator for, one of the biggest factors to consider will be the type of fuel it will use. While different types of fuel have different attributes that would make them the best fit for you, it may be said that propane makes for a safe bet across the board.
The ability to install a conversion kit means that you don’t need a new generator even if you already have a unit that utilizes a different fuel type. You can enjoy the benefits different power sources have to offer at a fraction of the cost you would incur if you were to purchase a new generator.