People are often asking which is the cheaper choice, a gasoline, propane or natural gas powered generator. The answer to this question is not as simple as you may have thought. Before making any decisions on what generator type you will be acquiring, it’s important to answer a few questions.
What do you want to use the generator for?
Portable generators are best utilized as an off-grid electric power supply to run power tools and some construction equipment and for recreational purposes such as camping. But they are also decent emergency backup generators to keep some essential appliances and other electrical devices running during a blackout to prevent things like food spoilage and freezing pipes during winter.
However, portable generators are not the ideal backup power solution.
Why? Because when the power goes out, it may take a while before you have the generator turned on and it doesn’t turn itself on if you’re at work, on a trip or away from home for some other reason.
To get it going, first you need to go to the garage or your shed, drag the generator out and fuel it up. Most likely it has stood there unused for a while, so it may not start at the first pull, or if it has an electric start the battery may be dead or weak. You could end up trying to get it started for hours. When it’s finally going, you have find extension cords, lots of them, and hook up all the appliances you want to run. In the end, it’s a lot of work.
The best solution for an emergency backup generator is definitely a home standby generator. Standby generators detect power outages and automatically turn themselves on within seconds, whether you’re at home or away. Typically they are also connected directly to your house electrical system through a transfer switch, so no extension cords are required.
Fuel storage for emergency backup gas generators is problematic. Gasoline spoils relatively quickly, depending on your gas tanks and the climate where you live, the fuel can go bad within 6-12 months. Propane on the other hand, if it’s stored in a solid metal propane tank, can last indefinitely – there is no need to renew it or use it, remains usable for a LONG time.
Does your home have a bult-in natural gas or propane line?
If your house has a natural gas or propane line, you’re in luck, because standby (and even some portable) propane and natural gas generators for home use can be connected straight to the pipeline network, which means they don’t require fuel storage or manual refueling. Natural gas lines still remain operational during power outages, because the compression stations often have backup power generators to keep the line pressure high and the propane or natural gas flowing.
Where do you live?
Check your local gasoline, propane and natural gas prices. Depending on where you live, prices and fuel availability may be a lot different depending on your location due to government and state subsidies, local resources and other factors.
General purpose portable propane or gas generators are often the cheapest choice, but then again, they typically don’t offer much in terms of power. These may also be available as tri-fuel generators, capable of using gasoline, propane and natural gas. Medium and heavy duty versions are available, but they may be the same price as similar standby generators, which might be better suited for your purposes. It really depends on what you want and what your preferences are. What you should do is to weigh these different factors to determine which is the best choice for you.