Everything You Need to Know About Propane Generators
Sunday, February 6, 2022
Whether you need an adequate supply of electricity for camping or for combatting an electrical blackout, propane generators are a good option. As of today, more than sixty million Americans are using propane generators for different purposes. But do you know how a propane generator works or what makes them better than gas generators? In this article, we'll discuss all that and more. So, let's get right into it.
What Is a Propane Generator?
Any machine capable of providing electricity supply in return for propane are power generators. Propane generators are just one type of power generator. There are different types of propane generators. Generally, they're categorized into two — portable generators and standby generators. Propane generators were discovered almost accidentally when French chemist Marcellin Berthelot was researching petroleum and natural gas refining. Propane is natural gas, but it becomes liquid when compressed in a container. It wasn't until 1911 that propane generators were being used in abundance. Over time, the availability and demand for these only increased. By the mid-1900s, more than half of the households in the US were equipped with propane for either cooking or electricity supply.
How Does a Propane Generator Work?
A propane generator is a mechanical device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. While they used to be rather large, modern technology helped us make smaller propane generators that can be carried when necessary. These generators require gaseous or liquid propane as fuel, as the combustion of fuel is what drives this machine. Like most other natural gases, propane is highly combustible. This property of propane is leveraged by a propane generator. When the propane inside the generator is burned, it produces a lot of heat and energy. This energy is used to drive the motor of the generator, which in turn leads to the creation of electrical energy. In the generator, a mixture of ammonia and salt is also present. When the propane is burned, the mixture of ammonia facilitates necessary chemical reactions to take place. As the generator operates, ammonia gas is produced as a byproduct, and it flows out of the device in a gaseous state. Let's take a brief look at the major components of a propane generator.
The key component of a generator is the engine. This component is driven using the fuel type to produce mechanical energy, which is converted later on. In the case of a propane generator, either gaseous or liquid propane may be used, but that too depends on the engine. In most cases, the bigger the engine, the higher watts of power output you'll get. So, when you set out to buy a generator for yourself, consider the power delivery of the engine first.
The control panel comes in two types, manual and automatic. In the case of a manual generator, the control panel comes with the necessary buttons and switches to turn the generator on or off. On the other hand, automatic generators are programmed to understand when it's required. It turns on automatically in case of power outages so that you may rest with peace of mind. The main electricity comes back on; the automatic generator will turn itself off. Other than the switches, the control panel comes with multiple gauges and meters—these monitor and report factors such as remaining fuel, run time, supply of watts, etc.
The voltage regulator controls the output voltage you'll experience on the user-end. Different essential appliances may use different voltages. For example, large appliances like an AC may use a higher voltage than small kitchen appliances such as the coffee maker. Using the voltage regulator, the user is able to change the output voltage of the propane generator.
The fuel system is an essential part of the generator as this is what drives them. The fuel system is an aggregate of multiple components such as the fuel tank, fuel pump, supply line, exhaust, etc. Power generators use the same fuel as cars, but propane generators use propane. The main function of the fuel system is to atomize the fuel present inside the tank so that it may be pushed into the engine. It also separates foreign matters from the fuel to preserve the engine. Fuel systems may use different types of fuels. Other than propane, generators use either gasoline or solar energy. Solar power generators come with solar panels instead of a tank.
Why Should You Have a Propane Generator?
There are a lot of reasons why you should use propane generators. In this section, we've classified the benefits of a propane generator so that you understand why you need one easily.
Provides Uninterrupted Power Output
Yes, most generators will provide uninterrupted power output. However, there are ways they can go wrong. For example, solar generators may fail during the night due to power shortage, and gas generators may fail if gas stations are hit as well. This is where propane generators excel. If used economically, propane generators can last up to a few weeks. Even if you use them heavily, these can last you a few decent hours. Plus, propane is considered safer than gasoline as it's natural gas. Natural gases can last indefinitely without any decay. So, even if you start a propane generator after years, it'll function perfectly as it doesn't have any expiration date. As you can see, propane generators offer a certain level of reliability over other types of generators. This is why they're widely used even after 150 years of their invention.
It's safe to say that a propane generator is the cheapest generator. Yes, certain solar generators may come cheaper, but if you compare value for money, propane generators will certainly win. Propane is highly available; you'll be able to find them in any hardware or vehicle store. They not only last longer than gasoline, but they also cost lower. Furthermore, you won't have to invest much into the preservation and maintenance of a propane generator either. So, there won't be any recurring expenses stacking over with time.
Everyone is going eco-friendly, and you should too. This is more than enough reason for switching to a propane generator. For centuries, people have been burning gasoline and wood. This process has been emitting carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, thus leading to the massive-scale greenhouse effect. Unlike these, propane is a clean fuel type that doesn't produce carbon monoxide. Other than that, propane also helps as it has the least chances of spilling, doesn't pose any risk of storage, and produces no harmful byproducts.
Offers Unparalleled Versatility and Efficiency
One of the best things about a propane generator is its versatility. These can be used for running household appliances such as a vacuum cleaner to executing an outdoor drilling project. Be it for indoor or outdoor applications, propane tanks are considered superior due to their higher puncture resistance. Things only get better as some companies can provide a steady flow of propane gas using underground pipes. These will ensure you have an unending flow of gas. You can use a propane generator for cooking, heating, running appliances, farming, and more. A lot of people complain that propane doesn't come with a full tank when bought. This is only logical because propane tends to expand with temperature rise. So, propane tanks aren't filled to the brim to prevent a blast. Even with an 80% full propane tank, you'll be able to squeeze out 27,000 watts of power output. This is far higher than what gasoline or solar generator can provide.
People are shifting to quiet machinery to reduce noise pollution. Sadly, other generators are usually very loud. For example, diesel generators make the loudest noise, followed by gasoline generators. So, if you want a generator that operates at the least noise level, then you should definitely consider a propane generator. With a low noise level generator, you'll be able to sleep with peace of mind during a nighttime power outage.
Portable vs. Whole-House Propane Generators
A lot of people ask whether they should go for portable propane generators or whole-house ones. This section will help clarify this long-standing doubt.
Advantages of Portable Propane Generators
The portable generators offer distinct advantages over whole-house ones. A portable generator can be carried easily. Thus, you'll be able to use it not only for household work but for outdoor projects as well. If you devote enough time to outdoor activities, then you should consider taking a portable generator. You'll be able to use these for running farming or drilling equipment. Some heavy-duty generators can even be used to drive heavy machinery such as tractors and forklifts as well.
Propane vs. Gas Generator
Both propane and gas generators offer some benefits but stacking them against each other, it becomes evident how superior propane is. Although both types offer more or less the same peak power output, propane is more readily available. You'll find gas stations easily, but it'll be hard for you to come by usable gas. On the other hand, propane is not only easy to acquire, but it's very easy to store as well. This is why we highly recommend a propane generator as it offers a more efficient power output and great value.
Propane vs. Diesel Generator
Other than propane, diesel generators are also very popular. However, they aren't the most suitable generators. They do provide power greater than propane generators, but the cons outweigh the benefits. Diesel generators usually produce a high noise level during their runtime, whereas propane generators are almost silent. Maintaining a diesel tank is expensive and troublesome too. This is why even the most affordable model of diesel generators cost higher than propane counterparts. A diesel generator can cost you anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 a year. On the other hand, a propane one will cost from $500 to $6,000 even if used extensively. The difference in price is too huge to justify the more power offered by diesel generators. In fact, a propane tank can provide enough power for most households. In case of a power outage, a diesel generator has to be powered up with an electric start, something that isn't required of a propane generator. So, a diesel generator is loud, expensive, and must be powered by an electric start. In comparison, propane generators offer much better features, and that too at a great price.
How Much Does a Propane Generator Cost?
We know that a propane generator is cheaper than other generators. But, how much does one exactly cost? There are various factors to look into here. Let's go over them.
What generator you'll install depends on how many watts you need. The higher watts you require, the greater the size of the generator will be. Usually, whole-house generators for household usage come in three sizes, 11,000 watts, 16,000 watts, and 20,000 watts. You'll find offerings from different brands, and the price will vary depending on the brand too. For example, Generac Power Systems usually cost more than a Champion generator. But we can safely say that Generac Power Systems offers the best propane generators, so it's safe to go for them even if it means spending some extra. If you get a 20 kilo-watts generator from Generac Power Systems, you'll have to pay around $4,500.
Propane is the cheapest fuel that you can get. You can use propane in either a gas or liquid state, depending on the tank and the engine. How much you'll need to spend depends on if you want an underground pipeline or want to store propane for powering the generator. In the case of powering portable generators, we recommend buying tanks that are sold separately. A whole-house system is more suitable for permanent underground piping. Although permanent piping will cost higher initially, it'll save some cost over time. Plus, these are more reliable as they'll provide infinite backup even when they're being run at peak power.
Maintenance leads to one of the major recurring hidden costs that generator companies don't usually talk about. The more you use a generator, the more you need to maintain it. Even if you don't use the generator over time, you'll need to maintain it frequently to keep it in shape. In this case, too, you'll need to perform less maintenance if the generator is from a good brand such as Generac Power Systems. So, if you can, spend some extra and get yourself a quality unit so that the hidden costs may be reduced. The maintenance costs can stack up very easily and are very high, so you must take this into account before getting a generator. It doesn't matter whether you experience a power outage or not, and you'll have to pay for maintenance regularly.
Whether you require power for indoor air conditioning or for running heavy outdoor machinery, you should consider getting a propane generator. Propane is not only efficient, but it’s also one of the most reliable natural fuels. Plus, the price of propane is expected to decline slowly over time. With time, propane generators will become more cost-effective than ever. But you may still want to look into solar power generators. When it comes to choosing a specific category, cross-check what features each model is offering with your requirements. So, we recommend checking how many watts you really require and getting an engine that can meet that power requirement. Hopefully, you'll be able to pick the best propane generators this way.