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How will you continue to run your home or get on with your work in the event of a power outage or limited access to power? Lighting, cooking, cooling and heating your home can all become next to impossible when you are not connected to the energy grid.
The best propane generator is the go-to solution for such scenarios and is certainly a wise option for those that live in remote regions prone to extreme weather conditions.
In this post we will cover some of the need-to-know information for those looking for a new generator, and we will also answer some of the key safety and frequently asked questions we recieve.
*All links above will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com or you can read our best propane generator reviews below.
What is a Propane Generator?
As the name indicates a propane generator is powered from the combustion of propane gas, as opposed to other types of fuels such as diesel or natural gas.
Propane generators are ideal as a backup power source since propane cylinders can be stored for long periods of time, while fuels such as diesel have a relatively short shelf life (typically ranging from 18-24 months).
Propane fuel is also clean burning making it less harmful for the environment and less hazardous to health when compared to other fuel types. Less generator maintenance is required too as oil changes and deposits are virtually non-existent.
Propane generators also tend to be much quieter than the diesel and natural gas alternatives, which is a definite advantage for those who want to keep the neighbours happy.
#1 Champion Portable Generator
This highly rated generator by the brand Champion boasts a relatively lightweight and highly durable frame with wheels.
This generator is the ideal solution for RVs, camping and as a backup in the event of a power outage.
You have the option of hooking this generator up to an underfloor gas or propane store, or simply hooking it up to a regular propane canister.
This means you don’t have to worry about the propane or gas getting contaminated and once hooked up, it can run for over 10 hours using a 20 pound tank.
The engine is battery powered, which makes starting the generator engine easy and convenient. However, if the battery goes dead, you do have the option of starting it up manually by using the pull start.
This generator is versatile, reliable and provides more than enough power to keep multiple outlets in action. It also comes with VoltSurge, which guards against power surges to protect your appliances.
#2 DuroMax Dual Fuel Portable Generator
This EPA approved dual fuel generator can be run on either gasoline or propane. This is a sure advantage, especially with prices constantly fluctuating. Many people prefer to use propane tanks as they are easier to store, often last longer and involve less mess.
The DuroMax comes with all the hardware required to fit the wheels in position and this is a relatively uncomplicated process, which can’t be said for all models.
The generator can be hooked up to a standard propane tank at the front, and once up and running can provide up to 4850 watts. The front boasts two 120-Volt 3 prong outlets, making it suitable for use with standard household plugs. The open design helps the engine to stay cool, while the low oil shutoff sensor is another useful feature that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Don’t forget to buy your oil as you will need to fill up the motor with around 20 ounce of oil before running. Apart from that, this generator comes as a kit that includes tools and a propane regulator with connecting hose (about 3 ft long!). This is attached to the engine, so attaching it to the tank is pretty intuitive.
#3 Sportsman Propane Powered Generator
This powerful EPA approved generator by Sportsman is another great choice for those looking for a backup in the event of a power outtage, or for those wanting some power on camping trips and tailgating parties.
The open design helps to keep the engine and motor as cool as possible throughout operation and all though it doesn’t come with wheels it’s not too difficult to move around.
This generator runs on propane only, which is ideal for many people, yet some still prefer the peace of mind a dual fuel generator offers. The hose and regulator are included with the kit, which means you save money as you avoid needing to make additional purchases.
This generator also boasts some impressive safety features including circuit protection, auto-fuel shut-off and low-oil shut-off to protect your motor and engine from heat damage.
It includes three power outlets in total – two 120V AC outlets and a single 12V DC outlet for battery charging. Overall, it’s a reliable generator that should provide adequate power to keep all the essentials running.
#4 Champion Portable Inverter Generator
If you are looking for an equally powerful generator, yet you want something a little quieter, then this inverter by Champion is a good choice.
You have the option to run this generator with a propane tank or gasoline, making it the perfect versatile option for camping trips and power outages. The built-in wheels also make it easy and convenient to re-position and move around.
Although you have the choice to manually start-up the Champion, it comes with a battery power pack meaning it will start automatically with the click of a switch. It is also much cleaner than standard generators, with an incredible 3% THD, making it ideal for use with more sensitive electronic devices.
The lower decibel and greener design are all thanks to the fact that it throttles up and down depending on the power demands. The unit is more than capable of being able to keep air conditioning, lighting and the refrigerator running.
The outlets are also versatile and useful and include a 120V RV outlet, two 120V household outlets and even a DC outlet with USB adaptor!
Types of Power Generators
Like the majority of things, there isn’t a single category of generator available, in fact, there are three. These include home standby generators, portable generators and inverters, all of which have various pros and cons.
Portable Generators – Like the name suggests, these are generators that are portable. They can be used outside and on your property, however, must be at least 15 feet away from any structure. They also typically run on fuels such as gasoline and propane.
Home Standby Generators – These are the premium option and can typically meet all of the power demands of your property. They usually run on fuels such as propane and natural gas and need to be installed by a professional contractor.
Inverter Generators – Similar to portable generators they can be used on your property on the condition they are at least 15 feet away from any structure. They are an upgrade on standard portable units, since they are often much quieter and efficient, hence why many people prefer to use them.
What to look for in the best propane generator
When on the hunt for a new generator, it’s easy to get bogged down with all of the jargon and marketing language. So to keep it simple, here are the features you should watch out for as they can make a real difference:
Dual Fuel Capability – Some units are only able to use one type of fuel, such as gasoline, while other generators can use both gas and propane. Having a generator that can use both is a definite advantage as it allows you to be more versatile in your choices, which is helpful when the price of one may be particularly steep.
Automatic Start – Most modern generators are equipped with battery powered automatic ignition. This allows you to start up the generators engine without the hassle of a manual pull string. You will find units that allow both manual and automatic ignition, which some people prefer.
Low-Oil Shutoff – As well as a fuel, generators also require oil, in order to lubricate the engine and prevent heat damage. Modern generators are typically fitted with an automatic shutoff function that will turn the generator off when the oil begins to run low. This can help protect your engine, so it’s an essential feature to have.
Multiple Outlets – A generator equipped with a variety of power outlets will come in useful in a variety of scenarios. The best will include a combination of household power outlets, RV power outlets and even USB adaptors.
How Much Power Output do you require?
You can determine the power output of the best propane generator by looking at it’s wattage. This is extremely useful as it will help you determine if it will provide enough power supply to meet your demands, whatever they may be.
In order to determine how many watts you need your generator to be, it’s helpful to figure out what appliances and other things you want to run. This includes appliances such as refrigerators , lighting and even air conditioning systems.
Here are some common watt demands of popular appliances:
Refrigerators – 600 watts
Lighting – 50 – 700 watts
Computers – 50 400 watts
Heaters – Up to 2000 watts
Don't Forget Your Transfer Switch!
A transfer switch connects your power generator to the main circuit panel in your property via a single wire. This will allow you to control the load between two sources i.e your utility and your generator.
If you operate your generator without one it’s possible to break appliances, damage the generator itself or put other people in danger.
If you intend on your generator being used as a backup in the event of a power failure, then a Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) is the best option. This will will be able to detect a power outage and redirect your power load to the generator and in some cases even start up the generator.
The typical home will require a transfer switch with a 220-volt input, meaning your home will be able to consume over 5,000 watts. However, always ensure your transfer switch has an equal amperage to the electrical panel in your property and if required consult the advice of a professional electrician.
Propane Vs. Gas Vs. Diesel Generators
If you are looking for a propane generator, then it’s likely that you know about the advantages of propane fuel. This includes benefits such as easy storage, since you can store propane cylinders easily and for long periods of time.
Propane generators also tend to be relatively quiet compared to diesel and gas alternatives, hence, why you see a lot of companies taking advantage of this in their marketing with slogans like “the quietest propane generator” being incredibly common.
Ultimately, the reality is that each type of generator fuel has a series of advantages and disadvantages, which make each of them more appropriate for certain situations. To make things a little easier, here is a brief overview of the pros and cons of each summarized:
Natural Gas Generators
Natural gas is typically a combination of hydrocarbons sourced from gas wells or as a by-product of oil production. Natural gas generators are preferred for powering large industrial generators as refuelling is not required and there is more available during power outages.
- Quieter engine operation
- More efficient than other types of fuel
- Unlimited fuel source (practically)
- Fuel system installation is expensive
- Not available in many locations
- Generator cost typically higher
Diesel has a number of advantages on its side – it’s easy to source during natural disasters since the likes of the military and farming industry both use it. It is also one of the least flammable fuel types, providing much needed peace of mind to many homeowners.
- Fuel easy to get hold of
- Least flammable type of fuel
- Less costly to run
- Short shelf life meaning long term storage isn’t practical
- Storage tanks are costly to install
- Not always available during emergencies
Propane generators are preferred by the vast majority of people since the propane tanks are very easy to store for long periods of time. Additionally, they are clean burning and easy to access to during emergency situations.
- Long shelf life
- Quiet engine operation
- Easy to source
- Pressurized cylinders of flammable gas not ideal
- Relatively expensive fuel type
- Fuel system relatively complex
The type of generator you need will largely depend on it’s intended use, your budget and other factors such as noise levels. If you simply want a portable propane generator for emergencies, then a low to medium wattage generator should be suitable.
These will allow you to keep all of the essentials in your home running and won’t mean spending too much. Although, if keeping noise to a minimum is a priority you may want to opt for a case-style inverter generator.
However, for those that have a bigger budget and who want an entire-home solution, then the best propane generator for home is the best option. This will allow you to keep everything in your home running as normal even if you fall off the grid.
About the Author
Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.