Finding the right generator for your need, your family and your budget is a big job. When the power goes out or there’s a larger emergency, your family’s well-being and safety will depend a lot on the standby generator. The fuel the generator operates on will be an important part of the decision. There are four fuel types for generators: diesel, natural gas, propane and gasoline. Knowing what’s best for your home can depend on need, cost and availability. You want what’s best for your situation and surroundings.
Diesel is liquid fuel made from crude oil. Diesel engines – as in trucks, trains, buses, cars and boats – are efficient. Diesel is the most frequently used fuel for standby generators. A diesel generator generally needs less maintenance. It should run for years and be dependable with little or no maintenance.
Diesel might not always seem like the cheapest option, but diesel has a high energy efficiency density. This means diesel fuels machines very effectively, most of the fuel is converted into energy, this is actually saving money and is the most cost efficient. Diesel generators also have the lowest upfront cost.
While a diesel generator needs very little upkeep, it’s recommended a generator runs about once a month or else a diesel engine can breakdown. Diesel isn’t as clean as other fuels. Diesel engines might have restrictions in some areas or states. Diesel generators may be louder than other generators. Diesel is easily available, being available at most gas stations. It can be stored in containers, but it is flammable and volatile, so caution and safe storage are needed in handling diesel fuel.
Natural gas is a fuel made up mostly of methane. It’s widely used in homes in cooking and heating. A natural gas generator will be connected to a natural gas line, like a stove or fireplace. If buying a new natural gas generator, you will need to have a professional hook the gas line into the generator.
When the power goes out, the generator should automatically start. Once it’s up and set, the ease of natural gas is a convenience and major benefit during an emergency. You won’t have to transport or store natural gas. In some emergencies or natural disasters, though, it’s possible a gas line is damaged or down, which would leave your generator useless.
Natural gas is clean-burning compared to diesel or gas. It is a good option throughout areas or states with any sort of environmental or emissions laws. A natural gas generator is usually quiet and runs cleanly.
Propane is a refined fuel composed of carbon and hydrogen. It’s actually a by-product of processing natural gas and refining oil. It is a little heavier and slightly cleaner than natural gas. It is slightly less efficient than diesel or gas. It is generally more expensive than natural gas.
Propane is sold in cylinders. It can’t be hooked up through an automatic line such as natural gas. Propane is available at many stores and easy to find. It’s easy to transport and store. Unlike gas or diesel, which have short shelf lives, propane has a long shelf live while stored properly. This means it’s possible to store a large quantity of propane ahead of an emergency. Propane is a good choice for use with a generator and a good choice for use during an emergency or disaster.
In some ways, gas might seem like a good fuel for a generator, but gas is actually expensive and not very practical as a home fuel. Few standby generators can run on gas. Portable generators often run on gas.
You might think it’s easy to always find and buy gas. It’s just a matter of going to a gas station. The government though, mandates people can have and store only 25 gallons at a time on a property. Holding to this rule, this means you could have enough gas for only a few days of running a generator. Gas also has a short shelf live. It will go bad and be contaminated in less than a year, so keeping gas stored for long periods is inconvenient.
A gas generator has extra dangers to it. When filling a gas tank, a spill can be dangerous. Gas is very flammable. It’s very ill-advised to run a portable generator for more than what it’s designed for or to run one inside because of carbon monoxide poisoning. In an emergency or natural disaster, making multiple trips to a gas station – if it even has gas – may be a problem.
Hybrid Fuel Generators
There are generators now pretty widely available which use multiple fuel types, or that use a combination of solar or wind energy with another fuel source.
Bi-fuel and tri-fuel generators allow you to have multiple fuel sources. These are most common capabilities in a portable generator. The options for fuel sources are gas/propane or propane/gas/natural gas.
This capability tends to be more expensive. The advantages are clear, though. You have a wider range of fuel availability which could be important during a difficult situation or depending on where your property is. A generator with natural gas compatibility is great when you have a natural gas line available.
Newer, more high-tech, more environmentally-minded generators are becoming better or more available all the time. These generators can be a hybrid between a renewable, “green” energy source – most typically solar – and a fuel such as natural gas, diesel or propane. These generators are more costly. They can save money on electric bills and fuel in the long run. They can be vital in an emergency, too, with the ability to run on a renewable source. For example, solar energy is stored in a battery. When the battery is out, the fuel powers the generator.
When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.