Propane vs Gas Generator: Which is Better to Use?

propane vs gas generator

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Propane and gasoline are the two most common types of fuel to use in normal portable electric generators, but which is better? Is it best to use gasoline or propane, and which should you choose?

Each fuel source has advantages and disadvantages, so let’s look into this question in a bit more depth, to help you determine what exactly is best for you to use with your generator.

Propane or Gasoline Generator: Which Should You Choose?

gas vs propane generator,

I’m starting out with a bit of a misleading question, in order to illustrate an important point – you see, a lot of people ask me if they should get a propane generator or a gasoline generator, but in fact they are almost always the same thing.

What I mean by that is that almost every single portable generator on the market today works on unleaded gasoline, and in fact it is actually pretty rare to find a generator that works just on propane.

Some generators, on the other hand, are what we call ‘dual-fuel’ generators, meaning they work on either gasoline or propane.

So the question of whether you should get a gasoline generator or a propane generator doesn’t really make sense, but the question of whether you should get a gasoline generator or a dual-fuel generator is a good and valid one, and will most likely come up when you’re shopping.

And if you decide on a dual-fuel generator (which I think is a brilliant idea), or if you already have one, we get to the real question, and the real point of this article – should you use this generator with propane or with unleaded gasoline?

Gasoline vs Propane: Which is Better for Generators?

It’s great to have options, and a dual-fuel generator is a really great idea, but how can you decide which fuel is best to use? Well, it turns out that each fuel type has pretty distinct advantages.

Propane and Gasoline Generators Pros and Cons

are propane generators better than gas

AvailabilityGasoline is the winner here, since gas is available pretty much everywhere and can in a pinch even be siphoned from your vehicle’s tank. Propane is fairly widely available, though, and if you know you have a good and reliable supplier this may not be such a big issue.

Cost – Again, here gas has the edge, since gasoline tends to be significantly less expensive than propane, and running your generator with gasoline is more efficient – that is, the generator will run longer and offer more power with gas than with the same amount of propane.

Storage – that said, propane can be a little less expensive than gas if you need to store quantities over the long term, since a propane cylinder can be kept for up to ten years and gasoline can begin to degrade and become unusable after a year. This also means that propane may be the better choice for emergency generators that are kept in storage and used very infrequently, but that need to have available fuel and work perfectly when you need them.

Environmental ConcernsPropane is a pretty clear winner here, as it burns cleaner than gasoline. It is important to realize that modern generators tend to be very clean and environmentally friendly with any kind of fuel, but still, burning gasoline can release around twice the carbon monoxide as burning propane.

Portability / Convenience – if you are using your generator as a portable unit – on worksites, camping, tailgating or other remote locations – gasoline might make a lot more sense, because the gas tank is built in, while with propane you will always need a fairly large and heavy cylinder, not to mention a hose and regulator.

Many people will talk about other pros and cons of gas versus propane, and a couple you hear fairly frequently are that propane generators are quite a bit quieter than gas generators, and that gasoline generators are easier to maintain and work on than propane.

These distinctions really only apply to pure propane-only generators versus pure gasoline-only generators – but again it’s pretty hard to find a propane-only generator, and most people wouldn’t even want one, as they really limit your options. All dual-fuel generators tend to be very quiet, as do most current gas-only electric generators, and they are all relatively easy to work on if you know what you’re doing, and anyway are pretty darned reliable.

Conclusion: Propane or Gasoline – Which is Better for Generators?

The answer to the question – which is better for generators, gas or propane – really depends on your own uses and priorities.

For example, if environmental friendliness is of strong importance to you, or if you simply want the cleanest running generator available, you should strongly consider getting a dual-fuel generator instead of a gas-only model, and using propane whenever possible.

Also, if you are keeping your generator, and its fuel, in storage for long periods of time, and using it mostly for emergencies, a dual-fuel generator with a propane tank is a much better option than a gas-only model – and, again, I should state clearly that you don’t want to store gasoline, in the generator’s tank or in a separate bottle, for more than a year.

On the other hand, if the cost of fuel, and the cost and efficiency of running the generator, are big priorities, gasoline is probably the way to go. It is also more convenient, since you can find gasoline in far more places than propane, and also because the gas tank is built in, making it a lot easier to move around and take with than a generator with a separate tank, hoses and regulator.

I should close by coming back to a very important point – if you are purchasing a new generator, you are not really going to  be choosing between a gasoline generator and a propane generator – again, propane-only models are made, but they are pretty rare and not as useful for most of us.

And so your buying decision will probably come down to a gas-only generator versus a dual-fuel generator – a gas/propane model which can work on both types of fuel. In this case, if you can afford the slight increase in price, I would always urge you to choose a dual-fuel, which will offer the highest levels of flexibility and usability, and allow you to enjoy the advantages of each type of fuel.

If you agree, I am happy to recommend a couple of my favorite dual-fuel generators:

Westinghouse WGEN9500DFa large, powerful dual-fuel that’s perfect for home backup and emergencies, large and busy worksites and so much more, The 9500 is also RV-ready, with both 30 and 50 amp plugs and enough juice for even the largest recreational vehicles, and is a supremely reliable and seriously overbuilt product.

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Also available are the Westinghouse WGEN3600DF, which is a lot smaller but still has plenty of power for anything but a class A RV, and is ideal for workshops, greenhouses, tailgating and parties, limited emergency power and so much more.

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On the higher-power end of the spectrum, the Westinghouse WGen12000DF is the biggest dual-fuel portable generator Westinghouse makes, with the same superb craftsmanship and long term reliability as the smaller units but with enough power for even the largest homes and most demanding applications.

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If you want a fantastic inverter generator – that is, a generator with a special circuitry to ensure the cleanest and most stable power, making it especially good and safe for use with sensitive electronics (like computers, phones, smart appliances and the like) and critical equipment (like CPAP and other medical products), I really like the DuroMax XP9000iH for a larger and more powerful unit – a surprisingly quiet and portable unit that is exceptionally well made.

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For a more modest inverter generator, the Champion Power Equipment 200914 dual fuel is affordable but still has plenty of power – a perfect size for most RVs and basic home emergency backup, and very quiet, smooth running and dependable.

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And for the smallest size of two-fuel inverter generators, we here at the Final Kit really like the super-affordable and super-quiet WEN 56380i

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