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Author Topic: Generators - propane vs gas  (Read 1758 times)

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Offline Langenator

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Generators - propane vs gas
« on: November 06, 2012, 11:41:24 AM »
So the travails of NY and NJ have gotten me thinking about generators again, with the long duration of the power outage and the low availability of gasoline leading me to think about a generator that can run on propane.

What are the advantages and disadvantages vs gasoline? (And by propane, I'm thinking one that can run off the same cannisters that a backyard grill uses.)  I know propane stores much better.  For a given genset under a given load, how long would a 20lb (I think that's the standard) canister of propane last vs, say, 5 gallons of gas?

In a situation such as the one in NY/NJ, would it be easier to get propane than gas?

Of course, my ideal set up would be to have adapters to allow my generator to run both.
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“In the house of a wise man are stores of food, wine, and oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20
"We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master." -Pashtun malik, 1815

Offline AuricTech

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2012, 02:11:00 PM »
Well, this tri-fuel generator ought to run about 53 hours on gasoline, and about 46 hours on a 20-pound propane tank (all calculations based on consumption at 1/2 load).  Since I didn't know how many gallons of propane are in a 20-pound tank, here's how I derived that value:

This bi-fuel generator (propane and natural gas) has a rated fuel consumption of .055 gallons of propane per hour, and a rated run time of 85 hours.  Multiplying run time by fuel consumption per hour gave me 4.675 gallons for 20 pounds of propane.
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Offline Flight-ER-Doc

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2012, 03:04:19 PM »
Propane weighs around 4.25 lbs per gallon.  A propane tank is typically only filled to 80% of capacity, though
Yes, I'm a physician.  No, I'm not YOUR physician.  Nothing I say here is medical advice.

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Offline Langenator

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2012, 04:16:14 PM »
For anyone interested, I found this website: http://www.tri-fuel-generator.com/

Now to scour it for info...
Fortuna Fortis Paratus
“In the house of a wise man are stores of food, wine, and oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20
"We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master." -Pashtun malik, 1815

Offline Bonnie

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2012, 06:49:12 PM »
I had no idea generators could run on propane. Husband & I are talking seriously about getting a generator, mainly to keep the well working. Tho if it doesn't take more power - & as a result cost more initially - we'd like to keep the fridge, freezer, & water heater working, too.

I am woefully ignorant of mechanical things, so please keep us updated on what you find.
God bless,
Bonnie
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Offline Flight-ER-Doc

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2012, 07:11:26 PM »
Don't forget that in most cases, you don't need to run everything at the same time.  The freezer will stay cold even on the hottest summer days if you keep it closed, and run it just a couple of hours twice a day.  The refrigerator a few hours more.  The well?  Probably can be a several times a day propopsition, when other things are not being run.

I ran a house in Idaho off grid with a fairly small China Diesel generator and battery bank for several years....you just learn to schedule certain things at certain times of the day.
Yes, I'm a physician.  No, I'm not YOUR physician.  Nothing I say here is medical advice.

Do I treat Glocks like I treat my lawn mowers?  No, I treat them worse.  I treat my defensive weapons like my fire extinguishers and smoke detector - annual maintenance and I expect them to work when needed

Offline ND Martin

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2012, 10:54:48 PM »
Here in 'rural' (more properly exurban) NJ, most 20# propane is sold by exchanging empty for full tanks rather than refilling.  The places where tanks are exchanged (HomeDepot, Lowes, Walmart, convenience stores and gas stations) ran out of propane quickly as people glommed the full tanks to be able to cook on their grills.

However, as there are few natural gas lines to residential properties here, many homes have underground propane storage as their primary heating/cooking fuel.  Fuel distributors will install large tanks inexpensively as part of a long-term contract.  You can also get 100# portable tanks which are becoming increasingly popular.  So propane is a rational fuel for generators as long as the distributors are delivering or you have one close by for portable tank refills.

Diesel fuel was easier to get than gasoline, BTW.  Indeed, locally the same distributors carry both diesel and propane.  There are a number of reasons why diesel generators make sense.

We ran our generator sparingly to power our deep well pump and keep the refrigerator/freezers cold.  We refill box wine 'jugs' with fresh water and fill spaces in the freezers with 'em.  When the power is off (generator not running), we take the blocks of ice from the freezer and put 'em in the fridge where they keep the food cold and melt down to drinking water with a convenient spigot.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 11:02:55 PM by ND Martin »

Offline Langenator

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2012, 08:58:34 AM »
You can also watch on Craigslist for folks selling used (empty) propane cannisters, usually of the 20# size.  (Which then can be exchanged for full ones.)

My FIL has something like 4-6 of these that he keeps on hand, both for his grill and his camp trailer.  Not sure if he has a fuel adapter to run his genset on propane.

But the nice thing about propane is it stores well, so you can stock up well beforehand.
Fortuna Fortis Paratus
“In the house of a wise man are stores of food, wine, and oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20
"We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master." -Pashtun malik, 1815

Offline ND Martin

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Re: Generators - propane vs gas
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2012, 09:55:18 PM »
When acquiring used propane tanks, be aware that tanks over 12 years old cannot be refilled unless they're recertified for another five years and after that they're scrap metal.  The date of manufacture is always stamped on the tank's collar.  That said, employees at many exchange points don't always enforce this.

Also, and particularly if you're acquiring tanks that you will have refilled yourself, look for triangular valve handles which indicate the tank has an overfill protection device--a safety feature that also prevents gas flow if the tank isn't attached.  The old round handled valves have no overfill protection.



 

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