propane generators

Discussion in 'Energy & Electricity' started by infidel, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. infidel

    infidel Guest

    Are propane generators cheaper to run than normal ones? I heard the phone company used those to keep the lines working during houston's power outages. Are they as easy to find as gas ones?
  2. OldTXCop

    OldTXCop Member

    After being thru Ike, I'm seriously thinking about a propane based back-up generator system for my home. The starting price for the equipment is around $4000. It will probably run another $1500-2000, for an electrician to make the necessary connections to your home.

    Once done though, when the power goes out, go outside throw a lever switch and the unit fires up and you have power. The system i priced, included a tank that if full would last about 30 days. Natural gas is cheaper than propane, but my area doesn't have gas lines, so my only option is propane.

    Lowe's and Home Depot sell these systems. If you google "generac" you will find all sorts of info on these systems. I believe they were one of the first makers of these systems.

  3. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

    If the power goes out would the natural gas lines stop working? Some neighborhoods don't have light poles and their front yards are lighted at night by natural gas so this could be very negative for them or positive since they would still have light if it still works...
  4. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Having lived in the Fla. keys were 5 minor hurricanes a year isn't uncommon, but even a minor hurricane, or a hurricane strike up on the mainland will leave us dark for days and sometimes weeks (ANDREW!)...

    And having grown up in, and now living in 'Tornado Alley' again,
    I've learned a couple of things about generators...

    1. You don't need to buy a 'Propane' or 'Natural Gas' specific generator. (also called a 'Genset')
    Most of the popular larger brand generators, whether gasoline or diesel, have kits made for them you can add propane on top to make them 'Dual Fuel' units.

    This is REAL handy when you don't know which tank is going to get blown/washed away...

    2. If you can use the most BASIC common sense when working with propane or natural gas, it's VERY EASY to convert about any generator over yourself.

    Remember, generators run at a constant speed, so if you get the mixture right for 'Full Pull', then it will just run a little rich when it's not 'generating', which you should shut it off anyway...
    Fuel diffusers and engine shut off switches/valves are EASY to wire and use, so there really isn't any reason someone handy couldn't convert a gas or diesel engine generator for propane or CNG.

    3. Buy more generator than you think you need.
    Buy as much generator as you can afford, and then get the next biggest model...
    There isn't any such thing as a home generator that is 'Too Big', but you can very easily buy one that is 'Too Small'.

    4. Advertised Wattage is usually the MAXIMUM SURGE LOAD, and the generator will melt down if you try and run it at the wattage stated on the sticker on the side!

    Example, my first 'Hurricane' generator was a 'Craftsman' brand.
    Splashed down the side in big letters was "4,000 WATTS OF POWER".
    Turns out, that was the peak 'Surge' rating, anything over 2,500 watts output and it would throw breakers and eventually melted the solder out of the terminal connections in the generator.

    5. Mounting/Storage/Hookup location is everything!
    The generator won't do you any good if it's been under water for 4 days, or the outlet where you connect it is under water!

    6. Don't be afraid of a deal.
    Very low hour generators can be had for cheap right now because of the hurricanes down south, and the flooding in the midwest.

    Remember, every one of the larger boats had a good sized genset in it, and every one of the larger RV's that were ruined in the hurricane or floods had a good sized genset in it!
    The salvage places are full of good quality, brand name gensets with low hours on them right now for dirt cheap prices!

    They are 'High Speed' engines and they will drive you crazy listening to them in short order!

    The larger ones like Onan and Cat will have low speed engines that don't drive you crazy!
    The live a lot longer too! The lower speeds of the engines meas the genset will last for years of constant use, were the lawnmower engine versions will crap out in short order.
    (how many hours do you usually get out of a little lawn mower engine?)
  5. pantser

    pantser Guest

    Is it possible to catch your generator on fire from plugging too much stuff into it? Wouldn't it simply not provide enough power rather than overwork itself?
  6. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Not a modern generator, they come equipped with circuit breakers and other generator protection on the smaller ones,
    and on the larger ones, they are routed through your service panel in the home, using the house breakers or fuses.

    When I was trying to get the 'Advertised' wattage out of a little gasoline/electric generator (GenSet) the breakers kept popping, so I knew I wasn't using the advertised wattage, so I went to a bigger breaker...

    That managed to melt some solder connections inside and stopped generation completely,
    And when I was fixing that later on, I noticed some over temperature protection in there also, so if it had seriously overheated, those would have activated (and I'd have had to fix even more stuff!)

    So there is more than one 'Fail Safe' to keep them from burning up...
    At least the brand name ones made for the US market are pretty well protected..
  7. ant00

    ant00 New Member

    After Ike went thru I purchased 5 Guardian propane/NG generators for 2900.00 each with transfer switch included, I have resold 3 at cost to employees that had elderly or young children living in the homes. I have 130KW diesel on my farm that runs everything including water wells. I have been told there are more BTU's in NG, I did not have the option, but two of the new owners do, the other has propane.
    I have a couple of home built propane generators around also, just got tired of having to work on them every time we need the and sprung the the trailer mounted 130 KW unit,
  8. StillStanding

    StillStanding ...despite the fall

    In most areas the natural gas distribution system is more or less independent of electricity. California would be the exception because, due to air quality rules, they have electric-powered compressor plants.

    The few natural gas genset installations I've seen were set up to run on propane also in the event of a gas outage.
  9. Dr. Know

    Dr. Know Member

    No, NG is supplied from a "tight line". These line span the country underground and the pressure is maintained by compressor stations. So if the line in not ruptured the gas will be there!

    On a side note, just a little advise from a 15 storm veteran, the last thing you should do BEFORE you evac from a storm is cut your gas off at the meter, you could even drop a lock in the lock hole (its there, just look) so if your house is damaged, the chance of fire from a broken pipe is gone!

  10. 10101

    10101 Guest

  11. readytogo

    readytogo ExCommunicated

  12. Well_Driller

    Well_Driller Member

    Most cheap generators run at a 3600 RPM governed speed. If a NG or propane kit is setup properly then it should not be running rich whether it has a load or not. Also you cannot convert a diesel engine to run on propane or NG by itself without adding spark ignition to it. You can however inject propane while running on diesel but probably not much point in doing that on a generator unless the engine needs a power boost. The reason some guys inject propane on their diesel trucks is for performance reasons....

    You can still find older onans that run at 1800 RPM in the smaller units which are nice. I have 3 small 2.5KW onans that run nice and quiet at 1800 RPMS and we have a couple that we had been runnning anywhere from 8 to 16 hrs a day 7 days a week for almost a year now. If we would have run one of those 3600 RPM units like that we would have worn it out probably inside a month.... As far as I know on new generators you have to get up into the 20KW range I believe in a commercial unit to get the 1800 RPM generator. A lot of people don't have that kind of money to spend on a generator though the commercial units are by far the best long term investment you can make. So that's why there are so many cheaper 3600 RPM units sold. I am amazed by all these house generators i've seen around here, they're all 3600 RPM units that i've seen up to 20KW unless it's a commercial/industrial generator....
  13. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    Diesel light towers with Kubota or Isuzu engines are the best buy in the "under 10KW" size. 3-cylinder D905 Kubota with 6Kw head will run 24 hours on just a couple gallons of fuel, and will do it for 20,000 hours, and very quietly at that.

    Some RV's also have small diesel Kubota (Cummins/Onan) generators. These are good quality but not cheap.

    NONE of any of this is cheap!
  14. GaryS

    GaryS Member

    The house I'm selling has a 20kw Generac with a smart circuit that automatically starts the generator when the power is off for a minute or so. It will run on either propane or NG with the flip of a switch. Our little development has its own common propane tanks, so that's what I used. It only had one long run of about six hours, and at the rate it drank fuel, I wouldn't want to run it full time!

    The new house I built has a 500 gal propane tank filled and plumbed for when I install a generator here.
  15. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    20KW is a size for folks that feel they need central A/C and know "they will always be able to order more propane!" (and the extra money to pay for it). I think the ideal setup is a small unit, less than 6KW and ONLY used for "essential" loads like refrigerator/freezer and well pump, and only during "high demand" times - like when preparing a meal. If you don't "need" it and can't keep it at a load over 50%, don't run the darn thing.
  16. GaryS

    GaryS Member

    Yep, you are absolutely right. The main reason for the 20KW was because we lived in a place that lost power at least once a week for the six years we lived there. Usually it was for only a few minutes, but often it was for hours and a few times it was days. At her age and physical condition, my wife is incapable of handling the job of manually starting and switching a portable generator, so I opted for a fully automatic setup.

    I find that my views of "survival" and "preparedness" have evolved considerably as the years take their toll on our bodies and minds. What only a few years ago was deemed important has become frivolous, and what was unneeded then has become a priority now.
  17. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    Same here, my wife is young but tiny. I bought the electric start Onan for her. (5Kw)

    Very true! But that comes with gaining knowledge and wisdom as well.
  18. midnight

    midnight 2 minutes to ...

    I'm a bit iffy on natural gas generators. Sure, most compression stations have backup generators that will keep the natural gas line pressure up even during longer blackouts. But if there's a slightly larger natural disaster or if it happens at the "right" place (or wrong place, depending on how you want to put it), you'd be screwed. An earthquake can rupture a natural gas line, a hurricane or tornado can demolish a compression station entirely. I'd definitely run with propane, or at least have some as backup.

    Gas-propane conversion generators are also nice, but I dunno if you can get those as home standby models which will turn on automatically, may be a bit harder to come by.
  19. shadowrider

    shadowrider Well-Known Member

    The large home auto start generators will run on propane or natural gas.
  20. Coastal

    Coastal Member

    Diesel generators are unbeatable for the long haul. They will always outlast a NG gen in life span as combustion temps are cooler. I've seen lots of NG gens pop head gaskets, or have complete catastrophic failure. I like the big diesel brands like john deere, cat, cummins, kubota, even yanmar.