Propane vs Natural Gas Generators: Everything You Need to Know

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Last Updated on August 28, 2021 by leo

illustration of natural gas vs propane gas generators

A propane or natural gas generator is an excellent choice for emergency backup power in the event of a power outage.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel that has been used for decades. It is often found in deep underground reservoirs. It’s colorless, odorless, and more than 70% of it is made up of methane.

Propane is extracted from natural gas. It’s actually a byproduct of natural gas processing and crude oil refinement. It’s compressed into liquid form and stored in portable tanks.

If you’re considering using either, it’s crucial that you know the differences between the two fuels and which one will work best with your needs before making a purchase.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when deciding which fuel type will be best for you:

Which Fuel is More Accessible to You: Propane or Gas?

illustration of green natural gas cylinder and yellow propane gas pipe

The biggest difference between natural gas and propane is their delivery method.

Your location will dictate what kind of fuel you have access to and how much it costs.

Propane often comes in liquid form, stored in heavy tanks that need to be refilled periodically. On the other hand, natural gas is delivered to homes via pipelines, which means that it’s available 24/7.

Propane tanks require refills but also have the advantage of getting around where there aren’t any gas lines. This makes propane very convenient for people who live outside of urban centers where natural gas isn’t available.

On the other hand, natural gas has the advantage of being accessible at all times because it’s piped directly into people’s homes.

Which Type of Generator Runs the Longest: Propane or Natural Gas Generators?

Illustration of a balance with a gas cylinder on the left and propane pipes on the right

Generator run times will depend on fuel supply so as long as you have enough supply of natural gas or propane, your generator will keep running indefinitely.

You don’t need to worry about running out of natural gas because it flows off of a meter and into your home through your gas line whenever you need it.

However, generators need sufficient pressure coming from the gas lines for them to work. So if for some reason, your gas line loses pressure, then your generator may stop working.

With propane, you won’t have that problem. Depending on the power load, a 500-gallon propane tank can keep a generator running continuously for 1 to 2 weeks. But you need to make sure that you’re well-supplied with propane at all times.

If you run out of propane during a power outage or storm, then it might be challenging to get your tank refilled, depending on your area.

Which one is safer: Liquid Propane or Natural Gas?

Illustration about the safety of propane gas and natural gas

Even though propane is heavier than natural gas, it’s a little safer. Natural gas is lighter and dissipates more quickly when released into the atmosphere, still it’s difficult to identify and fix leaks because of all the infrastructure that comes with gas lines.

If gas lines are not maintained, they can cause leaks and accidents. Since propane is stored in a tank versus an underground pipe system, accidents are less likely. And even when it does leak, it will have less of an impact compared to natural gas.

We all know that gas leaks are a serious issue because you can’t smell them by themselves. So to detect leaks (in case they happen), companies add chemicals like ethyl mercaptan, which has a very unpleasant smell, to both propane and natural gas.

Check with your local utility company if you have access to natural gas lines in your area and if so, check if they’re properly maintained.

Are Natural Gas Generators Cheaper than Propane Generators?

Illustration of a scale with a generator on the left and money on the right

Let’s start with the cost per gallon for each type of fuel. Currently, natural gas costs around $4 per 1,000 cubic feet which compares to about 12 gallons. That computes to just around $0.34 per gallon of natural gas.

Propane, on the other hand, costs around $2.38 per gallonroughly seven times more than natural gas.

Natural gas may seem like the winner here, but let’s take a look at efficiency.

Propane has a higher density and has roughly twice the amount of energy as natural gas, which means you’ll use less of it to power the same appliances.

Propane is more efficient because it releases 2,516 BTUs (British Thermal Unit) per cubic foot. Natural gas only offers 1,030 BTUs per cubic foot.

So even though natural gas costs less per gallon, you’ll need to use more of it compared to propane.

In addition, since natural gas is delivered to your home via pipeline, you need to have the infrastructure in place to accommodate it. If you don’t, then you’ll find yourself paying for high installation costs as well as maintenance.

With propane, there’s no need for any of that since they come in portable canisters that can be refilled or delivered to your home. 

Now let’s talk about the cost of generators for each type. For natural gas generators, they cost anywhere between $1,900 to $5,000. For propane generators, expect to get them for around $500 to $6,000.

If your home is already connected to a gas line or if you don’t mind making that upfront investment, natural gas may be the cheaper option long term. 

If not, propane is the best choice since not only is it more accessible and convenient, but it also packs more energy per gallon.

Propane Vs Natural Gas Pros and Cons

 

AccessibilityRun timeSafetyCost 
Propane
  • Available by delivery even if your area doesn’t supply gas lines; but might be difficult to transport during a storm.
  • A 500-gallon tank can power a generator continuously for 1-2 weeks, depending on load; but requires regular refilling.
  • Leaks can easily be detected. 
  • Accidents are more isolated. 
  • Tanks need to be stored in a secure location.
  • More expensive per gallon but more energy-efficient, which means you need less of it.
  • Minimal cost of installation but requires transportation costs for regular refilling through delivery.
  • Cost of generators for this type of fuel is around $500 to $6,000.
Natural Gas
  • Available 24/7 only if your house is connected to a gas line. Not available in some areas.
  • Available whenever you need it; but requires sufficient gas pressure.
  • Leaks are harder to detect and fix. 
  • Gas lines need to be regularly maintained to prevent accidents. 
  • Accidents have a greater impact in case they happen.
  • Much cheaper per gallon but less efficient than propane so you will have to use more of it.
  • High cost of installation and maintenance if your home is not already connected to a gas line.
  • Cost of generators for this type of fuel is around $1,900 to $5,000.

 

Best 3 Propane Generators to Buy in 2021

The best thing about propane generators is that most of them are dual-fuel generators, which means they can run on either propane or gasoline, giving you more flexibility compared to natural gas.

To help you in your journey, here are my top picks for propane generators:

DuroMax XP4850EH Generator

 

green generator DuroMax xp4850EH seen in three positions

DuroMax comes from a leading engine manufacturer. Their 210cc OHV is designed to provide maximum power and efficiency in any application, making it perfect for those who need versatility from their equipment.

If you’re looking for an all-around dual fuel generator that can use both gasoline and propane, this is one of the best. With 4,850 starting watts and 3,850 running watts, it’s tough enough for just about anything you can throw at it – from lights or your refrigerator to high amp power tools.

DuroMax XP4850EH Generator-4850 Watt Gas or Propane Powered-Electric Start-Camping Ready, 50 State Approved Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Green & Conntek 30 4 Prong to 15/20 Amp Generator Y-Adapter
  • Product 1: Plenty of Power – With 4,850 starting watts and 3,850 running watts, this unit can handle heavy loads, from lights and a refrigerator to a home air conditioner and high amperage power tools

You can check the full DuroMax XP4850EH review here

 

Westinghouse WGen3600DF Generator

 

Blue generator WGen3600DF seen in three positions

Westinghouse is one of the leading brands when it comes to portable generators. You can’t go wrong with one of their dual fuel generators.

With 4650W starting wattage, the Westinghouse WGen3600DF is the perfect solution for generating enough power to keep your home comfortable and productive during an emergency or power outage. 

It skillfully combines the convenience of an electric start with the versatility of running on either gas or propane. Switching between them is as easy as flipping a switch.

Sale
Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment WGen3600DF Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator & Camco 40043 TastePure RV/Marine Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector
  • Product 1: 3600 Rated Watts & 4650 Peak Watts (Gasoline); 3240 Rated Watts & 4650 Peak Watts (Propane); 4 Gallon Fuel Tank (with Fuel Gauge); Electric Push Button and Remote Start

Here’s our 10 best Westinghouse generators for you

Pulsar G12KBN Generator

 

gray generator G12KBN seen in three positions

Pulsar is a brand with many different generators, ranging from 1kW to 10 kW. These include some dual fuel and RV-ready models that will keep you powered up on the go!

The G12KBN is the perfect generator for those seeking a reliable and powerful backup during power outages. With 10800W (propane) / 12800W (gasoline) starting wattage, this beast can support major appliances and comes with convenient drop-down handles as well as 10” never-flat wheels that make it portable enough to store in any tight space.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to choosing between propane and natural gas generators, there are many factors that can determine the best choice for your home.

I hope this guide has helped you understand the difference between natural gas and propane generators and given you a fair comparison of some factors that can help you determine which one is the better choice for you.

Last update on 2021-09-10 Affiliate links & images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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