Uncle Bobs Tips: Generator Guide

Propane Generators

Propane generators also require less frequent maintenance than their gaseous counterparts.

The dizzying array of options and the daunting nature of electricity can make purchasing a generator difficult. Fortunately, a short tutorial on generator types can help narrow your search.

There are basically two types of generators: standby and portable. If your home uses natural gas or propane, the corresponding standby gas or propane generator can tap into your local gas utility line. In the event of a power outage, back up power is received automatically via the standby generator. Portable generators are cheaper but only allow you to use power a few hours at a time. Portable generators can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane. These types of generators are ideal for campgrounds or contractors working at remote construction sites.

CHOOSING FUEL: Generators can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane. While gasoline is probably the most common generator fuel source, it isn't necessarily the best. Its advantages are that it's cheap, readily available at gas stations and provides substantial power. But gasoline doesn't perform well in cold temperatures. It's also difficult to transport and it smells.

The propane generator is the type favored by most home users to supply their residence with backup electric power. Since gasoline tends to go bad after a few months, there are several situations in which it is more desirable to count on a propane generator for power. Using a propane generator ensures that there will be no cold weather starting problems. Propane generators also require less frequent maintenance than their gaseous counterparts. Farms commonly employ propane-powered generators, which can provide the same power as gasoline but can run uninterruptedly if connected to a big tank or a gas pipeline.

Additional advantages of using propane for your propane generators include:

  • Long shelf life
  • Clean burning
  • Easily stored in both large tanks or smaller 5-10 gallon cylinders
  • Obtainable during power outages
  • Home delivery available for large tanks

However, on the down side, propane is more expensive than natural gas and propane generators provide ten percent less power than gasoline.

Diesel fuel is another option when it comes to powering generators. Similar to gasoline, it can be purchased easily and provides good power output. However, diesel generators require deliveries of diesel fuel and a large holding tank. In addition, while diesel generators have cleaned up their act considerably in recent years, diesel generators are still not as clean-burning as other types.

It is highly recommended that a professional install your propane generator, since wiring and equipment of propane generators must be in line with National Electrical Code regulations, local ordinances and your power supplier. As an extension of power service, the generator must provide the same type of electricity at the same voltage and frequency as supplied by the power lines.

To prolong the life of your propane generator, make sure the unit is kept clean and in good running condition at all times, as to be ready for immediate use. Accumulated dust and dirt may affect propane generator performance. Also, follow maintenance instructions in the user's guide. Regularly scheduled "warm-ups" are advised in order to keep your propane generator working properly.

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