Which Fuel Type is Best for Standbys? The Pros & Cons of Propane vs. Gas Generators

You’ve finally decided that you’re going to invest in a standby generator instead of a portable unit, but now you’ve got one more big decision to make: your fuel type.

Backup generators typically run on liquid propane (LP) or natural gas (NG), but what’s the difference? Does one perform better than the other, or is one cheaper?

In this post, we’re covering the advantages vs. disadvantages of propane vs. gas generators to help you choose the best standby generator fuel type for your home.

What Exactly is Liquid Propane?

Liquid propane is also just like it sounds, a liquid form of fuel. It’s a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining and is a very popular fuel type for standbys. 

Since your generator actually runs on gas and not liquid, this propane needs to be boiled to produce a light and airy gas for powering your generator. 

What Exactly is Natural Gas?

Natural gas gets its name for a reason: it’s already gas! NG is comprised of mostly methane and a mix of other gases. 

Unlike the fuel you pump at the gas station, it’s never a liquid at normal temperatures/pressures and directly feeds power to your backup generator.

How Does Each Generator Work?

The main difference between propane vs. gas generators is how each unit receives the power it needs to run.

Liquid propane is stored in underground tanks for long-term power (feeding “juice” to your generator for a few day-long outage). Fuel is delivered by propane truck drivers who use a hose to fill your tank for emergencies.

Natural gas, however, is fed to your generator via an underground pipeline, which is metered and regulated by your township. It’s not stored in a tank that you yourself own, and you have less control of cost and supply. 

Which is Better: Propane (LP) or Gas (NG)?

Both LP and NG standby generators pack quite the punch, working to power partial or whole home structures all across Florida and beyond.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each backup generator fuel type to understand why some choose one over the other:

The Case for Liquid Propane

Those who use LP-powered generators have a few reasons why they prefer this type vs. NG. 

Let’s see why homeowners commonly choose propane generators:

  • No access to a natural gas line. NG-powered generators tap into an underground fuel line to get the gas they need to run. Some neighborhoods don’t have these gas lines, and it can be costly and difficult to get a permit to have them install beneath your home. In some cases, even those with the lines may need to upgrade their gas meters to supply the amount of fuel they need to power big homes.

  • Gas whenever you need it, always. Natural gas lines can be damaged beneath your home during a natural disaster, and your access to the fuel you need can be limited or restricted when you need it the most. Unlike owning your own liquid propane tank, you won’t be able to do anything about it until the township fixes the problem. With LP, you can have your fuel delivered via truck to guarantee a full tank prior to a big storm.

  • Quieter power. Generally speaking, LP generators aren’t as noisy as NG-powered units when running. Since these standby units are usually butted right against your home, many homeowners like the quietness and not having to deal with noise pollution.

  • Fuel that never goes “bad.” Natural gas can deteriorate with time, unlike propane. The hydrocarbons start to evaporate from NG, making it less efficient or damaging to your generator, but LP can last indefinitely if safety stored.

  • A cleaner burn. For those who care about pollution, LP is often a cleaner burning fuel than NG. That’s because LP has nearly double the BTU or heating efficiency of NG, which can also help you generator run a few years longer than a natural gas unit might too.

  • Cheaper generator cost. Generally speaking, propane generators are usually less expensive than natural gas generators. Unfortunately, fuel is usually cheaper for natural gas units, but some prefer the lower initial price of the unit itself.

The Case for Natural Gas

Some homeowners choose natural gas over propane generators for their own reasons.

Here are a few reasons you might decide to pick a gas-powered generator:

  • Gas is historically cheaper than propane. Those with access to a natural gas line beneath their homes typically choose NG generators because the cost of fuel is less expensive by unit. This is hard to say for sure, as prices fluctuate, but it’s often the case.
  • No work refueling. Instead of having to monitor your tank levels and call up the propane truck driver to deliver fuel, those with natural gas always have a steady supply available (unless a natural disaster strikes— see point in preview section).
  • Lower maintenance costs. Those with propane tanks typically have the tanks serviced or cleaned every few years. Natural gas generator owners never have to worry about underground piping, as it’s the responsibility of the township.
  • Little space and installation required. Homeowners who need to install propane tanks underground need the room to dig. Those with natural gas lines already installed beneath them have less work on their hands to oftentimes get their standby unit setup and running more quickly.

Don’t Forget About Your Wattage

In addition to the propane vs. gas generator decision, you’ll also need to calculate your wattage requirements to get the right size generator. Discover how to pick the perfect size generator for your home here.

Still Need Help Deciding?

When it comes to finding the best generator, there’s certainly a lot to consider. Take away the guessing work by leaving it up to the professionals.

There’s a reason homeowners all across SWFL trust us for their residential electrical needs. Learn more about what makes our team unique and give us a call at 239.309.2836 for help selecting the right generator for you.

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