Generators for backup power come in all different sizes. There are generators for your home or your business. They can run on different power sources – from natural gas, propane, diesel, or gasoline. Deciding which one is right for you can be overwhelming. You must take into consideration what your needs are and how you will use it. The type of fuel depends upon whether you can have access to diesel or gasoline or to natural gas (compressed natural gas or CNG or NG) or liquid petroleum gas commonly known as propane (LPG got shortened to LP). An “odorant such as ethanethiol or thiophene is added so that people can easily smell the gas in case of a leak.” When the utility power goes out at your home, there is a good chance that it went out at your local gas station, too. But if you use natural gas or propane, you won’t be standing in lines for fuel.
Back in 1910, “the New York Times reported on Dr. Snelling’s work with liquefied gas and that “…a steel bottle will carry enough [gas] to light an ordinary home for three weeks.” But do you want to light your home or do you want to live in comfort of central air and heating and have hot water for showering? The size of your home standby generator depends upon your needs and wants.
Natural gas is made up of several gases including propane, and mostly consists of methane. Is one more energy efficient than the other? “Which packs more power, natural gas or propane?” The propane companies will tell you it is propane. There are comparison charts available if you would like to figure a little. Some more complicated than others. Many generator companies has designed formulas for their installers to use. I have found that these may not be fully correct. If I use their formulas, I would have underestimated which unit a homeowner would need.
I sold a 20 kW generator to a homeowner. When I delivered the unit to the homeowner, his wife almost refused the generator. On the box, it stated that the unit was 18 KW. She said she paid for a 20 KW. I tried to explain that the unit she purchased was an 18 KW in natural gas or a 20 KW in propane. It is the same unit just different fuels. Does that affect your household and how it would run your house? No, the unit was sized according to their needs. Is there a price difference? Depends upon the manufacturer. Some standby generators can be converted easily by the homeowner or installer. Other units must come from the factory using a particular fuel.
There are conversion kits that will convert a generator from natural gas to propane or the other way around. But these kits are mostly for portable generators and not used for standby generators. Remember, standby generators are permanently installed with an automatic transfer switch. They need a factory trained installer who is an electrician. A factory trained dealer who is an electrician can trouble shoot a problem without blowing the board and costing you more money.
Next week in part II of this article I will tell you if there is a difference between natural gas and propane in relation to generator use.
Post your comment below. I want to know what fuel you use and who calculated the size of your standby generator.