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Propane Generator

Post in 'The Gear' started by xman23, Oct 31, 2012.

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  1. xman23

    xman23 Minister of Fire

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    I am going to purchase a 2 to 6 KW generator. I am going to keep it a small as possible, trying to reduce fuel consumption. 110 Volt or the smallest 220 is what I am thinking. One idea I have is to go with a propane fuel model. My reasons are fuel doesn't go bad, carbs don't gum up. I hope to purchase a large propane tank.

    Any pro or cons with propane or gas? Can you buy and fill larger than a 20 LBS tank? Model you like?

    Thanks for your thoughts
    Tom

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  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Mine are gasoline. But over the years I have heard and read a lot about problems with propane generators starting in very cold weather. And fuel pressure problems when the tank is cold.
  3. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    Mine is gas also.

    My propane heater did not run well at all in cold weather it is no longer used.
  4. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    First off, there are many different sized propane tanks you can buy. The last one I picked up was a 100lb tank from Tractor Supply. It cost around $100 and filling it up ran around 60-70 when I filled it last year. I just checked TSC and they sell 20, 30, 40 and 100lb tanks.

    Maybe a conversion kit is an option? That way you could run propane and gas on the same generator.

    Check the propane usage for the generator you're using. I was surprised at the amount it used and think that gasoline would be easier to find in an emergency unless you had a large propane tank. I don't consider a 100lb tank large.

    When I sat down and figured what I'd want to keep running for a week without power I was surprised on how little it was. At the time it was only a few lights. I figured what was in the fridge was a lost cause after a few days. I ended up with a little 2 cycle 800 watt job. I now have a chest freezer and would like a larger generator that I could run every couple days and keep it cold. I'm thinking I could get by with something in the 2000 watt range would work for me. Since only an hour or two of use a day would do me fine, I think I could make 10 gallons of gas last a long time. Whatever gas was left could go into the truck.

    Matt
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  5. jotul8e2

    jotul8e2 Feeling the Heat

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    It takes something over four pounds of propane to make a gallon. A gallon of gas has nearly 50% more btus than a gallon of propane. So, a 100 lb. tank of propane will have - very roughly - the energy equivalent of 16 gallons of gasoline. A 6 kw generator at 1/2 load will burn 1 to 1 1/2 gal. of gasoline an hour. A 100 lb. tank of propane might not last an entire day.

    I know I thought about a pad mounted propane standby unit for my place - until I realized it would need a 500 gal. tank all to itself.
  6. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    My experience is that a 6kw sized genset will burn much less, between 0.5 and 1.0 gallons of gasoline per hour so you'll get more time but good point, not a lot. You can still buy the big propane pig tanks at home depot. That size tank, about 100 gallons, is not portable but it can be located just about anywhere without setback requirements.

    I went with the smallest 220 volt genset I could find which is the very popular champion 4000. It will easily run 12 hours on one 4 or 5 gallon fill of gasoline, is relatively quiet, easy to start, and I can lift it into a pickup.

    Good idea on minimizing genset size. You don't need to be heating water, running the dryer, hot tub, or baking in the oven with electricity during an emergency outage. The biggest emergency load will usually be a water well pump if you have one.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I have two 3250/2500 gas powered gennys. I also have a 5000 watt but after I bought the first small one and saw it run all that we needed for a week for a fraction of the gas of the big one the big one just holds the floor of the genny shed down. I just fire the second one for the coffee maker and the really nice dual burner hot plate on the top of the kitchen stove to cook breakfast and shut it down until time to cook something else. Just one of them runs all of the fridges, TVs, computers and lights in the joint just fine. I have a whole house power monitor and aside from the well pump and the water heater it is really rare to see more than 2KWH of juice being drawn at one time.
  8. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    We've had a good number of power outages over the last decade (WAY more than we had in the 20 years prior). As a result, lots of folks around here now have generators, many, choose a whole house unit that runs off the propane tank that they have already.

    A little over a year ago, when Irene came through, a good many of those folks generators kicked on and they thought the world was grand. That was, until they realized the propane company and let them get low (like under 30% in their tanks since usage is down in the spring/summer/fall) and they were out out fuel in short order.

    I echo the cold starting problems / icing problems with propane tanks when the weather is cold. A propane generator I was looking at the other day was listed at 7k I believe, and claimed 10-12 hours on a 20lb cylinder at 50% load. If that usage is accurate, that's pretty darn good. However, I've used propane out of a 20lb cylinder at a slower rate than that before when temps are in the mid 20's outside, and had the propane tank freeze up so I'd be concerned about a generator having the same problem.

    If you go propane, I'd go for the biggest cylinder that the propane company would allow me to have on my property, and make sure it doesn't get low, even in the summer.

    Also, the whole house units that kick on automatically often have an electric heater for the carb. That means, even if you tried turning it off to save fuel in cold weather, you may not be able to get it to fire again w/out electric to heat things up.

    pen
  9. jlightning

    jlightning Member

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    I am a big fan of my storm responder gas generator i have. I am running it now as i type! The power has been out for two days after Sandy passed through. i have ran the generator during the days but turn it off at night and have gone through 12 gal gas for a 5500-8200w generator. The generator runs 2 refrigerators 1 chest freezer two lights the fan for my stove a osculating fan phone chargers and the tv and im probably forgetting something! I thought about a propane setup also but for the fact that i dont keep alot of propane on hand and always have 20gal of gas around for my mower and other gas powered equipment it just made more sense. As long as you put stabilizers in the fuel and you run the engine dry before storing it you should be fine. I didnt even need to use the choke to start it after sitting for a year!
  10. Captain Hornet

    Captain Hornet Member

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    I modified my 4000w generator with a add on propane kit. Didn't like the idea of gas sitting around getting old and gummy. The kit well let you use gas, propane or natural gas, your choice. So far it's worked great with no problems. Try www.propane-generators.com. Their site has lots of good info. David
  11. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    My opinion:
    In an emergency, gasoline is more easy to scrounge up if needed.
    Seem to always have a gas can around.
    Mine's gasoline, 120/220 V so I can run the well pump.
  12. Elderthewelder

    Elderthewelder Minister of Fire

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  13. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    Natural Gas Generator Sets
    A natural gas generator connects directly to a natural gas line for clean, safe and quiet operation.
    Advantages:
    Usually unlimited fuel source - refueling not necessary
    Clean burning
    Almost always available during power outages
    No unsightly tank required
    Disadvantages:
    May be unavailable during natural disasters (earthquakes, etc.)
    Lower power output (30% less BTU's per unit than gasoline)
    Larger tanks are not aesthetically pleasing (unsightly)
    Fuel system plumbing results in higher installation cost
    Not available in many areas

    Propane Generator
    Advantages:
    Long shelf life
    Clean burning
    Easily stored in both large tanks or in smaller 5-10 gallon cylinders
    Obtainable during power outages - gas stations may be unable to pump other fuels during an area wide outage but, LP tanks are usually stocked full
    Home delivery available for larger tanks is commonplace
    Disadvantages:
    Pressurized cylinder of flammable gas
    Fuel system is more complicated (increased possibility of failure)
    Larger tanks are not aesthetically pleasing (unsightly)
    Fuel system plumbing results in higher installation cost
    Some local ordinances prohibit the use of high pressure LP in residential applications
  14. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Look into the Campion 73536i inverter generator 1700 watts continuous and 2000 watts surge. Real world run times are 8-9 hours at 50% load using the ECO option. Thing is virtually silent outside sitting on the deck. Paid just about $500 a year ago from cabelas

    I torture tested it running a 1500 watt ceramic heater and 300 watt halogen worklight and it didn't even stutter and voltage output only dropped down to 118 volts (normal was 122)
  15. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    My Generator inventory:

    Gillette 7200W - 14 hp Briggs Vanguard V-Twin, elect. start, sits in the garage near the overhead door and is wired to the house via a manual transfer switch.

    Positives: Has the cajones to run AC's (for summertime outages) and my well pump, fridge, freezer, lights, TV, microwave, .... Good on fuel for the output of the generator, has a "idle down feature" which is helpful as well. This unit also keeps me in business (working from the garage) during long outages as well since it also runs my compressor, garage lights, small welder, and other power tools. Good clean output due to the quality of the generator and the v-twin's smoother power delivery. I have run my TV's and computers from it for a week at a time with no issues. My wife can start it and switch over the transfer switch so I don't have to be home in an emergency which is great since I am often helping freinds/family during emergencies or responding to service calls.

    Drawbacks: It's damned expensive to run (about $50 a day right now, $3.80 ish a gallon) if you need it 24/7 (which I often don't. It's noisy being in the garage and necessitates leaving the overhead open at least 12" meaning that my shop/tools are unsecured. It's heavy enough that I'm not worried about it "walking" away ;lol (and don't want to meet the sumbitch that can pick it up....) which means I can't use it away from my house without some serious planning/effort.

    Honda EV6010 RV Generator mounted in my service trailer

    Positives: It's quiet, liquid-cooled, and powerful. It's mounted in my trailer so it can follow me anywhere I can drive. It's pretty decent on fuel and since it's also a twin-cyl engine, very clean output. It's exceptionally quiet for a 6kw unit as well. Push-button operability, no choke controls to fiddle with, you push start and it fires, that simple.

    Drawbacks: The trailer ain't exactly petite so you need extension cords long enough to reach it wherever you park it. I haven't converted it to 220V output either so it won't run most well-pumps, water heaters, etc.

    Chicago Electric 800/900w 2-stroke "pup" generator

    Getting to like this unit more even tho it can be a tad cantankerous at times. But for $80 what the hell, right? I use it like a portable outlet, it's very quiet and amazing on fuel. Note the engine likes lots of cheapo oil in the fuel rather than a sparing dose of top-shelf stuff. ;lol
  16. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    Anybody know advantages/disadvantages with diesel generators? Those of us that have 275 gallon home heating oil tanks have no problems with fuel availability, and heating oil has high BTU's.
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The diesel gensets are typically larger, heavier, and significantly more expensive than the gas gensets. You also don't generally see smaller ones. I have seen a few air cooled single cyclinder 3600 rpm shinese diesel sets but they are not cheap and since they are very chinese looking it is a big risk.

    Buying a civilian market diesel genset from an american type company means very high output, non-portable, and super expensive.

    The best bet is to try and find a used RV diesel genset. Fancy diesel pusher motorhomes sometimes had diesel gensets, often onan brand, that were 1800 rpm and quiet.
  18. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Most of the small diesels are chinese low grade stuff. Lombardi makes a good engine and Kohler now reps them in the US. Yanmars are also good quality. They are both expensive. In general any diesel is quite heavy and can be difficult to start in cold weather.

    There are a small but dedicated bunch that runs the old Lister Diesels, they were designed eons ago and the Indians still makes clones of them. They will run forever and will burn just about anything and are slow speed. Unfortunately the EPA banned them from importation. I have even seen some converted to wood gas operation.

    Here is a link to a site that used to import them (they dont anymore) but it has a geat video (unfortunately I think the audio doesnt work). If you really want one for a project, there is someone in Canada that imports Lister compressors that are identical to the diesel minus some key part that they will gladly sell you.

    I have a more recent 1960's Lister Petter12 volt high speed generator sitting in my garage waiting to get turned into a portable power plant.
  19. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    I have a Coleman 6250/5000W continuous that I fortunately haven't had to use yet in an emergency. My BIL used it for several days while framing his home a couple years ago. Fired it up a couple weeks ago to make sure the Stabil was doing its job. I'm not sure how well it would run my boiler circs or boiler for that matter due to the power quality. I too have been thinking of going the diesel route. Shelf life on that stuff is quite a bit longer than gas. Some type of generator head that would connect to my little 16hp JD diesel tractor and use an alternator to charge the deep cycles for the boiler inverter. I don't think I would ever have enough gas on hand to run the Coleman more than a few days. Guess I would have 3 autos to siphon gas out of as long as they weren't all empty!
  20. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    Bummer on all the drawback for diesel generators. I was hoping it might be a good solution for me since I have the big oil tank in the basement that never gets used thanks to wood heat. Not having to worry about storing gasoline would be a big Plus.We lose power all the time in the Merrimac valley, at least in my neck of the woods.
  21. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    Is your garage attached to your house? I heard in the news recently of a few people dying from carbon monoxide. I think it's smart that you open the garage door a foot but I don't think it's recommended to run it in doors. Sounds like you are doing fine.
  22. xman23

    xman23 Minister of Fire

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    Seige, Thanks, I took your recommendation found the Campion online and ordered one $599 now. Not the propane I was considering, but I always have a lot of gas on hand with all my gas powerd equipment. It's the right size 1700 watts, will run the fridge, gas furnace, and lights. Of course one at a time. It should be good on fuel, quiet, light and portable and outputs sine wave power.

    Tom
  23. CT-Mike

    CT-Mike Minister of Fire

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    For those looking for a diesel powered genset, do some looking at www.govliquidation.com. This website auctions off military surplus equipment. You want to search for "Generators." What you are looking for is 'MEP-003A' for 10 KW, MEP-004A for 20KW, and MEP-005A is a 30KW machine. MEP stands for Mobile Emergency Power. These are military grade sets that will last forever.
  24. jotul8e2

    jotul8e2 Feeling the Heat

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    We are both right. You seldom will run at half load (unless your are using electric heat - and if so what are you doing on a wood burning forum?:) ), so your actual consumption per hour would be less than a gallon of gas per hour.
  25. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    You will be happy with it! After i bought mine and tested it out, my mom had me order one for her. Of course we haven't had an extended outage to since i bought the thing. Let us know how you like it when it comes in

    Tim
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