When it comes to choosing a generator, there is no shortage of options out there. From solar to wind and water to home-built and fuel-operated versions, the possibilities are endless. You might not know how to choose. But we want to tell you about the new generation in generator models. They run on natural gas and offer a whole host of benefits. These are propane-powered generators, and we want to explore how does a propane generator work.
What Is Propane?
Propane is a naturally occurring flammable gas. It is the same kind of gas used for grills and methane supplied to your home by utility companies.
How Does A Propane Generator Work?
Like every other electricity-generating medium, propane generators transform one energy form into another kind of energy. Each one has its own special way of doing that job.
In the case of propane generators, they convert motorized power into electrical energy. But how does it do that?
When you run a propane generator, the propane burns to create both energy and heat. It does that with the use of a specialized carburetor.
The carburetor blends measured amounts of air and fuel. It then injects that mixture into the cylinders of the engine.
The piston pressurizes the air and fuel mixture into the combustion chamber. The spark plug then ignites, which drives the piston downward to turn the crankshaft. The crankshaft will then spin the rotor of the generator within its electromagnetic field. This is what generates the electric current that charges batteries, powers homes, and appliances.
How much electricity your propane generator outputs, what it can power, and for how long depends on its size.
Why Are Propane Generators Rated As Clean Air Generators?
I mentioned earlier that propane is a naturally occurring gas. It releases no harmful gases or substances when you use it. But, we will talk more about this a little later in the article.
In short, propane-powered generators create electricity by transforming motorized power caused by the combustion of propane.
What Is The Run Time Of A Propane Generator?
One of the better things about propane is that it does not go bad. There is no shelf-life. You can stock up on your fuel supply and save it for rainy days.
You can have a one-pound tank of propane or as large as a four hundred and twenty-pound tank. With a propane tank of standard size installed, you can run your generator with no interruption to your power for days. You will not need to refill it manually like you would a gas or diesel generator.
But, of course, how long your propane lasts will depend on the electricity load your generator has to cover. In emergency cases, think of the most important things in your home, like heating and cooling systems. These are necessary for survival.
But a hair dryer or coffee maker are not what I would consider essential.
How Does A Propane Generator Work – Portable vs Standby
Portable propane-powered generators will supply electrical power for a short time – no more than some hours. They are small and connect to a cylinder. These are the types of generators most people pull out of storage whenever they need them.
The standby type propane generator is much larger and fixed. It will supply electricity for longer periods than the portable type (days at a time). That’s because of their connection to a large fuel storage underground.
Of course, if you do not have underground storage for your fuel, you can also connect your generator to a regular propane tank. But these are whole-house generators, and it will take more than a few gallons to keep them running for long periods.
How Does A Propane Generator Work – Manual vs Automatic
Another thing to consider when getting a propane generator is whether you prefer automatic or manual.
With manual propane-powered generators, you have to turn them on yourself. But the automatic switches on by themselves whenever the power goes out and turns off on its own when it comes back on.
Benefits Of Producing Electricity With A Propane Generator
The Shelf Life Of Propane Limitless
A generator is not something the average person uses every day. It usually sits there until the power goes out, or we need to use it for something specific. As such, it sits there, and so does the fuel used to run it.
Unlike other forms of fuel, which have an expiry date, propane has no limit to how long you can keep it in storage.
Gasoline has a shelf life of three to six months under the right conditions. You have to use an airtight container to store it, and you also should add a stabilizer to your supply to ensure it remains usable.
Without proper storage, gas becomes murky. It may look a little cloudy as well, or like it has a layer of water in it.
Diesel will last longer on the shelf, going up to twelve months. But it will only stay viable under certain conditions. The storage area has to be dry. It must remain at a specific temperature – 70-degrees Fahrenheit. And you also have to add stabilizers and biocides to keep it usable.
Without proper storage, diesel becomes like a gel. It can also grow fungus and develop sediments.
None of this is good for your generator.
But this is not the case with propane. You have no reason to outfit your propane generator to survive the winter. And you also will not have to add any stabilizers to keep it usable. There are no storage requirements to keep propane healthy and usable.
Whenever you need to use your propane generator, your supply of fuel will always be ready for use.
Propane Burns Clean
How does a propane generator work and burn clean? The answer is simple.
Inside the generator is a water and ammonia mixture that responds to raised temperature.
combustion engines that use ammonia have a slower chemical response rate than other fuels. That’s because ammonia responds to or ignites in extreme heat and has a low flame speed. That just means that it gets hot fast but it will not burn readily or quickly.
But as the mixture reaches the burning point, it creates ammonia gas. And this slow rate of the chemical reaction allows ammonia to leave the engine through the exhaust without burning.
Propane is a natural, clean-burning fuel. Not only are lower emissions better for air quality and the environment, but they also need less maintenance. That makes them more reliable and they last longer.
Still, keep in mind, no matter what generator you have, you can only run them outside of your home.
Do not use them inside any building – not even the garage as the carbon monoxide can escape. It does not matter that propane is a naturally occurring gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death.
Propane Is Readily Available
Generators powered by fuel are useless without the substance that gets them going. In the event of certain disasters, gas and diesel may be harder to come by.
Propane generator users will have less difficulty getting natural gas for a few reasons.
- The gas lines run underground.
That means you can run a gas line to your standby/wholehouse propane generator and never have to worry about resupplying.
- The lines are storm and windproof.
These lines are hard to damage during a storm so you supply most likely will not be interrupted.
- You can get propane tanks anywhere selling gas grills.
- You can even have the tanks delivered to your property.
- You can use tank monitors.
Once installed, these monitors will keep track of your fuel levels. They will alert your supplier and you when your supply runs lows.
What Is The Cost Of Running A Propane Generator?
There is no denying that the initial setup of a propane generator will be more costly than gas or diesel. The equipment alone costs more. And although iis cheaper to buy propane, it also burns faster than other fuels. So, you will go through more propane in an hour than you will with a gas or diesel generator.
But, remember, a generator might not be a tool you need to use every day. Gas and diesel need proper storage. And even with your best efforts, your gas or diesel can still fail.
Propane does not need any special storage ritual. You will never need to treat, replace, or throw out your supply.
You Can Run Your Gas Generator On Propane
The first thing I want to say about this is it can cancel the warranty on your generator. So, think about it.
The second thing I will say is it is possible to put propane in your gas generator and power your home with it. It will take some tinkering. Do the research to do this project yourself and enjoy the benefits of propane generators without the extra expense.
Or, you can buy a generator that works using both propane and gasoline. There is a gasoline tank for petrol but there is also an inlet to connect a line for propane.
More and more, we watch the world move away from oil-based fuels to more natural alternatives. And it’s not only because it will help your wallet.