Gasoline portable generator vs. liquid propane portable generator | FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV

Comparing gasoline portable generators and liquid propane generators

Whether you are camping, hosting an outdoor event with live music and heavy lighting or in the midst of a power outage, portable generators are a smart investment and an essential item to have. While there are a variety of portable generators, most use either a gasoline or propane motor to convert mechanical energy into electricity. Gasoline portable generators are more cost-effective and low maintenance, but liquid propane generators burn clean and have limitless shelf life.

What do gasoline portable generators do?

Gasoline portable generators are excellent for multipurpose use and are considered to be the traditional fuel type for portable generators. Overall, portable generators reliably meet the expectations of many roles, such as operating power tools or powering up the RV for a weekend getaway. Unlike standby generators, gasoline portable generators are never permanently installed, which means they can be easily transported, accessed and provide flexibility.

Rated by the amount of power they produce, it is important to understand the startup watts necessary to effectively run the equipment you plan to connect. Additionally, consumers should understand what sort of outlets they need to power gasoline portable generators. With hundreds of models to choose from, gasoline portable generators are designed to operate two standard outlet plugs: 120 volt 20 amp plug and 120/140 volt 30 amp plug. For safety reasons, it is imperative consumers do not go over the volts and amps limit when connecting devices, run appliances and other equipment frivolously or refuel a running generator.

Gasoline portable generators can run for 7.5-12 hours on average and must be powered down before refilling. If an individual attempts to refuel a running gasoline portable generator, it could ignite the engine and cause a fire or explosion. Typically, gasoline portable generators cost $400-$2,400; however, different outputs and features can increase the price.

Gasoline portable generator pros

  • Using gasoline increases the portability of a generator, making it incredibly versatile in terms of taking it places.
  • They require little maintenance in comparison to liquid propane portable generators and are much more affordable.
  • Gasoline is resilient against colder climates, so they operate much more efficiently compared to liquid propane. It’s also susceptible to freezing.
  • Gasoline portable generators are popular and have a reliable reputation, which means the products to choose from are numerous when considering your price range and required level of performance.
  • Gasoline is readily available at gas stations whereas liquid propane is limited and more expensive.
  • Just a few gallons of gasoline is enough to generate 10-13 hours of power.

Gasoline portable generator cons

While gasoline portable generators are great for many situations, they can also be incredibly dangerous.

  • Gasoline is very flammable and spills can be dangerous.
  • When a portable generator is running, never refill it. Heat from the engine combined with exhaust emitted from the generator could ignite gasoline, resulting in fatalities.
  • Gasoline has a much shorter shelf life than liquid propane.
  • Gasoline is not considered a “clean” gas. Releasing a high number of toxins into the air, gasoline will leave more carbon deposits in a portable generator engine and clog fuel lines.
  • Gasoline portable generators produce high emissions, which is damaging to the environment.

Best gasoline portable generators

Westinghouse iGen2200 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator

Producing 2200 peak watts and 1800 running watts, this lightweight generator is superb for home backups, recreational activities and emergencies. It is also community-friendly, operating at levels as low as 52 decibels.

Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Champion Power Equipment 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

Champion Power Equipment 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

Ideal for activities such as camping, powering up items for an RV or bringing a flatscreen to tailgates, this inverter generator is very lightweight and makes transportation easy. However, this system is not ideal or recommended for emergency backup use.

Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot 

Briggs & Stratton P2400 PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator

Briggs & Stratton P2400 PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator

This lightweight unit has installed LED lights to indicate when oil levels are low or overloaded. With CO Guard carbon-monoxide monitors, the generator shuts down immediately when harmful levels of carbon monoxide are detected, making it safe and reliable. The inverter technology provides a smoother power source for sensitive electronic devices such as phones and laptops.

Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

What do liquid propane portable generators do?

With an almost infinite shelf life, liquid propane portable generators are mechanical devices used for the sole purpose of producing electricity. They cause less harm to the environment in comparison to gasoline-operated generators and are popular during power outages.

Propane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas that when burned, creates heat and energy. While most portable generators only provide electricity for a few hours at a time, they can run for up to eight days if continuously refueled. However, the oil level in a liquid propane portable generator is limiting. After 150-200 hours of use, oil levels typically are low enough whereas many portable propane generators shut off to protect the engine.

To extend a liquid propane portable generator’s runtime, hooking up two propane tanks to a single gas line is possible. By letting one propane tank flow and leaving the other closed until needed, you can double the power time. If you are looking for a generator to use after any period of time without expiring, liquid propane portable generators are your best bet.

Liquid propane portable generators are usually higher in price than gasoline portable generators and range from $500-$2,900.

Liquid propane portable generator pros

  • In the midst of natural disasters, liquid propane is readily available with infinite shelf life, making power outages less stressful.
  • Liquid propane portable generators stay clear of contamination, which means the efficiency and functionality of the generator will never falter.
  • Propane is considered a “clean burning” fuel, making it safer for the environment and household.
  • With liquid propane portable generators, consumers are in control of the fuel tank. You do not have to worry about possible fires or explosions, which can occur with gasoline generators that are not handled properly.
  • Liquid propane tanks are much stronger than gasoline tanks. Even with a potential leak, propane is not considered to be toxic and dissipates rapidly.

Liquid propane portable generator cons

  • Regulators on liquid propane portable generators are highly susceptible to freezing in extremely cold temperatures, blocking energy flow.
  • Propane portable generators are not as efficient as gasoline portable generators as they produce fewer British thermal units per gallon of fuel.
  • Many homeowners state the complicated mechanics associated with liquid propane portable generators is the biggest downside because it increases the chance of failure in emergency situations.
  • While popularity for liquid propane portable generators have increased, product options are limited compared to gasoline portable generators.
  • Propane accessibility is sparse in certain areas.

Best liquid propane portable generators

DuroMax XP4850EH Propane Powered Generator

DuroMax XP4850EH Propane Powered Generator

Packed with power, this dual-fuel unit can handle heavy loads and multiple jobs simultaneously. It includes a fully-loaded power panel with a variety of outlet selections for maximum efficiency.

Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Champion Power Equipment 201052 Dual Fuel Portable Generator

Champion Power Equipment 201052 Dual Fuel Portable Generator

With this product, consumers can keep track of voltage and runtime hours to closely audit power output. Champion Support provides a three-year warranty with free lifetime technical support after purchase.

Sold by Amazon

Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment QGen3600DF Dual-Fuel Electric-Start Portable 

Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment QGen3600DF Dual-Fuel Electric-Start Portable 

Combining compact and portable power, this unit makes power generation efficient and easy to use. It also has an RV-ready outlet, electric push-start button and key-fob remote, giving consumers a reliable source of energy in any situation.

Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Should you get a gasoline portable generator or liquid propane portable generator?

More often than not, purchasing a gasoline portable generator over a liquid propane counterpart is more cost-efficient and low maintenance. However, with the increasing need to keep our air and environment clean, spending the additional cost for a liquid propane portable generator may be the better option. Ultimately, the decision is based on fuel preferences, geography and for what you will use your generator.

If you live in a colder climate that experiences power outages, a gasoline portable generator is the best choice. For those who reside in quiet neighborhoods or frequently go on weekend camping getaways, liquid propane portable generators are more beneficial. Regardless, you can use both types of portable generators for a variety of reasons and each has benefits consumers will appreciate.

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Hanna Shemke writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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