Generators

We Reviewed the Top 5 Propane Generators. Here’s What We found Out.

Nothing works without electricity. Unfortunately, our life goes on pause when the power goes out. Therefore we need to make sure we have a reliable backup power plan, especially if we live in areas where electric outage problems persist. For most people, a generator is the best option when dealing with pesky power outages. Two types of generators will quickly restore power to your home when power outages strike—namely, a standby generator or a portable one. Still, not everyone can afford a standby generator, so most people rely on portable generators for running essential appliances when the power supply is suddenly interrupted. 

Enter the propane generator, a reliable and trustworthy option for dealing with power outages caused by natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and windstorms. As well as dealing with emergency outages, you can also use a propane generator for RVs, campsites, worksites, tailgates, and many similar scenarios. 

However, before you head out to buy a portable generator, you must understand what it is, how it works, how it differs from a conventional fuel (diesel and gasoline) generator, and its advantages and limitations.

Propane Generators In A Nutshell

What Is A Propane Generator?

A propane generator, commonly known as a dual-fuel (gasoline and propane) generator, is a mechanical machine that uses propane gas as a fuel to produce electricity. The electricity is produced as a result of propane combustion in the generator. A propane generator can be a standby generator or a portable generator.    

How Does It Work?

There are two types of propane generators; dual fuel or propane. Unfortunately, propane generators are not very well known, and you won’t find many on the market. In addition, their use is limited because of their dependency on a single fuel. However, it becomes more versatile when a generator runs on both fuels (gasoline and propane).

A propane generator runs on the same principle as a gasoline or diesel fuel generator. An additional component in a propane generator is a fuel selector switch that selects the fuel type. You select “propane” on the selector, connect a propane tank, open its valve and turn on the generator. The propane starts to burn, and the generator starts producing electricity. A typical household user doesn’t need to go into the technical details. We have already done this part and selected the most technically sound propane generators. 

Propane Generator Vs. Conventional Fuel Generator

A propane generator has some advantages and limitations when compared to conventional fuel generators. First of all, it is environmentally friendly. Propane as a fuel is eco-friendly and burns cleaner. Secondly, it is safer to use and store compared to gasoline and diesel tanks.  In addition, there are no spillage risks. Propane has a longer shelf life compared to gasoline and diesel. While gasoline has a shelf life of three months, diesel has a shelf life of anywhere between six and twelve months, provided you keep it cool and dry. Propane, on the other hand, can be stored indefinitely.

Most of the homeowners who own a dual-fuel generator use gasoline for running their generator as the first choice but use stored propane when they can’t find gasoline due to infrastructural problems owing to natural calamities. Propane fuel also burns quietly compared to gasoline.

However, there are a couple of setbacks to using propane as well. Firstly, it is not as powerful, and its output is low compared to gasoline. The starting and running wattage on gasoline for a portable generator is 5-15% higher than propane. Moreover, gasoline offers better runtime than propane in powerful portable generators.

Propane Generator Buying Guide

A portable generator has an average life of 1000-2000 hours. It means that if you run your generator an average of 100 hours per year, a sound machine with a powerful engine and durable components will last for 10-20 years. To ensure your generator lasts for a long time, you need to ensure that it provides everything you need in a generator for the next ten years.

How To Choose The Right One For You?

To select a suitable generator, you need to be aware of all the features the machine can offer. The essential features are power output, runtime, portability, and safety. We have explained these features below and how they will impact your generator’s life and performance over the years. 

Power Output

The most important thing you need to consider before buying a portable propane generator is its power output and your power requirements. You can calculate your power needs by making a list of all the appliances you plan to run on the generator. Then, add up the starting and running wattage of each appliance. The total of each column will indicate your power needs. Our suggestion: buy a generator with some power cushion. For example, it is better to buy a generator with 3600 running watts if your total requirement is 3400 watts. The extra 200-watt cushion will help you adjust for additional appliances if required.    

Runtime

Another critical feature to consider before buying a propane-powered generator is the runtime. Runtime is usually calculated at 50% of the total running watts. It is the point at which the generator performs optimally. An ideal runtime with a 20 pounds propane tank will be 8 hours.    

Portability

Propane generators need to be portable. They should come with wheels and handles for easy movement around your property. You can’t run a propane-powered generator indoors, and it is not recommended to leave your generator outside without any covers or enclosures. Therefore, you must check that the wheel kit is included in the original purchase, so you don’t have to buy anything extra.

Safety

Ensure that your machine has maximum safety features like low oil shutdown, overload protection, surge voltage protection, and grounding.   

Warranty and Certification

A 3-year warranty is industry standard for small portable propane generators. However, some have a 2-year warranty. In addition, your machine must be EPA certified for 49 states and CARB compliant for use in California.  

Noise Level

The lower, the better. However, you may have to pay a high price for a quiet machine. Inverters are quieter than conventional generators, but they are costly too. So most people buy a conventional generator and place it in an enclosure to reduce the noise.   

Starting Mechanism

You must look for a recoil starter with an electric one. It comes in handy during cold weather as relying on an electric start creates problems below or near-freezing temperatures.   

Safety Tips and Usage Guide

Office of cyber security, energy security, and emergency response recommend the following safety tips for propane-powered portable generators. Misusing your generator can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock, and fire. These safety tips and usage guide is generic and can be used for other portable generators.

  • Position your generator outdoors and at least 15 feet away from any structure such as windows, doors, RVs, camps, and tailgate vehicles. Ensure that the generator exhaust does not enter your home/vehicle/office or your neighbor’s premises.   
  • Run your generator on a dry flat surface and under a canopy when the conditions are overcast.
  • Make sure your hands and clothes are dry when you operate the generator.
  • Do not refuel a running generator.
  • Do not perform any maintenance on a hot unit.
  • Disconnect power coming into your homes before connecting your generator to your home.
  • Always use a transfer switch for connecting the generator with your home/office.
  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded.
  • If you are plugging equipment directly into your generator, always use heavy-duty outdoor-rated extensions.
  • Never plug your generator into a wall outlet.
  • Inspect and maintain your generator regularly.
  • Use common sense while the generator is running. If you notice any irregular sounds, smells, or too much fluctuation, stop the unit right away and get it inspected by a certified professional.

Review Of The 5 Best Propane Generators

The average homeowner isn’t aware of the technicalities involved when selecting the best propane generator. Therefore, they need to be very careful when purchasing a generator for home use. You will be bombarded with countless options and may end up with the wrong machine. To save you from such misfortune, we have researched the best propane generators in the market and selected the top 5. We have critically evaluated every feature, gone through user reviews, and tested the shortlisted generators, so you don’t have to.

Before you dive into the world of portable generators, please keep in mind that portable generators (not all of them) have a high THD ranging from 12%-23%. Therefore, they can be harmful to your sensitive appliances. Moreover, electric start generators may have starting problems during cold weather. Recoil generators start comparatively quickly. Furthermore, it is recommended to use a flexible oil funnel for filling oil to avoid spillage.  

Let’s help you find the best propane-powered portable generator!

1. Durostar DS4850EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator

DuroStar DS4850EH is a reliable and durable propane-powered generator. Many users praise its ability to run compulsory appliances seamlessly during power outages. One reviewer states that they have been using it for 7+ years in an area that experiences hurricane outages regularly. Its power output on propane (peak: 4608 watts, running: 3658 watts) is best for an average American household. You can also use the machine to power many appliances in your RV. For example, it can run a refrigerator (600 watts), portable heater (1500 watts), small AC unit (1000 watts), some lights, and a computer.     

It is an easy-to-use and easy-to-operate machine, with many people admiring the electric start feature along with a quick recoil start mechanism. However, you will need to replace the engine oil timely to make it work flawlessly.

The generator is powered by a 210cc engine which guarantees fluctuation-free current production. The fuel tank size is 3.96 gallons with an engine speed of 3600 RPM. The current produced has a THD below 12%, the lowest among other options but higher than portable inverter generators. A lower THD is better for your sensitive appliances.

The control panel is fully powered with a digital meter, and it comes with a low oil shutdown feature. The machine turns off when it senses the oil level is low. This keeps the moving parts in the engine safe and avoids excessive wear and tear. As the machine is EPA and CARB certified, you can use it in all 50 states.      

Some reviewers have had a terrible experience with this product, with the new generator dying right after the first start. However, it can be resolved by troubleshooting or replacing the part. Unfortunately, it seems that customer service has not been very cooperative in resolving such issues. 

SUMMARY

Durostar DS4850EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator

Pros

  • Impressive runtime
  • Solid built
  • Easy to use and maintain

Cons

  • Choke problems
  • A bit loud
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2. DuroMax XP4850EH Generator-4850 Watt

DuroMax XP4850EH and DuroStar DS4850EH are pretty identical to one another in features and power output. The only significant difference between them is the aesthetics. However, DuroMax is more popular with homeowners. Like the DuroStar, the DuroMax generator can produce a 4850 peak and 3850 running watts on gasoline. The starting watts for propane are 4608, and the running wattage is 3658 watts.

It comes with MX2 technology, allowing the user to double the 120V output for running heavy machines at home and RVs. In addition, it has a surge arrest feature that protects your generator and appliances from power surges, along with a low oil shutdown feature. The outlets consist of two 120V 20A GFCI outlets and one 120/240V 30A RV ready twist-lock outlet.

It is built around a 212cc engine which provides a steady output for your appliances. You can use the electric and recoil start to fire up your machine. The unit is EPA and CARB approved.

SUMMARY

DuroMax XP4850EH Generator

Pros

  • Runs majority of your appliances
  • No-flat wheels
  • Easy maintenance
  • Sturdy machine

Cons

  • Difficult to fill with gas
  • Flimsy handles
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3. WEN DF475T Dual Fuel 120V/240V Portable Generator

WEN DF475T gives a tough time to the top two generators in terms of features and price. A careful examination of the three machines revealed the WEN has almost all the features that DuroStar and DuroMax possess, but it is 15% cheaper and 15% lighter than both models. In addition, it is pocket-friendly, and you can easily move it around your home, making it more user-friendly.

However, these things come at a price. You get slightly less power output (Gasoline: 4750 surge watts, 3800 running watts, Propane: 4350 surge watts, 3500 running watts) on propane than DuroStar DuroMax. Moreover, its runtime is also less on propane at a 20-pound tank. However, the manufacturer claims the runtime on gasoline is higher than both the rivals.

However, You cannot discredit the machine based on these features. It is still a worthwhile option to have during emergency power outputs. Yes, we agree that runtime and power output are less, but it is cheaper, and everyone agrees that savings are paramount when working to a tight budget.

The machine uses a 224cc engine with an electric and recoil starting mechanism, and you can convert the voltage from 120V to 240V with a simple switch. The outlets include 120V GFCI outlets (5-20R), a 120V/240V NEMA 30A twist lock (L14-30R), a 12V DC cigarette-lighter-style plug. The package includes a bottle of oil, wheel and handle kit, LPG hose, and manuals to get you started.

A deep analysis of user reviews reveals that it is easy to set up the machine, and you need to fill the oil to start the machine. It is an excellent safety feature along with low oil shutdown, surge arrest, and overload protection. People love the quick response from customer service and troubleshooting guides along with swift dispatching of faulty parts. Moreover, WEN requires regular periodic maintenance to get the maximum out of your machine. However, you may encounter fuel line leakages after 3-4 years.

WEN DF475T Dual Fuel 120V/240V Portable Generator

WEN DF475T gives a tough time to the top two generators in terms of features and price. A careful examination of the three machines revealed the WEN has almost all the features that DuroStar and DuroMax possess, but it is 15% cheaper and 15% lighter than both models. In addition, it is pocket-friendly, and you can easily move it around your home, making it more user-friendly.

However, these things come at a price. You get slightly less power output (Gasoline: 4750 surge watts, 3800 running watts, Propane: 4350 surge watts, 3500 running watts) on propane than DuroStar DuroMax. Moreover, its runtime is also less on propane at a 20-pound tank. However, the manufacturer claims the runtime on gasoline is higher than both the rivals.

However, You cannot discredit the machine based on these features. It is still a worthwhile option to have during emergency power outputs. Yes, we agree that runtime and power output are less, but it is cheaper, and everyone agrees that savings are paramount when working to a tight budget.

The machine uses a 224cc engine with an electric and recoil starting mechanism, and you can convert the voltage from 120V to 240V with a simple switch. The outlets include 120V GFCI outlets (5-20R), a 120V/240V NEMA 30A twist lock (L14-30R), a 12V DC cigarette-lighter-style plug. The package includes a bottle of oil, wheel and handle kit, LPG hose, and manuals to get you started.

A deep analysis of user reviews reveals that it is easy to set up the machine, and you need to fill the oil to start the machine. It is an excellent safety feature along with low oil shutdown, surge arrest, and overload protection. People love the quick response from customer service and troubleshooting guides along with swift dispatching of faulty parts. Moreover, WEN requires regular periodic maintenance to get the maximum out of your machine. However, you may encounter fuel line leakages after 3-4 years.

SUMMARY

WEN DF475T Dual Fuel Portable Generator

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Quick cold start
  • Easy to setup

Cons

  • Awkward position of pull cord
  • Difficult to change oil: you would need a hose with a funnel
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4. Westinghouse WGen7500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator

If you want maximum power output from a propane-powered home use generator, then this one is for you. We included this generator for people who want more power, a decent fuel average, remarkable features, and a low price per watt. Let us explain this to you.

The Westinghouse WGEN7500DF generator has a higher efficiency when using a 20-lb propane tank. It can last for 8 hours at 50% of 6,750 watts compared to 8.92 hours at 50% of 3658 watts for the DuroMax generators. See the table below for comparison.

The table makes it clear why WGEN7500DF is a better choice when it comes to propane-powered generators. Yes. It comes at double the price of DuroMax, DuroStar, and WEN, but it’s worth every penny. Not only in terms of a low running cost but other features as well. WGEN 7500DF is a complete alternate power solution. You can run heavy machines as well. It can power all your appliances in an RV, run most worksite tools and take care of an entire small home.

It comes with a remote start feature as well, making your life easy. However, the remote start doesn’t work well in extremely cold weather. But you don’t need to worry, as its recoil feature is excellent and comes to your aid when remote/electric start is not working. The generator features a 420cc OHV engine with a durable cast iron sleeve. The outlets consist of two GFCI 5-20R household duplex outlets, one transfer switch ready L14-30R 120/240-Volt twist-lock receptacle with rubber covers, two USB ports, and an ST switch. It lacks a low oil indicator but comes with overload protection.

Like other big generators, it is a noisy unit and operates at 72 dB (A). The 72 dB (A) noise level is measured at a distance of 50 feet. You may need to get yourself a sound reduction enclosure or install aftermarket mufflers to shut it up. It is critical to highlight that listening to noise above 70 dB (A) for prolonged times can damage your hearing.    

Amazon user review analysis supports all the above facts. It has a 4+rating from 92% of the customers. People love the fact that it can handle small and big appliances without any trouble. However, it has a high THD (23%), which can harm your sensitive appliances. You may not need the whole 6750 running watts at one time, but it is better to have some cushion when you need it. Some people complain about poor customer service, broken wheels, and fuel line leakages. However, overall, the buyers are extremely satisfied with the purchase and give positive feedback for the machine. 

Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment WGen7500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator

SUMMARY

Westinghouse WGen7500DF Portable Generator

Pros

  • Remote start
  • Low running cost
  • Powerful and sturdy
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Loud
  • Unclear user manual
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Downloads:

5. Champion Power Equipment 200988 4500-Watt Dual Fuel Generator

Inverter generators are rated top of the line regarding clean electricity, portability, and ease of use. The Champion inverter is three times more expensive than Duro and WEN generators, but it is worth it. Once you know what you are getting in return for thousand bucks, you’ll want one for yourself.

The machine produces current with below 3% THD for running sensitive and costly appliances like laptops, mobile phones, and other such appliances. It is also 20% lighter (97 pounds) that other generator and come with retractable handle wheels for easy portability. It is substantially quieter than other models, operating at only 61 dB (A). You won’t even notice that it is running. The runtime is 21 hours at 25% load and 10.5 hours at 50% load. The 50% load equals 1575 watts. The unit is RV-ready.

The inverter is powered by a 212cc engine, which won’t let you down while running at heavy loads. It comes with a recoil and electric start mechanism. The outlets include one 120V 30A (TT-30R) outlet, one 120V 20A Duplex (5-20R) outlet, and a 12V DC automotive outlet, along with a parallel connection port.

There are some complaints about running this machine on propane. First, you will have to find a sweet spot for the choke while using propane. It takes quite some time to get the machine started on propane. Third, the customer support is not too good, and Champion routinely lets its customers down. Many people have received faulty machines with defective components and have had to bear huge losses due to poor customer support.

Is it worth buying? The machine is a good fit for people looking to run sensitive and costly appliances. It will run your machines on clean electricity and keep your valuable appliances going for a long time.

Champion Power Equipment 200988 4500-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator

SUMMARY

Champion Power Equipment 200988 4500-Watt

Pros

  • Equal starting watts on propane and gasoline
  • Clean electricity
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Costly
  • Poor customer service
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Downloads:

FAQs

How long will a generator run on propane?

The runtime depends on load applied, cylinder size, and the age of your generator. For example, a 4000-watt generator usually runs for 6-8 hours on a 20 pounds tank with a 50% load.

Is a propane generator better than a gas generator?

Propane has some advantages over gasoline as a fuel. It is clean, burns quietly, and is easy to store and use. However, it produces lower watts and offers less runtime at the same load.

Are propane generators expensive to run?

No. Propane generators are cheaper to run. The cost per watt is lower when you use propane as fuel.

Which is the best propane generator for home use?

DuroMax and DuroStar are the best propane generators for home use.

How much does a propane generator cost?

A propane generator costs somewhere between $400 to $1000.

Final Word

Now that you know everything about propane-powered generators selecting the right one according to your needs will be easy. All the best for buying your new machine!