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Natural Gas Generator vs Gasoline: What’s Best for You?

Written by Jamie Masterson

Gasoline generators are perfect for areas where natural calamities are a common scenario while natural gas generators suit users who don’t experience natural disasters so often and have regular natural gas supply.

Let’s dig deeper and see which one might suit you best!

What Is a Natural Gas Generator?

Natural Gas Generator

Natural gas generators generate electricity using natural gas. They work the same way as gas generators do but use gas fuel rather than liquid.

A mixture of air and fuel enters the combustion chamber, where the piston is used to compress the mixture significantly. Then, a spark plug is used to create electric sparks and ignite the air-fuel mixture. The high-pressure from the ignition sends the piston downwards, turning a crankshaft.

The crankshaft spins the generator’s rotating rotor in an electromagnetic magnetic field. This creates an electric current that can charge batteries, run appliances, or even power high-wattage tools. The power output will depend on the size of the generator.

Natural gas generators are more cost-effective than other generators that use fossil fuels, and they are also more efficient, less expensive, and safer for the environment.

Types of natural gas generators

1. Prime

Primary power generators can be used in situations where no utility services exist and they are the only source of power.

This type is rare though, especially for residential use because most homes cannot connect to a gas line quickly or have no gas line at all. The natural gas must be transported by truck if it is impossible to hook up to a utility line to run the unit.

They can carry more load than backup generators and have a longer operating time. A trailer or a fifth-wheel is used to transport the unit to a jobsite because of its bigger size.

A subgroup of prime generators is continuous generators that are similar except for the fact that they are designed to run for longer periods with variable loads.

2. Standby

Standby units can be used in commercial, industrial, and residential settings. Both cases require that the natural gas generator be permanently installed where the local utility company supplies fuel.

The standby generator automatically switches on during blackouts and is intended to be used only for a short time during emergencies. If you run them more than the recommended time, this can lead to malfunctions that may require frequent repairs.

Standby generators are great for emergencies. When power outages happen, the supply of natural gas isn’t affected as the pipes are underground and protected from the elements. You can rest assured that they will have unlimited fuel supplies that won’t “go bad” unlike diesel. Also, they won’t have to be stored in tanks unless you are located in an earthquake-prone area.

Pros of natural gas generators

  • Helps reduce environmental footprints
  • Affordable and can power homes and businesses
  • Fuel is always available that doesn’t suffer price spikes
  • Uses one of the most clean-burning fossil fuels
  • No intense odor, unlike generators powered by oil or diesel
  • Can be connected directly to natural gas pipelines; no need to refill fuel again and again
  • Less noise pollution

Cons of natural gas generators

  • Natural gas is an explosive fuel and can create a fire hazard if the pipeline bursts
  • Natural disasters like earthquakes can disrupt the natural gas supply
  • High maintenance costs
  • A non-renewable energy resource
  • More carbon dioxide is emitted, which is a greenhouse gas

What Is a Gasoline Generator?

Gasoline Generator

The gasoline generator’s engine use gasoline to generate electricity by driving the generator rotation to cut magnetic lines. It uses fuel and air to mix in a carburettor, and then compression occurs.

They are portable and less expensive than diesel and oil generators because they require little maintenance. Gasoline is a very affordable fuel source due to its easy availability.

Types of gasoline generators

1. Portable

They are powered by gas or diesel for temporary electricity backup. Here are the key characteristics:

  • Uses a combustion engine to produce electricity
  • The sockets allows you to plug into your electric appliances directly
  • Can be wired easily to the sub panels of a facility
  • Easy to carry and use in remote areas
  • Enough power to run a refrigerator, freezer and television
  • The higher the power rating, the more load you get to enjoy.
  • To render the 60hz standard current, the engine should be running at 3600 rpm; rpm can vary according to the frequency.
  • A governor can be used to control the engine speed

2. Inverter

The engine of an inverter generator is connected to an alternator to produce AC electricity. This type also uses a rectifier that’s different from other generators to convert AC power into DC power.

Here are the common features:

  • Depends on high-tech magnets
  • Uses an advanced electronics circuit
  • Three phases systems
  • More efficient in energy consumption since the engine speed adapts to the amount of power required
  • Can be adjusted to any voltage or frequency with the right equipment
  • Lightweight and small

3. Standby

A standby generator features an automatic transfer switch used to power up appliances during a power outage.

Here’s a quick look at their features:

  • Works automatically
  • Ensures power protection that lasts forever
  • Two components are included: an automatic transfer switch and a standby generator
  • Can be used with liquid propane and natural gas
  • Run on the type of fuel already in use at home or in a facility
  • Uses an internal combustion engine
  • Senses power loss in seconds and immediately boots up electricity so that power loss can be felt only briefly
  • Performs weekly automatic self-tests to determine if it correctly responds to a power outage
  • Monitors utility power constantly
  • Safety systems for fire protection, standby lighting, and medical equipment

Pros of gasoline generators

  • Many portable generators use gasoline as fuel. This type of generator can be taken anywhere, even at home or on a camping trip
  • Lower decibel value and less noise during operation
  • The durable automatic voltage regulation system and the oil caution system make it easy to use

Cons of gasoline generators

  • Even though gasoline is more portable, it can be costly to accumulate large volumes. International affairs have a direct impact on the price of gasoline. This is why it can cost a lot to use gasoline generators.
  • The heat generated by gasoline generators is more intense, which causes greater wear and tear. This results in more frequent maintenance and repairs and ultimately a shorter lifespan.
  • Not suitable for long hours of operation where large-scale power supply is needed.

What are dual-fuel generators?

Dual-fuel generators can use propane and natural gas or diesel and gasoline.

It is hard to find portable generators that are natural gas-only models because it is difficult to get a natural-gas hookup anywhere. Dual-fuel or tri-fuel portable generators tend to be more popular.

If your dual-fuel generator can run on either natural gas or gasoline, you can use natural gas for a quiet and smooth operation, and gasoline when you need a higher electrical output.

Fuel availability may also play a role. A dual-powered generator is a great option when you’ve run out of one type of fuel but another is available.

Natural Gas vs Gasoline: A Quick Look at Their Differences as a Fuel Source

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Gasoline
  • Ordinary fuel source – readily available
  • Smaller generators are more portable
  • Highly explosive fuel source.
  • Momentary shelf life of fuel not more than 12 months
  • Stowing enormous amounts of fuel is dangerous
  • Sometimes Fuel may not be obtainable during an energy outage
  • You might be paying a lot for fuel. Check your local prices
Natural Gas
  • Infinite fuel source, no need to refuel
  • Hygienic fuel burning
  • Better fuel availability in case of a power outage.
  • The modest engine noise class
  • Gaseous engines do not possess an issue with “moist stacking like other fuels
  • It may be inaccessible throughout natural calamities (earthquakes, and so on)
  • Lower power production (30 percent less BTUs per unit) than gasoline
  • Plumbing for fuel systems results in higher installation costs
  • Fuel is not readily available in all areas
  • The initial cost of generators is slightly higher, between 15 and 20%, especially for the larger sizes of 30 kW or more
  • Natural Gas can become very hazardous if lines break

What type to use?

Suppose you reside in an area where a reliable power source is available (e.g. underground electricity cable), and there aren’t any significant occurrences of wildfire, hurricanes, or other catastrophes that regularly cause power interruptions.

In that case, a portable generator is your go-to choice. They are ideal for homes that experience only a few brief outages throughout the year.

On the other hand, if you are in a hurricane-prone area, you better consider installing an automatic standby gasoline generator for your home to avoid power outage interruption.

If you are not in the zone of hurricanes or have the potential to be a victim of frequent natural disasters, and you have a continuous supply of natural gas, then you can go for the natural gas generator that’s perfect for non-stop operation.

About the author

Jamie Masterson

With decade-long experience as a generator technician, Jamie has worked with USA’s top generator manufacturers and suppliers as an independent contractor.

The long years of service to the industry has taught Jamie the ins and outs of troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining all kinds of generators in home, industrial and outdoor settings.

Jamie thinks this platform is a great opportunity to share his tips and tricks with you so you can make the most of such power equipment for better living.

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