Camping & Survival

Don’t Depend on Just Gas…

Automotive and freedom blogger Eric Peters recently considered the problem of keeping the lights on when the lights go off. At EPautos.com, he wrote, “Having a generator for back-up power is great – unless you don’t have the fuel to run the generator. The irony of the portable back-up generator – most of them, at least – is that they run on gas. And what’s the item that’s usually hard to get when the power’s down? Gas.”

Propane running a generator. Courtesy, Eric Peters @ EPautos.com.
More from his post, “Don’t Depend on Just Gas…,” used with permission: About two weeks ago, a violent storm line called a derecho passed through our area; thousands of people lost power – not for a few hours, but in some cases, for a week or more. The lines queued up real fast at local gas stations – the ones with still-operable pumps, anyhow. You could not even buy a portable five gallon (or 1 gallon) gas jug at any Lowes or Home Depot in the area.

Many people had generators. But sometimes, they couldn’t get gas for them. Which meant they might as well not have had the generator, for all the good it did them.

And this was just a relatively minor (and known-to-be-temporary) situation. Imagine a more serious – and longer-term – SHTF-type of scenario. Just when you need gas the most – so will everyone else.

Which means you probably won’t get any gas.

No Gas = No Power

Well, you could store up some gas. I’ve done that myself. One problem with that idea is that gas—especially ethanol-adulterated “gas,” which is in fact 10 percent alcohol—does not store well, even with fuel stabilizer added and even if you keep the stuff in a sealed container kept in a dark and fairly cool place. Three months or so at the outside is the longest you probably want to leave gas just sitting around. After that, you risk bad gas—and a gummed-up carburetor in your generator. Which means it might not run.

Which means—once again—you won’t have power.

That’s why I converted our generator to operate on multiple fuels—gasoline, propane and natural gas. This has several advantages, functionally as well as practically speaking.

The obvious one is I am not entirely dependent on gasoline for back-up power. If the juice goes out for a couple of days, or longer, I don’t have to worry about queuing up with everyone else down at the gas station, and hope the gas station’s open.

I keep about 100 pounds of propane in storage, enough to operate the essentials (most especially the well pump, so we have drinking water) for weeks. A month or two, if need be, if I limit the time the generator runs to a couple of hours per day.

If your home already has a large propane tank—or even better, a natural gas hook-up—you could run a generator almost indefinitely. Or at least, for a long time. Long enough, probably, to make it through all but complete SHTF-type scenarios.

This is peace of mind gasoline cannot provide…

Bottom Line

There are no downsides, and lots of upsides, to multi-fuel operation. So, I went ahead and got a multi-fuel kit – from U.S. Carburetion for about $180. The kit included all the components needed to convert my 8,000 watt portable generator to multi-fuel operation. They probably have a kit available for whatever you have, too.

I just finished doing the install – and thought I’d share the experience.

Don’t Depend on Just Gas…

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Comments (10)

  1. Having a multiple sources of fuel is pretty convenient. As long as it doesn’t have drastic disadvantages, this should be a feature in all future generators.

  2. If you don’t already have a generator go for a tri-fuel generator that already has the capability to use gasoline, propane and natural gas as fuel. Otherwise I’d just go for a propane generator that can use gas, those are also available. No need to modify anything, unless you already have a generator and can’t be arsed to get a new one.

  3. My favorite small engine mechanic warned me that propane burns MUCH hotter than gasoline. That means that cooling is very critical in conversion engines, especially air cooled engines. He said than unless you’re careful about oil, venting, and run times, you will burn up your generator.
    The upside is that propane really does store indefinitely, unlike gas or diesel.
    The only kit I found for my little Honda generator involves drilling the carburetor for propane. What I need is a second carb to be able to use dual fuel.

  4. I purchased the same US Carb kit about 1 1/2 ago for the simple reason of when our power went out, it also went out at the gas station and we could not pump gas use our credit cards. I have an inexpensive generic Chinese brand generator. I called the company and they told me what I needed. I know absolutely nothing about generators or engines and could not believe how easy it was to connect the adapter. I even broke a screw and the company sent me another one. As customer support told me; it would take me longer to read the instructions than to install the parts. I purchased the propane and the natural gas kits. I then screwed in a t-vale and a quick disconnect to my public port on the gas meter. I literally plug it in to the gas meter and fire up the generator. The first time I fired up the generator, I was shocked that the kit worked and how it started so easily. I thought I would have to do some complicating tuning or something. After you add the kit you still have the ability to use gas, propane, or natural gas. There are several videos on you tube showing how to connect the kit and the concept of hooking it up to your gas meter.

  5. I sent my carb to a place in Maine and they put a jet in it and sent back the carb and the rest of the kit to run on LP or natural gas. Have not tried the NG but LP is great even starts with it. Also, to date when the power has been out (Texas) I have always had NG.

  6. I converted my generac with this exact kit. I mailed my carb to them to have it driled correctly. The rest of the kit I installed and it fired up just fine. Propane does not degrade and is easy to store. Life is better with options. Now I can run on gasoline, propane, or natural gas.

  7. I bought a propane powered generator after getting sick of storing gasoline! Living in Southern Louisiana, storing gasoline in my shed, would cause it to vent too much with the high temperatures. Plus, I didn’t run the generator enough to use up the stored gasoline to keep it from going bad.
    The article brought up excellent points of how gasoline can be hard to find after a storm. I’ll also add that sometimes if there was flooding, the underground storage tanks at the gas station may have water contamination!

  8. Mark, you point is well taken, however, the writer does make the point about fuel storage. A lot of stuff will not be available under a national emergency. I don’t care what your fuel is, outside of wood and steam, it will not be available. If you are buying prior to the emergency you can store non-gasoline fuels for longer periods of time. I just bought a gas 6500/8000w Generac generator. I’m starting to think that an adaptor kit for propane couldn’t hurt.

  9. You say that a natural gas hookup would allow you to run a generator “almost indefinitely”. That is true as long as the natural gas pipelines are being supplied, since each pumping station along their paths has its own generators powered by gas from the pipeline. As a result, they are indeed very resilient against weather phenomena. However, if you are in an earthquake-prone locale…

    And furthermore, when TSHTF, it would not be wise to count on stuff being put into the pipeline on the upstream end.

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