Hurricane Tech – Powering your Generator – Liquid Propane

Some Portable Generators can use Liquid Propane (LP) as a Fuel.  (See my article, “Hurricane Tech – Keeping the Lights On with a Portable Generator” for information on Portable Generators.)

It is quite common for Whole House Generators to support both Natural Gas and Liquid Propane as Fuel sources.  However, the Generator must be specifically configured to accept either Natural Gas OR Liquid Propane as the fittings and pressures are different for each Fuel type. (See my article, “Hurricane Tech – The Whole House Generator Option” for information on Whole House Generators.)

Liquid Propane is a slightly better option than Gasoline or Diesel.  Liquid Propane (LP) is available in BBQ Grill Tank size of 20lbs and significantly larger “whole house” 420lb tank sizes – and everything in-between.  The advantage of Liquid Propane is again it is usually readily available at reasonable cost and, at least in the smaller tank sizes of under 50lbs, can be easily transported.  The key advantage is that is supports longer run times between Liquid Propane tank changes than would be achieved between refilling a fuel tank with Gasoline.

The disadvantage of Liquid Propane is similar of that to Gasoline or Diesel:  as the Generator consumes the Liquid Propane, additional supplies must be obtained. However, since it is stored in Gaseous form, the ability for a Propane Distributor to re-fill your portable tanks is not dependent on Electricity but just basic physics:  The pressure in the Distributor Storage Tank is sufficiently great so that when the Storage Tank valve is connected to your tank and opened, your smaller portable tank fills up.  In the case of smaller Liquid Propane tanks, you tend to bring them to a Propane Supplier.  For larger Liquid Propane tanks, the Supplier delivers the Liquid Propane to you in a Truck in the same fashion as a Fuel Oil delivery for a Heating System.  The truck pulls up to your house, extends a long hose, and fills your tank(s).

Small portable Liquid Propane tanks are subject to the same safety handling issues as those that you follow now in safe handling of your BBQ Grill tanks.  In fact, they may be the identical size and style of tank.  The major safety concern arises with larger 100lb, 200lb, and 420lb or larger Liquid Propane tanks that may be permanently installed.  Unlike Natural Gas connections, Liquid Propane connections can be flexible and the fittings and hoses require more frequent inspection to make sure they are in good working order.

A few hundred pounds of Liquid Propane is like storing a “Rocket Engine” next to your house.  We have all seen the results when a large Liquid Propane tank explodes – there is usually nothing left of the house.   The point is simply that as long as proper maintenance and inspections are performed by your Liquid Propane Supplier and/or Licensed Plumber of your tank, fittings, and supply lines, Liquid Propane poses no more risk than other Fuels and can be used safely without issue.

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