Can Propane Generators Run on Natural Gas

You may have been in a situation where you’re moving into a place that only has natural gas whereas you using a propane generator in case of a power outage.   In a way, it makes sense to switch over to natural gas for your generator because it’s just a generator and it doesn’t seem as if it would be a complex situation to convert it into natural gas usage.  However, the regulator for your propane generator is very narrow. I will explain whether or not this causes a problem if you’re trying to convert to natural gas consumption.

Is it possible to convert your propane generator to use natural gas? It is not possible for you to use natural gas with your propane generator without modification.  The regulator that regulates the flow of propane is set up in such a way so that the propane in liquid form will enter into the generator at a slow rate.  Natural gas is a lot thinner than propane so it would enter into the chamber too quickly.  The regulator would need to be modified using a kit.

How a Propane Generator is Different from a Natural Gas Generator

Just how different is a propane generator from a natural gas generator?  Why is it necessary to make modifications when fuel is fuel?  I agree that it’s hard to tell the difference just by looking at generators just to tell what type of fuel a specific generator is using.

Here are the major differences between the two types of generators which will highlight why a simple change will not allow a propane generator to work with natural gas.

  1. Propane is denser.  The regulator has to deal with more pressure.  Natural gas is thin. Its regulator needs to be narrow so that only a minute amount of gas will escape into the generator.
  2. Propane is a liquid and natural gas that is used in generators is still in its gaseous state.
  3. Propane is twice as efficient as natural gas because it is in a  compressed form.
  4. The propane for home generators is easy to transport in small or large tanks.  Natural gas has to be connected to someone’s house in order to allow it to be used and it is not available at every location.
  5. If someone is living in the country, using a propane generator is probably the best bet because it is highly affordable. Large tanks could be stored on the property.

Is it Dangerous to add Natural Gas to Propane Generator?

You playing with fire if you’re using natural gas directly in a propane generator.  The end result is that the generator probably will not turn on. Plus, you will be allowing natural gas to leak into the atmosphere or to build up within the generator which is not a good plan. If you make your own modifications without really understanding the process of how it’s done, you’re going to void your warranty.  Propane generators are not cheap.

If you manage to find a specialist that can do the modifications, you may be able to modify your portable or stationary propane generator so it can utilize Natural Gas.  A specialized plumber is especially required to alter where the natural gas enters the hosing assembly of the generator.

How to Convert Propane to Natural Gas

Even though I had advised against modifying your propane generator on your own,  you’re probably still curious about the process that’s involved to convert your propane generator to a natural gas generator. 

First of all, you need to know that there are specialized kits that you can buy.  These kits are model specific, so make sure that if you purchase a kit,  that it is going to work for your model of propane generator. 

 I will now highlight how to convert the following hype generator that uses propane into one that can use natural gas: Duromax Hybrid XP12000EH (click here to view this model on Amazon).  The steps involve using a snorkel kit.

Why is a snorkel kit the best conversion option in order to use natural gas?

A snorkel kit will automatically do the fuel calibration.   It should include all the correct fittings and it should not require that you cut into the carburetor as some kits do.   Altering the carburetor will void the warranty of your propane generator.

  1. The first step is to disconnect the regulator that is connected to the carburetor. 
  2. Make sure that you would have purchased the correct carburetor snorkel kit to make your conversion.
  3. Mount it to snorkel kit making sure that you’ve turned off the natural gas flow.
  4. You will need a longer 15-foot hose for connecting your generator to the natural gas outlet.  Here is one that I found on Amazon (click to view). 
  5. Connect the hose to your snorkel kit.  It is probably best to use some type of elbow connector so that there is a lower chance that the hose will develop a kink.
  6. There are numerous safety steps to be aware of at the connection point to the natural gas supply.   At this stage, you should be hiring a licensed plumber since this could be a dangerous situation for you.  You’re not going to be able to see a natural gas leak since it is invisible.
  7.  The plumber will need to add extensions and valves and to use a pipe wrench to close off the natural gas.  She needs to ensure that the connection is well-sealed.  It is also prudent to have a quick disconnect device added to where the natural gas is connected.
  8. Video showing the steps:
  9. Here is the kit that works for this particular model of propane generator: click here to view the conversion kit on Amazon.  

Now that you’re aware of the steps that are involved to convert to natural gas for a generator, you probably are wondering is it really worth it to convert over to natural gas.  Perhaps you might be moving to an area with a natural gas line.; however, you are not sure if altering your propane generator is going to be a huge hassle.  

Is Propane better than Natural Gas for Generators

There are many reasons why Propane is considered to be better than Natural Gas: 

  1. Propane is better for the environment because it’s cleaner than natural gas.  Even though propane generators tend to be larger than natural gas generators, they expel a lot less carbon dioxide.
  2. Propane definitely is more affordable and you’ll have more options for storage.  For instance, if you have a barbecue that uses propane, you could just purchase a full tank of propane that could be easily transported in your vehicle.
  3.  Once you have safely stored liquid propane in a storage tank,  you will not have to worry about it losing its effectiveness because it literally lasts forever.
  4. Survivalists really like this option because it can be transported easily.  If you’re on-the-go,  you need a fuel source for your generators that you can be moved within a few hours’ notice. It’s not as if you could install your own supply line for natural gas.

The Pluses of Natural Gas Generators:

  1. Even though propane is twice as efficient as Natural Gas, the price of propane is quite high compared to the price of natural gas.
  2. If you are living in an area that supplies natural gas, you probably should use it instead since you will not have to worry about taking empty tanks back to be filled with propane right in the middle of your family BBQ.

In conclusion, I would use propane for your generators is you are constantly moving.  Natural gas is a great option if you are living in the same area for an extended period of time and of course, if it is supplied.

Cost Comparison Propane Versus Natural Gas

I will explain the difference in cost between using a propane generator and use the natural gas generator.  This pricing is based on average pricing in the United States.

Propane Cost:

For propane generators, the propane will cost around $1.90 per gallon.  A portable propane generator will use around 3.5 gallons per hour which is close to $160 per day (based on pricing for March 2020).

Natural Gas Cost:

If you were to supply natural gas to your natural gas generator, the cost would be a lot less. The typical 7-kilowatt natural gas generator will use up to 120 cubic feet per hour of natural gas.  Since Natural Gas costs around $1.55 for 1000 cubic feet or $.00155 per cubic foot, the cost per day would be  $4.46. This pricing is based on an estimate for June 2020.

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