Depend on Just Gas…
Having a generator
for back-up power is great unless you dont have the
fuel to run the generator. The irony of the back-up generator
most of them, at least is that they run on gas. And
whats the item thats usually hard to get when the powers
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 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 couldnt 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.
you probably wont get any gas.
Well, you could
store up some gas. The 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.
After that, you risk bad gas and a gummed-up carburetor in
your generator. Which means it wont run.
you wont have power.
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.
one is I am not dependent on gasoline for back-up power. If the
juice goes out for a couple of days or longer I dont
have to worry about queuing up with everyone else down at the gas
station and hope the gas stations open. I keep
about 100 pounds of propane in storage enough to operate
the essentials (most especially the well pump) for weeks. A month
or two, if need be if I limit the time the generator runs.
If your home has a large propane tank or even better, a natural
gas hook-up you could run the 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.
stores indefinitely or practically indefinitely. A portable
20 pound tank will be as good a year from now as it is today, provided
you keep the valve from rusting up. Assuming you keep the tank in
a reasonably well-protected environment such as an enclosed shed
or in a garage, the fuel itself will last for years. So, no hassles
keeping track of when you bought your fuel and how old it
is and whether its time to run the stuff through your
weed-whacker, just to get rid of it. Buy a few 20 pound (grille-size)
tanks or one of the large 100 pound cylinders whatever works
best for you and youre set. Its like having long-term
natural gas) also burns more cleanly which will extend the
life of your generators engine as well as increase replacement
intervals for spark plugs and oil.
also the money issue. Gas even now is still pretty
expensive. If you find yourself in a situation where its necessary
to rely on gasoline to run your generator for an extended period,
the dollars will add up quickly. The typical portable generator
has a five gallon tank, which will typically run the unit for about
10 hours or so. At $3 per gallon current prices thats
about $15 a day to run the generator. If you have to run it for
two weeks, youll be spending more than $200 to keep the lights
on and the food in your fridge from spoiling. At $4
or $5 a gallon, it gets harder to keep the lights on.
At $7 or $8
a gallon, many people wont be able to afford to run their
generators at all.
and CNG are not only cheaper on a per-gallon-equivalent basis,
theyre not a subject to wild price increases because there
are vast reserves of the stuff right here in the USA. Plus, you
can stock up now at current (low) prices and
not sweat future (inflation-driven) price spikes as much. Because
theres no worry about the fuel going bad in three or four
Buy now, use
later even if later is several years from now.
There are no downsides and lots of upsides to multi-fuel
operation. So, I went ahead and got the kit from U.S. Carburetion
(see here) for
about $180. It included all the components needed to convert my
8,000 watt portable generator to multi-fuel operation. I just finished
doing the install and thought Id share the experience.
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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