One of their biggest advantages is the fact that natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Compared to gasoline, diesel - and even propane, although it is not as bad - natural gas home generators create fewer emissions of sulfur, nitrogen and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
Because they are cleaner-burning, natural gas generators also don't have the same odor as gasoline or diesel when they are operating, making them more effective in smaller environments.
Another big advantage of natural gas over gasoline and other types of fuel is the cost. Natural gas can be as much as 40% less expensive than gasoline, so running your generator will cost considerably less.
Natural gas generators do have a couple of caveats, however. The biggest one is that they are not portable like gasoline, diesel and propane models can be. They need to be connected to a natural gas line, so they need to be stationary. Whether this is a problem will depend on what you expect to use your generator for.
If you're looking for a portable unit that will provide backup power at home as well as when you're in other places with no power source, such as camping or RVing, natural gas is not a good choice.
But if your primary use for the generator is for backup power at home, in case of power outages or if your main power source is not able to provide enough juice, a natural gas generator is ideal.
If your home already has natural gas lines in places, providing gas for your stove, furnace, water heater or other household uses, the generator can be connected to the existing gas lines. This also lets you set it up to automatically take over if the main power source is cut for any reason.
Because the natural gas lines are typically underground and not dependent on electricity, like many gasoline pumps would be, they will continue to provide a fuel source even if the power is out for an extended period of time. Because many fuel pumps are powered by electricity, it can be more difficult to get your gasoline powered generators refueled during a power outage.
Let's take a look at the relative costs of running natural gas home generators versus gasoline and propane powered models.
The first thing to keep in mind is the relative energy output of each of the three types of fuel. One gallon of gasoline will output 125,000 BTUs (the standard measure of energy output), one CCF (100 cubic feet) of natural gas will output 100,015 BTUs and one gallon of propane will output 91,700 BTUs.
In other words, gasoline is the most efficient of the three, followed by natural gas and then propane. To get an equal amount of power from each, you would need roughly 1 gallon of gasoline, 1.25 CCF of natural or 1.36 gallons of propane.
Now let's see how that factors into the cost of operation...
For the purposes of this example, let's use the following prices, which are taken from recent actual sales figures:
- Gasoline - $2.85 per gallon
- Natural gas - $0.95 per CCF
- Propane - $4.00 per gallon
And to make the numbers easier to calculate, let's assume the generator uses 10 gallons of gasoline per day when in operation. So for a single day's use, you will require the following:
- 10 gallons of gasoline
- 12.50 CCF of natural gas
- 13.60 gallons of propane
Now, when these numbers are multiplied out with the price of each type of fuel, here are the numbers we get:
- $26.50 for gasoline
- $11.88 for natural gas
- $54.40 for propane
You can see from these numbers that natural gas home generators will cost considerably less to operate compared to both gasoline and propane. Although it should be noted that the cost for propane will vary, depending on how much you are buying. The price above is based on filling a small propane tank - if you were to buy larger quantities to fill a larger tank, the cost would be lower, but still not as low as natural gas.
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