For many people, the first consideration when shopping for a portable generator is what type of fuel they would like to burn. Generators can be powered by gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas, or solar energy (known as the solar generator). Each option has their advantages, but in the end choosing propane is a no-brainer.
Propane generators beat out other options when it comes to portability and safety. Propane is considered a clean-burning fuel – it’s nontoxic and produces fewer emissions than some other fuel types do. Unlike gasoline and diesel, propane will not degrade in storage, so it is a viable option for people who rarely or sporadically use their generator. Plus, generators using propane are generally quieter than generators using gasoline or diesel. That’s why they are very popular for recreational use like camping, RV, and even emergency backup.
If you’re going to invest in a propane generator, this article is for you. We review some of the best propane generators available that we think are worth your money. The fact that most of the models listed here are dual-fuel, that means they can run on both gas and propane, giving you options when the fuel storage or clean-burning benefits of propane are preferred, while having the ability to utilize a more mobile free-standing generator for more routine applications with gasoline.
- What’s the quietest portable generator on the market? Noise & Decibel Comparison
- What’s the best generator for my RV?
Best Portable Propane Generator: Our Pick
One of the best and quietest propane generators available is the Champion 3400-Watt Dual-Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator. This was also one of the best quiet generators for RVs in our decibel test. It was even quieter than the legendary Honda EU2200i portable generator when running under a 1,500W load.
What makes this portable generator more enticing than the super quiet operating levels is the fact that it is RV ready. It’s designed for RV use and comes with a battery for an easy electric start. Additionally, it can be paralleled (connecting two generators together to provide double the power), although this unit is supposed to provide enough power for an RV Air Conditioner, 13.5k or 15k BTU.
So if you’re looking for the best quiet propane generator, this Champion generator is for you.
How Do Propane Generators Work?
Propane generators work basically the same as any other type of generator. The only exception is that instead of using a traditional carburetor they often have specialized carburetors that are designed especially for burning propane. In other cases, they have carburetors that have been converted to run on propane.
Another difference is that instead of pouring fuel into a gas or diesel holding tank, you will connect a hose coming from the propane tank to the generator. Other than that, they basically worked the same as any other type. The propane is simply another type of fuel that powers an internal combustion engine. It’s a flammable hydrocarbon gas, when burned by the generator’s engine it will produce electricity. This is the same regardless of the type of fuel that is used to power the engine.
Benefits of Propane Generators
Here are a few benefits of having a propane generator compared to gasoline and diesel generators.
1) Propane is easier to access during natural disasters
Gasoline pumps need electricity to function, so if you are caught in a long-term power outage you may have trouble restocking your gasoline supply. This means that when using a gas-powered generator, you generally need to stock up on fuel in advance and store it somewhere at home. With a propane-powered generator you can relax knowing that you can still purchase fuel if you run out. It doesn’t require electricity to fill a tank of propane.
Propane is also safer to store. Except in the coldest of environments, propane works well. If you are in an area where the temperature is below zero °F then gasoline might be a better option for you. For us, storing gas is an issue because we are so prone to wildfires and gas is highly flammable.
For those reasons, if the main purpose of your generator is to be a power source during an emergency, then you should consider a portable propane generator or a dual-fuel generator that can run on propane.
2) Propane generators can require less maintenance
There are certain kinds of maintenance that you’ll have to conduct for gasoline and diesel generators that you won’t have to do for one that runs on propane. Gasoline and diesel leave carbon deposits in your engine and exhaust, which need to be cleaned from time to time. These fuels also leave residue in fuel lines and system parts, adding additional maintenance.
Propane has none of these effects upon engines, making propane generators easier to maintain. Some of the best portable propane generators won’t require any fuel maintenance, other than ensuring your tank is adequately full.
3) Propane has a longer shelf life
You can only store gas for about 12 months, but you can store propane indefinitely. It will literally outlast the container holding it. So the only long-term concern is maintaining the tank. This allows you to stock up on it without worrying that it’s going to degrade and be useless when you need it.
4) Propane is safer
Propane is a “cleaning burning” fuel, which means that it produces a significantly lower amount of carbon monoxide and doesn’t act as a greenhouse gas like other fuel sources, specially gasoline. Releasing around 30 percent of the CO of a typical gas-powered generator, many people consider propane to be the best generator fuel around. While you still need to respect all rules and guidelines for ventilation, creating fewer emissions is a major advantage when you’re considering gas vs. propane generators.
Also, propane is a better option as a power source because it is non-toxic and is released as a gas. So, when your tank is being filled there is no risk of spillage, especially with the hassle-free and safe hose and valve attachment that is used when connecting your propane tank to the propane source (a larger safe tank) during fill-ups.
Gasoline is a different story. There is a risk of spillage and hassle associated with filling a gasoline tank, which doesn’t protect our environment at all. Propane’s high ignition point, 940 degrees Fahrenheit, makes it less of a fire hazard than gasoline, which ignites at 430 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
5) You can run a propane generator 24/7 without even touching it
Most gas-powered generators come with a predetermined tank size and depending on the efficiency of the unit, must be monitored often so as not to run out of fuel. With portable propane generators, you determine the tank size and those can range from 5-gallons to 1000 plus gallon tanks. This means that you can use the generator as needed without management.
The best propane generators can operate for roughly eight to fifteen days when fully stocked with fuel. They often have smart features that shut them down if there is a problem with fuel delivery or if there is a systemic issue. You might not even notice your propane generator is running if you put it far from your house.
Drawbacks of Propane Generators
The only drawback of propane generators is that they aren’t quite as efficient as gasoline or diesel generators. The reason that they might use more fuel than other types of generators is simply a matter of physics. The amount of energy, or energy density, that propane is capable of producing when it burns is simply less than both diesel or gasoline.
Theoretically, diesel has an energy density of 35.8 megajoules per liter (MJ/L), and gasoline has an energy density of 34.2 MJ/L). Propane, however, only has an energy density of 26 MJ/L, almost a third less of that of diesel and gasoline. Therefore, when it comes to comparing costs, you’ll ultimately spend less on fuel in an emergency situation if your generator runs on diesel or gasoline than if it runs on propane.
Best Portable Propane Generators Reviews
If you’re looking for a propane generator, these are some of the best portable propane generators on the market that we think are worth your money.
#1. Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator – Best Quiet Propane Generator
Among all of the portable propane generators that we’ve reviewed, the Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator is the quietest one. When it’s running, you can stand next to it while carrying on a comfortable conversation. More importantly, even though this Champion inverter generator produces a whopping power output of 3,400 watts, it’s still very affordable. At roughly the same price as the Honda or Yamaha, yet 1500 Watts larger, dual fuel and electric start, this generator is easily one of the best propane generator for the money.
This Champion dual-fuel generator runs on either propane or gasoline, you can easily switch fuels with a quick turn of the fuel selector dial. When using a 20-pound propane tank, the engine produces 3060 starting Watt and 2790 running Watt, and will run for around 14.5 hours at 25% load. When using gasoline, it will produce 3400 starting Watt and 3100 running Watt, and will run for 7.5 hours at 25% load. When more power is needed, you can hook it up to another Champion inverter generator for double the power.
This quiet propane generator comes with a battery for easy push-button electric Touch Start and includes a battery-maintenance Smart Charger to keep the battery charged when not in use. It has a smart Economy Mode that can determine exactly how much power is needed slowing down the engine when applicable. As the electrical load is reduced the engine automatically idles lower allowing for quiet operation extended engine life and higher fuel economy. Also included is a standard 50-amp RV outlet with enough power to start and run two 15,000 BTU RV air conditioners.
Overall, with many such great features, the Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator is easily one of the best, if not the best, portable propane generators.
#2. Westinghouse WGen7500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator – Best Propane Generator for Home Emergency Backup
The Westinghouse WGen7500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator is one of the best propane-powered generators for home emergency backup. It produces 9,500 peak watts and 7,500 running watts when using gasoline, 8,550 peak watts and 6,750 running watts when using propane.
With either fuel, the WGen7500DF produces more than enough power to simultaneously run your sump pump, refrigerator, air conditioning unit, television and computer with the capacity to spare. This unit can provide you with peace of mind during heavy storms when your power could go out. Even if the outage lasts a few days, the WGen7500DF is up to the task of powering all your home essentials.
The Westinghouse WGen7500DF is an open frame generator, thus it is quite a bit louder than other inverter generators. If a quiet propane generator is what you’re after, the WGen7500DF is not for you. With a noise level of 74dBA from 23 feet at its rated load of 7500 Watts, it can be relatively noisy. However, the biggest advantage of an open frame generator is the price. It can be significantly less when compared to a similar sized inverter generator.
Built with a 720cc Westinghouse OHV Engine, the WGen7500DF can run for up to 16 hours on a 6.6-gallon fuel tank at 25% load. A built-in extendable handle and rugged never-flat wheels make transporting this unit easy and it’s loaded with features such as low oil shut down, overload protection. This unit also features remote start which is operated by key fob, adding to the convenience of having power wherever you need it.
We think the Westinghouse WGen7500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator is one of the best portable propane generators available. And with a 3-Year limited residential warranty plus lifetime technical support, you can go wrong with it.
#3. Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator – Best Propane Generator for the Money
The Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator is a great option if you’re looking for an efficient portable propane generator at a reasonable price and a quiet operation isn’t your top priority. This unit provides more power than the Champion 3,400W dual-fuel inverter generator but is only half of the price.
When using a 20-pound propane tank, it’s capable of producing 4275 starting watts and 3240 running watts, and will run for 20 hours at 25% load – the running time is much longer than that of the Champion 3,400W. When running on gasoline, it produces about 4750 starting watts and 3800 running watts, and will run for 9 hours at 50% load.
Not only is this unit a great solution for backup power during an emergency, it’s also one of the best portable propane generators for powering your RV appliances. It comes travel-ready with a standard 30A RV outlet with enough power to start and run a 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner. It also features Volt Guard built-in surge protector which prevents overloads and keeps your RV’s appliances safe.
There are plenty of outlets available: a 120V 30A RV (TT-30R), a 120V 30A locking outlet (L5-30R), and two 120V 20A household outlets (5-20R). The convenient electric start includes a battery, plus Cold Start Technology ensures a quick start in cold weather. Finally, Champion’s thoughtful packaging make setup hassle-free, plus the foldaway handle makes it easy to store, while the never-flat tires in the included wheel kit make transport a cinch.
Overall, if you’re looking for a propane-powered generator that would give you an awesome power to run your house or your RV in the event of a power outage, particularly during the hurricane season, the Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator is a decent option to buy. Though with a noise level of 68 dBA from 23 feet, it can be quite a bit loud.
#4. DuroMax XP2000EH SideKick Dual Fuel Inverter Generator – Best Small Propane Generator
If you’re looking for a small propane-powered generator that you can easily bring with you on your camping trips, turn to the DuroMax XP2000EH SideKick Dual Fuel Inverter Generator. This unit produces 2,000 starting watts and 1,600 running watts. With the integrated handle and lightweight maneuverability of only 47 pounds, this is the most versatile propane generator available.
The SideKick is capable of keeping the lights on and a few household appliances during an emergency, powering a food-cart, or running a TV. It also delivers enough power to operate many of your power tools such as a portable table saw, electric chain saw, shop vac, and more.
Designed for safe and easy operation, the XP2000EH features a user-friendly, Recoil Start and high leverage handles that make it easy to transport. Starting this small propane generator is quite easy thanks to the redesigned responsive pull starter that decompresses before each start.
The built-in parallel ports allow for easy daisy-chaining of 2 generators to be used in tandem to produce 4,000W of power. And like on the legendary Honda EU2000i inverter generator, the XP2000EH has a 12V, 8amp outlet that allows you to charge your 12V deep cycle batteries with ease without using a dedicated battery charger.
The DuroMax XP2000EH Side Kick is able to run for 24 hours on a 20lb tank at 50% load (800W). We think it’s the perfect companion for camping, charging deep cycle batteries, or using on the job site. With 3-year Residential Limited Factory Warranty, this is the best small propane generator we’ve found.
#5. Duromax XP4850EH Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator
As far as value and overall quality the DuroMax XP4850EH is hard to beat. In fact, DuroMax generators are excellent generators, especially when compared to what you pay. Let’s be honest, if you want the absolute best portable propane generator then you should be looking at our top pick, but for most homeowners DuroMax makes fantastic generators for the money.
Engineered with sustainability and durability in mind, the XP4850EH comes standard with a dual fuel system that operates on either gas or propane. It’s equipped with a mighty 7 HP 196cc engine which gives you 3850 running watts and a peak power (starting watts) of 4850W. This the perfect amount of power for most standard RVs and will also give you enough amps to run most of your household electric appliances. It will run for 8 hours at 50% load on a full tank of gasoline or 10 hours at 50% on a 20 lbs propane tank.
Like all DuroMax generators, the XP4850EH is built to be tough and reliable. You can immediately see this in the rugged steel frame and large 10½” solid rubber wheels with steel rims. Because of an over-sized muffler, even though the XP4850EH doesn’t have extra sound insulation, like the more expensive generators, it still produces less noise than most other portable propane generators on the market – 69dB from 23 feet. Some other great features include: Low Oil Protection, AC and DC Regulators, a Spark Arrestor, an Electric Start Key for easy starting, full power panel with engine shutoff, volt meter, circuit breaker and power outlets.
Overall, if you’re looking for the best propane generator, we’d highly recommend you consider the DuroMax XP4850EH.