Power outages can range from inconveniences that threaten to spoil the food in the fridge to life-threatening situations when the temperature drops below freezing. Having a good backup generator is an essential tool to provide electricity in a home until the utility company is able to restore power.
A powerful propane generator can produce enough juice to keep the lights on, keep food in the refrigerator fresh, and power a space heater or a portable air-conditioning unit. Generators are also a convenient way to bring electricity to places that are off the grid, such as campsites. Unlike gasoline, propane doesn’t degrade, so it’s easy to keep a supply of propane tanks on hand to power the generator in the event of an outage.
This guide will examine the important features and characteristics of propane generators and review some of the top models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: DuroMax XP5500EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Champion Power Equipment 6900/5500-Watt Generator
- UPGRADE PICK: DuroMax XP13000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- BEST PROPANE ONLY: Sportsman 4000/3,250-Watt Propane Gas Generator
- BEST PORTABLE: Sportsman 2,200/1,800-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
- BEST FOR SMALLER HOMES: Champion Power Equipment 76533 4750/3800-Watt
- BEST QUIET: Champion Power Equipment 100402 2000-Watt Generator
- BEST FOR RV: Champion Power Equipment Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable
- HONORABLE MENTION: Durostar DS10000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- ALSO CONSIDER: Pulsar 6,580/5,500-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Propane Generator
While power output is perhaps the most important attribute of a propane generator, factors such as portability, noise level, and outlet types are also important to consider when shopping for one of these appliances.
The sole purpose of a generator is to supply power when there are no conventional means of power available. They step in to fill the gap when there’s a power outage or at campgrounds with no electrical hookups. With that in mind, the output of the generator is crucial.
Generators are rated by how much wattage they produce. Most generators capable of functioning off a propane tank have a wattage range of 1,800 for compact models to more than 10,000 for larger units. Most generators have two ratings: starting wattage and running wattage. The starting wattage is the amount of power a generator can supply in short bursts. This is to account for most electrical appliances, which typically require a higher starting wattage but significantly fewer watts to run.
The total consumed wattage of most homes’ major appliances is around 5,000 watts. This is enough power to run a 600-watt refrigerator and a 1,500-watt space heater or a 1,000-watt window air conditioner as well as an 80-watt 42-inch LED TV, 100-watt computer, and most lighting in the home—especially if the lights are low-wattage LED bulbs. The best way to determine how much wattage it takes to run your home is to add up the wattage of all essential appliances and electronics.
While some generators are powerful enough to run home HVAC systems, keep in mind that most homes are not wired for this setup. One would need to have the home specially wired by an electrician to allow the generator to plug into a home’s entire power grid.
The vast majority of propane generators are dual-fuel generators. This means they can run off either a 20-gallon propane tank or unleaded gasoline. Some can even switch fuels while running.
One advantage of a propane generator is that propane fuel can be stored for long periods of time without degrading. This allows the user to keep a supply of tanks on hand in case of a power outage, which is a lot easier than making a run for gasoline in the midst of a widespread power outage or dangerous ice storm.
Exhaust and Safety
Propane is a clean-burning fuel, which means it puts out far fewer pollutants than gasoline. In addition to being easier on the environment, this also means fewer fumes to worry about in the yard or at the campsite. This does not mean a propane generator is safe for use in an enclosed space.
Although propane generators produce little carbon monoxide compared to gasoline-powered generators, carbon monoxide is released when propane burns and can fill up an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, dangerous and deadly. With that in mind, never use a propane generator in an enclosed space.
Because of the exhaust generators produce, they are safe only when used outdoors at least 20 feet from any structures. For this reason, most have large handles and wheels, or other features, to make them portable. This does not mean that generators are lightweight: most propane generators weigh more than 100 pounds.
Lightweight models with outputs of around 2,000 watts can weigh as little as 45 pounds, but heavy-duty generators that put out more than 10,000 watts can weigh over 300 pounds.
Next to power output, noise is typically the biggest factor consumers take into account when shopping for a generator. This is because generators are notoriously loud. Most generators have decibel ratings that indicate how loud they are so shoppers will know what to expect before buying them and turning them on. Most generators run at about 70 decibels, which is similar to the sound of a car engine. Ultraquiet generators run at around 55 decibels.
Keep in mind that a generator running at full capacity will be louder than the same generator running at 50 percent of its maximum load. Every 10 increments on a decibel scale are equivalent to 10 times the sound. Therefore, a generator running at 70 decibels is 10 times louder than a generator running at 60 decibels.
As is the case in our homes, outlets are the means through which appliances access the power created by a generator. All generators feature standard 120-volt outlets, with most having between two and four. Generators with outputs of 4,000 watts or more will also have 240-volt twist-lock outlets for large appliances, such as clothes dryers and electric ranges.
Some models also include 12-volt outlets, which are outlets similar to cigarette lighters in vehicles. RV-ready outlets feature special 30-amp or 50-amp outlets for powering a travel trailer or motorhome.
Our Top Picks
The list below narrows the field of propane generators to some of the best models on the market. Whether you prioritize portability, price, or some other feature, any of the generators below will help keep a fridge running, the lights on, and a heater or AC running when your home is without power.
With its 5,500 starting watts and 4,500 running watts, DuroMax’s XP5500EH dual-fuel generator can easily power all the essentials, including a refrigerator, window AC unit, lights, and household electronics. It offers a versatile collection of receptacles, including two 120-volt GFCI outlets and a 120/240-volt 30-amp twist-lock outlet.
Adjustable settings allow the generator to be set to power a 240-volt outlet for larger appliances, such as a dryer or range, or supply full power to its 120-volt outlets. This generator even includes a 12-volt DC charging post for charging a car battery.
A handy voltmeter lets the user know how big a load the generator is carrying. At 69 decibels, the XP5500EH’s noise is similar to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, which puts it in line with the average generator. This model will run for about 12 hours at half load on a 20-gallon propane tank.
Propane generators are notably more expensive than gasoline-only generators, mainly because most propane generators are dual-fuel appliances. While this Champion product may not be as affordable as comparable gas-only models, it is less expensive than other dual-fuel generators while still offering plenty of power. It puts out a respectable 6,900 starting watts and 5,500 running watts, which is ample wattage to handle the essentials in most homes.
Another thing that makes this Champion dual-fuel generator worth considering is its diverse collection of outlets, including one 30-amp twist-lock outlet and four 120-volt GFCI protected outlets. In addition, there’s a digital gauge that lets the user know how much load the generator is carrying and a switch for toggling between fuel sources.
This generator weighs 163 pounds, runs at 74 decibels, and will run at 50 percent capacity for up to 6.5 hours on a full tank of propane.
For sheer output, there are few dual-fuel portable generators on the market that can come close to the power of this DuroMax, which boasts an impressive 13,000 starting watts and 10,500 running watts—that’s more than enough to handle the power needs of even larger homes. The XP13000EH has a panel with two standard 120-volt outlets, two 30-amp twist-lock outlets, and a 50-amp 240-volt heavy-duty outlet.
As with other dual-fuel generators, this model offers the versatility of running on propane or gasoline. Though it will run for up to 9 hours on a full propane tank, this large generator is also pretty loud; at 80 decibels, it emits noise that’s similar to that of a lawn mower engine. At 350 pounds, it’s also one of the heaviest generators on the market; however, it does have wheels that allow for easier maneuvering.
The Sportsman 4000 bucks the trend of most other propane generators by being one of the only propane-only generators on the market. While this may be a trade-off in terms of versatility, the benefit is a much cheaper price tag. This propane-only generator is less than half the cost of dual-fuel generators with similar power output.
It produces a modest 4,000 starting watts and 3,250 running watts, which makes it ideal for camping and RVing. Those using it at home during a power outage will find that it can power the essentials, such as a fridge and lights, plus a small window AC unit or space heater.
This generator has two standard 120-volt outlets, a 120-volt RV plug, and a 12-volt DC outlet. The benefit to its lower power output is longer run time; the Sportsman will get 10 hours of run time at 50 percent capacity out of a standard 20-pound propane tank. And, at just over 100 pounds, it’s one of the lighter generators on the market.
Although many generators are marketed as “portable,” the truth is that most weigh upwards of 200 pounds, and the largest “portable” generators tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. That’s a lot of bulk to move, even if the generator has integrated wheels. This generator from Sportsman is truly portable. With a comparatively featherlight weight of 45 pounds, it weighs less than an airline-compliant suitcase.
While this particular dual-fuel Sportsman doesn’t offer the output of its weightier cousins, it still puts out a respectable 2,200 starting watts and 1,800 running watts. That’s enough to run a fridge, keep the lights on, or even run a window AC unit. Hook-ups include two standard 120-volt outlets, a DC battery charger, and even a USB input for charging smart devices.
With a parallel power kit (sold separately), users can even chain multiple Sportsman generators together to increase available power. The pull-start engine will run for up to 18 hours at half load on a full propane tank.
Smaller homes (or households that don’t mind going without some essentials during a power outage) should consider this generator, which puts out a modest 4,750 starting watts and 3,800 running watts. That’s plenty of power for running lights, keeping the fridge cold, and maybe even running a window AC unit. While it may not fulfill all of a home’s electrical needs in the event of an outage, it’s significantly more affordable than higher-output options.
The Champion 76533 sports multiple outlet types, including two 120-volt standard outlets, a twist-lock outlet, and a 30-amp RV-ready outlet. Two wheels allow the user to maneuver the machine, which weighs about 119 pounds, into position. This generator has a tolerable 68-decibel noise level, a low-oil sensor, and runs for 10.5 hours on a single tank of propane.
One of the major knocks on generators is how much noise they produce. While most models put out around 70 decibels, the Champion 100402 runs at 53 decibels, which is about the same noise level as a running refrigerator. Though it’s pretty quiet, it still puts out enough power—2,000 starting watts and 1,600 running watts—to keep a home’s bare essentials running.
Outputs include two 120-volt power outlets and a 12-volt charger. This generator is not only quiet, it’s also compact, measuring just 20.5 inches long, 12.6 inches wide, and 16.9 inches high, with a dry weight of just under 48 pounds, making it easy to tote wherever you need it. Because it has a comparatively low power output, Champion’s 2,000-watt generator will run for about 11 hours on a full tank of gas or 24 hours on a 20-pound tank of propane.
A loud generator doesn’t make the experience of camping at a campground particularly enjoyable for you or your neighbors. This dual-fuel generator from Champion provides enough power to run the essentials in an RV while keeping the noise level down. While other generators run at around 70 decibels, this model runs at a significantly quieter 59 decibels. That’s the difference between a car engine and a quiet conversation.
Another of this machine’s many advantages is that it’s RV-ready. Its 30-amp outlet fits a standard RV plug, making connecting the RV to the generator an easy process. It produces 3,400 starting watts and 3,100 running watts, which is enough to power a fridge, electronics, and an AC unit or space heater. An electric start button makes cranking up the generator easy, while a switch allows for toggling between fuel sources.
With its ability to pump out 8,000 running watts, the dual-fuel DS10000EH from Durostar can handle all of a larger home’s primary appliances and also provide enough juice to power bigger appliances, such as a dryer or electric range. It’s equipped with two GFCI 120-volt outlets, one 30-amp twist-lock outlet, and RV-ready 30-amp and 50-amp outlets. It also includes a voltmeter and 12-volt DC charging posts.
The DS10000EH’s control panel makes operation easy: A toggle switch allows the user to select gas or propane fuel, while a voltmeter displays the generator’s current load. This model includes some handy additional features, such as a push-button start and large pneumatic tires for maneuvering the generator into position. This generator will run for up to 15 hours on a full tank of propane and has a noise level of 70 decibels.
With its ample power rating, dual-fuel capability, and diverse set of outputs, this generator from Pulsar is a worthy option. Despite its comparatively low price tag, this model puts out an impressive 6,580 starting watts and 5,500 running watts, more than enough power for running medium-size homes during a power outage. It is also equipped with a broad set of outputs, including four standard 120-volt outlets, a twist-lock outlet, and an RV-ready 30-amp outlet.
A digital display allows the operator to monitor load, while a large switch makes toggling between fuel types quick and easy; users can even switch fuels as the generator is running. A full tank of propane produces up to 10 hours of run time at 50 percent capacity. Though this machine weighs 120 pounds, two wheels and tractable handles allow for easy maneuvering.
FAQs About Propane Generators
If you’re wondering about how much fuel a propane generator uses or how safe it is to use a propane generator, read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these machines.
Q. How much propane does a generator use per hour?
A propane generator uses about 2 to 3 gallons of propane an hour depending on the load. This equates to a total run time of about 8 to 10 hours on a full 20-gallon tank.
Q. How loud are propane generators?
A propane generator’s noise level is related to the amount of power it produces. Generators that produce 6,000 or more watts run at around 70 to 80 decibels, whereas a smaller generator that produces around 3,000 watts will run at 50 to 60 decibels.
Q. Is propane more dangerous to run than gasoline?
Propane generators are actually safer than gasoline generators. They produce fewer toxic fumes and do not pose as great a fire hazard as gasoline, which can spill. Propane is not susceptible to spills because it is contained in a pressurized canister.
Q. How can I safely use a propane generator?
To safely use a propane generator, make sure to set up the generator in an open space away from any enclosures, including an open garage.