Power outages can threaten to spoil the food in the fridge and lead to life-threatening situations in cold temperatures. Having 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 air-conditioning unit.
Portable propane generators also 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. 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 BUDGET: Champion Power Equipment 4375/3500-Watt Generator
- UPGRADE PICK: DuroMax XP13000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- BEST PORTABLE: Sportsman 2,200/1,800-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
- BEST FOR SMALLER HOMES: Champion Power Equipment 76533 4750/3800-Watt
- BEST FOR RV: Durostar DS12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Pulsar G12KBN Heavy Duty Portable Dual Fuel Generator
- ALSO CONSIDER: Westinghouse WGen3600DF Dual Fuel Portable 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 fuel 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 fuel 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. 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.
Generators are notoriously loud with decibel ratings that indicate how loud they are. 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 peak 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 fuel tank.
- Type: Dual fuel
- Wattage: 5,500W starting/4,500W running
- Noise Level: 69 decibels
- Weight: 142 pounds
- Adjustable voltage settings
- 3 outlets included
- Built-in voltmeter
- Some users reported difficulty starting this generator
Get the DuroMax XP5500EH generator at Amazon, Tractor Supply Co., and Lowe’s.
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 peak power output. It puts out a respectable 4,375 starting watts and 3,500 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 RV outlet, a 30-amp locking outlet, and two 20-amp household 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 104 pounds and runs at 68 decibels.
- Type: Dual fuel
- Wattage: 4,375W starting/3,500W running
- Noise Level: 68 decibels
- Weight: 104 pounds
- Affordable model
- Includes 4 outlets, one for RV use
- Digital fuel gauge
- Less power output compared to other units
Get the Champion Power Equipment 200965 generator on Amazon.
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.
- Type: Dual fuel
- Wattage: 13,000W starting/10,500W running
- Noise Level: 80 decibels
- Weight: 350 pounds
- Suitable for ample power needs
- 5 outlets included
- Built-in wheels enhance portability
- Louder than other generators
Get the DuroMax XP13000H generator on Amazon, Tractor Supply Co., and Lowe’s.
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.
- Type: Dual fuel
- Wattage: 2,200 starting watts/1,800 running watts
- Noise Level: 60 decibels
- Weight: 45 pounds
- Meant for light-duty power output
- Fuel-efficient operation
- Lightweight and portable
- Parallel power kit not included
- Limited power output compared to similar generators
Get the Sportsman dual fuel generator at The Home Depot or at Tractor Supply Co..
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.
- Type: Dual fuel
- Wattage: 4,750W starting/3,800W running
- Noise Level: 68 decibels
- Weight: 119 pounds
- Affordable unit
- Includes 3 outlets
- Low-oil sensor
- Built-in wheels enhance portability
- Less runtime compared to other generators
Get the Champion Power Equipment 76533 generator on Amazon and at The Home Depot.
With its ability to pump out 12,000 running watts, the dual-fuel DS12000EH 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 50-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 DS12000EH’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 electric 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.
- Wattage: 12,000 starting watts/9,500 running watts
- Noise Level: 72 decibels
- Weight: 228 pounds
- Suitable for large appliances
- Long runtime
- Easy, electric start button
- Built-in wheels for maneuvering
- Loud operation volume
- Limited portability; large, heavyweight construction
- More expensive than other models
Get the DuroMax DS12000EH generator on Amazon or at Tractor Supply Co..
Having a reliable generator that can stand up to heavy-duty tasks, look no further than the Pulsar G12KBN Heavy Duty Portable Dual Fuel Generator. This tough pick can emit 12,000 starting watts and 9,500 running watts on its 8-gallon gasoline tank and 10,800 starting watts and 8,550 running watts on propane, each of which providing 12 hours of run time. This model also has a 457cc, single cylinder construction with a 4-stroke, air cooled, OHV engine, all of which are easy to operate with an electric start.
The outlets include four 120V 20A AC outlets, one 120V/240V 50A outlet, and one 12V DC outlet for tools, devices, and appliances. Plus, this model comes with a low oil shut-off, a 3-in-1 digital meter, and automatic voltage regulation for safety and convenience. The drop-down handles and 10-inch wheels also allow for easy maneuvering around the house, garage, or campsite. Finally, a propane hose is included with purchase.
- Wattage: 12,000 starting watts/9,500 running watts (gasoline), 10,800 starting watts/8,550 running watts (propane)
- Noise Level: Unlisted
- Weight: 209 pounds
- 12-hour runtime
- Easy electric start
- Low oil shut-off
- Automatic voltage regulation
- Handles and wheels built-in
- No noise level listed
Get the Pulsar G12KBN generator on Amazon.
The Westinghouse generator produces a modest 3,600 starting watts and 4,650 running watts with its 4-gallon gasoline tank or 3,240 starting watts and 4,650 running watts on propane, 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 4-stroke OHV generator has a 5-20R 120V Duplex outlet, an RV-ready TT-304 30 amp outlet, and L5-30R 30 amp outlet. The benefit to its lower power output is longer run time; the Westinghouse will get 14 hours of run time. Plus, this model has a durable cast iron engine sleeve, automatic low oil shutdown, a propane hose, an oil funnel, tool kit, and an easy-to-use electric start. At just over 100 pounds, it’s one of the lighter generators on the market and can be maneuvered with its handle and never-flat wheels.
- Wattage: 3,600 starting watts/4,650 running watts (gasoline), 3,240 starting watts/4,650 running watts (propane)
- Noise Level: Unlisted
- Weight: 109 pounds
- Durable construction
- Long run time
- Comes with many accessories
Get the Westinghouse portable generator on Amazon.
During emergencies like bad storms or power outages, there are a wide variety of propane generators to choose from to keep the lights on. With adjustable power settings, three outlets, and a built-in voltmeter, the DuroMax XP5500EH is a quality option for average-sized homes. As a strong contender, the Champion 4375/3500-Watt generator includes a digital fuel gauge and four outlets for a great price, though it provides less power.
How We Chose the Best Propane Generators
Selections for the top propane generators depended upon wattage, outlets provided, portability, operating volume, and special features. We only considered models produced by the best generator brands in the industry for continuous, reliable power output.
The featured list includes an array of load capacities to accommodate different power requirements from light to heavy. These generators come with multiple outlets that work with various types of electronics, whether it’s for powering large appliances or personal devices.
We prioritized units with fuel gauges for monitoring usage and generators with an electric start (as opposed to the standard pull start). Additionally, heavier models with built-in wheels and handles were favored over less portable alternatives.
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.