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Old 12-01-2012, 06:45 PM
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Getting a propane tank for the sole purpose of running a backup generator?

Is there anything technically disadvantageous about getting a propane tank installed, of the sort used for home heating, merely for the purpose of supplying a backup generator?

We need a backup generator and we've been without power in the past for as long as 11 days (meaning no water or heat also). If my goal is to be able to run for that long without relying on gasoline availability, for probably a 6 or 7 kilowatt generator, that's a lot of fuel to fetch in 5 gallon cans, which are really bigger than I should be lifting. And, depending on how it is stored, gasoline can deteriorate over time. So, I wondered if propane would fix all of that. I guess another option is diesel but the generators that use it are priced so much higher that I don't think it's a realistic option.

There is a separate, business issue: do propane companies kind of demand that you use many gallons of the stuff per year, just to give you delivery service? But the local companies can tell me that.

Thanks!
Old 12-01-2012, 06:52 PM
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natural gas isn't an option?
Old 12-01-2012, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
There is a separate, business issue: do propane companies kind of demand that you use many gallons of the stuff per year, just to give you delivery service? But the local companies can tell me that.
I can't answer the rest of your questions, but as to the delivery issue I have a 120 gallon propane tank that just runs my hot water heater. A full tank doesn't quite last an entire year, so I basically just call and ask for a delivery every six months. There's really nothing more to it than that: call propane people, schedule delivery, give 'em credit card info over phone or a check during delivery. Really it's no different from regular deliveries, though you might end up paying slightly higher rates.
Old 12-01-2012, 07:27 PM
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yo can buy a tank (from an LP company) and have it filled when needed. you can get a few hundred gallon tank.
Old 12-01-2012, 07:34 PM
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Your price per gallon may be higher, but they will fill it if you have the cash.

You may need to buy the tank outright however, if you use it as a utility they will usually give you a tank.
Old 12-01-2012, 09:01 PM
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This is a realistic option we explored. The wife objected to having the tank on the property. You can either buy or rent a tank. Advantage of buying is you can pick your supplier based on price. Advantage of renting is no ownership hassles.

They are not going to want to deliver small (10 to 20 gallon) loads but anything a half a tank or higher will be fine.

Talk to your local generator dealer. They can size one to your specific needs.
Old 12-01-2012, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Dano83860 View Post
Advantage of renting is no ownership hassles..
What are the hassles? Do you have to do some kind of maintenance or inspection or anything?
Old 12-01-2012, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
natural gas isn't an option?
I guess I should have said "or natural gas". What's the practical difference for running engines?
Old 12-01-2012, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
What are the hassles? Do you have to do some kind of maintenance or inspection or anything?
tanks last decades. buying is an upfront cost. renting is a regular cost even if you don't use gas.
Old 12-01-2012, 11:54 PM
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My friend who installed a propane-fueled generator has a deal where if he buys at least one tank of propane a year, he pays no rental charge.
Old 12-02-2012, 12:08 AM
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Something tells me propane tank & generator sales are going to go up over the next few years...
Old 12-02-2012, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
I guess I should have said "or natural gas". What's the practical difference for running engines?
Their energy contents area bit different, so you'd use a greater volume of natural gas per unit of power from the engine. He advantage of natural gas is if you have gas service to your residence; the genset can be plumbed into your gas feed eliminating the need to worry about tank fills.

Last edited by jz78817; 12-02-2012 at 10:34 AM.
Old 12-02-2012, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
Something tells me propane tank & generator sales are going to go up over the next few years...
Yeah, by at least a couple thousand dollars I think. And that's just the part I'm responsible for....
Old 12-02-2012, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
natural gas isn't an option?
For many of us, no.

I live between to gas mains. This year some residents up the street tried to get Cascade Gas to pipe gas to homes on this street and a couple of other streets. (Their proposal later reduced the length of the line such that my house would not have been serviced.) After much work and expense (one guy built his home on the assumption that he would have natural gas), Cascade Gas torpedoed the idea. Contractors were lined up to dig the trench, do the road work, and so on, and Cascade Gas came in at the last minute (after going along with the plan for months) and informed the leader of the residents that such work would have to be done by Cascade Gas -- at the cost of several thousand dollars more.

So even with a short run and easy installation, and even with the residents paying the bulk of the costs so that there is little monetary outlay by the gas company, natural gas is not always an option.
Old 12-02-2012, 10:50 AM
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This house had a Generac generator and a 100-gallon tank, for that purpose only, when we bought it. The tank is leased for $100 a year, which seems like the best option overall - you can buy a tank, but then you're responsible for its condition, valves, maintenance, etc. which can start to be a problem in a few years.

Actually, we switched providers (one tank out, another tank in) when the original provider gave us a gigantic quote for running propane to the kitchen for the cooktop. Another provider was happy to come swap the tank, reconnect the generator, and run the 25-foot kitchen line for a few hundred.

We use so little propane that we're on call-to-fill. The cooktop uses about 10 gallons a year, and the generator, about .75 gal per hour of runtime. We had it filled with Sandy on the horizon, and for the second New England fall (now with extra storms!) we had power while our neighbors were out for days.

Short answer, in other words: Yes. Recommend leasing the tank from whatever provider offers the best deal. Don't worry about fuel cost; it will change drastically by the time you refill, most likely.
Old 12-02-2012, 11:11 AM
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I have a 15kw Generac running on propane. My tank is 250 gallons and I rent it for $19 a year. The tank also supplies my cooktop.

They come and fill it when I call them. They maintain the tank as part of the rental. Had a small leak at the guage, fixed the same day I called. They came a few days later and painted the tank.

I could have a buried tank, but I'd have to buy it.
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
For many of us, no.

I live between to gas mains. This year some residents up the street tried to get Cascade Gas to pipe gas to homes on this street and a couple of other streets. (Their proposal later reduced the length of the line such that my house would not have been serviced.) After much work and expense (one guy built his home on the assumption that he would have natural gas), Cascade Gas torpedoed the idea. Contractors were lined up to dig the trench, do the road work, and so on, and Cascade Gas came in at the last minute (after going along with the plan for months) and informed the leader of the residents that such work would have to be done by Cascade Gas -- at the cost of several thousand dollars more.

So even with a short run and easy installation, and even with the residents paying the bulk of the costs so that there is little monetary outlay by the gas company, natural gas is not always an option.
Sounds like a clear case of the gas company screwing you over. Contact the state Public Utilities Commission.
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