How Much Gas Will Your Generator Use?

Natural disasters and emergencies can strike at any time  during any season. To protect yourself from a sudden loss of power, having a generator on hand is essential.  But to keep your home up and running, you’ll need to pay special attention to the fuel that powers your generator.

In this article, we’ll go over the types of generators available on the market, how powerful your generator should be, and how much fuel you can expect to use.

Types of Generators

The most common types of generators for homeowners are:

  • Inverter: The smallest of all generator options, inverters are best used for quick charges on small devices like laptops or car batteries. 
  • Portable: Next in size is a portable charger, which has the ability and strength to power large appliances, like a refrigerator, but only for a short time. Unfortunately, systems like your home’s heating and cooling system won’t run off a portable generator unless you’ve hard-wired it to do so.
  • Standby: Most often used for emergencies — where its mission-critical to have power — the standby generator is the largest and most powerful option on the market. Homeowners use standby generators to keep their appliances running for extended periods of time. 

What kind of gas does a generator use?

With the exception of the inverter generator, which uses an engine and an alternator to create AC power, most generators run off these four fuels:

  • Propane: One of the most versatile fuels, propane works for all kinds of homes, and is especially ideal for generators located in remote areas, where it may be difficult to bring in other types of fuel.
  • Diesel: Diesel generators burn fuel slowly, which makes them cost-effective, but there are environmental downsides to diesel. Diesel fuel has a higher level of emissions than fuel other options, which may cause issues for passing EPA standards.
  • Natural gas: Slightly cleaner than diesel, but still not entirely eco-friendly are natural gas-powered generators. Natural gas generators are great for anyone who has natural gas pipes in their home; otherwise, it’s impossible to store reserves onsite. Natural gas is also known to delay the start times on generators, which can cause temporary interruptions in operations.
  • Gasoline: Gas generators are often less expensive to purchase than other models, which makes them appealing to a number of homeowners. However, gasoline-powered generators must be refueled regularly, and in the event of an emergency, gasoline isn’t always easy to find.

You might also consider bi-fuel or tri-fuel generators that run on gasoline or liquid propane (or natural gas for a tri-fuel.)

What appliances will you power? 

The exact amount of fuel you’ll use with vary based on the number of appliances you have connected to your generator. To start customizing your calculations, learn how much energy each of your home appliances requires.

Analyze the chart below to get a baseline for the size of the generator you’ll need, which will help us solve the amount of fuel you’ll need. 

Appliance

Watt

AC central

3500

Coffee maker (2 cups)

600

Microwave

1800

Electric Range (medium size)

1800

Freezer

65

Refrigerator (large)

780

Living Room Lights

60

Television (new technology)

80

Gas Washer

850

Gas Dryer

3400

Garage Door

1000

By adding the watts of the appliances you’ll most often use, you’ll have a better understanding of what size generator you need.

Cheat Sheet: The average homeowner will most likely use a generator between 3,000 and 6,500 watts to effectively run their home appliances, which is a 3-6.5 kilowatt generator. 

How much does it cost to run a generator? 

The next step to learning how much gas your generator will use is to assess how each type of generator burns fuel at different rates.

Here is a rough estimate of how much it will cost to fuel a generator, by varied fuel types:

Gasoline generator

  • A 5-kilowatt gas generator burns roughly 0.75 gallons of fuel per hour
  • The current average price for gasoline in Connecticut is $2.60 a gallon
  • Running a gasoline generator for 24 hours will cost roughly $46.80

Diesel generator 

  • An 8-kilowatt generator burns roughly 0.5 gallons of fuel per hour
  • The current average cost for diesel in Connecticut is $4.34 per gallon
  • Running a diesel generator for 24 hours will cost roughly $52.08

Propane generator

  • A 6-kilowatt generator burns roughly 1.42 gallons of fuel per hour
  • The current average cost for propane in Connecticut is $3.38 per gallon
  • Running a propane generator for 24 hours will cost roughly $115.19

Natural gas generator

  • A 7-kilowatt generator burns roughly 118 cubic feet of fuel per hour
  • The current average cost for natural gas in Connecticut is $20.40 per thousand cubic feet
  • Running a natural gas generator for 24 hours will cost roughly $58.75

How to Keep Costs Down 

Regardless of the type of fuel you use for your generator, there are several ways you can cut your fuel costs:

  • Convert your refrigerator’s motor to a low voltage compressor, so that you use less energy and less fuel.
  • When your generator is in use, don’t use your water heater. Instead, use your stovetop to heat water.
  • Make sure the lightbulbs in your home are low energy so that when a generator is in use, your lighting consumes less power.
  • As you can see from the chart above, some appliances use far more energy than others. When the generator is running, reduce run time for high-energy appliances – maybe skip the dryer cycle and leave your clothes to air dry.

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