GENERATORS

What is a tri fuel generator?

Unless you’re interested in solar power, the generator you buy will run on a source of fuel, either gasoline, natural gas, propane, or diesel. Each of these fuel sources differs in price, efficiency, and availability. If you buy a single-fuel generator, you’ll have to stick to a single fuel source, limiting your options. Tri fuel generators, however, allow you to choose which fuel source to use based on your current needs and the fuel you have available.

Tri fuel generators are portable generators that can run on three different fuel sources, most often gasoline, propane, or natural gas. People who buy these sorts of generators often anticipate having varying power needs. For example, a homeowner might want to use easily-transportable propane tanks to power his RV, but he might want to attach his generator to his house’s gas lines for convenient use at home. Contractors and construction works often have variable fuel needs as well.

If you’re considering a tri fuel generator, the first step is to understand your individual power needs. The size and type of generator you buy should reflect what you will need your generator to power. To do this, add up the starting wattage of every appliance you plan to power with your generator. You may also find Alltime Power’s free Power Calculator helpful. It will help you calculate and understand your power needs. You’ll also be able to find reputable generator dealers in your area based on your results.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantage of tri fuel generators is the increased flexibility and freedom they provide. Gasoline is readily available from gas stations around the country, but the price is highly variable. It is also highly flammable, which limits how much you can store at home. Natural gas is an efficient and relatively clean fuel source, but to access it, you usually have to have an expert attach your home’s gas lines to your generator. Propane is easy to store and can be found in stores around the country, but it tends to be more expensive than natural gas.

There are pros and cons to every fuel source. Tri fuel generators give you the freedom to evaluate which fuel source is best at a particular moment in time. Additionally, a tri fuel generator may save you if you run out of a particular fuel. For instance, if you run out of gasoline but have an extra propane tank or two lying around in the garage, you won’t have to go out and buy more gasoline. This may seem like a minor inconvenience, but during a natural disaster, it could be a matter of life or death.

The main disadvantage of tri fuel generators is the added cost. Single-fuel portable generators can run as low as $200 to $300, but decent tri fuel generators usually cost at least $1500. Additionally, tri fuel generators tend to be heavier and more difficult to move than single-fuel ones, though many brands offer models with wheels and a handle to make transportation easier.

The best brands and models

There are fewer tri fuel than single or dual-fuel generators on the market; however, you still have several good options to choose from. For example, the Winco HPS12000HE is a large and powerful tri fuel generator that offers 14.5 hours of runtime at 50% load. It is an excellent option for homeowners, contractors, or companies who need a portable generator that can produce a lot of power. The Winco 9,000 Watts Tri Fuel Pro is a smaller and more portable option, but the model has only 4.5 hours of runtime at half load.

The Pramac Tri Fuel Generator Complete Package is another good option for heavy-duty uses. It has a runtime of up to 24 hours, but it has a relatively small gas tank and weighs 200 pounds. For a lighter and less-expensive option, consider the Firman T07571. It has a respectable 12 hours of runtime, plus some useful features, including wheels, a collapsible handle, and covered outlets. The model also comes with a generous three-year warranty.

The Honda Commercial Tri Fuel Package is designed to power larger tools and appliances with high starting wattages. This, combined with its sturdiness and portability, make it an excellent option for use at construction sites and other work areas. For a sturdy tri fuel generator that is easily adaptable to private use, consider the Sportsman GENTRI9K. It is easy to use both at your home or worksite and in your RV or at a campsite.

Converting single-fuel generators into tri fuel generators

Buying a tri fuel generator isn’t the only option. Some single-fuel generators can be adapted into tri fuel generators using a conversion kit, such as the Hutch Mountain tri fuel kit. A tri fuel conversion kit works by making a gasoline-powered portable generator accept propane and natural gas. Usually, the process is fairly simple and does not restrict the power capacity or function of the generator.

Before buying a conversion kit, make sure the model of generator you own or plan on buying can be adapted into a tri fuel generator. Only certain models are able to convert. One model that can be adapted is the Honda EU2200i, which is one of the most popular portable generators on the market. The model runs quietly and smoothly, and it has a runtime of up to 9.6 hours. It’s ideal for powering some residential or RV appliances.

Although the conversion process requires a little more work for the buyer, many homeowners find the saved cost is worth the effort. The Hutch Mountain tri fuel conversion kit costs about $280. When combined with the Honda EU2200i model, that adds up to about $1380, which is significantly less than most tri fuel generators on the market. It is also much quieter, cleaner, and more portable than most other options.

Which fuel is most efficient?

If you’re thinking about purchasing a tri fuel generator, you should understand which fuel source is most efficient, affordable, and convenient. Of all the fuel sources that can be used to power a generator, diesel has the highest energy efficiency. This means you won’t have to buy as much diesel to power your generator as you would other fuel sources. In some cases, this may make diesel the most affordable fuel as well, though this depends on the price of diesel in your area.

Unfortunately, most tri fuel generators do not offer diesel as an option. Between gasoline, propane, and natural gas, gasoline is the next most energy-efficient option. However, propane usually costs less per gallon than gasoline, making the price difference smaller. Gasoline also has certain disadvantages: it may be more difficult to obtain and store than propane, and it tends to burn less cleanly and quietly.

Between propane and natural gas, propane burns about twice as efficiently as natural gas. Similar to propane and gasoline, however, natural gas is less expensive per unit than propane. To find out what the cheapest option is for you, you’ll have to research current fuel prices in your area and compare that to energy efficiency. The cheapest option may vary over time, so you might want to keep up to date with fuel price fluctuations. Read our blog post on the subject to learn more about generator fuel options.

Regardless of the efficiency and price differences, many homeowners prefer to use natural gas when possible. When hooked up to a home’s natural gas lines, a generator can run indefinitely without needing to be refueled by hand. For some people, this added convenience is worth any additional cost. To avoid injuring yourself or harming your underground pipes, you should hire a professional to hook up your gas lines to your generator.

Is a tri fuel generator right for me?

Tri fuel generators are an excellent option for many people, but they are not right for everyone. Since tri fuel generators are usually portable rather than stationary generators, they lack some of the advantages of standby generators. For example, most portable generators, including tri fuel generators, do not have the same power capabilities as a standby generator. As a result, they usually cannot power all the devices in your home.

Owners of a tri fuel generator should also be prepared to use multiple sources of power. A tri fuel generator isn’t worth the extra size and cost if you only ever use gasoline to power it. For example, some homeowners may not want to connect their gas lines to their generator. If this is the case, it would likely be better to buy a single- or dual-powered generator and save the added cost. Tri fuel generators are best for homeowners or businesses that are sure they will want or need to use multiple sources of power.

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