If you’re in the market for a new generator, it can be challenging to know which fuel source is right for your application

First, let’s discuss the pros of natural gas generators:

  • Cost Effective
  • Clean fuel source, lower emissions
  • Direct connection to a pipeline
  • Cleaner, lower odor than diesel

When it comes to clean, cost effective back up power for your home, especially if you live in town, it’s hard to beat a natural gas generator. Engines that run on natural gas are quiet and low odor, and the underground pipes that deliver natural gas to your home are surprisingly resistant to storm damage (earthquakes and digging mishaps, not so much, but I digress). Natural gas is also very affordable, with some estimating natural gas to be 2 to 3 times less expensive than electric for household chores like heating water and cooking.

Natural gas also burns very cleanly. Unlike diesel, the exhaust doesn’t have a strong odor, and if you’ve ever changed the oil on a gasoline or diesel engine, you’ll be shocked at how clean the oil in your natural gas generator appears during its first service. I’ve collected oil samples out of generators that ran for over 100 hours and the oil looked practically new.

One of the often overlooked benefits of natural gas generators is the hookup directly to the pipeline. Natural gas generators don’t require fuel tanks. This not only reduces the overall footprint of the generator, it means you don’t have to worry about refilling a tank or having your fuel go bad because it sat too long. Like Liquid Propane, Natural Gas also eliminates the need for the fuel filters found in gasoline and diesel engines.

That said, there are a few drawbacks to consider with Natural Gas as well.

  • Natural Gas is explosive
  • Supply can get interrupted by earthquakes and digging mishaps
  • Maintenance costs are usually higher
  • Reliability is lower than in diesel units

To be clear, I’m not trying to be overly cautious when describing Natural Gas as explosive. Millions of homes rely on Natural Gas everyday for things like cooking, drying clothes and hot water without incident. But nobody needs a back up generator until they do, and the reason they do, is often a natural disaster.

If your area is prone to natural disasters, the type of disaster matters. Hurricanes, thunderstorms, freezing rain and large snowfall totals do little to impact the reliability of a natural gas generator. The same can’t be said for earthquakes, digging mishaps or other events that could cause pipelines to rupture or break. Thankfully, with a few modifications, natural gas generators can also run on liquid propane.

The last potential drawback is maintenance costs and reliability. Simply put, natural gas engines have more parts that can fail than diesel generators. Spark plugs, spark plug wires, ignition coils, distributors, solenoids – all required for the spark required for combustion, and all common points of failure. Natural gas engines often use popular engines found in automobiles, and they aren’t build to run under the same loads, for the same amount of time as their diesel counterparts that share their lineage with heavy farm equipment and commercial motor vehicles.

The verdict? While there are some exceptions, the majority of natural gas generators are a great source of prime or back up power for your home or office, but may not be the best option for continuous power. They’re more costly than diesel generators, but if odor and noise are significant considerations, they’re worth every penny.