Do Propane Generators Work In Cold Weather?

Propane generators can be a great utility to have in your home, garage, or workplace. Especially during storms where power can be lost, it is important to have a backup. To keep us all at ease, we have research what weather conditions propane generators work in best to keep you operating in every season.

Do propane generators work in cold weather? Yes, propane generators work well in below-freezing temperatures. For normal use in any kind of moderate climate, a propane generator will keep power running in cold weather.

Propane generators performance in the cold can still hold some variables, however. Propane generators can be an expensive investment so it is important to know all the details.

How Cold Is Too Cold For A Propane Generator?

Propane generators work very well even in cold weather. However, if you live in an extremely cold area such as Alaska, it is possible that a propane generator may still fail you.

Propane generators will freeze at -44 degrees Fahrenheit, or -42 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the propane will start to freeze and not work, even in generators. 

Even before propane generators freeze over at that temperature, they could see a reduction in performance. So, it is vital to maintain upkeep on them in case of emergency. 

What Happens When Propane Freezes?

When propane inside of a propane generator stops working, it is not actually because the propane freezes. 

In reality, propane’s boiling point is -44 Fahrenheit. When this happens, it stops the liquid propane from becoming a gas and the tank of propane powering your generator will freeze. 

Luckily, this process is not dangerous and the tank should be fine when the weather returns to normal. The largest danger here is in losing power to the propane generator for any period of time in that sort of extreme weather. 

Maintaining a Propane Generator in Cold Weather

To keep your propane generator working as extreme weather is expected, it is best to have done some prep work. This will ensure a safe and simple set up next time it needs to be used.  As stated, a propane generator is likely to keep working through harsh temperatures only if proper maintenance has occurred up to that point. 

Maintenance of a propane generator for the cold includes:

  • Keeping a path clear of snow and debris to the generator
  • Running the generator every so often before storms to ensure everything works
  • Filling up on propane before storms
  • Checking all lines for damage during inclement weather

Many of these steps are simple and, when combined with other techniques and precautions detailed below, will ensure that your propane generator works the best it can even in extreme cold.

Do Propane Generators Perform Worse In The Cold?

While propane generators should work until around -44 degrees, performance of the generator can occasionally falter at temperatures slightly higher than that. 

This decline in performance can show up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Decreased pressure coming into the generator
  • Increase in use of propane to power generator

Here are some details on how each of these issues can occur and how to solve them.

Decrease in Fuel Pressure

In very cold weather, even before propane in the generator freezes, it can be difficult for the generator to provide fuel to everywhere it needs to. This tends to happen because the tank of propane inside of the generator is colder than the weather outside.

As propane generators turn on, they start the process of vaporizing liquid propane so that it can run from the storage tank, through tubes, into the generator, and then provide power. If any of those parts themselves are too cold, the generator could have issues starting the process and getting enough fuel.

A recommended way to fix this is to run your propane generator every so often in winter months for roughly ten minutes at a time. This ensures that all parts of a generator stay lubricated and ready to quickly get warm in the case where the generator is surely needed.

Increased Use of Propane

Before a propane generator stops working entirely, the propane inside could be used up at a much higher rate in cold weather. 

This is largely due to a lack of efficiency in very cold weather. When temperature and weather are moderate, propane has a very easy time converting to a gas to be used. This happens quickly and efficiently. 

However, as propane reaches very cold temperatures, the conversion process can take a long time and decrease efficiency overall. This means an increase in the amount of propane used, even for less power. 

If you notice that you seem to be going through a lot more propane than normal, it is recommended to keep the tank warmer. One common way to do this is to utilize a cold weather kit for propane generators. 

Often, cold weather kits include tools such as:

  • Automatic Battery Warmers – battery warmers automatically turn on when below acceptable temperatures to keep generator batteries warm and efficient
  • Crank Case Heaters – This warms the oil used to start the generator, ensuring it does not solidify and cause the generator to chug.
  • 5W-30 Motor Oil – Specialized motor oil created to withstand extremely cold temperatures.

Cold weather kits can include much more or even much less than these tools, so it is important to do research into what your specific propane generator may need. However, an automatic battery warming kit is generally considered to be the most important part of any kit.

Where To Store a Propane Generator In Cold Weather?

Storing a propane generator properly can extend its life, keep it running smoothly, and reduce the amount of maintenance required between uses. There are two kinds of propane generators: portable generators and standby generators. Where and how to store each of them is different, so it is important to identify what type you have and go from there.

Standby Propane Generators

Standby propane generators do not move. They are attached directly to a home or business and are made to provide power and heat whenever the main power source fails. 

Luckily, storage for propane generators is not generally an issue if they are installed correctly. Standby propane generators should be kept as such:

  • Underneath a covered hanging to prevent weather
  • Kept clean on sides for any ventilation to work properly 
  • A clear path should be available to the generator

Standby generators should not be moved, as they are hardwired into whatever building they service. Ensuring that the criteria above is met will create a perfect environment to keep your standby generator working smoothly and safe from weather.

Portable Propane Generators

Storage of portable propane generators is more complicated than standby generators, but the process is still fairly simple. Taking proper steps to store a portable propane generator after use will keep it running well for years. Luckily, when compared to a gasoline generator, propane is much easier to store. 

It is most important to store the generator in a cool and dry place. Often, garages or basements work well for this as they can be spacious and stay cooler than the rest of a home. It is possible to store your propane generator outdoors, but a few more steps must be taken. 

A generator cover is an important step for blocking out debris and weather from getting into the generator. These can be customized to the size and shape of your propane generator and take up a minimal amount of space.

Especially for storage in cold weather, another good option is small storage sheds. Often, these are great for full coverage from wind and snow. They can also be locked up and shut tight to keep out animals.

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