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Cost of Grid Power versus Running a Portable Generator

With the different types of all-weather portable generators for home use available today, would it be more practical/cost-efficient to run your power supply with a generator or hook up to a grid power line? Portable generators are effective backup power system during a power outage and they are also an efficient source of power supply where there is no grid power line connected to your home or business. However, the price of fuel is constantly rising as well as the cost of energy usage at home which put you in a tight spot as to which way to go and how you can trim down your energy bills.

By reading this article further, you may be able to get some ideas on how to measure or estimate your grid power cost vs. portable generator fuel cost and compare which method is a more cost-efficient method for your particular requirement.

Grid Power/Electricity Cost

Electricity cost is constantly on the rise due to increasing requirements of power supply, rising cost of energy and a whole lot of other factors. Electricity consumption differ by state and according to the US Energy Information Administration, the average monthly electricity consumption in an American home is 958 KWh per month (basing on 2010 statistics). Many households are not aware of their total kilowatt requirements at home, so here’s how you may be able to have a volume estimate per month.

 An estimate of the total kilowatts households need per month in the US

For a better understanding of your energy consumption, here is a simple step on how you may be able to measure the total kilowatt volume your household requires within a month. Computing the wattage requirements of your appliances and average daily usage will give you a guesstimate on your daily consumption.

Your computation should look like this:  wattage x no. of hours the device is used = watt-hour usage/day. To arrive at your monthly requirement, simply multiply watt-hour usage/day by the number of days in a month (30 or 31).

 For example: if you use a 40-watt light bulb around 10 hours/day, then multiply 40-watt by 10 hours to give you a 400-watt/hour consumption on such particular light. (Do this with all your electric devices and add everything up to come up with your total wattage requirement/day).

To convert watt to kilowatt: number of watts/1,000 = number of KWh

Price of grid power/residential electricity per kilowatt in the US

In 2010, Tennessee had the highest average annual household electric consumption with 16,716 KWh for each consumer. The average retail price (in cents/KWh) then was rated at 8.61. In 2011, the price increased to 9.98 with an average monthly consumption of 1,325 KWh causing residences to pay an average of $132.26 on their monthly bills.

Advantage and Disadvantage of Grid Power/Residential Electricity

Grid power is a centralized source of power supply where a supplier delivers electricity to consumers through generation, transmission and distribution to consumers in a particular area. Each and every consumer has his own share of unlimited power supply that addresses the requirements of his entire household with a corresponding cost at the end of each month depending on the price (cent/KWh) of a particular state where he lives and his consumption for the entire month. It may go up or down depending on the usage and the supplier’s existing charges (generation, market, transmission, carbon, distribution, etc.).

Gas-Fueled Portable Generator Running Cost

A portable generator is also a good source of power supply and if you are wondering how a gas-fueled generator will fair in as far as running cost is concerned, let us use the All Power America APG3014 2,000 Watt 4-Stroke Gas-Powered Portable Generator as a basis to determine your fuel cost using this generator brand/model.
Average fuel consumption per kilowatt for a gas-fueled portable generator

 All Power America APG3014, 1400 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable GeneratorGet More Info

All Power America APG3014 operates with a 3HP OHV engine, 2,000-watt output (surge) and about 1,400-watt (rated). It operates for about 9.5 hours at 50% load using 1.32 gallons of unleaded gasoline. If the price of unleaded gasoline is $4 per gallon, you would be spending about $5.28 to run this portable generator for 9 hours at half the maximum load requirement.

The measurement for fuel consumption depends on the generator’s manufacturer (they usually have a fuel usage chart for each engine), maximum output and the generator’s load. There is no precise formula; however, for a quick estimate on your fuel usage/kilowatt, you want to know first your generator’s size (output in KWh) and the load you want to supply power to get your fuel consumption in gal/hour. Refer to calculators online.

Average cost of a running a gas-fueled generator per month

The cost will vary depending on the situation. When the power goes out and you require power to many appliances and things at home, then you can expect to pay between $25 and $30 per day – meaning about $750 to $900 per month. Again, this depends on how long the generator runs on a daily basis and on the price of gas per gallon.

Advantage and Disadvantage of Running a Gas-Fueled Portable Generator

A gas-fueled generator is perhaps the most convenient equipment to maintain and cheaper when compared to diesel type of generators. This type is quite a popular choice by consumers but the drawback is that it releases more fumes, noise and heat than other generator types.

Propane-Fueled Portable Generator Running Cost


Average fuel consumption per kilowatt for a propane-fueled portable generator

 Sportsman GEN7500DF 7,500 Watt 13 HP 389cc OVH 4-Stroke Gas/Propane Powered Portable Generator With Electric StartGet More InfoSportsman GEN7500DF 7500-Watt 13 HP OHV Propane-Powered Portable Generator is equipped with a 13HP OHV engine, 7-500watt surge output (6000-watt continuous output) where it can run 9 hours at 50% load using a 20-lb (4.8-gallon) cylinder. To calculate fuel consumption/hour:

13HP x 50% = 6.5HP to generate 3,500-watts of fuel

6.5HP x 10,000 BTU = 65,000 BTU (fuel consumption per hour on a 20-lb cylinder)

To calculate fuel consumption for other types of propane portable generators, the formula would be:

  • HP capacity x % of load = #HP to generate # of watts (generator’s maximum output/% of load) of fuel
  • #HP x 10,000 BTU = fuel consumption per hour  in BTU

Where:     It requires 2 horsepower to produce 1000 watts of energy per hour

Each horsepower uses 10,000 BTU per hour under load

Propane weighs 4.2 pounds/gallon 

Average cost of running a propane-fueled generator per month

Your monthly average cost of running a propane-fueled generator would be computed as follows:

  • Average fuel consumption/day (in gallons) x # of days in a month x propane price/gallon = Average cost per month

Where propane has 92,000 BTU/gallon

Advantage and Disadvantage of Running a Propane-Fueled Portable Generator

While a propane-fueled portable generator is more cost-efficient with a long shelf life than a gasoline-fueled type, it may be more expensive. However, it runs very clean without the fumes and comes with a quieter engine than gasoline. Remember though to check the line for leaks as it can be pretty dangerous.

Making a Final Decision

Before making any decision, it helps to review the different types of options available to be able to make a smart purchase. You want to cut back on your energy costs especially with the ever-growing prices of fuel in the world market.  Knowing how to estimate your energy consumption may significantly help you in planning effective ways on how to reduce your usage and consequently lessen your energy expenses.

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