Don’t Depend on Just Gas…

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Having a generator for back-up power is great – unless you don’t have the fuel to run the generator. The irony of the portable back-up generator – most of them, at least – is that they run on gas. And what’s the item that’s usually hard to get when the power’s down?


About two weeks ago, a violent storm line called a derecho passed through our area; thousands of people lost power – not for a few hours, but in some cases, for a week or more. The lines queued up real fast at local gas stations – the ones with still-operable pumps, anyhow. You could not even buy a portable five gallon (or 1 gallon) gas jug at any Lowes or Home Depot in the area.

Many people had generators. But sometimes, they couldn’t get gas for them. Which meant they might as well not have had the generator, for all the good it did them.

And this was just a relatively minor (and known-to-be-temporary) situation. Imagine a more serious – and longer-term – SHTF-type of scenario. Just when you need gas the most – so will everyone else.

Which means you probably won’t get any gas.

No gas = no power.

Well, you could store up some gas. I’ve done that myself. One problem with that idea is that gas – especially ethanol-adulterated “gas,” which is in fact 10 percent alcohol – does not store well, even with fuel stabilizer added and even if you keep the stuff in a sealed container kept in a dark and fairly cool place. Three months or so at the outside is the longest you probably want to leave gas just sitting around. After that, you risk bad gas – and a gummed-up carburetor in your generator. Which means it might not run.

Which means – once again – you won’t have power.

That’s why I converted our generator to operate on multiple fuels – gasoline, propane and natural gas. This has several advantages, functionally as well as practically speaking.

The obvious one is I am not entirely dependent on gasoline for back-up power. If the juice goes out for a couple of days – or longer – I don’t have to worry about queuing up with everyone else down at the gas station – and hope the gas station’s open.

I keep about 100 pounds of propane in storage – enough to operate the essentials (most especially the well pump, so we have drinking water) for weeks. A month or two, if need be – if I limit the time the generator runs to a couple of hours per day.

If your home already has a large propane tank – or even better, a natural gas hook-up – you could run  a generator almost indefinitely. Or at least, for a long time. Long enough, probably, to make it through all but complete SHTF-type scenarios.

This is peace of mind gasoline cannot provide.

Propane/CNG also stores indefinitely – or practically indefinitely. A portable 20 pound tank will be as good a year from now as it is today, provided you keep the valve from rusting up. Assuming you keep the tank in a reasonably well-protected environment such as an enclosed shed or in a garage, the fuel itself will last for years. So, no hassles keeping track of when you bought your fuel – or how old it is – and whether it’s time to run the stuff through your weed-whacker, just to get rid of it. Buy a few 20 pound (grille-size) tanks – about $40 new; much less to get a refill – or one of the large 100 pound cylinders. Whatever works best for you – and you’re set. It’s like having long-term storable food: One less thing to worry about.

Propane (and natural gas) also burns more cleanly – which will extend the life of your generator’s engine as well as increase replacement intervals for spark plugs and oil. That’ll save you some cash over time.

There’s another money issue, too:

Gas – even now – is still pretty expensive. If you find yourself in a situation where it’s necessary to rely on gasoline to run your generator for an extended period, the dollars add up quickly. The typical portable generator has a five gallon tank, which will run the unit for about 10 hours or so under a full electric load.  At $3 per gallon – current prices – that’s about $15 a day to run the generator. If you have to run it for two weeks, you’ll be spending more than $200 to keep the lights on – and the food in your ‘fridge from spoiling. At $4 or $5 a gallon, it gets harder to keep the lights on.

At $7 or $8 a gallon, many people won’t be able to afford to run their generators at all. No lights, no AC. No frozen food. No water – if you’re on a  well.

Propane – and CNG – are not only cheaper on a per-gallon-equivalent basis, they’re not as subject to sudden price increases because there are vast reserves of the stuff right here in the USA. Plus, you can stock up now – at current (low) prices – and not sweat future (inflation-driven) price spikes as much. Because there’s no worry about the fuel going bad in three or four months’ time.

Buy now, use later – even if  “later” is several years from now.

Bottom line: There are no downsides – and lots of upsides – to multi-fuel operation. So, I went ahead and got the kit – from U.S. Carburetion (see here) for about $180. The kit included all the components needed to convert my 8,000 watt portable generator to multi-fuel operation. They probably have a kit available for whatever you have, too.

I just finished doing the install – and thought I’d share the experience.

It’s a pretty straightforward deal. The kit contains an aluminum adapter block you install in between the air cleaner and carburetor. This will feed the propane or natural gas to the engine. Installing the adapter is not mechanically challenging and can be handled by anyone with basic hand tools (socket set, screwdrivers, pliers, drill) and the ability to carefully read and follow some simple directions. Basically, you remove the air cleaner housing, slide the adapter in place, then reinstall the filter housing. You may need to install stud extenders (provided) but this, too, is easily done.

On the adapter is a threaded 90 degree elbow with a a barbed fitting. This is the propane/natural gas feed to the engine. A hose (also provided) runs from here to the regulator – the main piece of hardware that comes with the kit. You mount the regulator on the frame of the generator by drilling a couple of holes and using the supplied bolts, which thread through bosses built into the sides of the regulator.

On top of the regulator is another fitting – called the load block. This is used to meter the amount of fuel fed to the engine. You make adjustments by turning the bolt in (less fuel) or out (more fuel) to accommodate the needs of your particular engine. Large engines will use more fuel  – and so on.

On the bottom of the regulator is a large threaded fitting – this is how you connect the works to your fuel supply, either propane or natural gas. Now you’re ready to rock. Or at least, not be left in the dark!

The really neat thing about the kit is that once installed, you can easily switch from one fuel to another. To run on gas, just turn in the bolt on the load block all the way (to close off any openings and prevent vacuum leaks) cap off the propane /gas inlet – and operate the generator as you normally would when burning gas. Turn the fuel tap on, start ‘er up – and there you go. The generator will run the same as it did before. The kit does not interfere with the factory choke mechanism and the adapter block does not affect the way the engine runs when it is running on gasoline.

To switch over to propane (or natural gas) simply turn the gasoline fuel tap to “off” position and allow the engine to run until it runs out of gas. Now you can turn on the feed supply for the propane or natural gas. Open up the load block the appropriate number of turns for your engine (tuning instructions are provided with the kit) and – if necessary – push the primer button on the back of the regulator (this performs the same function as the choke when the unit is running on gasoline). Start the engine – and you’re good to go.

As mentioned above, if you’re lucky enough to have a big propane tank (the type used to run fireplace logs and so on) or have a CNG line plumbed to your house you won’t even have to hassle with getting the smaller, portable tanks like the ones I use. Just be sure the hook-ups are right – including the diameter of all fittings and the integrity of all the lines. You may want to consult with a professional to get your lines (and flow rates) set up exactly right. The US carb people also have a tech line and are great when it comes to helping you get up and running.

This conversion, to my way of thinking, is one of those “preps” that’s also very practical. It’s something that will be for-sure useful – not merely just in case useful … and something you may never need. Even if the S does not H the F, someday, the power will go out – and even if it comes back on again in a couple of days, gasoline might be scarce in the meanwhile.

But if you’ve got the ability to run your rig on fuels other than gasoline, you’re a leg up on the problem before the power even goes out.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. Is there any way to either:
    1- home-distill gasohol into something useful?
    2- produce some sort of moonshine that’ll burn just fine in a gasoline engine? Potein, whiskey, something that can be brewed at home?

    (Potein is Irish potato liquor – strong stuff!)

    • (1.) Gasohol is already useful. It’s just that it’s not worth the cost and it puts more load on a car’s system, from holding less energy than the same weight of petrol, needing upgrades to fuel lines, etc. Doing any further processing to gasohol would add cost and wouldn’t improve the fuel quality – unless you took the alcohol out. If you really wanted to, you could do that easily by swirling a little water in, letting it settle for a few hours while it took up the alcohol, and then decanting and filtering the petrol.

      (2.) There is a dead easy way to home brew something you can put straight into an ordinary petrol engine: just ferment a fairly ordinary feedstock with the A.B.E. process, then concentrate the butanol for use in the engine by blowing warm, dry air through the product (“sparging”) until some of the butanol separates out spontaneously. The catch is that it’s very wasteful, since far less of the feedstock goes into butanol than would go into ethanol, and you lose a lot of the product during the sparging. So it’s easy, just not cost effective unless you have effectively free feedstock and fuel for the processing itself (maybe wood). But if you had that, you’d still get more bang for the buck just running your engine off a gasifier.

      • With all due respect, you sound like you contradict yourself in your answer to point (1.)
        Less energy per unit volume (weight) – Why bother?
        My thoughts are, it takes burning 1.5 gals of gas to make 1 gal of ethanol; who’s the Braniac who thought THAT was a good idea? Now, if you used ONLY ethanol (produced on-site) to produce ethanol, maybe not so bad… But, since you’re using gas, it’s a HORRIBLE idea.
        At the same time, why not make it a 100% Switch to ALL ethanol, if Ethanol is so wonderful? Why keep fucking EVERYONE, ALL THE TIME? (Answer: Follow the money. Solution: Kill the people it leads to. Pathetic, but I haven’t heard better – since most people are in the position of Stalin’s Chicken, and are therefore “operation meatshield” and not worth consideration… After all, everyone knows the OTHER farms have it WORSE… Baaa!!!! BAAAAA!!! SHEEP!!!)

        I was just thinking along TSHTF, though: Can you REMOVE the crap from gas and make the gas stable again? Make it last well enough that you’d be a target? (Of course, you STFU and no one knows you HAVE gas, but that’s another thing completely.)

        Also in SHTF: What about Diesel, and using vegetable oil -> Biodiesel? Any thoughts on that?

        • I do notcontradict myself in the answer to point (1). Look at the parts again. I told you that gasohol was already useful and also that it wasn’t worth it. That’s not a contradiction, it’s a bang for the buck thing. If you had gold plated bathroom taps, they would work – but most people wouldn’t want to pay for that. And that’s even though those taps are actually more useful than the alternatives, unlike gasohol. “Less energy per unit volume (weight)” doesn’t mean gasohol isn’t useful, it only means it’s less useful than petrol (unless you have special engines that can use the higher compression gasohol allows to get more of the energy out).

          You have some fresh misunderstandings of your own:-

          – “My thoughts are, it takes burning 1.5 gals of gas to make 1 gal of ethanol; who’s the Braniac who thought THAT was a good idea? Now, if you used ONLY ethanol (produced on-site) to produce ethanol, maybe not so bad… But, since you’re using gas, it’s a HORRIBLE idea.” Nobody thought that was a good idea – because it doesn’t take that. You have probably confused things by thinking that when people told you “gas” they were talking about petrol. The facts are that it does not need any outside energy at all to produce ethanol (the Brazilians use the sugar cane waste bagasse for that), but with the crazy pricing and subsidies in the U.S.A. it actually pays to use absurd amounts of natural gas as inputs to make fertiliser and to help with distilling etc. – but not very much petrol, particularly since most liquid fuel needed is for diesel engines. (If you really meant “1.5 gals of gas to make 1 gal of ethanol”, that would actually be very sensible because the lower energy density of gas means that that input has only a fraction of the energy output – but, alas, they never use that little gas.) Of course, without the distorted economics, either people would be adapting their cars to use natural gas or they would only be using the small amount of ethanol that it still paid to produce.

          – “At the same time, why not make it a 100% Switch to ALL ethanol, if Ethanol is so wonderful?” There is actually a sensible reason why not, even if ethanol were that wonderful: engines, tanks, fuel lines, etc. would all need far more alteration. Even though ethanol is a bad idea, accidentally slipping into exaggeration is also a bad way to understand things.

          Biodiesel of any sort only makes sense if you can get cheap feedstocks in the amounts you need and if you can cope with the processing you need, i.e. on a production scale, doing quality control, etc. The nearer you can match the behaviour of ordinary diesel fuel, the less adaptation the equipment using it will need; it is most likely that you won’t be able to get a perfect drop in substitute fuel, so you will have to pay to convert things. So there’s a lot of “it depends” there. But if you are thinking of using this sort of thing to help make feedstocks and process them into ethanol or butanol fuel or whatever, don’t do it, use gasifiers burning crop waste to power the farm equipment instead. The numbers are much less crazy that way, unless someone else is already setting up foolish subsidies (which you might as well take advantage of, if you can’t get out of the game).

  2. Thank you for The Multi-Fuel Generator Conversion article, Eric. Though the natural gas won’t run out, how can we be certain that the employees at Dominion East Ohio will continue going to their jobs to pump gas to households in a chaotic situation? We depend on natural gas for heat and AC. Thanks again!
    David Rice

    • Hi David,

      You bet!

      On supply: Storage is the answer.

      One of the – perhaps the – chief merit of natural gas/propane is that it stores almost indefinitely. Thus, while it’s not practical to store say 100 gallons of gasoline as fuel for your gennie, it is practical to store an equivalent quantity of natural gas or propane.

      • I believe the big part of the problem is the containers in which we store gasoline. If they only contained gasoline, I believe gasoline should last indefinitely. No air. No moisture. Sealed and unable to vent the lighter components. That should do it. The issue is that it’s not practical to make storage containers that would work that way for a liquid fuel. It would have to be done with a vacuum and then maintained that way somehow.

        • Yup!

          I’ve got a few 5 gallon jugs. You have to leave an air gap for expansion with heat cycling – but that allows for moisture build-up. Even with stabilizer, I try to rotate out the fuel so that it’s never older than about four months.

          Another problem: There’s really no way of knowing how old the gas is when you got it. Possibly, it could have been sitting in the underground tank at the gas station for weeks/months before you bought it….

  3. This is great info! What do you suggest as the best gasoline generator (portable) that will accept this propane conversion. It looks like some will not from my research. I was looking at a nice 10000W Generac but have to know it will convert first. Thanks again! Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      My advice would be to call and discuss your question with the tech support people at the company. They should be able to get you pointed in the right direction.

  4. To cut the noise and also protect the generator when installed out side is to construct Sousken Walls around the generator and over the generator with exhaust gases piped 10 feet away underground. Bullet proof to 7.62X1 (.308 cal) and reduces noise about 95%.

  5. We lost power for 4 days during that storm a few weeks ago. I have a gas generator and had 15 gallons on hand. Which was a good thing since gas was scarce for a few days. Finally got some more on day 3 of the outage. By the time the power came back on I had 25 gallons on hand.
    We have natural gas at our house so switching over to that would be a good idea…something to consider at least.

  6. My Genset is left over from the y2k scare it is a basic short run pull to start skid mount, just big enough to run one major 110 volt tool in the shop at a time or the washing machine. Now I find I must keep a low profile, hide behind black out curtins, creep around at night to do my outside work. Yuck glad I didn’t buy a top dollar super whizz bang automatic starting, multi-fuel generator. A few solar yard lights with on off switches and moveable stands plus 3 in the house – near a sun lit window charging stations will probably be all I get to use while sheltering in place. Yes I will get a better muffler but I plan to use the genset only during daylight hours and only one or two hours per week. AM


    • Al, I have the same setup and I don’t use a special regulator, it’s the same supply pressure that runs to my furnace and gas range.

  8. Reading this article & the comments got me to wondering: Why don’t at least some manufacturers build generators that run on propane, NG and/or CNG from the get-go? Given the advantages Eric mentions, there would certainly be a market for such devices. And it would eliminate the need for converter kits.

    • It’s a good question!

      My theory is inertia. The default fuel has been gas for a long time. Gas has only become expensive fairly recently. It probably wouldn’t have made much sense five or six years ago, when gas was still $1.60 or so a gallon (and the political/economic situation was more stable) to make them multi-fuel capable as that would have added cost without an obvious benefit to the end-use consumer.

  9. Has anyone experience with solar generators? I have heard that solar is more expensive, cumbersome, etc. However, it is a quiet and more discreet option (not an obvious, noisy target for bad guys), which may make it a more practical power source in the long run, especially if power is off for a prolonged period of time.
    Thoughts? Thanks.


    Very informative article. Here’s some historical info about the fuel “E95”. This fuel can also be blended with E10 to make E20-E85 as needed.

    The term moonshine originated in Europe and was used in England in the 1700’s. It originally referred to “occupational pursuits which necessitated night work, or work by the light of the moon.”

    The expression “bootlegging” has an long history itself. It originated in colonial America, and it believed to have been used in reference to selling alcohol to Native Americans. Some colonists tried to prevent this practice, but those that were more determined attempted to trade “spirits” for material goods. These colonists concealed bottles of liquor in the top of their boots and covered the bottles with their pants leg; hence the term “bootlegger.”

    Readiness to begin engaging in moonshining and bootlegging should the S ever HTF would seem to be an invaluable prep.

  11. Great article to which I can add a couple of points. Been there, done that, as I live near Key West and have had a couple feet of water under my house during hurricanes (George in 98 and Wilma in 05).
    1) Buy a cheap volt-ohm meter (VOM) that has “frequency” measurement. Most all generators (except the new gen-inverter type) have a screw to set the governor for exactly 60 cycles under load. This frequency setting in very important when running motors, like the fridge, freezers, and fans. Off frequency will damage to them.
    2) My old Honda 1200watt required oil changes every 40 hours. This is less than every two days of running. Stock extra oil!
    3) If you live in a flood zone like us, elevate the generator when storing it. I made a “workbench” from 4x4s and a plywood top with the top 5 feet off the ground.
    4) Many people here is a “poor mans transfer switch” (described above as a “suicide plug”). If the main input breaker is not tripped, it will be a danger to electrical workers, but when the power come back on like the local nuke power will smoke your generator if it is connected.
    5) Gas/alcohol is very destructive to the rubber parts of the generator fuel system, at least on older models. This alone makes the propane conversion look even better. Down here we can still buy real gas at some gas stations that is used for “marine use”. It is expensive, but so are my chain saws, generator, etc. Clovers want to outlaw it too!
    Bout all I can add for what it’s worth.

    • One last thing about licensed folks. Licensed and certified does not equal qualified. Some are, some are not. Great example recently. A buddy has a small plane and the work and inspection require a FAA licensed A&P mechanic to do the work and sign it off. The mechanic installed a new air filter as part of the required work. But the engine seemed to have less than normal power. Turns out the mechanic installed the filter upside down and damaged the intake manifold! Nope, not responsible! It will cost him (the owner) about $1000 to fix!

  12. I also thought about gettting a generator. I would have really liked to have hooked it up right into where my power cables come into the big box on the back of my house, and get a generator big enough to run the whole house, but I’m a little afraid to do this myself and electricians won’t do it saying it could burn the house down, although i do not really see why because that is where the power is actually coming into the house and then going to the breaker box, so I really do not see how hooking the generator up to right where the power cables come into house could hurt anything, because any generator does not have nearly the power that those huge cables have. I think that electricians do not want to do it that way because they cannot make money off me that way, so they claim its a fire hazard, and tell me I’ll have to spend thousands to do “properly”. Anyway I decided that instead of the hassle and expense of getting a generator hooked up to run whole house, or just use a generator stand alone and have to run lots of extension cords to everything, amd having to buy and store enough fuel, that I would just go to a cheap hotel to wait out a SHTF occurrence. I do have lots of 2 litre bottles of water frozen in my freezer in the garage along with a very large ice chest. This will keep the food that I have until we eat it at the motel. I think this is a much less hassle free solution then having to do all that generator, cabling, fueling stuff.

    • There ARE such systems, charlie–look into “whole-house backup generator”, Google “Generac”.

      They start at I think 15 or 20 kilowatts–enough to run most homes–and cost about $3500. Installation will run about $2K-$7K, depending on how far you have to run the gas line, and because they wire into the main fuse box just as you desire. It’s called a “transfer switch”.

      My folks installed a 20KW Generac and it will run their huge house; they just have to be conservative, for instance, they can’t run the oven, the clothes dryer, and the AC at the same time.

    • Hi Charlie,

      A big part of this has to do with legal requirements. A licensed electrician is not going to rig something up that’s not “code.” He could lose his license – and thus, his livelihood. He could also get sued – even prosecuted criminally (if someone ends up getting hurt).

      A transfer switch is not that big a deal. You could buy the parts second-hand and do a lot of the grunt work on your own – then have the electrician come check your work and do the final hook-ups.

      I’ve done a lot of our house wiring this way. It can cut a big chunk off the price – and you have the knowledge that things you did were done right – which is worth the cost of having the electrician come out for a look-see.

      • Transfer switch with six circuits (which should be more than enough for necessities) is a snap. It will take you longer to decide which circuits you want than it will to wire it up.

    • Charlie – adding a genset to the house is not a simple plug and play, and most gensets less than 15KW WILL NOT run your whole house “as normal” – unless you know what you are doing – figure on spending another $1500 in electrical work (over and above the genset) to isolate critical systems and not overload the genset. Best to find a company that will do it all for you including selling you the genset…that way if problems occur, then you don’t have the genset seller blaming the electrical contractor, etc….

  13. One point I have not seen mentioned here is that you are going to lose some power when you run on propane. Can’t recall exactly, but think we’re talking about 10 to 15% loss.

    Considering the advantage of using various fuels, this power loss is an acceptable trade off. But if you are going to do this, make sure your generator has enough reserve capacity to run everything you want…even when it is down on power by 15%.

  14. On the subject of “code compliant:”

    I suspect some people here may not call their local inspector to inspect the electrical panel after a transfer switch or interlock is purchased.

    If you always remember to turn the main breaker off before starting your generator, the utility workers will be protected. This is exaclty what an interlock does, it just forces you to do it before the double pole generator breaker can be turned on.

    Also – in the event of a power failure, even if you don’t have a generator, I would highly recommend turning the main breaker off until power is known to be restored and reliable. In the process of restoring power, sometimes the voltage will be too high or too low, reulting in damage to some electrical components and electronics designed to run on 120/240 V.

    Power surge is normally all that is protected by a surge protector. Keep in mind that low voltage can be just as damaging, and surge protectors do nothing for low voltage.

    First thing to do is turn off the main breaker, whether you have a generator or not.

  15. Our leaders are working hard to solve their fuel crisis. This is their current progress:

    Fuel dye in North America

    In United States of America, the Environmental Protection Agency mandates use of a red dye to identify high-sulfur fuels for off-road use. Solvent Red 26 is used in the United States as a standard, though it is often replaced with Solvent Red 164, which is similar to Solvent Red 26 but with longer alkyl chains. The Internal Revenue Service mandates use of the same red dyes, in fivefold concentration, for tax-exempt diesel fuels such as heating oil; their argument for the higher dye content is to allow detection even when diluted with “legal” fuel. Detection of red-dyed fuel in the fuel system of an on-road vehicle will incur substantial penalties.

    Blue dyes are used for diesel designated for governmental and institutional vehicles, to detect theft.

    Fuel Laundering in UK

    Processing fuel to remove the dye so it may be illicitly sold to motorists is a recognized criminal activity in Ireland and the United Kingdom In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it has been a means of fund raising by paramilitary organizations.

    In 2004, Northern Irish police discovered an illegal facility capable of removing the dye from 12 million litres of fuel per year. In 2009, customs officials shut down a plant capable of removing the dye from 6.5 million litres of fuel per year. In 2011, a plant capable of processing 30m litres was discovered.

    Stay safe folks, and remember the dye has been cast.

    Worldwide Aviation
    Aviation gasoline 80/87 red dye
    Aviation gasoline 82UL purple dye
    Aviation gasoline 100LL blue dye
    Aviation gasoline 100/130 green dye

    Some dyes of other countries:
    Country, Fuel, Dye
    Australia, Regular Unleaded, Purple,
    Australia, Premium Unleaded Petrol, Yellow
    Austria, Heating oil, any red dye
    Canada, Agricultural Fuel, red/purple dye
    Canada, Heating oil, any red dye
    Finland, Heating oil & Diesel, Furfural and Solvent Yellow 124
    France, Gas oil, Solvent Red 24
    France, Marine diesel, Solvent Blue 35
    Estonia, Heating oil, Automate Red NR + Solvent Yellow 124
    Germany, Heating oil, Solvent Yellow 124 and similar
    Greece, Heating oil, any red dye
    Greece, Marine diesel, any black dye
    Ireland, Gas oil, green dye
    Ireland, Kerosene, Solvent Red 19 and similar
    Italy, Heating oil, Solvent Red 161
    Italy, Gas oil, Solvent Green 32 or 33
    Portugal,Agricultural diesel, Solvent Blue 35
    Spain, Agricultural diesel, any red dye
    Spain, Heating oil, any blue dye
    Sweden, Heating oil,Solvent Blue 35, 79, & 98
    Thailand, Gasoline 95, yellow dye
    United Kingdom, Gas oil, Solvent Red 24, quinizarin
    UK, Rebated kerosene, Coumarin
    Europe , many rebated, Solvent Yellow 124 (“Euromarker”)

      • I know. What if most of the problems from burning US fuel is due to adding 4 lbs of dye per 1000 barrels of it(11.13 mg/l)?

        Burning Solvent Red 26 probably causes us to further believe in the legitimacy of the state, to become infertile, and to shuffle around like passive, docile, state-loving clovers.

        I’m glad to be here with you GW, a place where y’all see the actions of the Pig Govts for what they really are:

        A confidence trick and vicious double standard that legitimizes theft and murder.

        The more we see through them, the more the state is forced to resort to raw force and the threat of raw force to obtain the cooperation it needs to survive.

        We see that they are ugly Klingons. Klingon elites who have lost their cloak of legitimacy and are now left with only open violence to continue to live off their citizenry.

        Here is a method developed by the NIH to perform a simple field test for vehicle exhaust to detect illicit use of dyed diesel fuel.

        Obviously, the National Institute of Health is only about the health of the state.

        Solvent Red 26, also known as C.I. 26120, is a purplish red synthetic azo dye. Its chemical formula is 1-[[2,5-dimethyl-4-[(2-methylphenyl)azo]-phenyl]azo]-2-naphthol. The public and business community has no idea what happens when you so many tons of it in internal combustion engines.

    • Tor

      Avation dye is very imporant. Last thing I need to do is takeoff with the wrong fuel. That is why us pilots drain some fuel into a clear cup to check the color. Not many clouds to park on to check the motor.

      • It’s true there’s some benefit, RICK, but its not true the government needs to do it. BP has $ incentive to give you the fuel you demand, Uncle Sam could care less.

        Once you allow government into the calculation, it quickly degenerates into fascist anarchy.

        Maybe some functionary at the FAA has added 10% alcohol to the aviation fuels. A functionary with a law degree has decided for you that it is safe enough for you to fly with. You do want to fly green, don’t you?

        Your life means nothing in comparison to the need for sustainable fuels that don’t hurt the planet which we must protect and hand over to our grandchildren!(sarc.)

        You could probably fly us to Australia in your Hydrogen Zeppelin for $10 each, if not for the government prevention of market learning and correction.

        Its piss-poor engineering if checking fuel color is your entire process. Better the plane should reject bad fuel the way a vending machine rejects foreign currency or your muscles and senses prevent you from drinking gasoline; even when it appears to be the right color.

        And why not 4 fuel grades times 196 countries for 784 unique fuel grades? Shouldn’t American pilots use only American aviation fuel?

        Color mandates quickly become used for taxation and to enslave the producers of goods and services into a state monopoly service.

        • What are you talking about? World wide all avation fuel is the same color by treaty. That also is why all Air Traffic control talking is in English. Makes the skys safer.

          As far as airplanes rejecting fuel, they do that by stopping. I fly a 1930’s yellow Piper CUB.
          I need to know I am feeding her the right stuff.

          Are you saying BP should use one color at one airport and Shell could use a differet color at different airport? Are you saying when I go island hopping, every gas I use should be made a differet color and in USA? And my Piper Cub should be trained like a dog to sniff the difference?

          The EAA (not the FAA) has been running tests to use auto fuel in airplanes. Not as easy for the Gov to make us use 10% Alcohol as you think.

          Market learning and correction? Is that away of saying have an accident first then correct the problem? THe insurance co’s have alot to say about avation safety. They are the driving force behind Gov rules. The insurance co’s pay the claims. Not the Gov.

          • RICK,
            Are you blind to see, you don’t need Govt or Insurance, and that both only hurt you?

            Without them, the skies would be full of all manner of flying machines.

            The unholy Govt & Insurance alliance is the two-headed monster that causes things like the Reno Air Show crash. A show forced to use 50-year-old planes because new ones are outlawed.


            Without them, sky traffic would equal the internet traffic. Anyone could construct a any flying machine, make some fuel, and take off for Venus, as easily as they can now make a sandwich and eat it.

            Why shouldn’t all drivers file a drive plan? There’ll be less accidents if we have more mandatory systems, right?

            Why don’t we also need ground traffic controllers, who must all speak English?

            Why shouldn’t all liquids we injest be dyed, for safety?

            Why shouldn’t every neighborhood have a dietary traffic controller. Why don’t we all file breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans, so that poisoning and disease will be eradicated?

            In your mind, is it the FDA mandatory radiation and processing date stamping that makes a kilo of Kobe so uniformly delicious.

            For someone who can physically take flight into the air, something Kings once said was only for the birds, your mind still seems flightless and earthbound to me.

          • Tor,

            I do not know where you get your information. EAA members have been building their own planes for years. There have been new unlimited racers built for years. Some people like to re-build the old war birds for racing.
            You can build an ultra-light airplane and fly it without the FAA getting involved an use any gas you want to. My guess, it would not make it to Venus.

            I am not blind. But when I am flying blind,in clouds, it is nice to have other people speaking English so I know where they are and where they are going.

            To compare flying through a storm at 400 mph at 40,000 ft to driving to a Stop and GO thrugh a storm is not a valid comparson.

            As far as insurance, my guess is that if I damaged you in some way, you would sue me for the damages. That is why I have insurance.

      • I’m not a high-time pilot, but I’ve never seen 80 or 100/130 octane aviation fuel before. They’re about as common as leaded auto gas. The chances of accidentally getting something other than 100LL are extremely slim.

        Dye is useful mainly for making sure there’s no water in the fuel when you drain the sumps.

        • To That one guy,

          I started flying in the 70’s and you are right about the different grades being gone.. But for argument sake,I pointed out the when I go Island hopping, I like the idea of having a standard color for avation fuel. Also the turbine fuel is clear so I can tell if the line boy screwed up.
          I know the nozzles don’t fit the tanks but there are funnels.

          • To that one guy.

            Also the dye is there so you can see that it is 100LL and not auto fuel unless you have a STC for auto fuel.

            CFI xxxxxxxx

          • FAA-designed pilot training curricula teach aviators to always harbor extreme paranoia that every possible fuck up or failure, no matter how miniscule, is always on the verge of happening at any minute.

            If I were worried that some numbskull was going to go that far past the obvious stop signs and put jet fuel in my recip airplane, I’d just supervise the refueling.

            All that regulation makes general aviation cost prohibitive for many, and at the end of the day it’s laughable because if I own my own plane there’s absolutely no way anyone knows that my medical certificate is up to date, that I’m not doing unauthorized maintenance on my plane, or even that I’m licensed in the first place because FAA enforcement of its own rules is a joke.

          • To:

            That one guy.

            It is not the FAA. It is the insurance co that write the rules. Bend an airplane with no medical and you will see that the Insurance Co’s will use their bought G-men (goons with guns)to give you a beatdown and send you to the cage.

            They did that to a diabetic whom lied on his medical.

            The insurance co has been having their bought ramp rats(FAA Inspectors) come to our flyins and asking for “papers”.

          • RICK-

            I don’t fly in conditions beyond my ability so the odds of that happening are slim to none. Most of the close calls I’ve had have been as a result of morons working ATC that give faulty instructions and don’t listen when you broadcast your intentions. Of course if they directed me into another airplane, and I had an expired medical, the FAA would blame me.

            Did the diabetus cause the accident? That’s the most interesting question to me. I’ll bet it couldn’t be proven as a factor, but that doesn’t stop the FAA.

            Don’t blame the insurance companies. They’re evil bastards, but they’re not power for sale to the highest bidder like the FAA. They allow major airlines to negotiate their own fines but can and would disassemble your Cub on the ramp under any bogus pretense they can cook up, then hand you the screwdriver and say “have a nice day.”

          • Ludwig Von Mises:

            In our age the cause of totalitarianism has won new vigor through the adoption of a ruse. The radical suppression of every individual’s freedom to choose his own way for the benefit of the supreme political authority is praised, under the labels of socialism, communism, democracy, or planning, as the attainment of true liberty.

            Those aiming at a state of affairs in which every individual will be reduced to the status of a mere cog in the plans of the “social engineers” are parading about as the successors of the great champions of freedom.

            The subjugation of free nations by the forces of the most tyrannical regimes history has ever known is laughably called “liberation.”

  16. Great idea and now I’m going to spend more money on my genny setup that I thought was all finalized. However, I have to say the fears about “bad gas” are overblown — as long as you treat it properly with Sta-bil or something similar. I’ve run treated gasoline through various carbureted and injected motorcycles 1-2 years after it’s been in storage (properly) and never had a problem. I worked in the auto industry for a decade and had to become a certified tech for my job responsibilities, so I have seen gummed up carbs. Is 1-2 year old gas recommended? No, but if treated properly, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  17. Be careful when considering a 1kW generator. Years ago my 1.2 Kw generator could not handle the surge required to start my old fridge. Do a test run on the fridge, furnace, whatever before buying.

    • Even a 3KW is small for emergency use – best to consider a 5K and up – this will run a refrigerator a fan and a few lights with some spare surge capacity.

      Also check to see how many amps each appliance draws and compare that to the generator output (per receptacle and total)and keep your total draw at something less than the output.

      • I can see having some reserve for surge on startup, but 3KW seems way too much for a fridge, some lights, and a fan. Add them up GW–my fridge uses something like 200W, my shop fan uses 250, and the lights…well, depends how many now doesn’t it? But let’s say 4x60W bulbs for 240.

        Total? 690W. Not all will start at the same moment, so have some reserve for startup, but not total startup.

        I’d say 2KW would be ample for the very basics, with a good bit of reserve left over at steady-state.

        Now if you wanted to run a window unit–yes, BIG startup amperage. And if you wanted to power one of your home A/C’s you’re talking about 5KW+ just for that unit–plus a real wiring headache. For that, I’d go with a full transfer panel and probably spring for the whole-house Generac units that start at 15 or 20KW…but then you’re back at the $7-10K mark.

        • Watts are different than amps (amps are generally the controlling factor) – so you may want to double check the requirements of your appliances and keep your generator at 80% or less of amp capacity (60% is a good target and allows for some expansion of your needs).

          Most small “inexpensive” generators – even a 3K will only have a couple of outlets (20 amps each usually) plus add in (or subtract out)the “flow resistence” inherent in a 50′ or 100′ extension cord and the amount of output is further reduced.

          Start adding portable heaters or A/C units and even a 5KW gets small – fast!

          Just saying a 5KW is a safe bet for most situations – particularly for those who don’t understand watts/ amps/ ohms, etc….

          • Fair enough, thanks GW.

            Actually just thinking about it–if I were a lunatic (check), I’d buy TWO gennies–one small 1 or 2KW for small base loads (fridge, deep-freeze, laptop, cell phone, fan, two or three lights)…and one big one, like a 6 or 7KW for when I want to run a window A/C or do some laundry/microwaving.

            Buy’em used, convert to NG/LPG, you’d still come in WAY under a whole-house system and still get a lot of luxury.

            • We’re fortunate in that we don’t have to run the AC much and can live without it entirely. Ditto heat: We use wood almost exclusively. So the two major energy draws are non-issues here. I have had no troubles running most of the house lights, the well pump, the downstairs TV/computer and fridge off the gennie – and that’s plenty to keep us in more or less the same state we are when the grid is up and running.

          • I have been thinking about adding a smaller (lighter) 3500 watt (3.5KW) as well.
            My main issue is I am 7′ above sea level and my 5KW takes up a good portion of my pickup bed as well as being a bitch to load quickly – so evacuation is always a choice of what to leave that may not be salvageable when I get back – otherwise I would have a whole house genset with a transfer switch. Hurricanes can suck…

      • I have to agree, I wouldn’t try using anything less than a 5KW generator for a normal sized house. My old portable was 5K, when it went runners up I replaced it with a 6.5K (Costco, $500) and that worked well until I bit the bullet and installed a fixed propane generator, which is 15KW. I use the old 6.5 to run my neighborhood well pump now.

        • Ours is 5.5KW (steady) and this has proved to be sufficient to power all the essentials in our house: well pump (water), most of the downstairs outlets (so, the TV/computer and lights in the rooms we use most) plus the ‘fridge. The microwave is not wired into the circuit, but I have used it (just plugging into one of the live outlets) and it didn’t overstress the unit. Mind, we don’t run everything at the same time – an important point. We’re just set up (transfer panel/circuits) to be able to turn stuff on when needed – then off when it’s not needed.

          Probably the biggest issue for some people will be the need to run AC – or a heat pump/furnace. That will require more power than most home-type portable units can deliver.

          I dodged that hassle by buying a house that has “dual fuel” heat – the central unit (which we almost never use) and the wood stove insert – which we use for primary heating. No need for electricity to keep the house toasty even in the depths of winter. The wood is free – I chop down 3-4 big trees on our land every year and split ’em up.

          We have AC, too – but because we live at a fairly high elevation (for the east coast) and on a ridgeline (steady breeze) it is usually very tolerable here with just the windows open. Worst case, we’re uncomfortable. Or, we can head down to the basement – which is always cool.

          Now, if you live in Florida or Phoenix… I suppose AC is as essential as our well pump!

          • If you live where it is dry (less than 30-40% humidity) you can use a 12 volt cooler that blows air through wet matting-and they really work…Unfortunatly I live outside of Houston (where 70% humidity is considered dry !)and evaporitave cooling dosen’t work . When we loose power we use 12v. fans made by O2Cool …(they use very low amp motors as they are made to run with 8 D cells, and they have a 12v.jack that we use.

          • I live IN Houston, Chris–and I feel your pain.

            I’m thinking of powering a window unit with a small propane-powered generator next time the grid goes down…cheaper than the eight grand or so it will cost to do a whole-house natural gas system.

            What part of Houston are you in?

            • I’m grateful that our chosen hideaway is both scenic – and practical. It’s generally mild enough in summer that AC is not a must-have. We have central, but as a rule (so far) only turn it on maybe ten days or so out of the season. Being at 3,200 feet, on a ridgeline (breeze) with lot of tree cover helps. And in winter, we can – and do – heat with wood. This is cozy, much cheaper than running the heat pump – and not dependent on the outside world/grid, either.

              The other biggie, of course, is water. Most people are dependent on the grid for it. A well, or spring – or rainwater collection system is the ticket here.

  18. In addition to having a source of power, you’ll also need a way to store that power in order to operate computer equipment. For that, you’ll need a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery, and a true sine wave inverter.

  19. Can this be done on diesel generators also?
    Is there a way to convert a generator to run on diesel, gas, propane, NG?

    • It has to be a gasoline engine to convert to propane or NG.
      Diesel can be converted to run on leftover “deep-fryer” oil.

      • Actually, there are a couple of approaches that can do the trick, but they need a lot of expertise and a major conversion:-

        – Things like propane that stay liquid under pressure can be injected as diesel fuel, but the settings have to be changed a lot, dual fuel is next to impossible, and it takes a lot of trouble to get everything pressurised before starting and keep it that way afterwards – the default it “wants” is bubbles in the feed lines.

        – It is possible to feed flammable gas into a diesel engine’s air intake at concentrations lower than will give it compression ignition, then use just a little diesel injection on top of that for compression ignition. But it’s very easy to use too much gas and get runaway operation, and you still need some ordinary fuel. I don’t know if it’s true but I have heard that using hydrogen makes for a synergy, so losses go down compared with using straight diesel and the combination works better than you would expect.

      • With the NUMEROUS ASSORTED STUFF I do…..
        For my next trick… But that trick never works (Insert Rocket J Squirrel and Bullwinkles voice) I will attempt to start converting deep fryer oil into combustable fuel. I have the space, 8500 sq ft warehouse. Places that will give me the oil, maybe a line on good prices on the fuel drums. Question is…. how many more tasks do I want to add to my “To do list”? Add to the fact that it’s summer ! DUH and it gets up to 120 degrees here in the desert ! YIKES

  20. Great article, I’m just not big on keeping spare propane in a garage, especially an attached garage. I’ve been a firefighter for almost 20 years and seen the damage BBQ tanks can do when trapped in a burning building. The best solution I’ve seen is to chain them up to the back of a shed or detatched garage, if something does go up the FD can find them fast and cut the chain. We actually lost a big house a couple of years back when the garage lit up and we had to wait for the 100 pounders the guy had in there to stop comming though the roof before we could get inside to really fight the fire.

  21. If you’re shopping for a generator, look for one that has sine-wave output. The cheaper models use a stepped-square waveform that can damage electronics (present in almost all appliances now).

    Chip H.

    • You’re referring to an UPS, not generators.
      Inexpensive generators run at 3600rpm to produce the 60Hz AC sine-wave, but are thirsty beasts.

      More expensive inverters generators can spin down engine speed for ‘eco’ mode but still supply sine-wave power.

  22. Great info!
    I would like your thoughts on doing a conversion for cars too!
    I am considering it as I drive 50,000 miles a year. I am struggling with the payback period as the compressor for natural gas is about 5K.
    Also, can I do it myself or should I pay someone?
    Maybe if I convert the generator first, I will gain confidence to tackle the car too?

    • I haven’t done this myself (car conversion) so am not in a good position to offer specific advice. However, the conversion is probably more involved with a later model (port fuel-injected) car than it would be with a carbureted or even throttle body FI vehicle. There’s also the issue of the tanks – which are large – and so require a pretty large trunk.

      Back in the ’90s, I test drove a converted Crown Vic – a car that had ample trunk space for the tanks. And the fuel system was custom-made by Ford. They used to sell these cars to fleet users – and you might be able to find a used one out there someplace. Check with your local gas utility, for instance. They may have such cars in their fleet – and like police vehicles, these are typically sold off to the public at auctions eventually.

      • routinely has fleet vehicles being auctioned by various tax-feeding entities in Texas and beyond, and there are always some that are either LPG or CNG equipped. The ones that are “inoperable” usually sell for sround $500 to $700. A running driving model is usually not more than $1K. You would have the fuel tank, fittings, tubing, regulators, etc. that would otherwise cost thousands.

    • Plan on giving up all your trunk space for about a 200 mile range – the question is – Is it worth it for your given situation?

  23. I know less than nothing about running a motor on propane, but my question is how does running propane instead of gasoline effect the valves, rings, etc?

    • When I worked in the construction rental industry – our shop converted forklifts and manlifts from gas to propane for indoor – that “commercial duty” usage should impart the answer to you – i.e. No Worries…

  24. Less expensive in cost and labor than a transfer switch, and code approved in most areas is an Interlock. With minor changes to the house wiring system and placing of the interlock jig on your elec panel by an electrician, you can turn off grid power and then can open the breakers to accept power from your generator.
    Thanks Eric for the detail on tripower modifications which I have been waiting to do. I’ve been ready with several empty five gal gas containers and bottles of Stabil, but not wanting to get gas until word of weather or other problems brewing.

    • Hi JD,

      Roger that – and, you bet!

      I’ve been wanting to convert my generator to multi-fuel operation for some time; the recent storms in our area – and subsequent power outtages – got me off my tail. Did it the other day – and am very pleased with the results (and cost). Not having to futz with gasoline – and worry about old/bad gas – is one less hassle for me and worth every cent of the $180 or so I spent to get the kit.

  25. It’s easy enough to take your garage fridge or freezer and plug it into the generator but I’d be interested in how you would get it to power the house as you have. That would involve hooking into your power panel somehow. The good thing about a generator running off NG is you could keep it outside powering the essentials without it running in your garage, etc. The bad thing, and call me conspiratorial, is the noise. When TSHTF, jealous neighbors and other worthless individuals will home in on that sound as a sign to rob you “for the greater good”. Unless you live so far out of the city-sector. So that leaves building a bunker like system, running off of propane or NG, that is soundproofed and vents safely to the outside. Hmmmm.

    • Mo, the way I used to do it when I had a portable construction generator was to make up what we called a “suicide plug”, which has a male 220V dryer plug on both ends. That assumes your generator has 220 out.

      You can either wire up a special 220 receptacle in your garage (which is what I did) or you can run a long cable to wherever your electric dryer is if you have one. I like the garage because I put the generator outside, run the cable under the garage door and plug it into the house at the panel were the dryer receptacle is. The receptacle is wired into both sides of your breaker panel (110 on each side) and that’s it.

      To make something like that at least sort of code compliant you should have a transfer switch between the panel and the incoming utility service. Depending on your local codes the switch might need to be automatic. The alternative is to use the existing breaker that should be between your meter and the incoming service. This isn’t even close to code but it works.

      Of course I don’t recommend anyone actually do this, and keep in mind that if you mess it up and accidentally send power down the line to the outside world you could be responsible for killing or seriously injuring the guy who’s trying to repair the outage.

      What I have is an automatic transfer switch that detects a utility outage, isolates the house from the grid, cuts in a battery bank and routes that power through an inverter, which is connected to my distribution panel. All of this happens so fast I don’t even have to reset the clock on my oven. When the batteries get to around 50% remaining charge, the inverters turn on my generator and recharge them. That way I don’t waste a lot of generator power since it either gets used running loads in the house or it gets used charging the batteries. That might be a little more complicated than the system Eric describes. To make matters worse, I have a solar array in the circuit so I don’t use the generator at all when the sun’s up.

      This is what happens to people who spend too much time thinking about backup power systems.

      • I did a lot of research and bought one of these:
        It plugs in behind your electric meter and allows you to run any circuit you chose; up to the capacity of the switch and generator. It’s much easier to install (still requires a licensed electrician (took him 30 min)) and more versatile.

      • Scott, thanks for the reply. After sending the message last night I followed up by checking up on those far more expensive generators and they explained the methodology so it became clear. The silencing method you describe is interesting and also welcome. I mention noise only because, just like relatives fighting over a “will”, I know first hand that people get weird really quick. Whether it’s money or mere survival you can kick morality and decency out the window when some rat bastard wants what you have.

    • On soundproofing a generator: a cheap way to do it is get a 55 gallon drum, bury it next to where you run your generator, weld a good quality auto muffler onto the exhaust pipe of the genny so it sits right in the middle of the drum, then fill the drum with 1″ to 2″ septic rock.

      You’ll be able to sleep next to it if you do it right.

    • We have a transfer switch wired up. It disconnect the house from the grid when the generator is in use. This is to keep us from potentially hurting the poor SOB working on the lines. When the grid power comes back on, we turn the generator off, hit the switch and the power (from outside) flows back into the house. It’s really important to have a transfer switch if you want to feed power to the house circuits directly as opposed to plugging individual 110V cords into the generator itself (most have 2-4 outlets).

      Noise is definitely an issue in a SHTF scenario. Scott mentioned using an automotive muffler to dampen the sound and that’s a great idea. But the noise will probably still be loud enough to notice unless your house is set back pretty deeply, at least a few hundred yards from possible listeners.

    • That’s why I forked out the extra money for a Honda. Our last pwoer outage a neighbor came to check on us and walked right past the generator and didn’t hear it running. I have a plug wired into the panel with a switch to cut out the less essentials. I just have to plug the generator in and flip the switch. I have done the LP mod as well. Love it.

    • Ever seen those tunnels, at a science center, discovery center ect, that you can yell into and no sound comes out the other end? That’s because the grooves are designed to cancel out the sound. Why not create a wider version of that you could set your generator right in the middle. Air would still flow through but no sound would escape?

  26. This is a timely post, Eric. The power company here has really been letting the tree trimming slide lately so we lose power in most storms these days. It’s ok for a couple of hours but then the loss of power starts to cramp my style. This week I have to get the generator checked out and I’ll also look into the LP solution. Thanks for the tip.

  27. Eric that’s brilliant!

    We were looking at one of those Generac whole-house solutions that run on methane (natural gas)–here in Houston, just about every house has NG for heating/cooking.

    Unfortunately it’s about 7-10K fully installed.

    With this, I could get the whole shebang for less than a grand….much less if I buy a lightly-used emergency generator.

    I’m thinking about buying a very small generator. Think about it–your average load will be well under 1KW. A deep freeze or fridge is under 200W. Charging your cell phones, running a laptop and a radio? Less than 200W altogether.

    Unless you intend to run your air conditioner or washer/dryer, a large generator is wasting a LOT of fuel on internal friction.

    Another idea–albeit more expensive–would be to use the smaller generator as a battery charger for a bank of deep-cycle lead-acid batteries, and use that to drive a large inverter; perhaps 5 or 10KW. That in turn could drive the larger loads for a short while as needed.

    I think I like your idea best though. I’m going to look into it immediately–it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than even a 1KW solar system, too!

    • I dig it, too!

      Simple – and very cost-effective.

      We also considered the “whole house” generator, but this relatively small (and under $1,000) generator runs all the essentials – well pump, all the downstairs outlets (lights, TV) plus the fridge – for a fraction of the cost. The only weak link was the gasoline – and this takes care of that.

      The US Carb people were great; I rarely recommend stuff directly but in this case I will make an exception!

      • Dear Eric, et al,

        I second what everybody has said so far. The more options when the SHTF, the better.

        This may be a little off topic, but years ago when I read about the Stanley Steamer and other similar steam cars, I became fascinated with the idea of the external combustion engine ECE, as opposed to the internal combustion engine ICE.

        Depending upon the design, an updated steam car could even burn scrap wood if necessary. If you ran out of fuel on a remote stretch of highway, you could scrounge up some dead vegetation and fill the boiler with water from a stream, and be on your way.

        A car like that while stationary, could serve as a whole house generator too I suppose.

        Anyway the self-sufficiency of the ECE, its ability to use literally any combustible material as fuel, always intrigued me. I’ve always hoped that someone would bring the steam car back.

        • It should be pointed out that the “Goi-mans” (who the renowned pitchman Vincent Offer of “Sham-Wow” fame sez make the best stuff) converted many vehicles to run off “producer” gas…that is, they had a generator that burned wood chips, briquets, or bitumous coal to generate carbon monoxide, which burns well in a typical “gasoline” engine. The trick was how to contain any leaks for obvious reasons.
          Running off a gas line MIGHT work as long as the local gas company is able to deliver. In a lot of cases, their distribution system is dependent on the grid for control, so they’d shut down even though there’s plenty of natural gas. So having a backup tank(s) and a ready ability to switch over from the gas line is crucial if you’re going to run your “gasoline” generator on natural gas.
          The other choice would be diesel. A small diesel generator would be far more fuel-efficient for a given kW output, and diesel stores better. Still, I’d only go diesel if I had a vehicle (car, truck, or tractor) that also was a diesel. It’s also a hell of a lot safer to handle.

          • I was going to mention gasifiers, too. Here are some more details:-

            – Unless they are burning charcoal, they will generate some corrosive gas and vapour as they char their fuel, so you will need to filter the product gas to protect the engine. Even so, the gasifier itself will corrode unless it is made of expensive, corrosion resistant materials, so most people go for cheap materials that can easily be replaced (but will that be true if SHTF?).

            – Even with charcoal, the gas will need cooling to run the engine efficiently and safely.

            – Making charcoal loses some of the original energy content, but it concentrates the rest. That means it’s worth making it for cars if that’s convenient because you get better mileage for the same fuel load, but not so much for stationary equipment.

            – Coal and rubber are bad fuels, because they gunk up the grates and they generate corrosive sulphur oxides that only elaborate filters can keep from the engine.

            – This does not produce anything like as rich a fuel as other methods like propane, it’s just far easier to resource the fuel locally (though you can make biopropane, it’s not easy to do that off the grid). The problem is partly that carbon monoxide is already partly burned, and partly that the “producer gas” contains a whole load of diluting atmospheric nitrogen. But the higher the water content of the fuel, up to the point that the gasifier goes out, the more hydrogen gets produced, the less energy is lost, and the less nitrogen gets through – “semi-water gas” if your equipment can supply separate water too (“water gas” is what you get if no air goes in but only steam, with an outside heat source to keep it going; this is quite rich). That needs bigger, heavier and more elaborate gasifiers, though.

            – Poisonous gas leaks are a non-problem if all the equipment is open to the outside (no pipes inside a car, for instance) and if the producer gas is always drawn through by the engine under negative pressure.

            – Starting an engine from scratch needs it to turn over for several minutes to get the gasifier drawing properly. This isn’t only inconvenient, it can be bad for the engine and the starter motor and its battery, so most people operate on a dual fuel basis that they can change over gradually from petrol or whatever to producer gas.

        • “This may be a little off topic, but years ago when I read about the Stanley Steamer and other similar steam cars, I became fascinated with the idea of the external combustion engine ECE, as opposed to the internal combustion engine ICE.

          Depending upon the design, an updated steam car could even burn scrap wood if necessary. If you ran out of fuel on a remote stretch of highway, you could scrounge up some dead vegetation and fill the boiler with water from a stream, and be on your way. ”

          External combustion is the way to go. But why use water when you can use air? Why not use use air as the medium of your external combustion engine? You don’t have to recycle it and it will never be scarce like water could be some places. Think like a jet engine…Compress, then heat, then expand. Same with diesel engine. Compress, then heat, then expand. Same with an otto engine. Just replace the internal combustion with external combustion??? Some food for your original thought.

          • Howdy Rod! Check this out.

            DIY Steam Car

            This steam car was made by Robert Grosse of Saskatoon, Canada.

            I have made the presumption that there are always three topics to be discussed here:

            1. Finding, creating, and celebrating places where there is no state.

            2. Shattering the myths of legitimacy that serve to cloak the countless murders and burglaries of the Criminal State Apparatus.

            3. Finding ways to bypass, nullify, or dismantle the Criminal State Appartus.

            Your discussion certainly seems to falls under topic number 1.

            Libertarians believe that one man who creates value using “the economic means” is more valuable than all the parasitical officials who create using “the political means.” The political means always destroys far more than it creates.

          • Interesting steam car you showed, but never saw it actually move. I’m still not fond of steam power, because its efficiency is less. Water that is reclaimed by say a condenser provides back pressure that limits the total power extracted, any that is lost to the atmosphere must be replaced which is hard to do in deserts. And superheated steam and boiler explosions are especially dangerous. Every so many years they have a steam engine show and someone will end up blowing up the whole crowd because some pressure relief valve didn’t function. The alternative I mentioned is much easier to control, more efficient, does not require fluidic replacement, and does not require huge times to start as in a boiler of water to heat up.

            Tor your observations of me being #1 of your list is correct. Though I have great admiration for those that do #2 and if I had the time would be interested in being involved in #3. But even outside the government (which is tyranny for sure) I don’t see a utopia in anarchy. I do believe capitalism is a beautiful way to organize a theoretical anarchy (as God seems to advocate in biblical context as being the best human condition) if possible, and I do think the internet money/ fractional barter will severely limit the size of government in the future. But, the larger problem is the fallibility of men. For example, I was reading about the religion “scientology” and some people were reporting that they make slaves of children and they believe in little green men talking to them and giving them power on earth. Not to pick on scientology as pretty much all religions including athiest do this stuff. Now that really bothered me as I saw that this is just a private form ( a seedling) of the bigger cult like government. So, it seems that even if we get rid of indoctrination of public schools, some other insane fool will just restart the same coercion all over again. Its too easy to herd fools together. Anyway #2 point is about the exposure of the imbeciles which is where the minds of engineering can get together to formulate a cure, with the disease always evolving along with the cure. This will never be solved, but rather will ebb and flow back and forth from more tyranny to less tyranny. Like the steam engine mankind will never achieve the 100% efficiency (lossless world) due to entropy of the universe, he won’t even achieve carnot efficiency (due to the stupidity of men wanting to control and enslave). That leaves us idling between about 0% and 10% productivity efficiency.

    • “Another idea–albeit more expensive–would be to use the smaller generator as a battery charger for a bank of deep-cycle lead-acid batteries, and use that to drive a large inverter; perhaps 5 or 10KW. That in turn could drive the larger loads for a short while as needed.

      I think I like your idea best though. I’m going to look into it immediately–it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than even a 1KW solar system, too!”

      Actually you can use a lawn mower engine coupled through a fan belt to a car alternator to charge the deep cycle batteries. My dad built a model that worked really well. It just sits there putting along charging the deep cycles from the car alternator using the small lawn mower engine. Then off the parallel 12V battery bank you connect a Cobra inverter 1200W which will cost you about $120.00 if I remember right and again wire this off the battery bank. And finally you by a cheap sunforce charge converter from northern tool company for about $100.00 and connect your solar cells to the charge converter, the output of the charge converter feeding the battery bank once again. Now you have a cheap system that uses solar electricity in the day to power the deep cycles which feeds the inverter. And at night you crank on the small DC-12V-car alternator to charge the battery banks while still using the inverter. Like you said the idea is that you use very little gasoline, because at night the 1 horse lawnmower engine is nearly a direct match to the alternator. Under this system you can power about 400W both night and day. You use about a half gallon gasoline to run 5 hours of nightime, and electricity all day using the solars. Works great long as you don’t expect to run a clothes dryer as I’ve played off the grid with the system quite a bit. Also you can still use a microwave oven for heating the tea/coffee as the batteries will provide the surges needed for short durations of inverter requirements.

      Also you can get the solar cells really cheap from sun electronics. The key to choosing solar cells is to get the open cell voltage about 2x the voltage of the battery bank (12V if in parallel so get output about 24VDC open cell voltage). The reason for doing this is because the maximum power transfer to a load (batteries) is when the voltage of the load is 1/2 the voltage of the source. This has to do with maximum power transfer when source and load resistances are equal, but you really don’t need to care. With the $100 buck solar charge converter I mentioned earlier you will find it will keep from overcharging your battery bank, and also keep reverse currents going to the solar cells at night. In addition, for 2 cells in parallel you don’t have to worry about solar block diodes just connect the outputs in parallel before going to the solar charge converter. Also you should place the cells so that there is no shade on once cell while sun on the other, if you can’t then consider using a solar blocking diode. All in all you can set up a 400 W solar diode/ small lawnmower engine/DC generator for less than $1000.00. You’ll also have to invest in 6AWG wires which aren’t cheap, but included in the price I mentioned.

        • Thanks I’ve been an electrical designer of complex digital/analog electronics for over 20 years, beating the system and building backup is a great idea and backyard engineering is a must. When I heard your idea about the battery bank/inverter had to share what we experimented with and was successful as an encouragement to your own fruits of experimentation. I’m by no means a power engineer so when it comes to backyard design on the cheap for power generation I’d be the first to look up a DYI ideas, this idea you mentioned does work based on my experience.

          I’d recommend building a wind turbine as well. Could easily be tied into the simple battery bank. Again you could keep it simple using a car alternator. Even use a car alternator to produce higher voltages, by modifying the regulator. The one problem with building a 12V inverter bus bank will be the currents generated will require that 6AWG wire and event then small resistance results in very large voltage drops, using a higher voltage bus as in series batteries/ cells and higher rated inverter would be advantageous for keeping the squared current resistance losses low if you want something more permanent and > 1KW. The key is if you want simple than build simple and use 12V if you want complex and lower losses than build with step-up’ed voltages. You don’t need a engineering degree to do the power stuff, just some common sense and desire to do it. BTW the nice thing about using the car alternator for generating modest powers for the battery grid is that all of it is easily maintanable even in times of disaster. You’ll always be able to find parts for the car alternator and repair it if you need to. Far from being a way to live continuous 400W is scrappy, but its rather a way to get by if things get real bad in a natural disaster.

          Eric good article BTW!

          • I use a 120 watt solar panel, with Morning Star controller, three largest RV deep cell batteries. The inverter I needed to run my microwave oven, toaster, and vacuum cleaner I needed a 2,000 watt inverter. I use a cooler rather then a refrigerator to keep my butter from melting.

          • Eric your friend and I should start the ericpeters car alternator as SHTF generator (smile).

            Michael I hear you on the 2KW inverter, 1200W is not much over capacity. The reason I like the cobra inverters is that I can use a remote switch to turn on and off the inverter at night. I like the inverter as close to the battery bank as possible so there are no voltage drops. I’m not familiar with morning star’s controller how much did that cost?

            I do know that a really cheap unit is ($91.14) Sunforce 30 Amp Digital Charge Controller you can find it on amazon at:


            I’ve reversed the schematics for it and can add two more IRF2804 FETS by international rectifier on unoccupied pads (feature enhanced but not installed) to boost the current rating to 60amps (360W). Actually there is even the possibility to get 90A from this adding two more sets of these FET instead of extra pair. I can provide the schematics and information how to beef it up if anyone is interested in it, took about a day’s labor to draw the schematics by hand from the PCB connection. Its well worth it if you plan to use this controller since its cheap and works great, and with schematics can be scaled or repaired.

        • Exactly with the idea of multiple fuels provided here by Eric and a small gasoline engine with car alternator you could build a small scale dynamo that conserves the usage to the maximum. Great point tying it all together.

  28. Very informative article Eric – Thanks for the info. I was not aware the converion kits were available for the smaller portable generators.

    • Excellent article Eric, only one question, what is the other regulator on the propane tank shown in your picture used for.

      • “the other regulator on the propane tank”… Yeah, about that. I finally got around to installing my conversion kit. Two regulators are required (two stage regulator system) the one on the side of the generator, and the one on the propane tank.

        For my setup, the instructions say to have a minimum water column of 11 inches, and a maximum water column of 14 inches.
        From what I can tell, most grill type propane regulators (the one On the propane tank, used to regulate the gas pressure from the tank to the secondary regulator on the generator) are 11 or above. Are there grill type regulators that are under 11? I don’t know, and – so far – I haven’t found a way to tell.

        I am considering an adjustable regulator (with a gauge) at the propane tank. I’m not sure if it’s necessary though, however; I seem to recall some people discussing the need for one with certain generators (like the Honda EU’s) but don’t quote me on that.

        I also read that it’s a good idea to have the regulator face down at a 90′ angle just to help keep the vent hole from getting clogged with grease, grime, dirt, snow and such. I guess it depends on how dirty the area is you’re running your generator?

        I wonder how long regulators last, do they break down frequently, and does anyone with this kind of setup keep spares on hand?

        • For posterity’s sake I’ll add, I ran a Honda EU on propane today. It was fun. So far, it doesn’t seem to need an adjustable regulator. It runs just fine on the cheap regulators you can find at most hardware and Big Box stores.

          The generator vibrates the secondary regulator a lot when the generator is on Eco Mode. I wonder if that excessive vibration will shorten the life of the regulator?
          The vibration was almost nil at regular settings.

          I added a 90′ elbow where the hose from the propane tank meets the regulator on the generator. That way it might fit into some kind of box a bit better and take up less space. Which means a smaller box is required.

          Also, on my kit, they wanted me to cut into the original fuel line to splice in a valve. I decided to keep the original as a spare and bought some other fuel line. Because the angle on a Honda EU fuel line is at 90′ angle right next to the air box, regular black fuel line didn’t seem to work as well (being so ridged and tough) it kinked the line more than I thought would be ok. So I got some clear fuel line that was a bit more flexible to make the bend with and looped it up for the valve. It worked great.

          I also got a fuel shut off valve that was a 90′ angle instead of the T-line valve that came with the kit because I felt it fit better and was easier to reach in and grab to twist it on or off.

          …And now I’ve got a spare valve. I can see that plastic thing leaking someday. Plastic valves do that.

          I bought a small 20 gallon plastic trash can to put the propane tank in to keep it dry in rain or snow, and to keep it out of sight. I’m going to cut a hole in it for the hose tomorrow. High, or low, is the question now.

          So the next step is, I just need to build an insulated ugly dog house with a muffler on the back.
          A plastic tote will have to stand in until then. So drive-by thieves might not notice it, as much.

          And of course I’ve got some cable and a padlock to chain it down. I even sprang for the steel reinforced handle brace awhile back to make it more difficult for anyone who wants to try and chance hack sawing the handle to take it.

          One other thing. My kit didn’t come with installation instructions. Just a couple of hard to see black and white photos saying, “This goes here”. But it was real easy to do. Even if they didn’t give a torque rating for the nuts. Just think, “Tight, but not too tight.” and you’ll be alright.

          There, I hope that helps somebody else who might do this.
          …Or I just wasted some typing time and added to my NSA/Stasi/Gestapo database? Ha.

          • If you’re getting into the swing of these things, you might want to google a gasifier design and let us know how your generator goes when indirectly burning foraged plant material, probably adequately but delivering seriously less power (I seem to recall I once posted a word picture of a design somewhere on this site, but I don’t have a link to hand). As far as getting onto people’s databases goes, FEMA actually offers a design somewhere in its web pages, so accessing that should do it.

            By the way, the right amount to tighten a bolt is, tighten it until you strip the thread, then wind it back half a turn.

          • P.M.Lawrence wrote, “By the way, the right amount to tighten a bolt is, tighten it until you strip the thread, then wind it back half a turn.”

            Ha! Thanks for that, I almost choked laughing.

            Although, I think I’ve done that more than once. And this last time, oh boy do I hope it holds. [Fingers crossed.]

            Re: gasifiers. That does seem like a GREAT idea. I’ve noticed you guys talking about it. …I’m almost inclined to create a kit.
            A rocket-stove for your generator?

            …Something to think about.

        • @Downshift I read Eric’s post & with my head down & swinging side to side and came to the conclusion “normalcy bias” afflicts way too many people. Or maybe I am just old enough to have lived through 7 days without grid electricity, trees down from the storms, 2 feet of snow on the ground, 15 degrees outside and more on the way, or forest fires, or… “Hakuna Matata” I suppose. Personally I never enjoyed those fist fights at Wal-Mart over the last bottle of water on the shelf. Got way too sweaty.

          I don’t know about using BBQ regulators. Most I have seen lately are crap from U-NO-where. They are not all that stable and really don’t like sub 40 degree temperatures. Maybe RV 2-stage ones are better?

          I have two generators.

          One is a little super quiet 800 watt dinosaur Yamaha that holds less than a gallon, but runs my 25 AMP 3 stage battery charger forever. The charger fills two EGC2 golf cart batteries in series for 400 AMP/Hrs of juice to power my 115V 2000 watt inverter. Add some good 12GA extension cords & all is well with the refrig, freezer & some new 10 watt LED table lamp lights. This setup lets me “run silent run deep” or make some noise.

          The second generator is 3500 watts on wheels to fire up the 220V well pump, or drag around to run my electric chain saw.

          I like the “prepper :)” [old school normal for those of us over 50 something] saying: Two is one, one is none.

          I like the propane conversion, and if I get a stationary generator & transfer switch is is definitely on the list with a big-ass storage tank.

          On gasoline storage – I have been using the PRI additive for a couple of years.
          It is much better than Sta-bil and really does what it says.

          • Thanks for the input, Garysco. I’ve read a shitload, and this is the first I’ve heard that PRI is better than Sta-bil. So, what am I supposed to do with the Sta-bil bottles? Well, if I spring for the PRI. …Mang, I’m just about tapped out. I’ll just have to make do.

            And, really, the over fifty crowd said, “Two is one, one is none.”? I’d never heard that until I bumped into FerFal’s website.

            An electric chainsaw? It seems so… I don’t know… weak. But I suppose it makes good sense if you have a propane generator?

            RE: “run silent run deep” I like that idea. But I haven’t jumped on the LED lights bandwagon yet. However; I have a box or so of low balled candles. I wonder how they compare?

            Do you have a box you put your generators in when you run it? I imagine you don’t box up the 3500, is it very loud?

            I’ll have to check into the RV 2-stage regulators. I ran mine on a perfect day,… shit runs different when it’s subzero.

            I am also in the club of, “old enough to have lived through 7 days without grid electricity, trees down from the storms, 2 feet of snow on the ground, 15 degrees outside and more on the way”

            Only, once, the block across the street all had power when I did not. THAT was a learning experience.
            The power crews drove through my alley and looked at me with this “You understand” look while yelling out the truck window as they passed by, “We’re going out into the countryside to fix the power for those who haven’t had it for several weeks. We’ll be back after that!”

            Thank goodness I had a gas water heater and a gas oven, or else I would have had to pay boo’koo bucks for a hotel.
            I even had friends ask me why I didn’t “just” go to a hotel.
            Besides boo’koo bucks, I didn’t want to leave my shit behind unattended.
            I don’t think they understood what I was saying.
            I don’t even want to think what it’d be like for those who had no gas appliances and TSHTF for a long while.
            No way do I want to be one of those.

          • I should have added, you learn something when the people across the street have power, and you don’t.
            Their houses are all lit up with light at night, the windows are all bright with light advertising their position, their furnaces blasting smoke out the top of the house which screams “I have warmth and something worth taking!”.

            You learn right quick how it would be in a grid down situation. And how envy and such roils. If you’re a good person it’s not so bad, but I could easily imagine how not-so-good people would see something like that. Or how even good people could be “changed”.

          • @Downshift said ““Two is one, one is none.”? I’d never heard that until I bumped into FerFal’s website”
            OK, I’ll tell YOU. But don’t spread it around OK? I and FerFal stole it from Jack Spirco and this guy:
            He is a former Chrysler engineer and really knows what is talking about. When your internet connection gets faster then 300 baud listen to the audio podcasts. His books are awesome too.

            “I imagine you don’t box up the 3500, is it very loud?”
            Not really, and if the circumstances are that bad I will have my BB gun and this guys attitude:

            “You learn right quick how it would be in a grid down situation. And how envy and such roils.”
            A group of those cold, hungry folks is more scary then the cops. I will have to get two BB guns.

          • And yes, I promise not to tell a soul. I’ll check out the Jack Spirco link in the A.M. and the video first thing next month. TYVM.


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