Choosing a generator to use as a backup power source for your home in a blackout or emergency situation can be a complicated decision. There are hundreds of models available from dozens of leading generator brands, and all kinds of features and specifications you need to consider.
If you’ve been looking online for a portable generator you’ve likely seen tri fuel generators recommended frequently. These are some of the most expensive models and marketed as premium backup power solutions with all kinds of use cases.
But do you need one of these expensive models? Is a tri fuel generator worth it and what benefits do they really offer?
We’ll answer those questions today so you can make the best backup power generator choice for your specific situation and budget.
What Is A Fri Fuel Generator? A Simple Explanation
A tri fuel generator is an advanced type of portable generator which can be powered by any one of three different fuel sources: gasoline, propane, or natural gas. The technology allows you as the user to easily switch between fuel sources depending what you have available at the time.
Most of the generators available on the market are regular gas generators, or ‘dual fuel’ generators which can also use propane as a fuel type. A tri fuel generator gives you the additional option of using natural gas. This functionality will make a portable generator quite a bit more expensive, but there are some key advantages to using natural gas as a fuel source instead of gasoline or propane.
You can see some of the most popular tri fuel generators here from well known brands such as Firman, DuroMax, and Champion. You’ll notice they’re considerably more expensive than most gas or dual fuel models which have similar power outputs.
Tri Fuel Generator Fuel Sources
Here’s a quick overview of the different fuel types used to power the most common portable generators sold online and at your local hardware store.
Gasoline: This is the most common fuel source. Gas provides the most power output and any generator which can use more than one type of fuel will give you the best overall performance when using gas. However, there are some disadvantages to running a generator on gas.
Firstly, gasoline is not easy to store long term. You’ll start to run into problems after 30-60 days as it is a volatile fuel. Purchasing gas with a plan of storing it for months to use in the case of an emergency is not a viable option for most homeowners. Gasoline needs to be used, not stored for long periods. Also, during an emergency situation such as a power outage or blackout, or an intense storm, it is often difficult to acquire gasoline because it is in such high demand.
Propane (LPG): Propane or LPG is the second most common fuel source used to power portable generators. Dual fuel and tri fuel generators can use propane as an alternative to gas.
Although it does not offer quite as much power as gasoline, propane is very easy to store for long periods. It can be stored safely for many years, then used whenever you need it. This makes propane a good long term emergency fuel source. It is also much cleaner than gasoline and causes less pollution.
Natural gas: Natural gas can be used as a fuel source for all popular tri fuel generators. This is the main differentiator which sets a tri fuel model apart from a dual fuel generator, or a regular gas generator.
Natural gas is beneficial in emergency situations because your home or business will already have a continuous natural gas supply - so you can simply hook up a tri fuel generator and have constant power, without the need to re-fuel or worry about your gasoline or propane supplies.
This makes using a generator for long periods of time much easier. Natural gas does not offer as much power output as gasoline or propane when using a generator, but it does have clear benefits in terms of ease, convenience, and lower costs.
So Do You Need a Tri Fuel Generator and Is It Worth Getting One?
It depends on your situation and the reasons you’re looking to purchase a generator. If you’re simply wanting to run a generator for regular day to day tasks over short periods of time then a gasoline or dual fuel model will likely be sufficient. These are also cheaper options.
If you’re wanting to rely on a generator as a backup power source for your entire house in an emergency situation or a blackout but are comfortable purchasing and storing a good amount of propane fuel for long periods of time, then a dual fuel generator will be a good fit for your needs.
However, if you do see the benefits of being able to use your home or business’s natural gas supply as a fuel source for your portable generator then you’ll want to consider buying a tri fuel model. This can be a great solution in a long term power outage where you may be relying on a generator for multiple days, and don’t have easy access to purchase fuel in your area.
Average Costs for Tri Fuel Models
As mentioned, a tri fuel generator will usually cost considerably more than a dual fuel or gas generator. So you’ll need to decide if the extra expense is worth it. Generally the cheapest models in the tri fuel category start at just over $1000, with the more premium generators offering higher levels of power output across all three fuel sources costing $1500 - $2000, or in some cases even more.
Overall if you want the most possible flexibility, convenience, and the highest chance of being able to rely on a portable generator to power your home during an emergency then a tri fuel generator is definitely something to consider provided you have the budget for one. If not, a cheaper dual fuel model will do a great job in many situations if you have a good supply of propane which is safely stored in your home or business premises.