Solar Generators vs Propane Generators: Which Is Better?

If you are in the market to purchase a generator to power your home during a power outage or blackout, you may be overwhelmed by the number of sources from which you can get energy. There are options like liquified petroleum gas, gasoline, and diesel, but two popular choices we’ll be comparing in this post are propane and solar energy. But, which one is best?

Solar generators cost more upfront and are not ideal for larger homes, but they are eco-friendly and ideal for RVs, campers, or smaller homes. Propane generators are also considered a clean energy source compared to gas or diesel but do emit some carbon monoxide into the air. 

The choice between propane and solar generators depends on the appliances you need to power. 

Solar Generators vs Propane Generators

Whether you choose solar generators or propane generators, there are pros and cons for each of these technologies.

Solar generators don’t have refueling costs and can supply off-grid power for long periods of time, but they need to be set up properly according to your power needs. However, propane can be more reliable than solar generators because you may run out of sunlight needed to keep its batteries charged.

Ultimately, deciding between solar and propane generators comes down to your individual energy needs and preferences. Keep reading for more details on the pros and cons of solar and propane generators.

Are Propane Generators Any Good?

If your home suffers a power outage, a blackout, or an even more dangerous disaster, the last thing you want to worry about is how you are going to power your home. Since so many homes rely on smart technology, a power outage can be disastrous to your appliances, technology, lights, and everything else you need to keep your family safe. 

  • No downtimes when starting up propane generators versus the recharging of a solar generator
  • Low maintenance and are reliable
  • Lower environmental impacts than gas or diesel, but not solar
  • Less expensive than solar generators and propane is cheaper than other types of fuel

Most shoppers instinctively turn to a gasoline generator for convenience or a solar generator to limit their carbon footprint, but a propane generator may make more sense in a variety of situations.

Propane generators are more dependable than the sun when it comes to powering your home at night or on rainy or cloudy days. What if the power outage is because of a hurricane or tropical storm? A propane generator will work instantly here. 

Propane generators have a variety of benefits for protecting your family and your home when the power goes out. There are also some cons, as nothing is perfect, but overall a propane generator can safely and reliably power your home, large or small. As long as you have a filled propane tank, you will be able to live comfortably during an outage.

Propane Is Readily Available

Propane is easily available across the United States and the world. You can purchase propane at most gas stations and hardware stores, so you do not need a propane supplier to fill up your tanks when needed. You can easily store multiple propane tanks in your home, so you never need to worry about running out in case of an emergency. 

Propane Is More Reliable Than Gasoline Generators

  • It does not take much work to keep propane tanks well-maintained and filled, whereas gasoline generators require more maintenance because of carbon build-up.
  • There is no expiration date for propane, so the shelf-life is unlimited, and a propane generator is reliable in cold weather in that it does not need to be winterized or require stabilizers. 
  • Propane does not degrade over time like gasoline or diesel, so you do not have to worry about using it before the expiration date.
  • Propane does not spill because it is stored in a safe tank with a security valve. Therefore, you do not have to worry about spilling waste on the ground and the hassle of having to clean anything up like gasoline or fuel.

Propane Is (Pretty) Environmentally-Friendly

Propane is known as a “clean burning” fuel due to its low amount of carbon monoxide produced versus its competitors. Propane releases approximately half the amount of carbon monoxide and creates fewer emissions than a gasoline generator. When you burn gasoline (and even wood) they release more carbon monoxide into the air.

However, since a small amount of carbon monoxide is emitted from propane, the tanks must be stored outside your home to let the gases escape and not harm your family’s well-being.

Faster and More Temperature Resistant Than Solar

A propane generator turns on immediately, unlike a solar generator which may take a long time to recharge. If your tank is filled, you will have power. Propane works day or night; solar needs the sun to produce energy, and if the solar generator does not have enough of this energy stored in its battery it will not be able to properly power your home.  

  • Propane does not have any temperature-related problems, so it is a great choice for families that live in very cold areas of the world. If you live in these colder, more rural areas, you will probably be better off purchasing a propane generator so that you have the peace of mind that you will have power no matter the weather or climate. 
  • Propane is a better choice if you live in an area that is very rainy, cloudy, or snowy. You will be emitting a very small amount of carbon monoxide into the air, and it is not hazardous if you end up having a leak. 

However, there are a few negatives about propane generators that need to be considered before making this purchase.

Drawbacks of a Propane Generator

There are a few drawbacks to using a propane generator over a solar generator, the main one being cost. Even though propane is cheaper than gasoline and diesel, sunlight is essentially free. You will more than likely need to refill your propane tanks at some point, but your solar generator is simply refilled for free by sunlight. 

  • A tank is needed for the fuel and plumbing must be installed between the generator and fuel tank.
  • You may burn through your propane quickly, which means you need multiple tanks filled.
  • The engine in a propane generator has a shorter life expectancy than solar generators without an engine. 

Not only do you need to refill your propane tanks, but you will run through propane faster than gas, electric, or solar as long as your battery is big enough to power your home effectively. This is because propane has a lower energy density of only 26 megajoules per liter (MJ/L). It may still be more reliable than solar, to be discussed. 

A propane engine may also have a shorter life expectancy than other types of engines, like gasoline and diesel, and a solar generator can last decades. Solar generators do not have engines or moving parts to break. This means you may need to replace your propane generator sooner than a solar generator. 

Solar Generators Are the Environmentally-Friendly Choice

You have probably heard of solar roof panels and entire solar roofs, but there are also solar generators that power your home during an outage or for individuals who want to be independent of their utility company (going off-grid). These are battery storage systems in the home that work with solar panels through a series of steps: 

  • The solar panels on the roof capture the energy from the sunlight during the day using the photovoltaic effect.
  • This energy is captured as direct current (DC), which transfers to an inverter so that it is converted to alternating current (AC) power so that the energy is usable for the home.
  • Any energy that is not used is stored in a solar battery for later use.
  • More details: How Do Solar Generators Work? | Pure Power Solar

A solar generator is extremely important for homes that are totally off-grid since there is no supplemental energy available from the utility company.

Solar generators are measured in watts (W) and watt-hours (Wh), and that is how you can compare different generator models. The watts equal the amount of power your solar generator can output at one time and the watt-hours are the amount of energy the solar generator can hold. Both should be researched to make sure they will power well.

More information surrounding this topic can be found below:

Solar generators are quieter than their competitors because there are no moving parts inside the generator. You may hear noise from the inverter, but that will be minimal compared to a propane generator.

More Expensive Upfront Than Propane Generators

Unlike a propane generator, which only needs the generator itself, the propane tank, and the propane, there are more expensive components needed for a solar generator to work correctly. Solar generators need solar panels to capture the energy from the sun and a storage system that supplies the energy to the home when the sun is down. 

You can purchase an all-in-one solar generator kits that give you everything you need for the solar generator to work.

  • Solar panels – capture the energy from the sun
  • Charge controller – regulates the voltage and amperage from solar panels to the battery
  • Inverter – Converts the DC energy from the sun into AC energy to power the home
  • Battery storage system – stores the power from the solar panels
  • Solar generator – all of the above 

The all-in-one solar generator systems may be smaller that your ideal setup but can save you thousands of dollars. Before you would have needed to purchase solar panels, a DC/AC inverter, a battery bank, a charge controller, and cables/connectors all separately. Having them in one solar generator system can save you a lot of money and hassle with installation.

Below are some articles to help you understand different sizing for all-in-one solar generators. These are also called portable power stations and you can get them with solar panels to complete the setup:

Overall, you will need to weigh this upfront cost with the money you will be saving on the free solar energy and lack of maintenance costs. Solar generators have much lower operating costs over the lifetime of the generator, so you will spend less money over time using the generator even though you do spend a higher price tag upfront.

How Much Solar Do I Need to Be Off-Grid?

Many individuals who want to cut all ties with their utility companies will end up using solar energy to go off-grid. This means they are 100 percent independent from the utility company and get 100 percent of their power from the sun. This means you would need a large number of solar panels, a large battery, an inverter, and definitely a generator. 

A solar generator is key here because it will power your home when the sun goes down in lieu of turning to the grid for power. However, how much solar do you need to be off-grid is a common question. The last thing you want is to not have a power source because you are no longer relying on your utility company to power your entire home. 

To go off-grid properly, you will need a battery setup that is large enough to store energy for a minimum of two days or more. This is much more than using solar energy in conjunction with staying on the grid, which is more common for the everyday individual who decides to use a solar generator for additional, clean power. 

  • Off-grid – A minimum of two days of stored solar energy needed
  • Solar energy with the grid – Around five to ten hours of stored solar energy needed

If you are using your solar generator but still keeping a tie with your energy company, you will only need an energy supply of five to ten hours since it still has the grid as a backup plan. You should also find out if you can even go off-grid in your local area since there are some local municipalities that have frowned on this independence with solar. 

Is Off-Grid Solar Legal?

Are you considering the use of your solar generator to be a main source of energy so you can cut all ties with your utility company and go off-grid? If you plan on completely removing yourself from the grid, you will need to make sure your local or state government does not have restrictions on how your solar system is designed. 

Some local and state governments charge residents who are generating 100 percent of their power through a solar powered generator system.

Here’s a good resource ranking each state by the level of off-grid accessibility available.


Using a solar generator is possible for larger homes, but you will probably need to use the generator in tandem with a separate solar panel and battery system. This can be an expensive option for powering your home. If you do not want to pay those exorbitant prices, a propane generator will work fine with minimal environmental hazards.

Related article: Gas vs Solar Generators – Which Makes More Sense?


Max Peters

Hi! I'm Max and I am passionate about off-grid solar technology and adventure! I'm using my knowledge of solar generators, solar panels, and everything in between to provide you with the best tools to keep you powered while off the grid. Read more about me here: About Max Peters."

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