Multi-Fuel Generator - Gas Propane NG

202,864

1,007

47

Introduction: Multi-Fuel Generator - Gas Propane NG

About: I'm a computer engineer - but please don't judge me by that. I heat with wood, fix broken things and love camping with my family. I'm a closet solar nerd, love coupons, not scared to dumpster dive and love h…

Generators are a wonderful convenience when the power is out - unless you have no gasoline. Then they are a huge paperweight and an annoying reminder you should have had more gas on hand. This conversion is very fast and allows you to run your generator on gasoline, propane or natural gas - and easily switch between the three.

On June 29, 2012 Virginia experienced the blunt force end of a derecho - a freakish fast moving destructive thunderstorm. One of the worst in recorded in North American history. People died, houses burned, trees fell everywhere taking power lines with them. It even disrupted Instagram, Pinterest and Nextflix (gasp) when Amazon's Northern VA data center was offlined. 2.6 million households lost power in Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia alone. My house lost power for 10 days. It was hot, we had an infant and most gas stations had no power to pump fuel. The stations that did have power were often sold out. We made it through with the generosity of family, but it made me take a serious look at my storm preparedness. It was clear I needed a larger generator, better extension cords and more fuel storage.

Gasoline storage is sub-optimal. The majority of pump gasoline is full of ethanol. Ethanol fuel goes bad quickly and really should not be used in small engines. Non-ethanol gas storage needs to be rotated. My prepper friends do a much better job of this than I do. I get lazy and I forget. Plus at $3 or more a gallon gasoline is expensive.

I wanted a better more versatile answer. I also happen to have a very full 100 gallon propane tank only hooked to a set of vent free gas logs. Since I heat my house with wood these are only used as a backup heat source. Currently I can get propane delivered to my house for $1.89 a gallon. Plus I had a few grill tanks hanging around that I picked up (partially full I might add) for $5 each.

There was my answer. Propane was cheaper, easier and safer to store.



My house does not have a city natural gas hookup. However if you do you are in an even better situation - no storage necessary!

Step 1: The Essentials

There are two essential pieces to a conversion:

  1. On Demand Regulator AKA Zero Governor
  2. CarburetorAdapter

I've seen a lot of very bad unsafe conversions - mainly ones that skip the on demand regulator. This is device is crucial to safety. There is a vacuum valve inside the body that only allows fuel to flow when there is suction on the outlet. As your engine spins it creates a vacuum that draws in the air and fuel. This vacuum demand opens the valve on the regulator and allows fuel to pass. If for some reason you engine turns off the flow of fuel would immediately stop. While it is possible to just stick a propane line in a carburetor and spin it over - it is a very very bad idea.


The carburetor adapter is device that is placed between the carburetor and the air cleaner. It allows for the injection of the propane or natural gas in to the fresh air coming from the air filter and into the carburetor.


I wanted a tri-fuel adapter and not a conversion kit. I want the flexibility of being able to run on three different fuel types.

Step 2: The Kit

I've seen several kits for sale. I think I got a very good deal from US Carburation. They are switching their adapter style and they sold me this kit for $128 shipped from their eBay store. This being my first conversion I wanted a commercial product. I'll probably play around with my own adapters on other engines.

Included in the majority of the kits are:

  • On demand regulator
  • Carburetor adapter
  • Carburetor gasket
  • Stud extensions
  • Mounting bolts
  • YELLOW Teflon tape or thread sealer
  • Hose used between on demand regulator and adapter
  • Fittings used between on demand regulator and adapter

Step 3: Not Included

This was a very inclusive kit - but there are a few pieces that are not included.

  • Low pressure regulator $9.99
  • Threaded tank fitting - gifted from dad's pile of I'll never use it again.
  • Hose between the low pressure regulator and the on demand regulator - gifted from dad again.
  • Fitting between hose and on demand regulator $2.69
  • Cap for when no propane hose is attached $1.09
  • Fuel tank - $5 gas grill tank from Craig's List
  • Propane - $1.99 x 4.2 gal.

Additionally I added a 1/4 inch ball valve between the carburetor adapter and the on demand regulator. I did not want to be pulling a vacuum on the diaphragm when it was being used with gasoline. ($7 big box store)


Check a local camper supply store for the fittings, regulator and hoses you will need. They will be more knowledgeable and easier to deal with than a box store. Mine was also cheaper with a much larger selection.

Step 4: Remove Air Filter

Remove the air filter cover and air filter.

Step 5: Remove Filter Housing

Remove the nuts securing the air filter housing to the carburetor.

Carefully remove any choke levers and breather tubes.

Don't loose the gasket - you will need to reuse it.

Step 6: Install Stud Extenders and Gasket

Screw on the stud extenders. Use a pair of pliers to snug them up by griping the smooth area between the threads and the carb.

Install the gasket included in your kit.

Step 7: Install Fuel Adapter and Air Cleaner Housing

Note the airflow orientation of the carburetor adapter. Dry fit the elbow and find the direction it should be pointing.

Remove elbow and cover threads in teflon tape or thread sealer.

**Ensure teflon tape does not extend past the last thread and get into the flow of the gas.**
**Note white Teflon tape as pictured is not appropriate for propane. All the white tape was removed and replaced with YELLOW once I realized my mistake.**

Slide the carburetor adapter over the stud extensions. Reinstall the air cleaner housing ensuring the gasket is between the housing and the carburetor adapter.

Install air cleaner and cover.

Clamp the fuel hose on the elbow. Reattach choke lever if it was removed.

Step 8: Install Zero Governer

Install all fittings with teflon tape or thread sealer before attaching to the frame.

Hold the on demand regulator up to the frame and find two points of contact.

Mark, drill and bolt using the supplied bolts.

Please be careful - don't drill into the gas tank!

Step 9: Start and Load Set

Start the generator and get it to operating temperature on gasoline.

Turn the fuel valve petcock to the off position - and let the engine run all the fuel out of the carburetor and gas line.

Turn your set screw in all the way. As per my manual I had to turn it out five full turns.

Turn on the propane at the gas tank.

Press the prime button on the back of the on demand regulator for 1 second.

Start engine - adjust screw in for less fuel and out for more. Once you find the right mixture use the set nut to lock it in place.

**One full 20# (grill sized) propane tank has the same run time as about 5 gallons of gasoline.**

Also - if you want to get very scientific look up propane vaporization rates and how it relates to outside temperature, tank size and liquid fuel content. Very fascinating.

Step 10: Gasoline Operation

To switch back to gas:

  • Stop engine completely.
  • Turn gas off at propane tank
  • Turn gasoline petcock valve to on.
  • Replace propane line attached to on demand regulator with the cap.
  • I also turn off the ball valve.

Step 11: Sourcing Your Kit

Several manufacturers make complete turn key kits for these conversions.

Mine came from US Carburetion - http://www.motorsnorkel.com/
- Note my kit was their old design, and was on clearance. Check out their new design!

Other companies include:
http://www.centuryfuelproducts.com/
https://www.propanecarbs.com/
http://www.nashfuel.com/


I would highly suggest checking eBay because many of these companies sell on there for less than their advertised price.

Step 12: Thoughts on Building Your Own

This was my first kit. I was planning on building my own until I ran across the clearance priced kit at US Carb.

The fittings, hose and low pressure regulator are easy to source at any hardware or home store.

The load set (fuel mixture) screw can be made with a tee, nut and a bolt that is longer than the tee - very simple.


Check Amazon and eBay for a "KN Propane Regulator" These run about $70 or less if you can find a used one.

The adapter is where you can get very creative. Several motors actually have spacers or plenum that could be easily modified to accept a propane inlet. I was considering designing one to be 3D printed out of ABS - or maybe even cutting up a hockey puck. If you build your own I'd love to see what you come up with.

Protected Contest

Participated in the
Protected Contest

MAKE ENERGY: A US-Mexico Innovation Challenge

Participated in the
MAKE ENERGY: A US-Mexico Innovation Challenge

Be the First to Share

    Recommendations

    • Hand Tools Only Challenge

      Hand Tools Only Challenge
    • Modify It Speed Challenge

      Modify It Speed Challenge
    • Remix Contest

      Remix Contest

    47 Discussions

    0
    wrenchit
    wrenchit

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice write-up, I might suggest you specify the Yellow Spool Teflon tape as the regular Teflon that comes in the white spool will eventually break down from the gas and leak. Leaking propane around a running engine is a recipe for disaster. Its illegal to use white Teflon tape on gas appliances in Washington state. There are 5 different colors available.

    As the PTFE tape industry evolved into more products they adopted a standardized color code.

    WHITE- Single density tape to be used as a thread sealant on NPT (National Pipe Taper) threads which are equal to or less than 3/8".

    YELLOW-Double density "Gas tape" suitable for NPT threads equal to or greater than 1/2" but not more than 2"

    Red- Triple density tape suitable for NPT threads equal to or greater than 1/2" but not more than 2". (NOTE-The package is a red spool with a red cover ring and plainly labeled 'triple density", but the tape itself appears as a pale pink color).

    GREEN TAPE- Listed as "OXY/MED tape"-certified oil free to be used on lines conveying oxygen and some specified medical gasses.

    COPPER TAPE- Contains copper granules and is certified as a mechanical thread lubricant but is not certified as a thread sealant.

    White and yellow are available at any hardware store.

    0
    More Cowbell
    More Cowbell

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    This is excellent information. I actually made the mistake of putting it together with white tape but have since replaced it with yellow and completely failed to mention it.

    0
    bettyrussell261
    bettyrussell261

    5 weeks ago

    prefer to buy a factory propane generator rather than remodel it all. I recently wrote an article about a propane generator review. Anyone interested can familiarize yourself. The author's method is good, I agree with the above, use a Teflon tape with a yellow spool. I am not against upgrading a gasoline generator to a gas one.https://happydogsday-care.com

    0
    maelectrics
    maelectrics

    Question 2 months ago on Step 8

    What size is the fitting that goes into the back of the regulator? I will be connecting to 1/2" NPT pipe and will have to order the adapter....but don't know the size.

    0
    Duke M
    Duke M

    Question 5 months ago on Step 12

    Well done and informative. Is the fuel mixture T threaded for standard or fine thred bolt? Is the end of the bolt flat? Does the end of the bolt contact the hose adapter fitting? How does the gas was the threads on the bolt?
    Thanks

    0
    SHOE0007
    SHOE0007

    1 year ago

    Well, that a good Instructable. Quick question could you use other natural gases like Methane or is that gas density and energy not efficient to do the job. I like the idea of Using cleaner Propane instead of Gasoline and Diseal.

    0
    parkershaw
    parkershaw

    Question 2 years ago on Step 8

    Thank you for the best instruction I have ever read on this.

    I have a few some question, would you please enlighten me?

    1. When I adjust the set screw, how do I know about the right mixture?

    2. Can you talk more about natural gas hook up? How different will it be compared with propane?

    Regards and thanks!

    Parker

    0
    KD6
    KD6

    4 years ago

    More Cowbell

    I purchased the US Carb generic kit and installed in my 5kw Kawasaki. Your write-up is what got me thinking of converting my generator to run on Natural Gas. I went with the generic spud-in kit with the assurance from US Carb sales that I wouldn't have to permanently modify my existing carb to have it working. Well, that was not the case and I had to resort to fabricating an adaptor to go between my the air filter and the carburetor. Although I'm willing to forego the tri-fuel, but I'm not prepare to throw away a perfectly good carburetor. Mine, especially is harder to find and very expensive to replace.

    My first attempt was a 1-1/4" steel shaft collar from princess auto ($3.99) that I drill the connecting bolt holes. The set screw hole made for a perfect location to solder in a 1/4" brass barb. It worked fairly well but I found with the 1-1/4" orifice, there was not enough venturi suction to engage the KN regulator, and to overcame this, I had to restrict the air flow through the air box by using a jar lid to cover the air spout.

    My second attempt was a $1.00 hockey puck that I drill a 1" center hole and enlarge the gas inlet to a 3/8" to accept the full flow from the KN regulator. It's not perfect, but it does create the venture suction as the 1" hole is smaller than the carburetor's throat diameter creating an minor restriction and negative suction through the inlet gas line. The puck works especially well for those that do not have a lathe or any special milling machines. It's easy to work with and is rigid enough to be bolted/compressed and gasket is not required (bonus).

    Overall, I was surprised at how simple the conversion is and how one can easily modify their generator to accept propane or natural gas. As for the tri-fuel adaptor, a simple steel shaft collar or hockey puck works just as well. Just make sure that the orifice diameter matches the smallest throat diameter of carburetor (i.e. at the carburetor's jets) and use the largest inlet spud tube as possible. This will require less negative venture suction to activate the KN regulator.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I'll post an instructable on my two diy propane conversion adaptor. Cheers!!

    KD

    0
    juliobhi
    juliobhi

    5 years ago on Introduction

    My Ford Mondeo works with CNG (compressed natural gas) the tank fills with 15 m3 of gas at 200bar!!! SEFI injection of GNC(gas natural comprimido)

    0
    espdp2
    espdp2

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Where do you live? I wish we could (easily) run CNG/GNC in our vehicles in America, but there are national fire codes that restrict the possession of a compressor at residential locations. I'd like to see that changed to be allowed, since we can use propane compressed to similar pressures, and natural gas is piped into lots of homes at low pressure. Given adequate commercial safety engineering, I don't see why we can't have CNG compressors at home.

    0
    juliobhi
    juliobhi

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    home compressor? no! its a freaking crazy sh.. In Argentina we have a GNC stations like a ordinary gas station, and all the supplys and instalations of these equipament are regulated by the goverment. http://www.gnc.org.ar/

    0
    appadee
    appadee

    5 years ago on Introduction

    separate hydrogen and oxygen from water and use the hydrogen to run it.

    US Carb has the Motor Snorkel kits on sale for $97.47 this weekend. It's almost half price.

    0
    padakick
    padakick

    5 years ago

    For emergency power outages I use my car with a cheap autozone 400w inverter. I connect it to my house's wiring and only turn on the escential items.

    You can refill tanks at tractor supply cheaper than swapping tanks and get 1 to 2 more gallons in your tank. Blue rhino and others only fill tanks about 2/3 full even

    0
    More Cowbell
    More Cowbell

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I completely agree! I have a local camper supply about 1/2 mile from my house. They fill tanks for much cheaper than you can swap a tank. I can typically fill up in the $8-$12 range depending on current propane prices.

    0
    jgilliamtx
    jgilliamtx

    5 years ago on Introduction

    The only problem with city natural gas is that it has to be pumped sometimes to maintain line pressure. If you are without power there is a good chance that the pump stations in your area are without it also. Personally I will be converting for propane and have my supplier install an additional on demand regulator on the 250 gallon tank near the house.

    0
    More Cowbell
    More Cowbell

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Very true - propane for me. Plus with Natural Gas a natural disaster could cause the city to turn off the gas supply to everyone.

    0
    SIRJAMES09
    SIRJAMES09

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet! :)

    I never thought it to be this easy.....

    Food for thought:

    Those that live in a trailer/modular home park, often have to go to a trailer supply place to get parts for needed repairs(plumbing, propane, etc)....maybe some of the things one would need could be found at this kind of store....

    providing you can not find it elsewhere,or find it cheaper elsewhere.

    Very cool idea! :) TY for posting this.

    0
    PlanetaryGear

    If you’re planning to use Natural Gas have a chat with your local city or utility. We’re too far south for heating to be a life or death issue most of the year, and certainly during hurricane season which is the storm most likely to take out power here. So for safety the whole area gets it’s gas turned off once the mandatory evacuation is sounded. They may be significantly delayed in getting it turned back on depending on the policies of inspection and such they want to do when they get back so you might have have the gas when you most need it.