Question on Diesel or Gasoline Portable Generator for the Home

Recommendation on Choosing between a Gasoline Powered Generator and a Diesel One

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: Hello Mark, I have written to you previously and have always received some good and sound advice in return. This time I am trying to research and get some solid advice on portable generators. I have narrowed my information to the following:

  • I prefer a Portable to a Standby for convenience sake
  • My selection will be a 6500 – 7000 Watt Generator
  • My connection to the House Electrical Panel will be a product called Generlink which installs at the Meter and the generator plugs into.

Herein, lays my question: I am trying to determine whether to purchase a gasoline operated portable generator or a diesel one and would like your opinion, as I am not quite sure if my research is broad enough to make an informed decision.

If I purchase a gasoline operated portable generator I have narrowed it down to two brand names; one being Generac, and the other being Briggs&Stratton. If I purchase a diesel portable generator I am quite impressed with the Aurora line of generators. Any assistance/information you can provide is much appreciated.

Answer: Hi Mike, I have a gasoline powered portable generator (Homelite with a Yamaha engine). It has a starting wattage rating of 7125 watts and a running rating of 5700 watts. It has been adequate for meeting my home’s needs. I installed a sub-panel adjacent to my main circuit panel. I transferred onto the sub-panel the following circuits:

  • Well pump
  • Oil-Fired Hot Water Boiler Circuit
  • Kitchen Circuits (Refrigerator and other ancillary countertop outlets)
  • Bathroom Circuits (for both levels of house)
  • Hallway lights on each floor of house, along with kitchen/dining room light
  • Main entranceway lights (along with outside lights to main entrance)
The generator has a 30 amp circuit breaker, so I also included a 30amp circuit breaker for it that connects to a male coupling connection on the outside of the house.

Lastly, I installed a 30amp circuit breaker that is fed by the main panel. I have a mechanical safety lockout switch that sits between the 30 amp generator circuit breaker and the 30 amp main circuit breaker. This way only one can be in the ON position at any one time.

With this configuration, when we lose power I simply throw the main circuit panel breaker (200 amp) to the off position.

Portable Generator

I then turn off the 30 amp circuit breaker (associated with the main circuit panel) in the sub-panel, and turn the portable generator circuit breaker to the on position. I then turn off all of the circuit breakers on the sub-panel before firing up the portable generator.

Once I’ve connected up the generator to the outside male coupling connection and fire up the generator I then start turning on the individual circuit breakers in the sub-panel.

This way I ramp wattage needs up slowly to prevent a sudden peak wattage condition on the portable generator.

This all said, I know there are off-the-shelf sub-panels specifically designed for portable generators and I would highly recommend them. I installed my own sub-panel as I was just more comfortable wiring up my own basic system.

In regards to your specific question I’d go with the gasoline portable generator. When power is out in your town or city you may have gas/diesel service stations that are out of service. There are many more service stations that have gas than diesel so your chances of getting additional fuel are higher.

We have been without power for up to 11 days. You’d be surprised how few gas stations were open during that period in the town. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had ran out of diesel and the only two service stations in town that sold diesel were closed.

In regards to specific portable generators I cannot offer any opinion. Traditionally Briggs&Stratton has made very good engines/products. If you decided to go with diesel then I would suggest making sure you keep sufficient diesel on your property so that you avoid the concern I mentioned.

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