Most Portable Generators use Regular Grade Gasoline, the same type that most automobiles use. (See my article, “Hurricane Tech – Keeping the Lights On with a Portable Generator” for information on Portable Generators.)
The advantages of Gasoline (or Diesel Fuel) are obvious: it is usually readily available at reasonable cost and can be easily transported. The disadvantage is that the supply is limited to what is in the Generator Fuel tank or that which you have on hand, stored in Fuel Containers. The Generator will be continuously burning Gasoline or Diesel Fuel and therefore you must continuously replenish your supply.
Depending on the capacity of the Generator fuel tank and the rate at which Fuel is consumed, you may be re-filling the fuel take as frequently as every four hours. This can be a real drag but a necessary trade-off for having electricity vs. sitting in the dark. Your entire day becomes consumed with “feeding the beast” and obtaining a sufficient supply of Gasoline to “Keep the Lights On.”
During the recent Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy in the Northeast, a significant majority of Gas Stations lost power and could not pump Fuel. Those stations that had Power quickly exhausted their Fuel supply or strict limits and rationing were put in place. This made Gasoline and Diesel a scarce resource during the power outage.
Given the “Liquid Gold” nature of Gasoline during a crisis, it would be a good idea to have a locking shed to store your Fuel Containers or at least a locking cable or chain to weave through the handles to deter and attempt to prevent theft. Try not to store Fuel Containers in plain site of the road to deter opportunists.
Some General Safety Considerations:
When properly handled and stored, Gasoline is a relatively safe Fuel source. Although highly flammable, Gasoline tends to just burn and not explode (unless stored under pressure). It is critical that Gasoline containers be stored away from any ignition sources and in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Gasoline expands and contracts with the changes in temperature so it is important to periodically open the containers to relieve any built up pressure.
It is a good idea to wear heavy duty, chemical resistant rubber gloves when handling Gasoline to protect your skin from any spills while Fueling the Generator.
Some States require “Spill Proof” nozzles like the one displayed in the photo for this article. The spout usually has a mechanical release that requires the edge of the spout to be in contact with the edge of the tank to allow the flow of fuel.
Make sure the Generator is completely OFF and allow the Generator to cool down for a few minutes PRIOR to re-fueling.
It is a good idea to have a properly rated Class B, for flammable liquids, and Class C for Electrical, Fire Extinguisher when fueling.
Periodically check all Fuel Containers for cracks, leaks, broken rubber seals at the spouts and vent the pressure as necessary.
NEVER SMOKE OR HAVE ANY FLAME NEAR GASOLINE – vapors can ignite.