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Updated Sep 26, 2022 12:42 PM

Most people probably look for a gas generator as the easiest way to get backup power in a pinch, but a dual-fuel generator, which can run on gas or propane, is a more dynamic alternative. With two ways to power your generator, you have more options when fuel is in short supply (in conditions such as a hurricane). Dual-fuel generators also give you more control over secondary factors like noise and emissions: Gas is easy to get at any station, but propane burns cleaner and quieter. The best dual-fuel generators not only offer the best of both worlds but come equipped with a slew of slick features to make your user experience easy and safe.

How we picked the best dual-fuel generators

As a tech enthusiast and camping addict, I’ve looked at a wide range of portable power stations and related accessories—such as the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core portable generator and the best home wind turbines—for the likes of Popular Science, Scientific American, The Daily Beast, and more. (And if you’re looking for things to do with all that power, consider charging one of the best ebikes I’ve written about.) I’ve researched each of these dual-fuel generators extensively via a combination of first-hand trials, input from experts, and reviews from real-world consumers.

What to consider when buying a dual-fuel generator

While there are plenty of dual-fuel generators on the market, they aren’t cheap and many of them simply aren’t worth the investment. Some are poorly made and don’t last long. Others simply don’t deliver reliable performance, so they may not work when the lights go out. To make a wise purchase, there are a few things you should keep in mind so you can judge whether a generator is worth the cost.

Power output

Simply put, if a generator can’t give you enough power to meet your needs, it isn’t worth buying. Manufacturers usually provide two numbers, both measured in watts (W), which will help you understand how much power a generator produces. First, a generator’s “Rated” output tells you how much power it produces at any given moment. Second, many generators also have a “peak” output spec, which refers to the maximum amount of power that a particular unit can handle blasting out in a short burst. This comes in handy if you plan to turn appliances on and off, which can cause sudden surges of electrical draw.

Ideally, you want a generator that delivers a rated output equal to your typical power needs. If you’re simply looking to power and recharge a handful of devices alongside a simple appliance or two, 1,500W-2,000W might be all you need. If you’ll be turning a lot of random power tools on and off, or powering an RV, look for something around 4,000W. If you’re looking to power a house, however, you’ll likely need at least 8,000W or more.

Fuel capacity

With petrol and propane, dual-fuel generators can keep the power going longer than most single-fuel power solutions. Of course, that depends on how much fuel you have in your tanks. Most dual-fuel generator gas tanks run between 2 and 10 gallons, which is pretty typical of single-fuel generators that run solely on gas. Propane is almost always stored in separate pressurized gas canisters that are attached via a hose, exactly like you would a propane grill. So the propane capacity depends on the size of your canister rather than the generator itself.

In both cases, though, you should keep in mind that more storage means more weight. If you’re looking for a portable generator, you’ll want to balance those two factors. If you’re buying a generator to back up your home’s power and plan to leave the generator in one place, weigh it down as much as you like.

Starting type

Dual-fuel generators use one of two starting mechanisms: either a recoil cord or an electric starter. With a cord, you pull the handle hard and fast to produce the rotation necessary to fire the generator. It requires more physical effort but tends to be more reliable. An electric starter is a push-button solution—no exertion is required, but it only works when its internal battery is charged.

Operating noise

Generators are pretty loud, which can be a nuisance if you keep one (or more) in or near your home. Generators tend to get louder as they generate more power. (There are exceptions, though.) If you’re going to keep your generator around your house or run it while camping in a quiet spot, you’re going to want to keep the noise to a minimum. 

Typically speaking (but not always), higher-quality generators manage to turn the volume down thanks to the use of thick shielding and other design elements. If your priority is pure power, though, you may simply have to put up with the noise or find another way to minimize it.

Dual-fuel generators give you the advantage of running propane, which generators process more quietly than gas. Most dual-fuel generators produce between 50 dB (roughly the same as a refrigerator) and 90 dB (about the same as a small-engine motorcycle).

Size, weight, and features

There may be other logistical considerations you’ll want to keep in mind based on your specific needs and setup, such as the specific dimensions of the generator and how much it weighs. If your generator sits at home for backup power, size and weight might not be much of an issue. For mobile uses like camping or worksites, however, you’re going to want something you can move without too much strain.

There are also a number of physical features for transportation that are common but not universal, like wheels or a lift hook bar to hook onto a crane. You may also find special safety features, such as CO2 safety shutoffs, over-speed shutoffs, or high-temperature alarms. For better or worse, none of these features are ubiquitous enough to be “must-have” features across the board, but you should absolutely look for generators with the specific features that feel important to you.

The best dual-fuel generators: Reviews & Recommendations

Our favorite dual-fuel inverter generators span a range of purposes. Some are designed as reliable backup power sources for an entire home. Others are small and portable, giving you just enough juice for a camping trip or short blackout. Our list features generators of all shapes and sizes, so you can find something that suits your needs and budget.

Best overall: DuroMax XP12000EH

DuroMax

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: With its high output and heavy-duty build quality, the DuroMax XP12000EH will keep the lights on and more.

Specs

  • Rated output: 9,500W
  • Peak output: 12,000W
  • Gas tank capacity: 8.3 gallons
  • Weight: 238 lbs
  • Volume: 74 dB
  • Starter: Electric and pull

Pros

  • Solid output
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Power Boost for bigger appliances and RVs
  • Wheel kit included

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Expensive
  • Some owners report limited customer service support

The DuroMax XP12000EH is a true workhorse of a dual-fuel generator. With a steady output of 9,500W, it’s more than powerful enough to provide electricity to an entire home, and its 12,000W peak output allows it to provide extra power if there’s suddenly a much larger need. It also has a large 8.3-gallon gas tank, so it can run for a long time on petrol alone.

What’s more, XP12000EH has a reputation for providing outstanding reliability. It was built for rugged uses, like on a work site, and its all-metal construction ensures that it can handle a bit of roughhousing. All that metal and gas capacity does mean that it’s very heavy, though. At 238 pounds, you’re not going to be moving this around a whole lot, and forget about taking it camping. But it does come with a wheel kit, so that may help ease the load over short distances. 

Best small: A-iPower SUA2000iD

A-iPower

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Buy it used or refurbished here: eBay

Why it made the cut: The A-iPower SUA2000iD makes dual-fuel power as portable as it can be.

Specs

  • Rated output: 1,600W
  • Peak output: 2,000W
  • Gas tank capacity: 1.1 gallons
  • Weight: 55 lbs
  • Volume: 55 dB
  • Starter: Electric

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Quiet
  • Affordable
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • Limited power
  • Limited gas capacity

It’s not easy to find a genuinely portable dual-fuel generator, but this little guy from A-iPower manages to deliver solid output in a surprisingly small package. At roughly the size of two stacked shoeboxes, the A-iPower SUA2000iD will fit nicely into a van or RV. While 55 pounds isn’t light, per se, it is the lightest dual-fuel generator I’ve found to date. It’s also about as loud as an electric toothbrush, so … not very loud at all.

You aren’t getting the same power as a full-sized generation—1,600-2,000 watts—but that’s more than enough to keep your small appliances going and your devices charged. Owners have reported that their generators are still running strong after more than 5 years, so the construction quality is clearly solid. Again, the gas tank is pretty small, but that’s actually an advantage in this case.

Best portable: Westinghouse iGen4500DF

Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: If you need to take plenty of power camping or to the job site, the Westinghouse iGen4500DF is a great choice.

Specs

  • Rated output: 3,700W
  • Peak output: 4,500W
  • Gas tank capacity: 3.4 gallons
  • Weight: 104.7 lbs
  • Volume: 52 dB
  • Starter: Electric

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Plenty of power output
  • Quiet
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy for a “portable” generator

If you need lots of power and the ability to move your generator around, the Westinghouse iGen4500DF is the best semi-portable option we know of. It’s a little bit larger than our “best small” pick and almost twice as heavy. Still, it’s significantly more compact and portable than most dual-fuel generators, with a similar 3,700-4,500W output. That’s plenty of power for a large camping expedition, an RV, or a work site. 

Best electric start: Wen DF1100X

WEN

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Why it made the cut: For an easy startup and lots of safety features, check out the Wen DF1100X.

Specs

  • Rated output: 8,300W
  • Peak output: 11,000W
  • Gas tank capacity: 6.6 gallons
  • Weight: 213.8 lbs
  • Volume: 72 dB
  • Starter: Electric

Pros

  • Plenty of power output
  • CO2 shutdown safety sensor
  • Relatively quiet

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

It isn’t all that uncommon for a dual-fuel generator to have an electric start switch—all of the recommendations on this list have them, either solely or alongside a pull cord. The Wen DF1100X sets itself apart with an automatic stop mechanism that can cut power in an emergency.

The Wen DF1100X comes in several packages but we specifically recommend the model with a built-in CO2 shutdown sensor, which is important if you’ll be running the generator in a garage or otherwise poorly ventilated space.

With a hefty 8,300-11,000W output, above-average gas capacity, and a relatively low operating volume, the Wen DF1100X is a powerhouse of a generator. It’s both expensive and heavy, but if you’re looking for an easy-on, safety-off option, it’s a solid investment.

Best budget: DuroMax Duro Star DS5500EH

DuroMax

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Why it made the cut: With its relatively high output, relatively low price, and solid construction, the Duro Star DS5500EH is a solid budget-conscious pick.

Specs

  • Rated output: 4,500W
  • Peak output: 5,500W
  • Gas tank capacity: 3.9 gallons
  • Weight: 124 lbs
  • Volume: 69 dB
  • Starter: Electric and pull

Pros

  • Solid output for price
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Relatively portable

Cons

  • Not powerful enough for an entire home
  • Some owners report limited customer service support

The DuroMax Duro Star DS5500EH is effectively a smaller, more affordable version of our best overall pick. At just under half the price of the DuroMax XP12000EH, the Duro Star DS5500EH delivers about half the power. A 4,500W generator gives you plenty of power if you’re charging up an RV, topping off power tools at a work site, or keeping key appliances on during a power outage.

At just over 100 pounds, it’s not exactly light, but it’s also not so heavy that you can’t get it around. It wouldn’t take too much wrangling to bring it camping, especially thanks to the inclusion of wheels.

FAQs

Q: Are dual-fuel generators worth it?

While dual-fuel generators tend to be slightly more expensive than traditional generators, they are more fuel-efficient, which lowers costs in the long run. They’re also significantly quieter when running on propane rather than gas, which is great if you’ll plan to keep it within earshot.

Dual-fuel generators are also extremely valuable in a situation where fuel isn’t readily available. If you’re preparing for a natural disaster like a hurricane, for example, it’s better to be capable of using whatever fuel you can get your hands on.

Q: What is the most powerful dual-fuel generator?

Theoretically, the sky’s the limit in terms of power. In reality, though, the most powerful consumer-grade dual-fuel generators top out at around 12,000W.

Q: Is it better to run a dual-fuel generator on gas or propane?

Gas produces more power but the generator runs more quietly while using propane and it’s less damaging to the environment. Having a dual-fuel generator means you get to choose, or at least have access to both options.

Q: How long will a dual-fuel generator run on propane?

That depends entirely on the size of your propane tank, the generator’s engine, and the amount of power it’s generating. For example, our “best overall” pick can run for about seven hours at 25% power output capacity using a typical 20-pound propane tank.

Q: What is the difference between an inverter and a generator?

A generator produces the electricity, while a power inverter stores and reconverts the energy for use. Virtually all consumer-grade generators have inverters integrated into them.

Q: Who makes the quietest dual-fuel generator?

The quietest dual-fuel generator you’re going to find produces around 50 dB. At 52 dB, our “best portable” pick, the Westinghouse iGen4500DF, is about as quiet as they come.

Final thoughts on dual-fuel generators

A dual-fuel generator can really be an asset when you’re camping or when prepping for an emergency. That said, it is a major investment, so make sure you’re buying the right size generator for whatever you’re doing. To power a whole house, bigger is obviously better. But for powering an RV or a casual blackout backup, you might be better off with something more portable. Also, consider the possibility that a more environmentally friendly power solution, like a solar generator, might be able to give you the power you need with a smaller carbon footprint.

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