Many people dislike gasoline and diesel generators because they’re loud, produce an abundance of air pollution, and have a never-ending cost on fuel, which is usually in short supply when you need it most.
As the demand for backup and off-grid power sources continues to rise, so does the search for home generator alternatives.
Whether you’re looking for something quieter or just something a little more conducive to your living circumstances, here are eight generator alternatives that don’t require gas or diesel to operate.
1. Solar Generators
Solar generators have become quite popular over the last decade and are the most popular alternative to gas and diesel generators. They offer a variety of advantages over gasoline and diesel, but they also have a higher initial price point.
Whether you’re thinking in terms of a backup power supply or a power source for your entire off-grid cabin, you’ll need to weigh your costs carefully.
While the initial cost for solar is much higher due to expensive but necessary solar panels, once you’ve recovered that, you have free power for the lifespan of the generator.
Going solar also means no fuel storage or pollution. But free power isn’t the only perk of solar generators. They’re also 100% noise-free and require little maintenance.
Unfortunately, solar generators lack reliable efficiency during cloud cover and winter months, so if you’re not in an area with sufficient consistent sunshine, you might need an additional backup generator.
2. Inverter Generators (Portable Power Station)
Many people use the terms solar generator and inverter generator interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two.
To clarify, an inverter is a large battery that stores power for later use. They are usually recharged via wall outlets (when power is available), car batteries, and even solar panels.
An inverter generator is best for your electronic devices because it creates a more consistent power wave, minimizing the risk of power surges. Unfortunately, they are traditionally more expensive than conventional gas and diesel generators.
Additionally, inverter generators have lower output options that limit their capacity to power entire homes for extended periods of time.
3. Wind Generators
Wind generators are most commonly used in conjunction with solar generators to increase their efficiency levels. For a wind generator to be successful as a standalone system, not only do they require a wind turbine, but they also require additional equipment, such as batteries and charge controllers.
Some are only powerful enough for a few devices, while others are powerful enough to supply your entire home. If you’re looking for more than just a backup power supply, then guidance from a qualified renewable energy expert is recommended.
Portable wind turbines make good backup options during emergencies. These simple devices are commonly used while camping or visiting your off-grid cabin for the weekend.
Unfortunately, wind energy is extremely intermittent and unreliable since it is totally dependent on the weather. Additionally, storing wind energy is both challenging and costly.
4. Biodiesel Generators
Predominantly viewed as a solution to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiesel generators are becoming more and more popular. Biofuel is derived from animal fats, recycled restaurant grease, and vegetable oils and is considered safe and biodegradable.
Biodiesel is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly when compared to more popular gasoline and diesel generators. Unfortunately, the majority of biodiesel fuels are made by backyard brewers, so this fuel supply is not readily available at your local gas station.
Biodiesel generators use an electric generator combined with a diesel engine to generate electricity. As such, you can use biodiesel fuel to run your diesel generator.
In truth, there’s not much advantage to biodiesel generators other than the fact that they are environmentally friendly.
Not only is biodiesel fuel harder to come by, but it also requires mass storage, which is one of the main downfalls of conventional gas and diesel generators. Additionally, because biodiesel is a natural solvent, it is notorious for clogging fuel filters and degrading hoses, gaskets, and seals.
Biodiesel is also hygroscopic, which can contribute to the overall corrosion of your fuel system.
5. Water Generators (Hydro-Generator)
For larger-scale operations capable of powering entire homes, hydro-generators are the perfect option for the off-grid homestead that has access to a naturally flowing water source. Hydro-generators require more of a DIY approach, and there are a variety of builds to choose from.
If you have the right skill set and the right parts, you can achieve 100% free energy with a hydro-generator.
Alternatively, small-scale commercially available hydro-generators are sometimes used for emergencies, small off-grid cabins, or even outdoor adventures like camping and hiking.
The WaterLily Turbine, for example, generates both water and wind power for your favorite devices. These smaller devices usually offer in the neighborhood of 5 volts/15 watts of power.
Some hydro-generators can connect directly to your water faucet, meaning you can generate small amounts of power as long as you can maintain running water during a power outage.
Unfortunately, these smaller devices lack sufficient power for your entire home and are best reserved for powering your favorite electronic devices or a few lights.
6. Manual Generators
People use a variety of manual generators for emergencies, but the most common commercially available ones are hand-crank generators. These lightweight, simple-to-operate generators typically power small devices around 150 watts or less.
There are also many DIY versions ranging in size and complexity. This bicycle generator, for example, is capable of powering small electronic devices and kitchen appliances.
Of course, it comes at the cost of physical labor.
7. Magnetic Generators
Magnetic generators create electricity through electromagnetism by creating a flow of electrons through copper wires.
You don’t see too many magnetic generators available for commercial purchases, although they do exist. However, you’ll see plenty of do-it-yourself designs floating around the internet.
These DIY designs are typically sufficient to light a few bulbs, but you’ll be hard-pressed to generate much more power than that. Additionally, you cannot control the output voltage of these simple magnetic devices.
On the bright side, at least, you’ll never be left in the dark.
8. Coal Generator
If you’re really into the DIY scene, this rare coal generator offers a unique generator alternative. Many self-reliant individuals have improved upon these basic construction plans, originally published by FEMA, to offset some of the known issues resulting from coal generators, like bio-crude.
Also known as wood gasifiers, these machines are not easy to build and require a certain degree of shop skills, especially welding.
These coal generators are about as loud as gas and diesel generators, so they are not ideal if you’re looking for something quiet. On the other hand, they’re the perfect free power source if you have an abundance of trees on your property.
Even better, they’re eco-friendly since wood gasifiers utilize a renewable resource and burn wood without increasing the carbon in the atmosphere.