Can you use biodiesel in your generator?

Because we are in the U.S. state that many see as the leader in environmental protection and sustainability, it’s no wonder that we have customers curious about using biodiesel in their portable backup generators and stationary backup generators.

What to Consider When Using Biodiesel in Your Generator

Warranty and Support. As with just about any piece of equipment, it’s important to recognize that the manufacturer will recommend specific operating conditions and maintenance procedures. Using the equipment in a way that is outside of those recommendations may void your warranty or at least make it more complicated for the manufacturer (or factory-trained service partners like CD & Power) to provide you with support. We recommend reviewing warranty documentation and checking with the manufacturer if possible.

Maintenance Costs. As mentioned above, your diesel generator was designed and manufactured to operate reliably under certain conditions. The brands that we sell and service are definitely rugged pieces of equipment that (when well maintained) will do their jobs when called upon. BUT, they are also very sophisticated. Not only does it take regular service to ensure that your generator is poised to perform, it takes the right materials for it to operate at its peak – the right filters, fuel, coolant lubricants, etc.

When servicing generators that have been running on biodiesel, we’ve noticed (and had to resolve) significant problems that don’t occur in systems running on traditional fuel.

  • Risks to fuel system. Unlike traditional diesel fuel, biodiesel acts as a corrosive agent – etching into raw metal throughout the fuel system, including the fuel tank. The resulting rust can cause problems necessitating the replacement of the fuel system. As for the tank, it often needs to be replaced, or at least removed, cleaned and recoated.
  • Increased regular maintenance costs. In order to minimize the corrosive impact of biodiesel, we recommend changing the fuel filter after the first 20 hours of use and every 100 hours thereafter. Additionally, seals and hoses will need to be replaced more frequently on a generator operating on biodiesel. The additional costs of materials and labor to manage this accelerated maintenance schedule should be considered.

Environmental Impact. While the sustainability benefits of biodiesel are significant, its use in fueling a generator does come at an unintended cost. By shortening the usable life of the fuel system, fuel tank, ancillary equipment like seals and hoses, and maintenance items like fuel filters, using biodiesel contributes to more landfill waste than traditional diesel fuel.

As with many things, the right answer for your organization may depend on a variety of factors. If you are considering using biodiesel in your generator, be aware of the additional risks, maintenance costs, and environmental impact.

We are happy to be a resource, so feel free to contact us to discuss your particular situation.

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