If you’re going pipe welding and you’re going to rig up, what will be the best? Gas? Diesel? Propane?
A gasoline powered welder is the best choice if money is your biggest consideration. A used welder (in my opinion makes a lot of sense if you find a garage queen. This article is not about brands, but in my opinion, I would stick with Lincoln or Miller for three reasons.
American made. Yes, the Chinese are starting to make some good stuff, but they are NOT there yet when it comes to welders.
Parts availability. Just about every welding shop in every town is going to have parts for what’s living in the bed of your truck.
Copper windings. Copper and aluminum are used for conducting and creating electricity. Copper is superior. Why? I don’t really know, but I know this: A 1980 Lincoln Pipeliner with copper windings will weld so smooth you’ll think it’s an ice cream sundae.
Which fuel will you choose?
Gas is everywhere and easy to get. It is clean. It isn’t a big deal if you spill a little. However, gas has a problem – it isn’t as efficient as diesel. Cars are a good example. A VW Beetle with a diesel in it will get as much as 54 MPG on the highway. That same exact car in gas will max out at about 35 MPG. THAT my friend can mean a lot of money if we’re talking about feeding a welder that is sitting in North Dakota running for 12 or more hours a day.
Let’s do a little math.
Let’s say an older diesel Pipeliner uses a gallon an hour in average use. At $4.00 a gallon, that’s $48 a day. The same welder running gasoline would probably consume about 1.5 gallons an hour under the same conditions. 1.5 X 12 = 18 gallons at say $3.75 = $67.50. The difference is about $20 a day. Let’s say you’re running it 300 days a year, so 300 X $20 = $6,000. AND let’s say you’re going to run this welder four years, so that’s $24,000 difference.
What about propane?
Propane is fairly cheap, and where you’ll be welding, it is probably $2.00 a gallon. A gasoline engine running on propane will burn more fuel because gas has more BTU’s in then propane (and diesel has more BTU’s than gasoline). Let’s say we’re going to use 20 gallons of propane X $2.00 = $40 a day in fuel cost. OK, that’s a little less cost than diesel. Normally, a diesel welder would be more expensive than a gasoline welder, but by the time you get a propane kit on it, and a tank, you’re going to be just about at a draw.
Propane has another advantage – it burns super clean. You can stretch your oil changes out. All things being equal, I still think I would go with diesel. Why?
Propane can have a bad habit of not being easy to get when you need it. It also always means moving the truck to another location to fuel the welder. On the other hand, your truck will probably be diesel, and so, one stop and you can slop the truck and the welder.
Take your time if you’re going to buy a used welder. Find that sweet garage queen that still has the paint on it. You’ll be glad you waited. If you do decide to go with propane, do your best to find a welder already set up for propane. Welders have to move to another trade for any number of reasons, and companies go under. Look for auctions and complete rigs that ready to go. Consider all your options.
You can put “All of Craigslist” into a Google search and you’ll search everywhere (great for price comparisons.