Are you wondering which type of fuel you need to heat your home this winter? Propane and natural gas are the two most common types of fuels used in the US. Your house will be set up to only use one type of fuel. This may have you wondering what the difference is between propane and natural gas.
Propane and natural gas are both clean-burning fossil fuels. Natural gas remains in a gaseous state. It flows to the household through an underground pipeline as needed. Propane is converted to a liquid state. It gets delivered to the property and is stored in a tank to be used as needed.
There are quite a few things that set propane and natural gas apart. Today, we’re going to break down the major differences between these two fuel sources. Read on to learn more about them.
What Is Propane?
Propane is a compressed gas that’s stored in a liquid state. It can be used for heating your home, gas stoves, and barbecues. What you might not have known is that propane is produced through natural gas processing, making it a component of natural gas.
However, it’s much different than the natural gas that’s used to bring heat into your home. Propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.
Since propane is a liquid, it’s stored in a tank. You can purchase small tanks of propane to use on a barbecue. Houses that use propane for heat will have a tank that it’s stored in. A truck will deliver propane directly to the tank.
Many homeowners rely on propane to heat their homes throughout the winter months. If your home uses this heat source, you may be wondering what the ups and downs of using propane are.
|Clean burning & non-toxic||Produces fewer BTUs per gallon (less heat)|
|Use one source to deliver heat to all of your household appliances||The initial cost of the heating system is more expensive|
|More flexibility in where the vent is installed||Propane is combustible if it comes into contact with high amounts of oxygen|
|Tanks can store a large capacity of fuel|
What Is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a fossil fuel, similar to propane. This gas is a mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons that forms naturally underneath the ground. It remains in a gaseous state and doesn’t convert to liquid as propane does. This is one of the key differences that set the two fuels apart.
So, you might be wondering how homeowners are able to get natural gas in their homes as a heat source. Houses that are set up to use natural gas don’t have a tank to store it in. Instead, the gas travels in through pipes.
Basically, the gas will flow into the house as needed to keep the house at a consistent temperature. The pipelines allow the homeowners to get the gas directly from the source. This means they won’t have to worry about arranging a delivery to keep their house warm.
Now that you know a bit more about natural gas heat, you might be wondering about some of the ups and downs of using it.
|Homeowners only pay for what they use||Difficult to detect leaks|
|Cleaner heat alternative than oil||Can emit carbon dioxide|
|Widely available||Non-renewable energy source|
|Most environmentally-friendly fossil fuel|
Differences Between Propane and Natural Gas
Now that you have a better understanding of propane and natural gas, you might want to know more about the differences between them. There are 5 major differences between these two types of fossil fuels. Let’s take a look at what they are.
Budget is one of the first things that comes to mind for most homeowners. Homeowners want to know how they will be paying to use each fuel source. When it comes to fuel, the prices are always changing. What you pay one month could be substantially higher or lower than the next month.
The price of fuel also varies between locations. That being said, natural gas costs less per gallon than propane. Don’t let that be the final verdict when it comes to price. Both fuels burn a gallon at different rates.
In the long run, propane can be a budget-friendly choice. This is because of the BTUs. The same measurement of natural gas and propane in gallons or cubic feet will not work out to be the same BTU.
To understand how much heat the fuel distributes, you need to refer to the BTU. 100 cubic feet of propane will have a higher amount of BTU than 100 cubic feet of natural gas. Therefore, while the upfront cost of natural gas seems cheaper, you actually get more fuel for your money with propane.
Propane and natural gas are both very efficient fuel sources. However, natural gas is slightly more efficient than propane. Natural gas has an efficiency rating of 92%, while propane is 87%. When compared to other sources of heat, these are some of the more energy-efficient options.
These ratings are based on how much energy is consumed during the entire process of heating. A heat source with a high-efficiency rating doesn’t use a lot of energy, while a low rating means a lot of energy is used.
For example, electric heating has an efficiency rating of 32%. That is why households with electric heat have a much higher electricity bill in the winter than households that use fuel heating.
There is only a 5% difference in efficiency between the two sources. For that reason, making the switch from propane to natural gas won’t make a big difference in your energy bill.
You may be wondering how the fuel gets to you. The system for natural gas is slightly more complicated than propane. This is because the natural gas travels into your house through an underground pipeline. You will not be able to get natural gas without this pipeline.
Houses with natural gas never have to worry about if they have enough heat for the winter. The gas will come to them as they need it. On the same note, households only pay for what they use with natural gas.
The process for getting propane to your house isn’t complicated either. However, you will need to keep track of the fuel levels in your tank to avoid running out. Households must order propane as they need it.
Most houses have a large propane tank. This allows families to fill it up to have enough fuel to get them through the cold season without running out. They pay one time and don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the season. Many homeowners prefer this over the surprise of a high heating bill after it’s been used.
Both sources of heat are fossil fuels. Fossil fuels don’t have the best reputation for clean energy. However, natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Propane is also known to be a cleaner source of fossil fuel as well.
One of the biggest problems with fossil fuels is that they emit carbon dioxide into the air. This puts the environment at risk because carbon dioxide gets trapped in the air, causing global warming.
When it comes to being environmentally friendly, there’s one thing a lot of people don’t consider. It’s much hard for people to detect a natural gas leak. This can be very dangerous for the environment.
Propane leaks are much easier to detect because you can see and smell them. On top of that, propane isn’t harmful if it’s leaked into the ground or a water source.
Both propane and natural gas are safe to heat your house with. On the same note, they are both highly flammable. That means that they need to be handled with extreme care. If there is ever a problem with either fuel source, it must be assessed by a professional.
We don’t want to cause our readers to worry. After all, if your propane tank or gas pipeline was professionally installed, there shouldn’t be a need to worry. However, we do have to mention safety because it’s important to know what risks are involved.
Now, it is possible for propane tanks to explode. However, it’s highly unlikely that they will. There is a very low impact on propane tanks. For this reason, it’s extremely rare for them to explode or put people’s safety at risk.
There have been reported instances of faulty gas lines exploding. One of the main reasons the gas lines got to this point was because the gas leaking from them was odorless. More gas companies are beginning to add sulfur to natural gas so people can detect a leak and prevent hazards from occurring.
Which Should You Use?
As you can see, there are pros and cons to using both types of fuels. Most houses are already set up to have one or the other. For this reason, some homeowners may not have a choice in which one they use. It is possible to convert from one to the other. However, this is a very big renovation that often costs between $8,000 and $12,000.
So, what if someone is building a house on a piece of land? When it comes down to it, the right choice will depend on the homeowner and their preferences.
- For some homeowners, natural gas is the right choice. They feel good about using the most eco-friendly fuel source available. It’s also easy knowing that they don’t have to keep tabs on how much heat is left. They can use the heat as they need it.
- Propane is the right choice for other situations. Ultimately, homeowners can get more heat for their dollar when they choose propane. It’s also a great choice if you plan on doing renovations on the property because you can move the propane tank.
Now that you know a bit more about propane and natural gas, you can choose the right one for your situation. If you still aren’t sure which direction to go in, we recommend contacting a local HVAC specialist. They will be able to teach you more about what’s available and the best heating system for your house.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.