The Differences between Natural Gas Versus Propane for Heat

January 19, 2021

When searching for a home or trying to find the best way to manage the utilities, heating costs are a significant consideration. Many people compare the cost and benefits of different heating options like electric, propane, or natural gas. In this blog, we will break down the differences and give you the most critical things to consider before you decide between natural gas and propane.

Propane and natural gas have a wide cost variance

Propane is usually more expensive than natural gas because of the way it burns and the delivery method. Also, the same amount of propane produces about twice as much heat as gas since it burns hotter than natural gas. In some areas, natural gas is more economical, and in others, propane costs less. The reason is that some areas are more rural than others, where there may not be a natural gas supplier in the area. Both products are more efficient and less expensive than electricity.

Propane tanks store the product

They compress propane into a liquid form and sell it in portable canisters. Customers will either go to a retail location themselves or turn to a company for delivery. Some propane companies deliver larger quantities of it via a truck to a permanent storage tank on the homeowners’ property. The customer chooses which method is most cost effective and works for their needs.

Gas comes from an underground line

Natural gas remains in its gaseous state, and the supplier delivers it to the home via a pipeline. The homeowner pays a monthly cost for service. The supplier calculates the cost of the bill according to how much gas the homeowner uses each month. With propane, the suppliers charge their fees upfront.

Appliances are a concern for some homeowners

Since propane burns hotter than gas, it requires different fittings to supply the fuel to appliances and home heating systems. Some newer equipment will work for either heating option, but a technician must calibrate them for the type of fuel the homeowner chooses. It is important to know what fuel your systems require because operating an appliance designed for propane on natural gas will result in an unnecessarily large flame. Conversely, trying to use a propane appliance with natural gas will likely result in a very small flame or no burner flame at all.

The variation is because of the way each type of fuel burns. Natural gas orifices are larger than propane, to allow extra fuel to flow through at lower pressure. Propane orifices are smaller, to account for the higher pressure and increased energy output.

The lowdown on the environmental impacts of propane versus natural gas

Natural gas is a greenhouse gas, and it burns roughly 50 percent fewer emissions than coal. However, the toxicity of natural gas is higher than propane, which is not toxic or damaging to the environment. Many people make their decision because of how clean propane is for the Earth. If propane were to leak into the ground, it would not harm the local water or soil. However, both products are eco-friendly fuels versus electricity.

Other contrasting characteristics

Natural gas delivery is constant to the house and appliance. This means there is no need to go searching for a container exchange station or keeping in contact with your local propane supplier. Natural gas requires digging up your yard to bring in a pipeline for converting your appliances to natural gas. There is also the fee of hiring a contractor.

Another thing to consider is access and mobility. Propane tanks are portable and can easily work if other systems in your house malfunction, or if you need to move to another location. Natural gas comes into one spot in the home and gas pipes direct the fuel to appliances via fixed supply lines.

The importance of having a licensed HVAC specialist convert propane to natural gas

Some appliances come with a conversion kit to change to natural gas from propane. Older units will not have this item. We can order these kits or help you find a replacement depending on the cost and option you select. If you need new appliances or heating units to use natural gas, then we can help you determine the right size option that will keep your home comfortable and cozy all winter long. Switching over the supply nozzles and connections is not the only thing to do. There are burners and regulators that will need adjusting from a knowledgeable technician.

How to know if the cost of natural gas conversion is worth it

Our HVAC specialists at American Service Company RVA can help you compare the costs and work of both fuel options. We can assist you with which choice that will require the least work or cost, or we can help you find the best way to help the environment. Our goal is to find the most efficient, affordable, and effective way to heat your home. Call us today for your estimate at 804-489-2863.