Propane vs Natural Gas: What’s The Difference?

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Propane and natural gas are two of the most popular home fueling options. They are both useful in heating houses and running certain appliances. A lot of people seem to confuse the two, thinking that they are synonymous. However, they may have similarities but they are two distinct types of fuel. In this article, we discuss propane vs. natural gas and their differences.

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Propane vs Natural Gas: What’s The Difference?

Below, we discuss some of the differences between natural gas and propane fuel.

What Is Natural Gas?

Natural gas comes from the chemical reactions that occur under the Earth’s surface. It forms over millions of years as heat and pressure change layers of decomposing organic matter. Companies extract this gas from deep inside the ground. It is actually a mixture of gasses, with the bulk of it being methane. It also has small amounts of ethane, butane, and propane.

What Is Propane?

image of a propane tank that is empty

On the other hand, propane is not naturally occurring. We get it as a by-product when we process natural gas or refine petroleum. It is usually compressed into liquid form before being stored and delivered to homes. That is why it is also known as LPG or liquefied petroleum gas. In the US, around 90% of the amount consumed is produced domestically.

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What Are The Differences Between Propane And Natural Gas?

1. Environmental Effects

image of environment depicting propane

One of the main draws of propane is that it burns clean. It is among the best fossil fuels to use if you are concerned about the environmental impact. Compared to gasoline, it will only produce half of the carbon dioxide which is a significant reduction. It can be used without worries about harming nearby water or soil.

Natural gas burns clean as well relative to other fossil fuels. However, natural gas leaks can be detrimental to the environment because of its high methane content. Methane is a much more damaging greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide. Fortunately, accidental leaks are rare and unlikely. Both propane and natural gas are seen as more eco-friendly than coal-powered electricity.

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2. Safety Considerations

image of paper cut out of family in hands depicting propane safety

These fuels are both difficult to detect because they are colorless and odorless. Manufacturers use additives to give them a strong smell to quickly alert people about leaks. The chemical mercaptan is harmless but it does produce a foul smell. Many link the odor to rotten eggs. If you ever sense this unusual smell, then this might indicate a leak. You should immediately put out any flames around the house such as on candles and stoves. If you have a propane tank, turn off the supply. Don’t touch plugs of household electronics as these can create explosive sparks. Just go outside and call an emergency hotline for assistance.

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3. Installation And Conversion

These fuels require their own special gas fittings. You can switch from one to the other but you will need a conversion kit to make it happen. However, there might be limitations that are beyond your control. For example, natural gas is often delivered to homes using a network of underground pipes owned and operated by utility companies. If you live in an area without this service, then you will have to look for alternatives.

As for propane, you will have a more flexible fuel that doesn’t depend on pipe networks. The substance is stored in tanks that can be refilled when empty. You can opt for small tanks to ensure portability. You can also get bigger tanks for higher capacity such as for residential use. These large ones can be several feet long so they will have to be stored outside above ground or underground.

4. Storage And Delivery

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If you live in a remote area, then you are unlikely to have access to natural gas service. Propane is more suitable for your situation as you can get your tank filled for domestic use. Unless you use an automatic propane delivery service, you will need to monitor your usage and call for a refill in a timely manner. This way, you never run out of fuel. However, you should still prepare for emergencies and delays in delivery during harsh weather conditions.

As for natural gas, homeowners will always have access if they are connected to the pipelines. It is similar to water in that they can tap the supply whenever they need it and get billed for the amount they consumed. Gas leaks can be continuous and costly as they will be billed as an increase in consumption. On the other hand, propane leaks are always limited to the contents of the tank.

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5. Energy Efficiency

energy efficient homePropane can produce more than double the heat of natural gas. The energy produced by fuel can be measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. If you have one cubic foot of natural gas, then you can produce 1,030 BTUs. If you have the same amount of propane, then you can produce 2,516 BTUs. The difference is profound. If you are after a higher level of energy efficiency, then propane is the way to go.

6. Cost Of Consumption

When it comes to the cost, you will find propane being sold at higher prices per unit volume. However, knowledgeable people will know that a direct comparison is not a fair way to do it since propane can provide a higher heating efficiency. You will need to multiply the amount of natural gas by about 2.5x to achieve the same results that you can get from propane. This balances things out and may shift the advantage to propane depending on the actual prevailing prices in the area.


Final Words

As you can see, propane and natural gas have significant differences. Propane has excellent safety and energy efficiency. Natural gas comes with convenient access.

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When you need a reliable propane delivery service on the southern shoreline of Connecticut, be sure to contact Wilcox Energy. We offer high-quality fuel deliveries that are fast, affordable, and friendly.

You can count on Wilcox Energy to provide you with unbeatable service each and every time.

Give Wilcox Energy a call today to discuss our different delivery plans and financing options.

We also offer a full line of HVAC services to enhance your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Some of the services that we offer include heater tune-ups, furnace repairs, HVAC installations, and much, much more. Call now!

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For more information about our propane deliveries or HVAC services, contact Wilcox Energy. You can click here to contact us or you can call us at (860) 399-6218. We offer a full line of affordable and trusted home comfort services.