Propane and natural gas are both popular fuels used for heating homes and powering appliances across the country. If you have the option of using either, how do you know which is the best choice? The answer is not as straightforward as you may think, as both have pros and cons. Here, we’ll compare propane vs. natural gas so you can make the right decision for your home.
What’s the Difference Between Propane & Natural Gas?
Propane and natural gas are both fossil fuels, and both are largely produced domestically. For homeowners, the main difference between the two is that propane is compressed into a liquid form and either sold in portable canisters, or delivered via truck to a permanent storage tank on their property. Natural gas, however, remains in its gaseous state and is delivered to the home via a pipeline.
Natural Gas or Propane: Which Is Cheaper?
For homes that have the option of choosing between natural gas and propane heat, cost is often the most important concern. Natural gas rates are measured in price per cubic foot, whereas propane rates are measured in price per gallon. Like all fuels, the cost of both propane and natural gas is prone to fluctuation over time.
Historically, when you convert between units and compare average rates, it may appear that natural gas is the cheaper option. However, the real cost for your home will depend on a number of factors, including where you live and the efficiency of your furnace and appliances.
Another, perhaps more useful comparison between the two fuels is not price per unit, but rather BTU. BTU is a measure of heating efficiency – in the case of propane vs. natural gas, propane has more than double the BTU rating (1030 to 2490). This means that, even if you are paying more for propane on a per-unit basis, the fuel you’re buying will burn cleaner and heat your home with greater efficiency.
So, does its superior burning power mean propane is automatically the best choice for your home? Not necessarily. As with any energy decision, there are a number of other things that are worth considering. For example:
- While natural gas is delivered automatically to your home, propane levels can also be monitored and filled automatically by your propane provider, which means you’ll have a professional regularly helping to address your fuel needs.
- While propane’s portability may seem to be a weakness, it can actually be an advantage – if you use it to power a gas grill, you’ll have more freedom to set up a barbecue anywhere in your yard.
- In addition to the this, propane can be used for a variety of different home appliances, from stoves to clothes dryers, giving you off-grid independence if other utilities fail.
Switching from one fuel source to another may require purchasing a new furnace, stove, grill and other appliances, or in some cases making expensive infrastructure upgrades. Even if natural gas does turn out to be cheaper for your home, this investment can take years to recoup.
Case Study: Natural Gas vs. Propane Grills
One simpler way to look at the pros and cons of natural gas vs. propane is to look at one specific application. Natural gas grills are a popular way to start grilling in your backyard, in part because they appear cheaper initially. Despite this, however, propane is the fuel of choice for most barbecues, and for good reason – its greater BTU rating provides the higher heats that home grilling enthusiasts love and can actually be more cost efficient because of the additional heat per unit.
Learn More about the Benefits of Propane:
- Propane Energy Pods
- How Switching to Propane Can Save Businesses Money
- Virginia Propane Tax Credit
- Propane Vs. Electric Heat: Which is Better?
Post updated on January 14th, 2019