When it comes to both residential and industrial heating solutions, propane, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is a popular choice for fuel. One common alternative is natural gas, which is often marketed as environmentally friendly and affordable. Sometimes people mistakenly interchange these terms, but propane and natural gas are two different things, and they have different qualities, advantages, and disadvantages when it comes to heating.
Natural gas is a mixture of gases, including methane, carbon dioxide, butane, ethane, and, yes, propane. Propane is just one gas extracted during natural gas processing, then pressurized and put into tanks as a liquid. Each fuel has its benefits in certain applications, so when it comes to LPG versus natural gas, it’s important to understand the difference to determine which one is right for you.
Propane offers a number of advantages over natural gas:
Propane is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing about half the emissions of gasoline. It’s not toxic and it does not damage the environment before or after combustion. Natural gas, on the other hand, is considered a clean-burning fuel (as it is cleaner than coal or gas), but it contains methane—a greenhouse gas that contributes to pollution.
Heat is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). One BTU is the energy required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree (F), and propane does that better than natural gas. For example, a 100,000 BTU/h furnace would use about 97 cubic feet of natural gas every hour, while the same furnace burning propane would only use about 40 cubic feet of fuel in that time frame. Propane allows for a more energy efficient system.
Keep in mind that when buying propane, it’ll be measured in gallons or liters, while natural gas is measured in cubic feet or cubic meters.
Propane is more expensive than natural gas, but you have to consider the fuel efficiency when evaluating your actual cost over time. The same amount of propane produces about twice as much heat as natural gas. Compare the price of the same amount of propane and natural gas, then double that number on the natural gas. That will give you a better idea of how much it will cost to produce the same amount of heat using natural gas.
Storage and Transport
Propane is stored in tanks, which can be easily transported to your property. Natural gas requires a pipeline that pipes the fuel directly to your location. If that infrastructure isn’t already in place, the cost of your natural gas system just increased considerably, and you’ll have to deal with a construction project on your property as well.
Natural Gas Advantages
Natural gas has unique advantages and may be the preferred choice in certain applications.
The cost of natural gas and propane can vary by region and provider; in some areas, natural gas is cheaper than propane, even when considering the difference in fuel efficiency. If your building already has the natural gas infrastructure, it may turn out to be a cheaper alternative than propane.
Propane is denser than natural gas, and it doesn’t dissipate as quickly if it gets released into the atmosphere. Accordingly, there is a slightly increased risk of explosion with propane because of how it’s stored. Fortunately, gas leaks are rare, but a sulfur-based compound is added to both propane and natural gas (which are otherwise odorless) to ensure a leak can be detected by smell.
LPG vs. Natural Gas: Which One Is Right For You?
It’s important to consider your existing space and infrastructure, heating needs, and budget when choosing between these two fuels. Although both propane and natural gas are popular choices, LPG is more versatile. It’s a clear winner for fuel efficiency, and generally better for the environment.
Since 1968, IPS Equipment has been a trusted provider of propane services and equipment to propane retailers across the US. As a third-generation, family-operated company, we’ve long been focused on high-level customer service and personalized attention, and we have a wide range of commercial propane equipment solutions to suit your needs. Contact us to learn more about our products and services and our long history of excellence in this industry.