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What is the difference between propane and natural gas?

Now more than ever home owners have a wide range of fuel options for heating their home. But, how do you know which is the best for your specific needs and budget? There really is no right or wrong answer as each home is unique. A fuel that may be right for you and your family may not be the best choice for another family. That’s why the best choice is always the most informed choice. The home heating pro’s at Petro break down the difference between propane and natural gas in terms of what the fuel is comprised of, the cost and the impact of each on our environment.

What is propane?

Propane is a hydrocarbon and is sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas, or LPG. Nearly 97% of propane consumed in the United States is produced in North America. It is non-toxic, colorless, and virtually odorless. As with natural gas, an identifying odor is added so the gas can be readily detected.

Propane is one of the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels. Tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that propane-fueled vehicles produce 30% to 90% less carbon monoxide. It’s also non-toxic and not harmful to soil or water. Learn more about propane.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas, like oil and coal, is a fossil fuel, formed deep below the surface of the earth. Scientists believe that natural gas, much like oil, formed millions of years ago when the remains of ancient plants and animals broke down under pressure and heat. This decaying matter is what formed natural gas.

Natural gas is often praised as a clean energy alternative. It burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels, emitting lower levels of harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides. It also produces less greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels.

Boiler room diagram

What else do you need to know about propane & natural gas

Now that you know what these fuels are, you may be asking yourself a few questions. Which one is more cost efficient? And, is one more environmentally-friendly than the other? All of these are important questions when deciding which type of fuel is right for you.

Cost of propane vs natural gas

The cost comparison between propane and natural gas is much easier to determine because unlike electricity, natural gas and propane can be directly compared based on their individual BTU ratings. Let’s assume the cost for natural gas is $15.00 per 1,000 cubic feet. This means that $15.00 will purchase approximately 1.03 million BTU’s of energy. This would be equivalent to 11.26 gallons of propane. At $2.50 per gallon of propane, natural gas would be a more cost effective energy solution. Breaking it down even further, natural gas needs to be more than $28.00 per 1,000 cubic feet for propane to be a more cost effective energy solution (provided the cost for propane is $2.50 per gallon).

Which is better for the environment, natural gas or propane heating systems?

Natural gas, when discharged into the environment is a greenhouse gas whereas propane is not classified as such. Propane is not toxic or damaging and will not harm the environment if it is released into the atmosphere, which is why it is not labeled as a greenhouse gas. Therefore, while propane will not contribute to pollution in its unused state, if released, natural gas will. Propane is a green fuel before combustion and remains environmentally-friendly even after it is used. Propane vs. natural gas is a topic of little discussion where environmental impact is concerned as they are both environmentally-friendly fuels.

Now that you know a bit more information about these two fuels, you can make a more informed decision about which is right choice for you.