Propane or Natural Gas - Which is Better for Heating?
Updated: Jul 5
Today, we’re going to help you make an informed decision on whether propane or natural gas is the best way to heat your home or business (without needing to read any other articles).
Say goodbye to any indecision and anxiety about whether propane or natural gas is best for you and your situation.
At Affordable Tanks, we specialize in propane, but today we’re putting our years of experience to work to give you an honest perspective on what heating material is best for your specific situation.
Let’s get started!
Propane as a Heat Source
There are plenty of ways to keep your home warm, cozy, and inviting during the winter. Let’s take a brief look at one of the most popular methods: heating with propane.
Using Propane as a Heat Source
Propane heat is rapidly becoming a popular choice among consumers due to the factors of comfort, efficiency, and carbon reduction.
Thankfully, using propane to heat your home is relatively easy.
Most homeowners rent a tank from a local propane company and then have the company fill the tank when it gets low. From there, a propane furnace converts liquid propane into a gas that moves warmth across a heat exchanger. When this element reaches a set point, a blower transfers the heat across the heat exchanger before it is then distributed through the duct system.
P.S. If you want to find the best propane pricing near you and avoid contracts, fees, and minimums, consider buying your own propane tank. It’s easy, and the benefits are significant!
Natural Gas as a Heat Source
Heating Your Home With Natural Gas
Using natural gas to heat your home is very similar to using propane. However, there are a few key differences.
First, natural gas is a fossil fuel that is extracted from deep beneath the surface of the earth. It is made up of multiple compounds, most notably methane gas. It also contains carbon dioxide, water vapor, and hydrocarbon gas liquids.
People cannot keep tanks of natural gas on their properties. Instead, the gas reaches their homes through a series of gas lines. If you want to use natural gas to heat your home, you need to live near a gas line or have the option of having a gas line installed on your property.
Once the gas line is hooked up to your home, it is a matter of utilizing a forced-air central heating system that uses a natural gas burner to heat air. Cool air is drawn into the system, moved into a heat exchanger where it is warmed by the gas burner, and then circulated by a blower or fan through the home's ductwork.
As you can see, both propane and natural gas are effective ways to heat your home and business.
Now, let’s decide which is best for you!
Pros and Cons of Propane Heat
We need to make one thing clear from the outset: not one single type of fuel for heating is superior in every single way. That’s why it’s so important to consider the pros and cons of each type and make a decision based on your particular circumstances.
It’s also true that most people have just one looming question on their minds:
“Is propane or natural gas cheaper?”
While this is a good question to ask, there are many factors that influence the answer. For example, while natural gas is cheaper than propane, propane burns more efficiently. In addition, prices for both vary from season to season as well as from location to location, and it is nearly impossible to categorically state which is more cost-effective.
In short – this is one area we can’t give a definitive answer. We recommend you check with local companies to determine the price for each heat source. Just remember that while natural gas probably appears cheaper at first glance, propane burns almost twice as efficiently.
And although the price is important, there are many other factors to consider when making your choice.
That said, let’s begin by exploring the pros and cons of propane heat
Advantages of Propane Heat
Advantage #1: Power Your Whole Home with the Same Fuel Source. Propane is very versatile. In other words, you can use it for much more than just heating your home. For example, propane can power appliances, and you can opt out of the more expensive and less efficient electrical options. Natural gas can also be used to power your whole home.
Advantage #2: It’s Safe and Burns Clean. One of the most notable benefits of propane is that it’s non-toxic. That means the tank can be buried underground. This makes your yard more attractive and frees up more space. Propane also burns clean, which means propane furnaces last longer and require less maintenance along the way.
Advantage #3: It’s Off-Grid. Propane is portable and can easily work when other systems in your house malfunction or if you need to move to another location.
Advantage #4: It Burns Efficiently. The last thing that you want to have to deal with is a shower that won't get warm or a stove that can’t get hot enough to cook your food properly. Thankfully, a propane furnace can get up to 20 degrees warmer than an electric heat pump can. Additionally, because it heats up in shorter intervals, it can warm up your home without causing your bills to go through the roof.
Disadvantages of Propane Heat
Disadvantage #1: High Upfront Cost to Switch. It can be pretty expensive to switch to propane from another source of heat. And, unfortunately, it’s not a DIY project. You’ll need to hire a professional and work around their schedule and pricing.
Disadvantage #2: Delivery. Even though there is plenty of propane to go around, and it’s pretty easy to obtain in the majority of states, it still needs to be transported when purchased. This can be a hassle for some.
Disadvantage #3: You May Have To Pay A Rental Fee. Most people who heat their homes with propane rent their propane tank from the company that supplies the propane. Unfortunately, this means you can only buy propane from that company rather than searching around for the best prices. A good solution to this is to own your own propane tank.
When To Use Propane Heat
After exploring some of the pros and cons of propane, we’re still left with the million-dollar question: is propane right for me?
Here are a few factors to help you decide:
If you are living on a budget and need to save money right now, switching to propane heat won't be the best option. Propane appliances are more expensive than others, and you’ll have to hire a professional to make the switch.
If you have some money now and want to save on utility bills in the future, switching to propane is a good option. In general, propane is less costly than electric heat and natural gas.
If you live in a very cold environment and are concerned about winter storms knocking out your heat source, you'll want to invest in a generator if you are using propane. Propane furnaces need some electricity to run and, therefore, can be susceptible to long power outages if you don't have a backup generator.
Of course, the decision ultimately comes down to what you think is best. But consider each of the circumstances above and decide where you fall:
Is saving money now or long term more important? Do you live in a very cold climate where frequent winter storms could knock out electricity for extended periods of time?
Answering these questions can help guide you in deciding if propane is the right heating choice for you.
P.S. Want to learn more and take a deep dive into propane? Read our blog: Everything You Need To Know About Propane.
Pros and Cons of Natural Gas
If you have decided that propane is not the best option for you, you may want to consider using natural gas to heat your home or business.
To help you make the best decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using natural gas as a heat source!
Advantages of Natural Gas
Advantage #1: Abundant and a Major Source of Energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States is flooded with natural gas, with enough to last the rest of this century, given 2018 production rates.
Advantage #2: Reliable. When the electricity goes out, you can continue to heat your home or business using natural gas. Natural gas appliances like a stove also continue to operate even during a power outage.
Advantage #3: Getting it Requires Little Energy. Some fuel sources like wood take literal energy to get – either you take a truck and pick it up, or you get out in the woods with a chainsaw. Even propane requires scheduling fuel delivery and owning or renting a tank. Natural gas, on the other hand, is a hands-off solution. You’ll never need to schedule a delivery because natural gas will always be flowing to your home.
Disadvantages of Natural Gas
Disadvantage #1: Not as Environmentally Friendly. Unfortunately, natural gas emits more nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter than propane. It’s not the worst way to heat when it comes to the environment, but it’s not the best either.
Disadvantage #2: Non-renewable Energy. Although there is plenty of natural gas under the earth's surface at this point, it is a nonrenewable resource. In other words, when we run out, we can’t produce more.
Disadvantage #3: Not as Efficient. One cubic foot of propane is approximately 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas is 1,030 BTUs. This means that to heat two spaces of the same size, you’ll end up using twice as much natural gas as propane.
Disadvantage #4: High Upfront Cost. Just like propane, natural gas can cost a lot if you aren’t set up for it. For example, you’d have to dig up your yard to bring in a pipeline, convert your appliances to natural gas, and run the gas line. These costs can rise to more than $10,000 for homeowners who need a complete conversion.
When To Use Natural Gas
Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of natural gas, you're probably still left wondering: should I heat my home using natural gas?
Here are a few things to consider while you are deciding.
If reliability is king for you, then natural gas might be the best option. Do you worry about the stress of losing power when the electricity goes out? Then natural gas is for you.
If time is not a resource you have much of, natural gas could work well for you. Once you’re hooked up, there is almost nothing required from you.
Do you prioritize care for the environment? Natural gas is considered a clean burning fossil fuel, but it still is more harmful than propane. If this is a passion point for you and an area where you want to make an environmental difference, then steer clear of natural gas.
If you want to save money on heating costs over the next 20 years, propane is probably a better overall option than natural gas. Again, we recommend checking with local companies and doing the math to confirm this.
Now you are ready to make an informed, confident decision about using natural gas or propane in the coming years.
If you decide that propane best fits your needs and need a propane tank, give us a call here at Affordable Tanks!
We understand the frustration of renting a propane tank and being stuck with the same propane distributor, even when someone else offers better prices.
You deserve to be able to find the best possible prices for propane for your home.
That's why we offer affordable propane tanks, so you can gain the freedom to shop around and save money.
It's easy to work with us:
Get an estimate
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Contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you.