Propane, also known as liquified petroleum gas, or LPG, is a compressed gas stored as a liquid. In addition to being non-toxic, colorless, and odorless, it’s an “approved clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act.”
Besides being cleaner and better for the environment than natural gas, propane provides greater flexibility, is reliable, and is safer to use.
Many homes around the country heat their home in the winter using propane, and now we want to talk about the ways this fuel can power your home in the summer, too.
Being able to grill outdoors is one of the special perks of a New England summer. There’s nothing like food fresh off the grill. With a propane-powered grill, there’s no waiting for charcoal to heat up, you have a more even distribution of heat while cooking, and they are much faster when it comes to clean-up. The other benefit of grilling outside on your propane grill is lower energy costs, and you’re not heating your house up during the hot summer nights.
There’s something so magical about warm summer nights when everyone is hanging out on the patio, and the warm glow from the outdoor lights creates an enchanting feel to the evening. Propane tiki torches, or fire torches, are a safe, pretty way to bring ambiance to your backyard. Just be prepared to host backyard parties where no one wants to leave at the end of the night!
Summer nights under the stars can only be ruined by one thing: pesky mosquitoes. Did you know propane mosquito traps are great ways to trap and kill mosquitoes while you’re outside? They are self-contained and use the same signals that the bugs use to find their human victims: heat, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Propane traps create all three. A catalytic converter changes the propane into carbon dioxide and can catch thousands of mosquitoes in a week.
Propane heaters are a great way to heat not only your patio, but also your pool, spa, or hot tub. They ensure your midnight dip in the pool is always at the right temperature, and they conserve energy, all while saving you money. For any impromptu swims or hot tub parties, propane heaters will heat your water to the perfect temperature more quickly.
Patio heaters can help turn your patio into a three-season feature, rather than a one-season amenity. As opposed to electric heaters, propane-powered heaters are more efficient and cleaner for the environment. They not only can keep your family warm when summer nights start to get a little chilly, but they are also safer than wood-burning fires and electric heating appliances.
The same weather that gives us those warm summer nights also gives us those massive and often destructive summer thunderstorms. When the power goes out, a propane-powered generator will ensure your house still has power. And unlike gas-powered generators, you won’t have to worry about whether the power outage has affected gas pumps. Depending on the generator, you may be able to power your entire house, including your air conditioning unit, and your home security system.
If you are already using propane to heat your home in the winter, it makes sense to use propane to power other appliances in your house, too. Not only does it save money, but it saves you energy when you use propane to run your stove, water heater, or clothes dryer. Did you know that propane appliances can produce twice as much energy as an electric appliance, in the exact same timeframe? In addition to being more cost-friendly and energy-efficient, propane appliances won’t stop working when the power goes out during those summer storms.
Need to know how long your propane tank will last with each of these unique summer uses? Read our blog posts ‘Propane 101: How long does a propane tank last?’ and ‘How to Read a Propane Tank Gauge (With Examples)’. Or, schedule automatic propane deliveries from Santa, so you never run out!
Propane is used in more than 14 million households in the United States. It’s become one of the most common fuels for heating and cooling homes because it’s clean, efficient, environmentally-friendly and versatile.
Additionally, propane is one of the safest fuels homeowners can use to heat and cool their homes. Let’s dive into each of the benefits of propane.
One of the factors that contribute to propane’s cost-effectiveness and broad use is the fact that 80-90% of the propane used in the United States is produced on domestic soil. Domestic propane cuts transportation costs, makes it easier for homeowners to obtain, and translates into a less expensive product for consumers.
With plentiful supply and ever-growing infrastructure in the U.S. to keep up with the demand for propane, there is enough propane to meet America’s needs well into the 21st century.
Propane is an excellent way for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint. Actually, its listed as a clean fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act, and Energy Policy of 1992.
Compared to natural gas, propane has:
The largest component of natural gas, methane (87%), is 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping and holding heat.
Propane is a non-toxic, nonpoisonous fuel that will not create an environmental hazard if it’s released as a liquid or vapor into soil or water. Because of this, propane tanks can be installed underground without any worry of contaminating the soil.
Because it is a clean fuel, homeowners that rely on propane are actually protecting their appliances from untimely maintenance.
Sulfur dioxide and particulates are created from burning dirty fuels like gasoline and diesel. By burning dirty fuels, you’re creating soot and scaling in appliances, which can cause an increased need for maintenance.
On the other hand, by burning a clean fuel like propane, you’re decreasing the amount of soot and scaling on your appliances, which decreases the need for maintenance. Clean burning also increases heating efficiency and makes for appliances that run better, longer.
Another reason propane has become a dominant heating source for many American households is due to its versatility. Virtually anything in your house, restaurant or building that can run on electricity or natural gas can run on propane, specifically:
One of the biggest problems for homeowners who want natural gas is its inconvenience. Homes that aren’t already equipped for natural gas can expect to pay $10,000-$20,000 to bring natural gas piping into their home. And, not every location in the U.S. can get natural gas easily, which can make its reach limiting.
With about 70,000 miles of interstate pipelines, propane, on the other hand, is readily available to almost everyone in the country. Many propane companies will also provide scheduled deliveries, so once you’re running low, you can automatically get a top off without worrying about running out of fuel. Portable storage tanks make it easy to have propane accessible for use at all times, even if you’re not at home.
Propane tanks are environmentally friendly, require little maintenance, are easy to install, and can last more than 10 years with proper maintenance.
A propane-fueled home is less costly to operate than an electric home, or a household run on natural gas.
For example, did you know that propane water heaters can produce twice as much hot water as electric units–in the same amount of time? That efficiency equals cost savings. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Energy, says that homeowners that heat water with propane rather than electricity save $175 each year.
When it comes to natural gas, even though consumers pay a higher price per unit for propane ($26.99 per gallon) than natural gas ($6.23 per cubic foot) by volume, propane is more efficient than natural gas, which means it lasts longer.
One cubic foot of propane equals 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas equals 1,030 BTUs. In other words, propane provides more than twice the energy of natural gas, which makes it a far less expensive alternative to natural gas because you get more for your buck.
Most importantly, propane has a solid safety record. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has imparted stringent codes and regulations to ensure it’s safety. That means, a home outfitted for propane is clean, efficient, environmentally-friendly and also a fuel you can count on to keep your home and family safe.
When it comes to entertaining guests or gathering your family together, nothing feels cozier than nestling around an outdoor kitchen. And, by building one on your own, you can not only make that dream come true but also save a boatload of money.
If you’re researching DIY outdoor kitchen spaces, here are the three ‘F’s’ for you to consider: Frame, finish and fuel.
When building a DIY outdoor kitchen, you’ll start with the frame. Before determining the type of structure you want to build, consider the durability of the materials, what level of difficulty the material is to work with, the tools you’ll need for proper assembly, and the overall cost for a frame.
Here are three different options for frames, and the benefits and drawbacks of each of them.
Benefits of Using a Wood Frame
Wood is the most cost-effective framing option (at least initially, more on this later). Pressure-treated pine is the most common option for outdoor kitchens. This option ranges in price from $3-$10 per square foot, depending on the quality and your geographic location.
Wood is also easy to work with, which means a frame can be assembled by someone with little to no building experience. Lastly, it’s simple to add backing to a wood frame, allowing you to add accent designs and finishes, like stone, tile or granite to get the final look you want.
Disadvantages of Using a Wood Frame
Keep in mind, wood is meant to burn. That means, if you use wood for your DIY outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to add fire resistant coating and an insulated jacket to decrease the risk of fire. Though wood is inexpensive upfront, the upkeep can become costly. Wood is more susceptible to damage. To start, bugs and insects can eat away at the wood. Mother Nature can be rough on wood, too. Without the proper coating, wood can rot, making for a less stable outdoor kitchen over the years.
Benefits of Using a Brick Frame
Brick is a classic look, made from durable material, and is one of the most popular styles for an outdoor kitchen. Because brick is a timeless style, you don’t need to add materials to make the outer-facing wall more attractive, the framing can blend nicely into the beautiful exterior. Unlike wood, brick is weather and fire resistant, making it a safer long-term investment.
Disadvantages of Using a Brick Frame
Because it’s quality material, you can expect to pay more for brick than wood (ranging between $1-7 per square foot). To assemble a brick frame, you’ll also need more tools than if you worked with wood. For example, a trowel and level will be required to build your kitchen. As you might guess, brick and cinder blocks are more complicated to work with than wood, which means you’ll need some experience to assemble a frame with these materials.
Benefits of Using a Steel Frame
Steel is one of the most durable materials you can use for a DIY outdoor kitchen as it can hold up against a wide range of weather elements. Because steel is an incredibly sturdy material, you can do more with less. In other words, when designed correctly, a steel frame can provide the support you need with a minimal amount of material for the frame. Steel ranges from $67 – $95 per square foot, which seems expensive, but because you can use less of it to build, it can be a cost-effective method for building, especially compared to brick.
Additionally, steel is renewable and recyclable, making it an eco-friendly material.
Disadvantages of Using a Steel Frame
Unfortunately, working with steel is not for beginners. Of all the materials listed above, steel is the most difficult to work with. To assemble, you’ll need to rivet and bolt the material to a concrete slab, which requires both expertise and specialized tools. Finally, if you live in a humid area, steel can get very moist and will eventually corrode, so you’ll also need to add special coatings of anti-corrosives during construction.
After completing your frame, it’s time to select finishes. If you use a wooden frame, it’s wise to add water-and-mold-resistant concrete boards to the frame to support the structure and also provides you a foundation to add decorative panels like stucco, tile, and stone.
But, regardless of your frame, here are some of the most popular finishes for well-designed DIY outdoor kitchens.
Granite is an excellent option for a sleek contemporary finish and goes well with wood. However, it’s important to note that granite is more prone to staining than the other finishing options listed below.
Price Range: $45 – $200 per square foot
Stainless steel is known for its durability, which means your outdoor kitchen will last a long time. And, stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain.
Price Range: $67 – $95 per square foot
Stucco is a great option for a finish because it’s inexpensive, naturally resistant to fire, and is a durable material that requires little maintenance. However, if you live in a particularly wet climate, moisture can be a problem for stucco.
Price Range: $6 – $9 per square foot
Stone looks great on an outdoor kitchen because it easily blends into the natural elements surrounding your home. However, stone can be challenging to work with, so if you want a stone finish in your outdoor kitchen, it might be best to work with a professional. While real stone veneers can be pricey, manufactured stone is a great alternative as it looks the same, but can be purchased at a fraction of the cost.
Price Range: $12-$ 17 per square foot
Tile is a nice choice for crafty DIYers who want a wide variety of colors and style to play with. However, tiles are fragile, so you might think twice about adorning your outdoor kitchen with this material if you live in an area will extreme climate switches.
Price Range: $2-$7 per square foot
Concrete is a great way to add a modern finish to your outdoor kitchen. It’s cost-effective and visually appealing but will require a bit of extra maintenance. Concrete should be sealed and resealed annually to prevent cracking.
Price Range: $1-$2 per square foot
Once your frame has been built, and finishes have been added, you’ll need to add fuel to your outdoor kitchen. The most comprehensive fueling options for outdoor kitchens are natural gas and propane.
Though both fuels are eco-friendly, propane has a few benefits you should consider:
Not to mention, die-hard grillers know that a propane grill makes for a better taste to your food as well.
Are you ready to start building? Here are some great resources we’ve found to help you get started:
To enjoy the benefits of propane, you must equip your home with a propane tank. To ensure you’re storing and securing your propane tank adequately, federal, state and local ordinances govern installing, dispensing and refilling propane tanks properly.
Follow this guide to discover what you need to know about the policies regulating your home’s propane tank.
The primary considerations you should know are how far a propane tank needs to be away from houses, buildings, driveways, awnings, and property lines to ensure legal and safe placement of your above or underground propane tank.
These placement regulations will vary based on the size of your propane tank.
These tanks are most often used to power cooking ranges, indoor fireplaces, or other small appliances. They are also portable. Still, when placing a 100-pound propane tank on your property, you must adhere to the following requirements:
A 100-gallon propane tank does well with equipment that requires substantial power but isn’t used every day. For example, you may use it for an emergency generator or heating outdoor swimming pools. When placing a 100-gallon propane tank on your property, keep these measurements in mind:
Additionally, four (or fewer) 100-gallon tanks can be placed next to each other on a single property as long as placement restrictions are adhered to.
This size tank is the most common for residential propane use as it’s suitable for home heating, running everyday appliances, powering generators, and more. With a larger tank, you won’t need to bother with as many refills, but need to adhere to additional requirements during installation:
If you have a large home, like over 4,500 square feet, a 1000-gallon propane tank is your best bet for keeping your home heat running and your everyday appliances in operation. 1,000-gallon tanks are also common for agricultural purposes. For this size tank, distance measurements are as follows:
If two, 1000-gallon tanks are placed within 3 feet of each other, each of the above clearance requirements increases to 25 feet.
If these numbers seem confusing, don’t fret. Top propane companies and professionals will know, and explain the propane tank distance requirements you must abide by when installing a propane tank on your property.
Before the propane tank installation process, you’ll need to consider the clearance and depth guidelines.
The answers to these questions will inevitably help you decide the best placement of your propane tank.
But, you’ll also need to factor in other systems in your home so when it comes time installation, you don’t disturb existing work:
Once the installation of your propane tank is complete, the safety protocols continue. Specifically, upon each refill, your propane tank will need to be inspected for rusting, pitting, and structural integrity. In Connecticut, it may also be required to conduct survey readings, records audited and spot checks for new construction.
It’s best to work with a propane company who knows your state and county ordinances so that you can ensure proper installation and ongoing use of your propane tank.
Deciding between propane vs. electric for energizing a home is a debate common for homeowners who want to be both cost-effective and energy-efficient. Though the two energy sources are comparable in many ways, they are distinct in others as well.
To start, propane is a primary energy source, whereas electricity is secondary, that is to say, propane can be used ‘as is’ and electricity can only be used once it’s been created by another energy source. This means that it takes more energy to create electricity, which can affect its cleanliness, efficiency and cost. But, how do these variables compare to propane, which your house may or may not already be equipped to utilize?
Below, we compare propane vs. electric to see which is the better source of energy for your home.
To determine the different price points of propane vs. electricity, we first need to do a bit of math.
Propane and electricity are measured in different units:
However, both fuels are calculated on a per hour basis for efficiency and energy consumption, which helps as we convert total energy usage by appliances.
To get both sources of energy on an even calculation playing field, remember these statements:
We’ll use these conversions in a moment to calculate which energy source you should be using in your home.
Determining whether propane is cheaper than electricity depends on several variables like the age of appliances your home operates on and the cost of fuel and electricity in your area. But, in this section, we’ll cover how you can calculate the total cost of both energy sources, and show you how energy-efficient appliances can impact your total costs.
Comparing the cost of propane to electric head-to-head, is simple.
Which is less expensive?
Let’s do an example together:
So in this case, electricity is less expensive than propane by volume because $2.70 is less than $2.94.
The math gets a little more complex when putting the cost up against energy efficiency. Propane is considered an efficient fuel, which means it holds more energy per volume than other sources, which can reduce its overall usage cost.
Let’s review how appliances stack up when it comes to costs comparisons of propane and electricity.
A 100-watt light bulb will consume 1.2 kWh, per day. With propane, it would take roughly .024 gallons (341.21 BTUs/hr.) to light the same lightbulb.
Using the data points we discussed, lighting your home for 12 hours would cost:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario.
If you run a 1300-watt washing machine for 3 hours a day, you can expect to use 3.9 kWh, per day. The same machine would take 0.106 gallons (4435.78 BTUs/hr.).
Using the data points above, using a washing machine for 3 hours costs:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario.
If you run a 2,500-watt heater for 8 hours a day, you can expect to use 20 kWh, per day. The same machine would take 0.068 gallons (8530.3540825 BTUs/hr.).
Using the data points above, using a heater for 8 hours costs:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario, and as you can see, the cost gap between the two energy sources is growing with higher voltage appliances.
Propane is a non-toxic, non-poisonous fuel that burns cleaner than other fuels and produces environmentally-friendly emissions. Additionally, propane will not create an environmental hazard if spilled. For this reason, it’s possible for homeowners to have either an above-ground or underground propane tank without any worry of contamination.
While electricity has zero emissions, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% efficient. Because electricity is a second energy source, as we mentioned earlier, the primary source of energy may be less environmentally-friendly.
In fact, according to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, about 62.7% of electricity generated is from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), and 30.1% is attributed to coal. And, coal mining accounts for roughly 9% of total U.S. methane emissions and nearly 1% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to EIA, which is not environmentally-friendly.
Determining which energy source is best for you will depend on other factors apart from fuel efficiency and environmental impacts. It also depends on its availability in your region, the cost to equip your home for the energy, and your personal preferences.
If you are already equipped with an electric water heater, it might not make sense to convert to propane. Most homeowners save between $150-$200 a year with a propane water heater versus an electric one, but the cost of a new propane water heater could offset the savings for the first couple of years. However, if you purchase high-quality equipment, the cost-savings of switching to a propane water heater will eventually win out.
In short, propane is the most energy efficient of the two grills — and might be better for the taste of your food as well. Most electric grills can cook around 400 degrees, however, they aren’t typically designed to stay at high heats for long periods of time. So, quick meals on an electric grill works, but you may have an overall better experience using a propane option.
Some states give massive rebates to homes that switch from oil to natural heating solutions like electric, which can offset the margin cost differences, and wind up saving you more money in the long-run. There are often stipulations that come with the rebates though, so it’s wise to do your research to see if the options provided by the state make sense for your home. Further, not all regions of the United States have accessibility to both energy sources. Where you live might make your decision for you.
Apart from occasional check-ups to ensure your wiring, circuit breakers, outlets, and plugs are in working order, electric homes have little maintenance to adhere to. Propane requires a bit more observation, as the fuel will run out and the homeowner will need to reorder their supply. Luckily, many propane delivery services will monitor your fuel levels, and schedule automatic deliveries to help reduce the burden of fuel delivery.
Costs vary by region and by the household for both propane and electricity. Historically, propane has given consumers more bang for their buck when compared to electricity, but everyone’s situation will be different. If you want to find out more about propane vs. electricity for your home, contact an expert.
Not having enough propane on hand can be both a burden and a danger. From running out of fuel during the middle of a cookout to not having heating oil on a cold winter’s night, it’s important to know the specifics of propane tank maintenance, how quickly the fuel burns, and how to tell if you’re running low on fuel.
Residential propane tanks range in size from 100-1,000 gallons. Smaller tanks, like 20-pound tanks, are sold for modest needs like outdoor barbecuing or small appliances like fireplaces.
Homes 2,500 square feet or larger, that have multiple appliances running on propane, will most likely use a 500-gallon tank. Propane tanks any larger than 500-gallons are often reserved for commercial use.
How you put your propane to use will play a role in how long your fuel source will last. Consider the most common uses for propane:
As mentioned above, 20-pound propane tanks are used for modest tasks like cooking individual meals. As a rule of thumb, one tank of propane will typically last between 18-20 hours if you’re grilling on a medium-sized grill. Whereas larger grills can burn through 20-pounds of propane in as little as 10 hours.
On average, you’ll use one or two pounds of fuel per meal if you use a medium-sized grill on high heat. That equals roughly 8 grilling sessions per tank.
British Thermal Unit, or BTUs, is the industry standard used to measure the heating efficiency of household appliances. The average home furnace runs on roughly 100,000 BTUs, and one gallon of propane equals 92,000 BTUs. That means the average home furnace burns roughly one gallon of propane per hour.
In this example, a home furnace will burn anywhere from 500-1,200 gallons of propane per year, depending on how often you turn on your furnace.
Your hot water heater usage will vary based on how many bathrooms you have in your home, and how many people are in and out of your home. As a rule of thumb, the average home uses about 1.5 gallons of propane a day for typical hot water heating use.
The average homeowner can expect to use somewhere between 200-300 gallons of propane per year for hot water.
Overall, the average homeowner will use roughly 2.5, 500-gallon tanks of propane each year for home heating and cooking.
For even more customized calculations, you can follow the steps below:
Propane doesn’t expire. So, with its long shelf-life, the only reason you’ll need to order more propane is when you’re running low. Unless your propane delivery service provider monitors your fuel level and delivers to you automatically, you’ll need to learn how to read the gauge on your propane tank.
The most important number to know when reading your gauge is the fuel level. It should never be more than 80% full. The reason is thermal expansion. Keeping your tank filled less than 100% ensures the fuel in your tank can expand with no risk to the tank or your safety.
Once your gauge reads 20%, it’s time to reorder your supply of propane.
Here is a quick video to help you read the gauge on your propane tank:
Large stationary propane tanks need to be recertified 10 years after their date of manufacture and every five years following that. But, as long as your above or underground propane tank was installed correctly and you perform proper maintenance on the tank, and connected appliances, your propane tank will remain suitable for use for decades.
Here’s a quick maintenance checklist:
Santa is known for its reliable delivery and exceptional customer service in Fairfield and New Haven Counties in Connecticut. Santa also offers automatic propane delivery, which means we’ll track the levels of your fuel and send out a new delivery before your supply runs out.
When it comes to above-ground and underground propane tanks many homeowners initially think of looks; to them, an above-ground tank can be an eyesore. However, when it comes to deciding whether an above or underground propane tank is best for your home, there are several factors to consider apart from sheer aesthetics.
Specifically, the differences between cost, installation, and safety should be a priority for homeowners. Consider the following as you make your decision.
For an above-ground tank, the majority of the cost is in the purchase of the tank itself. And, the price of a propane tank will vary depending on how many gallons you’d like it to hold.
As you can imagine, the larger the tank you select, the more it will cost. However, with an above-ground tank, there are fewer costs associated with installation than its underground counterpart. Additionally, because of the accessibility of an above-ground tank, on-going maintenance will also be a bit cheaper.
Before installing an above-ground propane tank, you must check off a few administrative items first. For instance, ensuring distance requirements have been met and necessary permits have been obtained are critical steps. Additionally, it may be necessary to lay a concrete pad or concrete blocks for the stability of the tank.
These items are routine and fairly easy to knock off the list before installation. Better yet, a reputable propane company can do the legwork for you.
Watch how simple it is to install an above-ground propane tank.
The safety of an above-ground tank versus an underground tank will boil down to the geographic location in most cases. While above-ground tanks are more exposed and vulnerable to extreme climates, making them less durable during severe conditions, if you’re in an area prone to flooding, an above-ground tank is usually the safer option.
That’s because an underground tank can actually float away from your home if the water rises above the propane level in your tank. An above-ground tank stands a few inches off the ground and is bolted down at the feet, making it more stable and less exposed during flooding conditions.
Additional factors might include its susceptibility to humans. Above-ground tanks can be targets for vandalism. Furthermore, if you’re located near a road, an above-ground tank may also be vulnerable to vehicle collisions.
Whether you select an above-ground or underground option, the physical tank will cost the same. However, an underground tank will be costlier upfront due to the extra expenses for:
These special requirements to install an underground tank can roughly double the cost of the installation of an above-ground propane tank.
Further, underground tanks can be costlier to maintain. Underground propane tanks require an anti-corrosion coating to protect against underground elements that could damage the outer material. To ensure the coating is working correctly, it must be inspected and tested on a regular basis. And, if the anti-corrosion coating has been compromised, it will need to be replaced. These maintenance measures will come at an additional cost to the homeowner.
Similar to an above-ground tank, it’s critical to have the proper permits, arrangements and safety checks conducted before starting excavation. Once excavation has started, the process of installing an underground propane tank will take between 2-3 hours.
If your home has a septic tank, you may need to contact your septic company to dig the hole for the underground propane tank. Without coordination, it’s possible that the propane delivery equipment will run over the septic tank, which can cause costly damages.
Watch this video to see what the installation process for an underground tank looks like:
Generally, underground tanks are safer than above-ground tanks. One reason is that it’s easier for these tanks to stay temperate in extreme weather, especially in the freezing cold.
Underground tanks are also safer in the event of a leak. Propane is a green fuel, so if a leak were to occur, rest assured it would not harm the local water or soil. Unlike an above-ground tank, there is no chance for the fuel to escape into the air, causing a fire hazard.
Therefore, depending on your weather conditions, an underground tank is a safer bet. The exception to this rule is in areas at risk of flooding, where above-ground tanks are preferred.
As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages of both above-ground and underground propane tanks. For aesthetics and safety, underground tanks most often take the cake. However, if you’re on a tight budget, or live in a flood-prone area, an above-ground tank may be more practical.
Whether you decide on an above-ground or underground propane tank, make sure you choose the right energy company to partner with for support while selecting, delivery, and maintaining your equipment.
The differences between natural gas and propane can be confusing. Especially because propane is one of the fuels that make up natural gas, the other fuels being butane, methane, ethane.
While propane is a part of natural gas, it becomes a unique source of fuel on its own when it’s separated during processing. So, let’s take a look at both fuels. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which is best for a homeowner to use?
When selecting a fuel for your home, it’s important to weigh its safety, the cost, how efficient the fuel is, and what the environmental impact is. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of natural gas and propane, for each of the aforementioned considerations.
Both fuels are highly flammable and should be handled with care. But due to the infrastructure (and bureaucratic red tape) that comes with natural gas lines, leaks can be challenging to identify and fix. This is because utility companies and the public utility commission need to come to an understanding of how to fund repairs or upgrades before taking action.
And, when lines go unattended accidents happen.
For instance, in 2010 a natural gas line owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) exploded in San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people. After investigation, it was learned that the gas line was faulty, and PG&E was previously unaware of the line’s damage.
Though propane tanks can also explode, it’s much less likely. And, because propane tanks aren’t connected by wide-spread gas lines, the impact is less significant.
Furthermore, though some companies that supply natural gas add a scent like sulfur so that you can more easily detect a leak, natural gas leaks can be harder to detect because in its natural state the fuel is odorless.
Due to the severity of a mishap, as rare as they may be, propane is deemed a safer heating fuel.
Even though natural gas is considered a greenhouse gas, it burns roughly 50% fewer emissions than coal. Still, it’s toxicity is higher than propane, which is not toxic or damaging to the environment. If propane were to leak into the ground, it would not harm the local water or soil.
That said, both are still considered eco-friendly fuels. But, for this round, we give propane a slight advantage as a green fuel.
The true cost of propane vs. natural gas for your residence will depend on several factors, including if your home is outfitted for the fuels. But, for this comparison, we’ll examine propane and natural gas cost in terms of BTUs and gallons.
At the time this article was written, the average cost of natural gas cost is $6.23 per 1,000 cubic feet, which is roughly one million BTUs. The U.S. average cost for propane is $2.41 per gallon. One million BTUs of natural gas is roughly 11.20 gallons of propane. Which means for the same amount of fuel, you’ll pay $6.23 for natural gas and $26.99 for propane.
However, actual cost should also take into consideration efficiency
The more efficient the fuel is, the less you’ll use, which plays a role in overall cost. And, overall, propane is the more efficient fuel.
One cubic foot of propane equals 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas equals 1,030 BTUs. That means, propane is more than twice the energy of natural gas.
While the cost per gallon is less for natural gas, you’ll use more of it to heat the same appliances. If you get two times the heat from propane, naturally, you’ll use less fuel.
In this combined round, propane wins for efficiency and overall cost.
The most notable difference between the two fuels is how they wind up at your home, that is, how they’re delivered to you. To start, not every location in the United States has the option of either propane or natural gas. Depending on where you live, you may be restricted to only one option.
Additionally, how the fuel is stored at your home, and refilled, will be another differentiating factor.
Natural gas remains in its gaseous state and is delivered to the home through a pipeline, so deliveries aren’t required, but having the infrastructure in place to receive the fuel is. This infrastructure might include costs like:
These costs can rise to more than $10,000 for homeowners who need a complete conversion.
Propane comes in portable canisters or permanent storage tanks. To refill, customers will either go to a retail location themselves or turn to a company for delivery. For Santa Fuel customers, you can schedule automatic deliveries so that you’ll have fuel before your tank runs out, eliminating the hassle.
Because propane delivers more BTUs for your dollar, it’s often the choice fuel to run your home appliances more efficiently. It’s also typically better for cooking, especially if you utilize an outdoor barbeque, as it’s more cost-effective for high-heat grilling.
Additionally, propane is seen as an “off-the-grid” heating solution. Meaning propane is portable and can easily work if other systems in your house malfunction, or if you need to move to another location.
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. And, you’ll never pay for more than what you use with natural gas because there isn’t any fuel stored in a tank. You pay as you go.
If you’re already equipped with the infrastructure, it makes sense to stick with natural gas.
The ultimate winner will be whichever fits best into your lifestyle and current set up. Are you able to access both fuels, how much infrastructure would you need to implement to get either of the fuels and what do you plan to use your fuel for most?
If you’re in the Fairfield or New Haven areas in Connecticut, Santa Energy can help you assess which fuel makes the most sense for your home. Santa Energy is a dependable source for fuel delivery, equipment installation, maintenance, and ongoing support to ensure your home is maximizing energy, safely.
Scientifically speaking, propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8). The gas is also referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas, and LPG.
Propane is plentiful, environmentally-friendly, and affordable, making it one of the most desirable options homeowners have for heating and cooling.
A little known fact is that propane was not purposefully created. Rather, its energy density was discovered on accident by chemist Dr. Walter O. Snelling.
When Snelling was on his way home from a fueling station, he couldn’t help but notice the cork on his gas can kept popping off. After learning gasoline had volatiles in it, he discovered that if he could convert the fractionate — now known as propane — into an isolated liquid, he’d have an incredible new fuel source. The propane we have today is a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining.
During natural gas processing, the liquid components recovered are:
Crude oil refining produces propane, butane, and other gases.
By extracting propane from each process, the result is a cleaner, more dense energy source.
Between 80-90% of propane consumed in the United States is produced domestically. (The other 10-20% of propane is mostly from Canada.) That means if you power your home with propane, each time you refill your tank you’re supporting the U.S. economy.
Some oil companies, like those located in North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, have natural gas processing plants located in their oil fields and separate the LPGs on-site.
If the hub is large enough, they may store their own propane, too. LPGs are typically stored in large underground salt caverns that were hollowed out in the 1940s, but some areas without suitable geology will use aboveground tanks.
If a hub is not large enough to store their own propane, the transportation process begins. Propane is usually transferred through rail, truck, ship, or pipelines.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the distribution channels of propane are represented in the following image:
After storage, propane continues its journey through a pipeline to a pipeline terminal. Watch this animated video to see where propane pipelines run through the U.S.
Once at the pipeline terminal, propane will travel to retail plants across the nation. From there, individual companies either sell or transport propane for consumer homes.
Regardless of where the propane is found, getting it your home is simple. In fact, you can access a comprehensive list of all propane locations in the U.S. and Canada from the U.S. Department of Energy.
And, if you live in Connecticut, you can find your propane at Santa Energy.
Santa Energy is known for its dependable delivery, and it’s reliable customer service, meaning you’ll get your fuel or service promptly, no matter how bad the weather conditions are. You can also set up an automatic propane delivery, which means we’ll track the levels of your fuel, and send out a new delivery before your supply runs out.
Homeowners use propane for a vast number of tasks: home heating, water heating, clothes drying, fireplaces, cooking and back-up power. To ensure there is enough propane for all of your home energy needs, it’s important to check your propane tank fuel gauge on a regular basis.
Not only is it an easy way to make sure you always have enough fuel, but it’s critical to your safety.
If a propane tank runs out of gas completely, it may introduce air into the system, which can cause damage to the tank, or worse, may cause your pilot lights to go out.
If not handled properly, this situation can be dangerous. As a result, federal code requires you have a professional inspect your entire propane system before you can turn the gas back on.
To avoid these issues, learn how to read your propane tank fuel gauge so your family — and home — are safe.
One of the most important things to understand about your propane tank is that the fuel gauge shows you the fuel level as a percentage of the capacity of your tank, not the total amount of gallons in the tank.
While not all propane tanks have the same gauges, their purpose remains the same: to show you how much propane is left in the tank. Most gauges are “float gauges,” (like the fuel gauge in a vehicle), which reads the level of liquid propane in the tank via a floating arm. As the level drops, so does the float gauge.
Knowing how to read the gauge will help you know when it’s time to request a refill.
Below are a couple examples of propane gauges plus some tips on how to read them.
As a precaution, refill your gas once your fuel gauge reads 20% (or below).
If you have a propane tank for home energy usage, then you’ve probably noticed that after a propane delivery, the tank gauge reads 80%.
Don’t worry, you’re not being scammed and there is nothing wrong with your tank or the gauge. Although you use propane in gas form, propane is stored as a liquid in your tank to allow it space to expand and contract as the ambient temperature rises and falls. The maximum fill percentage is always going to be 80%.
You can perform some simple math to determine how much gas is in your propane tank. Just multiply the tank’s capacity by the reading on the tank gauge.
For example, if your 500-gallon tank is showing a gauge reading of 60%, that means you have 300 gallons of gas remaining in your tank (500 x 0.6).
If you want to skip the math, here’s a handy chart that will tell you how much gas is left in your propane tank based on your tank size and your gauge reading:
|Gauge Reads||120-Gallon Tank||250-Gallon Tank||500-Gallon Tank||1,000-Gallon Tank|
|80%||96 gallons||200 gallons||400 gallons||800 gallons|
|70%||84 gallons||175 gallons||350 gallons||700 gallons|
|60%||72 gallons||150 gallons||300 gallons||600 gallons|
|50%||60 gallons||125 gallons||250 gallons||500 gallons|
|40%||48 gallons||100 gallons||200 gallons||400 gallons|
|30%||36 gallons||75 gallons||150 gallons||300 gallons|
|20%||24 gallons||50 gallons||100 gallons||200 gallons|
|10%||12 gallons||25 gallons||50 gallons||100 gallons|
Now that you understand how to read your propane tank gauge, it’s helpful to know (or, at least have an estimate of) how long your propane will last.
To determine how long a tank of propane will last, we need to start with the British Thermal Unit (BTU). A BTU is a basic measurement used for rating how much energy it takes to produce heat. As a baseline, note that one gallon of propane contains roughly 92,000 BTUs.
The BTU rating is also a way to measure the efficiency of your appliances, which will all use propane at varying rates. This will play a role in how long your propane tank lasts.
For example, a furnace rated for 200,000 BTUs is capable of delivering twice the horsepower of a furnace rated for 100,000 BTUs. However, you wouldn’t use a 200,000 BTU furnace to heat a space that only needs a 40,000 BTU space heater.
Here’s how to determine how much burn time you have left in your propane tank:
Divide the BTUs of one gallon of propane (92,000 BTUs) by the BTU rating of your appliance. This will give you the number of hours it will take to use one gallon of propane.
Let’s use the gas range stove as an example:
92,000 BTUs / 65,000 BTU per hour = 1.41 hours
Therefore, using your gas stove continuously for 1.41 hours (or one hour and 25 minutes) will burn one gallon of propane.
This calculation should only be used as a rough estimate. Of course, it’s best to refill your tank well before it runs out
If calculating the fuel in your tank feels burdensome, consider an automatic fuel delivery option. Many propane companies offer propane tank monitoring and propane gas delivery so that your gas shows up right when you need it.