One of the most common questions we get at Kauffman Gas is this:

“How does propane heat stack up against natural gas?”

Although we’re big fans of propane heat, we know Pennsylvanians like to get the facts and compare all their options before they make a big decision.

Let’s take a closer look.

Propane Heat vs. Natural Gas: The Basics

It’s a common misconception that propane gas and natural gas are the same thing. In fact, they’re very different. Propane, an approved clean fuel, is just one component of what we call natural gas.

Natural gas, by contrast, is a mix of propane, butane, ethane, and the chief ingredient: Methane.

The difference in chemical composition also makes a big difference in heating performance.

Compared to natural gas, propane:

  • Has a higher energy content – less of it is necessary to produce the same results;
  • Tends to be less expensive to buy, in part due to its excellent thermal properties;
  • Is friendly to the environment: Natural gas should not be discharged into the air.

Let’s zoom in even closer.

Propane Heat vs. Natural Gas: Cost and Convenience

Heat is measured in BTUs – British Thermal Units.

In a cubic foot of propane, you’ll find about 2,500 BTUs versus just over 1,000 BTUs for the same volume of natural gas. Propane is significantly more efficient.

As a customer, you end up buying it less often and storing a lower quantity on your property. Depending on the size of your propane tank, filling up once a winter might be enough.

Research by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows favorable prices for propane:

  • In Feb-March 2016, Pennsylvania’s residential propane prices averaged to $2.724/gallon;
  • In the same period, natural gas was $9.075 per thousand cubic feet – much less efficient.

Historical trends documented on the site show that propane tends to beat natural gas in a dollar for dollar comparison over long periods of time.

Propane remains cost-effective even if you have far heavier heating needs than average.

Households that use multiple propane appliances at a time can easily install an underground propane tank. That means fast access to more fuel without using up yard space. Plus, it gives you the power to stock up on propane gas when it’s at its cheapest.

By comparison, a natural gas tank has to be much larger to meet the same needs.

On the convenience front, there’s one more key factor: Compatibility.

Here, the situation is a little less cut and dry. You’ll be able to find almost any natural gas appliance in a propane variety and vice versa. That said, many appliances offer a wider variety of models that run on propane.

You can find propane hot water heaters, standby generators, and much more.


Propane Heat vs. Natural Gas: What About the Environment?

These days, many people are concerned about their impact on the environment.

Naturally, the more heating fuel you use, the more impact you might have.

However, propane has been classified as a green fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy. Even if it leaks or dissipates into the air, it won’t hurt the soil, surface water, or groundwater it comes in contact with.

Things are quite a bit different when it comes to natural gas.

Natural gas is considered a “greenhouse gas” and has potentially harmful effects when released into the air. It contributes to air pollution and may harm wildlife and their habitats. Because of its relatively low carbon content, propane is not considered a greenhouse gas.

What about the dangers to humans?

Both propane and natural gas leaks are very rare. The dangers posed are similar, but nobody should lose too much sleep over the accident potential.

(Our previous post describes what to do if you notice “propane smell” in your home.)

It’s important to practice proper safety and storage habits with any type of heating fuel. That’s true of propane, natural gas, petroleum, and all the rest.


Propane Gas is More Efficient and Less Expensive Than Natural Gas

Any way you look at it, propane beats natural gas for heating in Pennsylvania.

It’s more efficient, less expensive, and much better for the environment.

With help from a reliable propane vendor, you’ll never need to worry about being left out in the cold!