Propane and natural gas are far handier than electricity when you need fire or heat, no doubt about that. However, some people still think propane and natural gases are the same. However, they really aren’t. While there are many ways to differentiate between natural gas and propane, one vital way to tell them apart is how hot they burn.
Propane burns hotter than natural gas, meaning that it generates more heat energy than natural gas when burned. They can be used interchangeably, but for home heating, many prefer a propane tank to a natural gas tank because of the higher heat energy the same amount of propane can generate.
For this reason and many more, homeowners would rather have access to propane than natural gas. There are other differences between both fossil fuels that will help you know which of them to use for your home. Let’s look at the key differences so that you can make an informed decision.
Why Do Propane Tanks Burn Hotter Than Natural Gas?
If you have to choose between propane and natural gas, propane gas would be better. Many would call propane a higher-efficiency fuel because it’s reliable and secure and generate more energy than natural gas when burned.
However, you should also know that both propane and natural gas begin burning at the same temperature – 3,650° Fahrenheit. Still, propane has the potential to burn twice as hot as natural gas once it has started burning.
Generally, the energy content of propane is greater than that of natural gas. Natural gas produces about 1,012 BTUs (British thermal units) of heat per cubic foot. By comparison, propane generates 2,520 BTUs per cubic foot!
And if you’re wondering, one BTU is the energy you need to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
No matter what your needs are, from heating your home to heating water for cooking, you’ll need more natural gas than propane to complete any tasks. 100,000 BTU natural gas furnaces burn approximately 97 cubic feet of natural gas per hour. However, a propane furnace burns only 40 cubic feet per hour.
This means that natural gas has limited heating power and requires more work to get even smaller heating jobs done.
Other Differences Between Propane And Natural Gas
Besides the fact that propane burns hotter than natural gas, there are some other things that separate them from each other. While we’ll briefly explain some of the differences here, we have another article dedicated to that, so do check that out.
- Natural gas is only available in some locations and connects to homes through underground pipes, while propane comes in tanks that need periodic refills or replacements.
- Propane is usually a liquid stored in tanks under pressure and becomes a gas when it comes out through the tank’s valve. On the other hand, natural gas can be stored as compressed, uncompressed, or liquefied natural gas.
- Propane usually costs more than natural gas, but installing a new natural gas line is more expensive than getting a propane tank in your house.
- Propane is a clean-burning fossil fuel and doesn’t harm nearby soil or water when it’s burned. Natural gas is also cleaner than most fossil fuels, but since it’s made up of methane, a leak into the atmosphere can cause it to break down into carbon dioxide after several years. This means propane is more eco-friendly than natural gas.
- Both gases are almost odorless and colorless, so you’d need to add some harmless chemicals like mercaptan and tert-Butylthiol to them in order to detect potential gas leaks.