Propane vs Natural Gas

Wondering About The Differences Between Propane And Natural Gas?

What Are They?

While natural gas occurs in nature as a mixture of methane and other gases, propane (“liquid petroleum”) is actually a byproduct of both petroleum refining and natural gas processing. Natural gas must be cleaned before being used, and byproducts of this process include hydrocarbons like propane in addition to butane, ethane, and pentane.

How Do I Get It?

Gas Stove Burner
Natural Gas

Natural Gas (NG) is supplied to your home by a government or private utility. From its storage facility the gas is fed out to larger supply lines, which eventually fill the gas lines into our homes. A Residential customer signs an agreement with the utility to pay on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Propane (LP) is generally provided by a private firm. You contract with them to buy or lease a propane tank, which is placed on your property and then periodically filled by that firm. A residential customer might fill their tank anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months at a time. Do you live in, or just outside a city? It is possible that your municipality, even though it has a natural gas utility, might allow a propane tank in your yard. On the other hand, the more rural your home, the more likely you will have to use LP because it is only possible to get natural gas when a utility company “serves” that area.

Which Would I Choose?

Assuming both are available to you, the difference between propane and natural gas for household use comes down to a short list of factors — energy efficiency, cost, and risk. Most gas appliances can be converted from one form of gas to the other, at relatively low cost. And there is very little difference between NG and LP appliances when it comes to how well they perform in appliances for heating, cooking, or drying.

If energy efficiency is your paramount concern, propane provides more energy per unit of volume than does natural gas. Here’s how it works:


We measure heat in British Thermal Units (BTUs). One BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1°F. We usually measure propane by gallons and natural gas by cubic feet. But when we compare the relative amounts of energy each produces, we measure both by cubic foot.

Natural gas provides just over 1,000 BTUs per cubic foot; the same volume of propane in gaseous form provides about 2,500 BTUs. This means that propane contains about 2.5 times more usable energy content. So, less propane is needed to produce the same amount of energy as natural gas.

Costs of using either gas will depend on the efficiency rating of the specific appliance(s) you want to use, along with the “CCF” or “therms” and other fees charged by your utility/supplier. For example, the following is an explanation of how Puget Sound Energy residential gas customers are charged for their fuel:

“Natural gas customers are billed according to the number of therms of energy used. Therms are calculated by multiplying the hundreds of cubic feet, or Ccf measurement taken by the gas meter, by the relative heat content of the gas, or British thermal unit (Btu) factor. For a customer who used 80 Ccf during one month, billing would be based on 84 therms (80Ccf x 1.056 Btu factor = 84.48 therms).”

Come in to the store. We offer the most efficient heating appliances on the market. Pick your favorite Lopi stove or fireplace, and we’ll compare with you the cost of heating with natural gas versus propane.


Information in this article derived from the following online sources:
Puget Sound Energy
City of Ellensburg