Choosing the right type of heating system for your home all depends on your heating needs and what's accessible to you in your area. For homeowners who are looking for the versatility of a gas product that can power multiple appliances, propane may be a beneficial option for you. Liquid propane (also known as liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG) can be widely used to both heat your home and power an array of appliances in your home, but there are some basic things you should know before making the switch to propane heat.
In this post, we'll explain what homeowners should know about heating with propane as well as the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this versatile fuel.
What to Expect When Heating with Propane
Propane is a widely used liquid fuel that is transported and delivered at very cold temperatures. As opposed to natural gas, which is delivered to homes via pipeline, propane is purchased from a local supplier that delivers the fuel to an above-ground or underground storage tank outside the home. While propane is delivered in liquid form, the propane vaporizes in order to supply your heating appliance (and/or other appliances) as a gas through tubing. The pressure of the gas is regulated to a usable level by a regulator at the tank or at the wall.
Unlike with natural gas, propane users will either need to rent their propane tank from the local supplier or, on occasion, purchase an underground tank to own. Propane tanks are sized to meet a home's usage. Because the size of the tank limits the amount of vapor that can be drawn out of the propane, the tank must be big enough to accommodate the consumer's needs. A larger tank can handle a larger energy load, while a smaller tank will vaporize less fuel. The size you need will depend on the size of your home and what you're using the fuel for.
Propane tanks require periodic inspection and certification for functional and safety purposes. Regulations are required in order to ensure that the pressure in the tank is correct for safe and efficient delivery of energy to your appliances.
As we've mentioned, propane is an incredibly versatile fuel that can be used in a variety of different appliances. While propane is a popular option for heating your home, it can also be used to power stoves for cooking, water heaters, generators, outdoor grills, and more.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Propane
As with any type of fuel used for heating, propane comes with both advantages and disadvantages for the homeowner to consider. As far as advantages go, many consumers choose propane specifically for its versatility. If they trust it to heat their homes, they also find it convenient to use throughout the home in various appliances. There is also an element of control and customization involved when heating with propane, as customers can choose which appliances to power, how large of a tank they need, and whether to buy or rent their equipment in many cases.
Additionally, according to the American Gas Association, propane is measured at 91,600 BTU per gallon, which provides exceptional value for the energy produced. Propane offers the same comfort and efficiency of natural gas, and can heat faster and maintain warmth longer in your home than electric. Finally, converting your home to propane heat, especially from natural gas or electric, is relatively simple and only requires a few easy installs that can be carried out by a professional when you rent the tank or purchase an appliance.
However, there are some disadvantages or concerns to take into account when using or converting to propane heat. The most important factor to consider is safety, and it's critical that consumers educate themselves and families on proper safety procedure in the event of accidental vapor ignition or gas leaks. Vapors from flammable products as well as propane vapors themselves have the ability to accidentally ignite, so care needs to be taken to ensure all flammable liquids are stored safely and securely.
Propane vapors are heavier than air, so they tend to settle low to the ground or in low areas like basements. Like with any other fuel burning heat system, if you have propane heat, you need to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide is produced when burning fuels and is highly poisonous, but has no odor that can be detected by smell. CO detectors should be installed both low and high on the wall in a home heated with propane, as propane settles instead of rising. In addition to CO detectors, propane detectors can also be installed to sense the presence of propane vapors.
While propane is naturally odorless, mercaptan odorants are also added to the fuel in order to help consumers detect a gas leak by smell. If you smell gas in your home or an alarm on your detector goes off, move to fresh air immediately and call for emergency assistance from a neighbor's home. You can find more propane safety tips at pgane.org.
Aside from safety concerns, some other disadvantages may include adverse weather affecting the delivery of propane and severe weather causing scarcity of propane, especially in colder seasons and climates. The price of propane varies across the country depending on how it is stored and distributed. The price can also fluctuate based on supply and demand throughout the year.
Propane Today and in the Future
Propane is a popular heating fuel choice among homeowners today due to its efficiency, versatility, and availability in areas that are not serviced by natural gas lines. Currently, propane is also used extensively in the transportation industry. It's a common fuel choice for school buses, as opposed to diesel or natural gas. However, one more factor to consider when heating your home with propane is the way it's produced and its potential to make an impact in the future.
Many consumers may be unaware that propane is a byproduct produced during natural gas processing and the petroleum refining process. Additionally, propane can also be a byproduct of the refining of renewable diesel, which is up to 100% renewable. In the future, as the heating industry continues to adopt renewable diesel as a sustainable fuel choice, the production of propane could also become an even greener alternative fuel in the future as a result. If propane is the right heating choice for your home, you may be able to lower your home's carbon footprint as this technology continues to develop.