Are Propane and Natural Gas the Same?

Understanding the difference between two popular home fuels

home fuel options marylandIf you’re choosing between natural gas or propane, it’s not always easy to know the difference. After all, both look the same when burned in heating systems and appliances. They’re even scented with odorants that smell the same.

However, propane and natural gas are quite different. Let’s explore how they differ chemically and how you use them in your home.

The difference between natural gas and propane

Propane is essentially a natural gas liquid. Both propane and natural gas are extracted from the same wells using the same process (along with such co-products as ethane, butane, isobutane and pentane). This is quite good environmentally since fewer wells need to be dug.

Chemically, natural gas is methane, and it’s lighter than air. Propane is heavier than air. That’s why natural gas rises and propane sinks to the ground. That also explains why these fuels must be transported differently. Natural gas travels through contained pipes directly into your home, while propane can travel under pressure as a liquid via trucks to your home’s tank (it gasifies as pressure is relieved).

Choosing between propane and natural gas

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to power your home’s heating and appliances with propane or natural gas.

  • It’s much more expensive to connect your home to a natural gas utility — as much as $12,000 in Maryland. And that’s only if there’s a utility nearby you can access.
  • Natural gas and propane can power a range of systems and appliances, and both are energy efficient. Even so, propane produces twice the Btu intensity of natural gas. So, you’ll likely end up using less to heat your home, water and gas-fired products.
  • Propane and natural gas emit very little carbon dioxide (CO2). But natural gas is methane, which the Environmental Protection Agency found to be 25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
  • Because natural gas travels through utility lines — many old and under-maintained — it’s more susceptible to widespread disruptions. With a propane tank attached to your home, you control your fuel supply.
  • Although your propane tank needs to be refilled, many fuel providers, including Q-Dog, offer no-fee automatic delivery service, so you never run low.

Are you looking for a reliable, dedicated propane partner? Become a Q-Dog customer!