Propane vs. Natural Gas: A Comparison of Costs, Efficiency and Safety

Cost comparison

While natural gas is the leading home heating source in many parts of the country, most people don’t realize that many of the benefits of natural gas translate to propane as well.

Whether it’s a super-efficient furnace, unlimited hot water, temperature-precise cooking stoves or reliable backup home generators to enhance convenience and safety, you can count on all of these benefits in your propane-powered home in the same way people do in homes supplied with natural gas.

Propane offers reliable supply

Consumer surveys have shown that people like heating their home and water with propane, because they know they will have a reliable supply on hand whenever they need it. Having a propane tank on their property gives them the ability to store a plentiful amount that’s always ready for immediate use.

Natural gas customers don’t enjoy security like that. It seems as if every winter you hear stories about interruptions in natural gas service somewhere in the country because of pipeline problems, caused by either cold weather, accidents or deterioration—or sometimes a combination of all three!

Propane has a distinct edge over natural gas because of the way it’s transported and stored. After propane gets compressed into a liquid, becoming what’s called liquid petroleum gas (LPG), all of it gets stored inside large tanks until the local propane company delivers it to the on-site supply tank at a home or a business.

Liquid propane changes to gas before it leaves the on-site storage tank, getting released slowly and safely through pressure regulators. Compare that to the delivery system of natural gas. If an underground natural gas pipeline gets damaged—or other problems occur—hundreds and even thousands of customers may lose their supply until repairs are done.

Convenience and choice with propane

Most propane suppliers have several ways to ensure that their customers will always have plenty of clean, dependable propane on hand, with programs like automatic delivery, pre-buy and other plans to suit a family’s needs. Unlike natural gas or electricity, propane customers can contract for and store their energy supply on-site for ultimate security.

With many companies serving the Tar Heel State, North Carolina’s propane consumers also have a range of local options for price, service and terms. In contrast, natural gas and electricity providers have monopoly territories that don’t permit competition. These companies also may not lock in a customer’s service or supply.

Propane, natural gas and the environment

Environmental issues have been raised about methane leaks coming from underground natural gas pipelines. (Methane is a greenhouse gas and the main component of natural gas.) In its original form, propane is not a greenhouse gas and it’s considered a “green” fuel because of its low carbon content.

Here’s one more thing to feel good about: All of the propane consumed in the U.S. is produced in North America. So every gallon of propane you buy contributes to America’s energy independence.

Propane delivery is more accessible

If there are no gas pipelines installed near your home, you can’t use natural gas. Propane businesses serve customers in every one of the 435 U.S. congressional districts.*

Propane delivery is safer

Propane is kept as a liquid under pressure for safe transport, and is handled by highly trained professionals using equipment and techniques that are regulated by authorities at federal, state, and local levels. If damage occurs with a natural gas pipeline, the situation can turn tragic, as we saw in Durham in the spring of 2019.

Propane gas line installation is more flexible

In most cases, a propane line can be fed into a home at many different entry points, as long as there’s a tank nearby (while there are some requirements for the distance of a propane tank from the home, they are not overly restrictive). Easy routing may not be possible with a natural gas line.

As a fuel, propane is also safer

Propane has a much narrower range of flammability (minimum and maximum burn temperatures) than natural gas; propane will not ignite when combined with air unless the ignition source reaches at least 920°F. Read more about propane safety.

Are you interested in learning more about the costs of natural gas and propane, comparing propane grills with natural gas grills, or other issues concerning natural gas versus propane? Please reach out to your local propane company.

*Source: National Propane Gas Association.