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What’s the Difference?

propane or natural gas north carolina Whether it’s a super-efficient furnace, unlimited hot water temperature-precise cooking stoves or reliable backup home generators to keep your power going, 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.

With that said, let’s take a look now at some of the differences between these two widely-used home heating fuels.

Reliable Supply with Propane

Consumer surveys have shown that people like heating their homes 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 traditional 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 your local propane company delivers it to your propane tank so you can fuel all of your appliances without worry.

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.

As an aside, while the majority of natural gas is delivered in its gaseous form via pipeline in the United States, the growth in the international market for natural gas has given rise to the use of natural gas in a liquefied form, which is known as LNG, according to energy.gov.

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 propane delivery and other programs to make it easy to fuel your propane appliances. 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 Vs. Natural Gas: Which Is Cleaner?

Environmental issues have been raised about methane leaks coming from the processing of natural gas. (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. It does not contain any methane gas.

Here’s one more thing to feel good about: most 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.

Safe Propane Delivery

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 a few years ago in Durham.

Propane also 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. 

Are you interested in expanding your use of propane? Please reach out to your local North Carolina propane company for advice.

why the propane industry is not regulated like utilities

From time to time, a debate emerges over whether propane companies should be subjected to further regulations, such as being placed under the jurisdiction of state public utility commissions (like your natural gas, electric and water companies).

First, it’s important to emphasize that the propane gas industry is already highly regulated at the state and local levels. The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) works closely with state officials and state propane gas associations across the country to ensure that the safety and reliability of propane gas service does not become compromised. Additionally, existing fair trade practices and similar measures can be used to address problems that may arise.

Local companies, not utility monopolies, deliver propane

According to the NPGA, the public utility model should not be applied to propane delivery service for a number of reasons.

For starters, unlike the utility companies, propane dealers are private businesses that do not operate as monopolies; they are not franchised by the state to work exclusively within a service territory awarded to them. That’s why propane companies should not be subjected to price regulations—in the same way that other products are not regulated, including fuel oil, gasoline, food and clothing.

Right now, propane customers remain free to shop around for a propane gas dealer that offers them the best price and service. Monopolizing propane companies and forcing them to play under the same rules as utilities could easily result in chaos, and adversely affect the quality of propane service that North Carolinians have come to rely on.

Propane already has a lot of federal oversight

Although the propane industry is not regulated like a utility company, it’s still subject to oversight by many federal agencies. Here are some significant facts regarding propane’s federal regulation:

These federal actors play a major role in shaping how propane businesses operate, Additionally, the NPGA is committed to working with its members and government agencies to develop and refine its safety codes and procedures.

Propane Comes from Both Oil and Natural Gas

origin of propane north carolina After you get a propane delivery from your local propane supplier or turn on your gas appliance, do you ever stop to wonder where that propane comes from in the first place?

Propane is created through the processing of natural gas and crude oil, and it’s a fuel that is largely a domestic product. In fact, about 90% of the American propane supply is generated in the United States. That abundant, right-at-home supply makes propane a reliable fuel choice for your North Carolina home or business, and all of its propane-powered appliances and equipment, throughout the year.

Some propane is created during the process of crude oil refining. During the stabilization phase of the refining process, heavier hydrocarbons fall to the bottom. But propane, being a lighter hydrocarbon, is at the top and it’s easily extracted.

Crude oil refining, however, actually plays a small role in the production of propane. The majority of propane is derived today from natural gas production. When we take natural gas out of the earth, it is a mix of different gases. One of these gases is propane.

To stop condensation from forming in natural gas pipelines, propane is extracted from liquid compounds as the natural gas is being processed. Butane is also extracted during this process. Propane, being much denser as a liquid than as a gas, is stored and transported as a liquid in this form of production.

Propane vs. Natural Gas

If there are no gas pipelines installed near your home, you can’t use natural gas. Natural gas can only get to your home through an underground pipeline. But if something goes wrong with that pipeline, you can’t get any gas.

Propane gas is easier to move around because it gets compressed, or squeezed until it turns into a liquid. It is then put inside tanks and your propane supplier delivers it right to your home’s propane tank.

The compression of propane can be compared to the air in a car tire, which gets squeezed to about two or three times the normal air pressure. But the gas in a propane tank gets squeezed about 100 times more than that. This is why even a small tank can deliver a lot of propane gas to your home.

New to the Mix: Renewable Propane

While renewable propane is not widely available yet, homes and businesses all over the U.S. will eventually be able to easily use it. Since renewable propane is molecularly identical to conventional propane, there will be no need to replace or alter existing propane appliances and equipment.

What is renewable propane gas made of? Just as conventional propane is a coproduct of crude oil and natural gas extraction, most renewable propane can be considered a coproduct of biofuel creation. Many of the same feedstocks that go into creating biofuel — animal oils, vegetable oils, biomass — are used to create renewable propane.

This method of producing propane is as safe, cost-effective, and dependable as that for propane generated from natural gas. And when compared to electricity, renewable propane has a considerably smaller carbon footprint.

Read more about renewable propane gas.

No Flue or Chimney Required

gas fireplaces north carolinaA ventless fireplace –also referred to as an unvented or vent-free fireplace— is powered by either liquid propane (LP) gas or natural gas that flows into a gas burner mounted in the fireplace. This is a specially designed burner that bursn the gas cleanly, leaving behind almost no exhaust, similar to how a gas stove in your kitchen works.

When ignited, the flames run through gaps in artificial ceramic fiber logs, providing you with the illusion of a real wood-burning fireplace.

One popular example is the vent-free gas fireplace log set, a self-contained system that can be installed in walls or even open areas, with no outlet to the outdoor air. These gas log units can also be installed in place of old and unused wood-burning hearths that connect to a chimney but where the flue has been sealed shut.

A ventless gas fireplace is a great choice if you are looking for the highest heating efficiency possible. As its name implies, this type of fireplace is not vented to the outside. Because of this, all the heat produced is contained in the living space. Ventless fireplaces are more energy efficient than vented fireplaces because no heat escapes up the flue, so you’ll save money on fuel.

Ventless Gas Fireplace Vs. Vented Gas Fireplace

If you decide on a propane gas fireplace insert in your existing masonry fireplace, you must choose whether to get vented or vent-free. Efficiency, fireplace location, local building codes, and fireplace appearance of the fireplace are all considered before the gas fireplace installation.

If you choose vented gas logs, you’ll see a lifelike flame that is comparable to a genuine wood fire. However, in order to get this look, an open chimney flue or damper is required, and a lot of the generated heat escapes through these venting outlets.

With vented gas logs, you’ll have excellent energy efficiency, but the flame may not be as lifelike or powerful so it doesn’t provide quite the same level of warmth. A thermostat regulates the temperature in vent-free log sets to maintain a constant environment. Because vent-free gas logs introduce moisture to the air, adequate ventilation is necessary to prevent mold and mildew growth.

And because vent-free gas logs do produce a small quantity of exhaust into your indoor environment, they are not appropriate for bedrooms or other small, closed spaces like bathrooms or RVs. Vent-free gas logs are also prohibited in some local building regulations. Before going ahead with your ventless gas fireplace installation, see if vent-free gas logs are permissible in your community.

Gas Fireplaces vs Propane Fireplaces

If you’re on the fence about the purchase of a propane or wood-burning hearth or stove, keep the following in mind.

Convenience. With a propane fireplace unit, all you need to do is touch a button or flip a switch for heat on the spot. Whenever you do that, consider all of the time you have saved by not having to haul wood to your fireplace—not to mention cleaning out the ash afterward. Also with a propane fireplace, when you’re ready to leave the room, it’s just as easy as starting the fire. Just turn off the fireplace. That’s it. No smoke, no dangerous embers, no ashes, no soot, no problem.

The environment. A wood-burning fireplace emits up to 4,000% more emissions than a propane-fueled fireplace!
 
Efficiency and availability. Propane stoves and fireplaces are more efficient than wood-burning units, and they run on a fuel that’s readily available even in rural areas of our state.

Read more about propane vs. wood as a heating source.

Clean Energy Available to All North Carolinians

propane heat north carolinaWhen you rely on propane, your energy is secure, clean and made domestically. Propane suppliers in the Tar Heel State can give you the cleanest energy available to all North Carolinians everywhere! 

Because propane is created through the processing of natural gas or crude oil, it is a fuel that is largely a domestic product. In fact, about 90% of the American propane supply is generated right here in the United States! That abundant, right-at-home supply makes propane a reliable fuel choice for your North Carolina home, including for your home heating system and all of your appliances, throughout the year.

If you use propane appliances instead of electric ones, you’re doing your part to help the environment. The average propane-powered home reduces carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 30% compared to all-electric homes. What’s more, direct use of propane for space heating, water heating, cooking, and clothes drying reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50%.

Propane: Better for the Environment

Hands down, propane is better for the environment and for your home than electricity. Propane has such a low carbon content that it produces minimal emissions or air pollutants, making it a clean-burning energy source that can reliably heat water, fuel multiple appliances, and even power vehicles.

Consider this: it takes three units of source energy to get just one unit of electricity into your home. That means more coal often has to be burned to produce electricity. This generates even more carbon emissions to get electricity to homes.

Compare this to propane, which contains virtually no particulate matter–a known carcinogen–and releases significantly less carbon dioxide (CO2) than other energy sources.

Homes with propane-fueled furnaces also emit up to 50% less nitrogen oxide and 82% less sulfur oxide than technologies fueled by electricity. These types of emissions contribute to acid rain and cause respiratory ailments.

Read more about propane vs. electricity here.

Don’t Miss Out on Propane Rebates

If you want to increase efficiency, save on energy costs and add value to your home, why not invest in a new appliance (or two?) North Carolina rebates make it easy and affordable.

Don’t wait! Installation rebates for new propane gas equipment are available only while funds last. You can save even more when you install a qualifying Rinnai propane product and add a manufacturer’s rebate to your savings.

To learn more about rebates, go here and then contact your propane service company for additional details.

Year-round Advice for Using Propane Safely

propane safety north carolinaWithout question, propane is one of the safest fuels you can use in your North Carolina home. But to stay as safe as possible, you should always pay close attention to the operation of your propane gas appliances. The best way to keep all your propane equipment running properly is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preventive maintenance. Be sure to consult your owner’s manuals for what’s required.

Here are five safety tips to keep in mind.

  1. Propane smells like rotten eggs or a skunk’s spray. Propane manufacturers add this smell to help alert consumers to propane leaks. If you have someone living in your household with a diminished sense of smell (elderly relative, etc.), install a propane gas detector as an additional measure of security. Please go here to read what to do if you smell gas.
  2. When appliances operate properly, propane burns with a blue flame. If you see yellow flames—or notice significant amounts of soot on any equipment–the gas may not be burning completely. This can create carbon monoxide. Please contact your propane service provider.
  3. Regularly check the outdoor vents of your appliances to make sure combustion gases flow unobstructed to the outdoors. Insects, birds and small animals have been known to build nests in vent pipes. To prevent any damage, use a broom or a soft brush to gently remove any obstructions you find in your vents.
  4. As a general rule, you should schedule your next delivery when your tank gauge reads 30%. You can make it easier on yourself by asking your propane company if they offer automatic delivery service. If they do and you qualify, they’ll schedule your deliveries automatically based on your usage patterns and the daily temperatures.
  5. Never use any outdoor propane appliances—including propane grills—in an enclosed space or inside your home. (This includes garages and sunporches.) DO NOT use your propane-fueled stove for heating or for any reason other than its intended purpose.

Read more about propane safety.

Source: Propane Education and Research Council.

Propane-powered school buses have a lot to offer

propane school bus north carolinaTo help make switching to greener, alternative fuels a more affordable option, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has allotted millions of dollars for school districts that want to replace old, air-polluting diesel buses with cleaner-burning options—including propane-powered vehicles that run out of propane autogas.

Additionally, The Clean School Bus Program–which was included in the recently passed federal 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law— provides funding to replace existing school buses with low- or zero-emission school buses. Read more here.

Decreasing Emissions

A study done by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions showed that propane autogas is a proven way to dramatically decrease emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx).So, the more propane-powered school buses replace old, pollution-belching diesel-powered buses, the fewer NOx emissions our children will inhale. Studies have shown that, when compared with the old diesel buses they have replaced, buses with propane motors emit far fewer emissions.

Significant Savings for Schools

School districts across the country have already gained enormous fuel savings by using propane autogas instead of more expensive diesel fuel. Kids are also benefitting from a healthier ride to and from school.

In terms of fuel and maintenance costs, schools can expect to save an average of $3,000 to $5,000 per bus.

The Propane Education and Research Council estimates that if all older, dirtier diesel school buses across the United States switched over to clean-burning propane-powered buses, the savings would be enough to cover the hiring of 23,000 teachers!

And while there aren’t that many propane-powered school buses currently on the road in North Carolina, that number can be expected to grow by leaps and bounds, especially these days, when diesel fuel is more expensive than ever. See how North Carolina compares.

Safer and Quieter Rides for Our Kids

Propane-powered school buses perform better in cold weather than diesel-powered buses. They start more easily and heat the interior faster so that windows are defrosted quickly. The alternative fuel engine in a propane vehicle also is quieter than a diesel engine but packs the same power.

Safely transporting students to and from school while navigating through all types of traffic, weather and terrain is a major—and sometimes daunting—task for school bus drivers. Naturally, this job requires focus, so the fact that propane autogas engines are 50% quieter than diesel engines not only makes for a more pleasant ride but a safer one.

Additionally, buses fueled with propane autogas are crash-tested for impact in the side and rear, meeting rigorous motor vehicle safety standards.

Bottom line: now is the time for school districts and businesses to acquire affordable, low-emissions propane vehicles, especially since generous financial incentives are available and propane currently costs much less than diesel or gasoline.

Enjoy Your Pool More, Heat It with Propane

pool heaters north carolinaWith all of the sunny, warm days we enjoy in North Carolina, it may seem like a pool heater is an unnecessary luxury. But while average temperatures enable the typical swim season to last from May through September, we still have to contend with some below-average temperature days and evenings during that time.

And what will your plan be or the rest of the year—especially if you’re someone who enjoys a daily swim as a fun form of aerobic exercise? It seems a shame to travel elsewhere and just let that backyard swimming pool go to waste.

That’s where the best pool heaters come in. There are a few different types, each of which offers its own benefits to help keep your pool warmer when the temperatures cool down.

Our obvious choice is a high-efficiency propane pool heater (sometimes referred to as a gas pool heater). It’s a popular option because propane pool heaters can quickly heat your pool to your desired temperature. Many people feel that this is the best pool heater around.

If you rely on one propane fuel and service provider, they know your home’s heating source and can seamlessly integrate your pool heater and install it quickly and properly for you. Your propane service professional can also take care of annual maintenance to ensure your heater runs problem-free.

How a Propane Pool Heater Works

A propane pool heater simply burns gas to warm water from the pool pump, then cycles the water back into the pool. That’s why propane pool heaters are an ideal choice for in-ground and aboveground pools and spas.

The best propane pool heaters are:

Best Propane Pool Heaters Vs. Other Fuel Options

Propane pool heaters have distinct advantages over other pool heater types, including:

To learn more about propane pool heaters and the many other ways you can take full advantage of propane inside and outside your home, please contact your North Carolina propane service provider and they’ll be glad to give you advice.

Read more about how propane raises the bar on outdoor living.

Why Propane Gives You More Energy for Your Money

propane vs electricity north carolinaDid you know that propane generates a lot more Btu than an equivalent amount of electricity? This means you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat energy. That’s a big reason why propane is better for the environment. Because the less energy you use, the greener you are.

To appreciate propane’s big advantage over electricity in energy efficiency, let’s take a closer look at BTU content.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a British thermal unit (Btu) is a measure of the heat content of fuels or energy sources. It’s measured by the quantity of heat that’s required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit–at the temperature in which water has its greatest density (approximately 39 degrees Fahrenheit).

What Propane BTU-Per-Gallon Tells Us

BTUs can be used to compare energy sources on an equal basis. To compare propane to electricity, we need to know that:

To make these two energy sources “equal,” divide 91,452 Btus by 3,412 Btu. Your answer will be:

Propane101.com makes this comparison to illustrate the efficiency of propane compared to electricity. A 100-watt light bulb left on for a full day–24 hours–will consume 2.4 kWh. If propane could be used to power the same light bulb. it would only use 9/100th of a gallon of propane.

Propane Vs. Electric Water Heaters

If you have an electric water heater, here are four excellent reasons you will benefit greatly by converting to a propane water heater. If you have an old propane water heater, it is highly recommended that you upgrade to a new, more efficient propane unit.

Four Advantages of Using Propane to Heat Your Water

  1. Propane water heaters provide more value – When you consider that a propane water heater has a lower cost of maintenance and lasts years longer than its electric counterparts, propane always wins. And if you want an easy way to raise the value of your home, switch to a propane water heater! Tankless models, especially, are highly desirable to home buyers because it improves your LEED and home energy rating (HERS) scores.
  2. Propane water heaters are more efficient – A propane water heater delivers hot water on-demand. In fact, it works twice as fast and heats much more evenly and efficiently as your old electric unit so there is no more waiting around for the water to get to the proper temperature.
  3. Propane hot water tanks are the green choice – Propane is endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an environmentally-friendly fuel. Choosing propane means you will be lowering greenhouse gas emissions and doing your part to save our planet. An electric water heater simply can’t claim that.
  4. Propane delivers on home comfort and convenience – With a propane hot water tank, you most likely will never run out of hot water again, and you will enjoy a recovery rate that is easily twice that of an electric unit. You’ll also be able to reclaim all that space your electric hot water heater has been taking up as a propane system has a much smaller footprint.

Propane hot water heaters also have more accurate temperature controls and offer many more options in terms of size and where you can put them in your home.

Considering all of these great reasons to choose a propane water heater, the smart choice should be clear. Whether you choose a tank water heater or a tankless water heater for your North Carolina home, you will find superior value and convenience that offers greater home comfort. You may even qualify for a rebate that can help you save you even more!

Read more about how propane improves home energy efficiency.

Some Facts about Propane That May Surprise You

propane facts north carolinaDespite the fact that propane has been used to fuel appliances and gas heating equipment for about 100 years, there are still quite a few misconceptions about how safe it is, how it can be used and other wrong beliefs.

Propane Is Versatile

It’s amazing when you add up all of the ways you can use propane. First, propane can run your home’s heating system, heat your water, dry your clothes, power your fireplace and run stoves and cooktops. You can also take propane outside to fuel your backyard grill, patio heaters, fire pits, pool and spa heaters, outdoor fireplaces and more! Propane is also invaluable as a versatile fuel for just about any farm or commercial application. It is also widely used a motor fuel, known in this case as propane autogas.

Propane Is Remarkably Safe

Propane is perfectly safe when it is used with proper care, just like any other heating fuel. Propane has a remarkable safety record, due in large part to the stringent codes and regulations developed by the propane industry and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

And in North Carolina, propane dealers and their technicians, drivers and staff comply with state regulations that require periodic testing and training in order to ensure your safety. Read about propane safety.

Propane Is Friendly to the Environment

Propane has a lower carbon content than fuel oil, gasoline, diesel, kerosene and ethanol – a big part of the reason it was added to the Clean Air Act as a clean fuel in 1990.

Propane also emits less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity to produce the same amount of energy. That’s primarily because a lot of the electricity used in our country is still produced by coal-fired plants.

Propane-powered appliances are typically much more efficient than electric models of similar size and output. Less energy used translates to less environmental impact. Consider this: propane generates much more Btu’s than an equivalent amount of electricity. Put another way, you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat energy. For example, just one gallon of propane equals 27 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity.

Read more about propane compared to electricity.

The propane industry remains strongly committed to using less energy and improving our air by way of carbon reduction, sustainable practices and diminishing—or eliminating—our carbon footprint. The advent of renewable propane is part of that solution. Read more.

Propane Is Highly Efficient

Propane heats fast and effectively, with many propane appliances reaching super efficiencies of 98%. And because propane is clean-burning, investing in propane equipment saves you money since your equipment will need less maintenance and last longer.

Facts about Propane in North Carolina

Here are some numbers and facts to give you a better understanding of how important propane is to the people of North Carolina.

Let’s end with a few more facts. Almost all the propane used in the U.S. is produced domestically, meaning every gallon you buy contributes to the independence of America’s energy needs.

Maintaining a propane tank on your property gives you the ability to store a sufficient supply that’s always ready for immediate use, eliminating any dependence on an underground gas pipeline—just one more reason to feel good about using propane. It’s the Energy for Everyone!