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VivreManger

Propane versus Natural Gas

16 posts in this topic

We are house-hunting. One of my strong preferences is to move to a house with natural gas, but some of the houses that may be attractive for other reasons may be too distant from gas lines.

Propane is the proposed compromise, but from everything I have learned propane is inferior to natural gas and may be no better than an electric cook top.

I have searched this forum for propane versus natural gas discussions and came up empty.

Does propane yield fewer BTUs than natural gas?

Can a high end stove such as Viking work as well on propane?

Other than the inconvenience of filling the tanks are there any additional downsides to propane?

Thanks


Edited by heidih (log)

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Without agreeing that a Viking is really a high-end range, or that electric is inferior to gas, I can answer some of your questions:

  • Propane contains more energy than natural gas -- 2500 BTU per cubic foot versus 1000 BTU.
  • Therefore, if propane doesn't work as well in some applications, it's due to engineering and design issues, rather than fuel source.
  • The inconvenience doesn't amount to much; a guy comes around at regular intervals and fills the propane tank. The presence of a propane tank in your yard might be an issue, though.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Here's a thought. We recently switched out our propane BBQ for a natural gas one. We have found that the natural gas BBQ does not get nearly as hot and takes longer to heat up than the propane one did.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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We use propane for our commercial kitchen and I would love to convert my home from electric to propane now. Natural gas is not an option here so we only have propane as a gas option. I find it plenty hot enough and much faster than the electric we used to have.

We purchased a regular gas stove and ordered the propane conversion kit with it. Our local gas installer converted the stove and got it going in no time.

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Without agreeing that a Viking is really a high-end range, or that electric is inferior to gas, I can answer some of your questions:
  • Propane contains more energy than natural gas -- 2500 BTU per cubic foot versus 1000 BTU.
  • Therefore, if propane doesn't work as well in some applications, it's due to engineering and design issues, rather than fuel source.
  • The inconvenience doesn't amount to much; a guy comes around at regular intervals and fills the propane tank. The presence of a propane tank in your yard might be an issue, though.

It certainly is high cost, which is not necessarily the same as high-quality. I was not necessarily making a judgment as to how good it is.

The engineering and design issues are certainly worth some attention, either here or in another thread.

Dave, would you care to expand on what specific applications reveal engineering and design problems? Did you have any examples in mind?

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Our propane tank was placed 9 years ago and we've camoflauged it with bushes. They now come as a unit that can be placed below the surface. Remember this is Cali, no freeze depth where we live, so your part of the country may prohibit this. I have a Viking 6 burner, griddle, grill, double gas/convection ovens and it heats plenty hot. But let's not get into the Viking quality of delivered product.


"I drink to make other people interesting".

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Without agreeing that a Viking is really a high-end range, or that electric is inferior to gas, I can answer some of your questions:
  • Propane contains more energy than natural gas -- 2500 BTU per cubic foot versus 1000 BTU.
  • Therefore, if propane doesn't work as well in some applications, it's due to engineering and design issues, rather than fuel source.

As noted by others, propane has the potential to burn hotter than natural gas.

In 'my other life' as a glass artist, I've found propane will definitely provide a hotter flame, but may be slightly less clean -- depending on the purity of the gas.

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Propane is fine. I have it and am totally happy with it.

You can have a big propane tank buried most places so it will be unintrusive. I'm in NH where the frost gets three feet into the ground+/- in winter. I don't believe frost depth is an issue. A high water table could be though; tanks can float up through the ground if the water pushes them up.

If you are worried about the cost of the gas your stove will use, I want your stove; it must have a huge BTU output.

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The engineering/design issue is borne out by the fact that some "high-end" gas cooktops have a lower BTU output from propane as compared to natural gas. It probably has something to do with the design of the propane conversion kit that is required.

This table compares BTU output for a variety of cooktops from different manufacturers. The last column indicates whether the BTU output from LP is equal to or less than from natural gas. The table is from Caldera Corp.'s website. Their lower-end cooktop has received fantastic reviews in other forums.

I cooked with propane for many years and found that if the gas/air mix is not calibrated properly, there's a sooty black residue left on the bottom of pans. But my stove was an antique (combination wood/gas) and difficult to adjust.

If you need to use propane, shop around for competitive pricing. Prices have escalated dramatically in the last two years and some companies are now charging rental fees for the tank. Try to lock in a low price under a 1 or 2 year contract in exchange for opening a new account. In the current economy, with many businesses closing, propane companies are anxious to get new customers and will offer decent pricing.


Ilene

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Dave, would you care to expand on what specific applications reveal engineering and design problems?  Did you have any examples in mind?

I think Beanie has it right -- that chart is helpful. Beyond that, I wouldn't call these "problems" so much as "choices" made by a manufacturer. If I had to guess why some manufacturers made them, I'd point out that Beanie and baroness are correct that propane is harder to adjust properly, since the jets for propane are about half the size of those for natural gas -- meaning less margin for error. So you've got manufacturing issues (fine machining) and training issues (teaching personnel how to set up a propane conversion). The latter seems like the bigger problem, especially since service for high-end manufacturers is often scarce outside major metropolitan areas.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I have propane and am quite happy with it... To the best of my knowledge it burns at least two times *hotter* than natural gas... The result of this is that I often have to use a flame-tamer on my stove if I want a low simmer, because the flame burns so hot that otherwise things may burn on the bottom of the pan. On the plus side, it boils water lightening fast. See the link below, question 3, for the 'which burns hotter' piece... This was just the first website I found, but I had heard that fact before...

http://hearth.com/econtent/index.php/artic...al_qa_about_gas

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Propane will burn hotter than natural gas--but...

caveat here....

only if the device was designed for burning propane.

Most equipment is designed for nat. gas, and most equipment comes with conversion kits for propane. Once you convert a piece of equipment designed for nat. gas to propane, the btu output is usually much lower.

If you go on pro cooking equipment websites (garland, US Range, etc.) and look on the spec sheets for each piece of equipment, you will notice about a 10% drop in btu's when converting from nat.gas to propane

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I'm sure there are some propane units that are twice as hot as some natural gas units, just as I'm sure that there are some electrical units that are twice as effective as some propane units. But as a practical matter, all burners -- regardless of fuel source -- are designed for useful output within a fairly narrow, um, range, based on assumptions manufacturers make about how their customers cook.

But the variables that go into the total efficiency equation are numerous: in addition to BTU output (assuming that the burner is properly adjusted), height of the grates, grate material, cooking vessel material, vessel contents, ability and conscientiousness of the cook -- it goes on, and not all of it is under the manufacturer's control.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I was trying to sell my sister on a induction cooker so I purchased a single element induction cooker and we tried the boiling water test.

It took 90 seconds to boil water on the induction cooker and about 20 seconds more for the propane stove.

I convinced her that the induction cooker could find a place in our kitchen and I got a bit of propane stove envy when I went home that night to my mediocre electric stove.

:sad:

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Propane can be stored as a liquid at normal temperatures and that indeed is what is in a propane tank, liquid. Natural gas is transported as gas and there fore I don't know if the amount of energy stored comparison is really valid because one is a liquid and one a gas. In any event, the diiference is not that great when measuerd as BTU/Hr in an appliance. Since propane is manufactured from natural gas propane is more expensive.

Me, I wouldn't have anything but natural gas and have avoided other sources of energy for heating and cooking.-Dick

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