Propane vs Natural Gas: Comparing Fuel Efficiency & Operating Cost - Impact Imports

Propane vs Natural Gas: Comparing Fuel Efficiency & Operating Cost

If you're thinking about adding a warm and welcoming focal point to your back yard, patio, deck or garden outdoor living area, you may want to explore the burning of propane vs. natural gas for an outdoor fire pit table. Each source of fuel has its advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately the choice will come down to your own preference and there are lots of different comparisons.  But, lets just explore these two:  fuel efficiency and fuel cost.

Propane vs Natural Gas: Comparing Fuel Efficiency & Cost

Did you know “Natural Gas” is actually composed of multiple gases?  These gases are propane, butane, ethane, and methane.  And, did you know "Propane," a part of “raw” natural gas, is separated from the other gas components during refining at gas processing plants?  Most people are unaware of this fact and assume propane (also known as LP or LPG or, in Indonesia, "Elpiji") is a manufactured or mixed gas product.  Now you know!

Propane vs Natural Gas BTU Comparison

Propane is more efficient than natural gas because propane contains more than twice the energy of natural gas per cubic foot.  One cubic foot of propane contains 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas contains 1,030 BTUs.  The best way to visualize this comparison is to make it simple: in a single hour a 100,000 BTU natural gas appliance burns approximately 97 cubic feet of gas, while a propane appliance burns only 40 cubic feet in the same hour, but generates the same amount of heat as the natural gas appliance.  Score a win for Propane!

Propane vs. Natural Gas Cost Comparison

Let's assume your natural gas cost is $15.00 per 1,000 cubic feet, or a little over one million BTUs (1,013 BTUs per cubic foot x 1000 cu ft = 1,013,000 BTUs).  The propane equivalent is slightly over 11 gallons of propane (1,013,000 BTUs / 2,516 BTUs per cubic foot of Propane = 402.6 cubic foot of propane / 35.97 cubic feet of gas per 1 lb of propane = 11.19 gallons). In January 2018, the average cost of residential propane was $2.572 (Source:  US Energy Information Administration).  Or, think of it this way:  In the example, above, Propane would need to cost approximately $1.34 per gallon to be the same price per 1,000,000 BTUs as natural gas.  So, if you have the ability to connect your gas burning IMPACT Fire Table to Natural Gas, it's not only more convenient, but it's cheaper, too!  Score a win for Natural Gas!

So, which gas should I choose?  Cost and efficiency are definite considerations.  But there are other things to consider too, such as being able to move your IMPACT Fire Table and if you're burning propane, you can do this!  (Every IMPACT Fire Table has a tank holder for a standard size BBQ tank) just inside the access door. So you'll have to decide whether or not you want to move your fire table).  Conversely, you'll never need to refill your natural gas connection just when you're Picture of a standard propane tank on its tank holder just inside the access door of a square shaped IMPACT Fire Tablesettling in for a nice, romantic evening at your fire table, but you just might run out of propane!  So, weigh your options carefully and make the choice that's right for your outdoor entertaining needs!  And, keep in mind, should you ever want to change the type of gas you're burning, it's a simple change of a brass orifice and we'd be happy to walk you through the process!

(At Right:  IMPACT Fire Table constructed of heavy duty steel with Raven Black powder coating & salvaged corrugated steel side panels burning propane)

For Additional information, see:  Propane 101, "Promoting Propane Safety Through Better Understanding" 

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1 comment

I loved it when you said that propane is more efficient than natural gas because propane contains more than twice the energy of natural gas per cubic foot. My current propane gas supplier cannot deliver on time. I will find a new propane gas supplier that can deliver on time.

Jeff Carbine

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