Heating a Home with Propane
Wondering if heating a home with propane is for you? Read on to learn the pros, cons and questions to answer before committing.
One of the decisions Cully and I needed to make for our tiny houses was how to heat the spaces. Due to the semi-rural nature of where we live, natural gas was not an option. We were left with two choices to power heat – propane or electricity.
After doing some research, we decided that heating with propane would be the best option for us.
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Heating a Home with Propane: Introduction
You may be wondering why someone would heat their home with propane. After all, propane is most commonly associated with grilling and powering RVs – not heating an entire home.
But propane is a versatile fuel source that can be used for a variety of applications, including home heating.
In fact, propane may be more popular than you think! According to the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education 2020 study*, more than 7 million American homes use propane for space heat.
Propane is a type of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that is derived from natural gas processing and petroleum refining. It is odorless, colorless and non-toxic. It’s stored as a liquid in pressurized tanks and converted to a gas when it’s needed.
Propane can be used for a variety of applications, including home heating, water heating, cooking, clothes drying, and more. One of the reasons why propane is such a popular home heating fuel source is because it’s clean-burning.
When burned, propane produces minimal emissions, making it a much cleaner burning fuel than oil or coal. Another reason why propane is a popular home heating fuel source is because it’s efficient.
Propane furnaces have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 90% or more, which means that 90% (or more) of the fuel’s energy is used to heat your home.
In comparison, oil furnaces have an AFUE rating of 80%. This means that only 80% of the fuel’s energy is used to heat your home and 20% is wasted.
Pros of Heating a Home with Propane
Now that you have a general idea of what propane is and what heating a home with propane means, let’s dive on into the pro of heating a home with propane
1. Efficient heating fuel source
As we just touched on above, propane is a very efficient home heating fuel source. With an AFUE rating of 90% (or more), you can be sure that almost all of the fuel you’re paying for is going towards heating your home and not being wasted.
2. Clean-burning heating fuel source
Another pro of propane is that it’s a clean-burning fuel source. This means that when burned, propane produces minimal emissions.
3. Versatile heating fuel source
Another pro of propane is that it’s a versatile fuel source. This means that propane can be used for more than just home heating. In fact, as we touched on above above, propane can also be used for water heating, cooking, clothes drying, and more.
4. Affordable home heating fuel source
One final pro of propane is that it’s an affordable home heating fuel source. In fact, according to the YCharts*, “the average cost of propane per gallon is $2.66/gallon (as of October 2022).”
Cons of Heating a Home with Propane
To make the best decision for yourself, it’s important to also understand the cons of heating a home with propane
1. Requires a propane tank
One of the cons of heating a home with propane is that it requires a (fairly large) propane tank. This means that you’ll need to have a propane tank installed on your property and you’ll need to make sure that it’s properly maintained.
2. Requires annual maintenance
Another con of heating a home with propane is that it may require annual maintenance. This means that you’ll need to have your propane tank and system inspected and serviced by a licensed professional every year.
3. Can be costly to install
Another potential con of heating a home with propane is that it can be costly to install. This is because, in addition to the cost of the propane tank and the installation itself, you’ll also need to hire a plumber to run the line(s) to your house.
If you want to install an underground tank, the cost will likely be in the thousands. Last quote Cully and I received (around 10/2021) for a 500 gallon underground tank was $3600+. That did not include the plumber’s cost to run the pipes.
4. Can be dangerous if not used properly
A final potential con of heating a home with propane is that it can be dangerous if not used properly. This is because propane is a flammable gas and, if not handled correctly, can lead to fires or explosions. It’s imperative to hire professionals who know what they are doing when installing propane.
Propane Versus Natural Gas
We’ve thrown a lot of facts, stats and data at you. Now it’s time to share our own personal experiences heating a home with propane versus heating a home with natural gas.
Our Experience with Natural Gas Heat:
The home we lived in before the tiny house was primarily heated with natural gas that flowed into a wall heater like this one.
We LOVED how inexpensive it was to heat in the winter time. Our energy bill was easily cut in half from our home before this one and a big part of that was because of the natural gas wall heaters.
We also had supplemental electric baseboard heat, but mylanta were those expensive to run each month! So we primarily used the two natural gas wall heaters.
Our Experience with Heating a Home with Propane:
This will be our first winter living in the tiny houses and our first time experiencing heating a home with propane.
As of right now, our tiny homes are 100% off the grid. And, we’ve been using propane to power everything. We use this generator which can be fueled by gasoline or propane.
These are the propane wall heaters we use, similar to what we have at the house we lived in before tiny home living (note: if you purchase any gas powered wall heater make sure you are purchasing the correct one for either natural gas OR propane).
We are in the process of getting a 500 gallon propane tank installed. In the interim, we have been using standard 15 pound propane tanks that are easily accessible.
Living off the grid (and while using 15 pound propane tanks) has been far more expensive than what we thought, so we are starting the process of pulling electricity to the property, but we will still use propane for our heat and for the propane gas stove.
Things to Consider
There are a few things you’ll want to consider if you’re thinking about heating a home with propane.
1. The cost of propane
One of the things you’ll want to consider is the cost of propane. This will vary depending on the size of your propane tank and how much propane you use. A very common size propane tank is 500 gallons. However, keep in mind that it can typically only be filled up 80%-85%.
2. The cost of installation
Another thing you’ll want to consider is the cost of installation. This will vary depending on if you decide to have an above ground tank or if you want to bury the tank. We decided to do an above ground tank for now and we are renting the tank. It’s about $70/year to rent the tank, so it’s pretty inexpensive. If you bury the tank, you will likely need to purchase the tank.
3. The cost of maintenance
You’ll also want to consider the cost of maintenance. This will include things like having the tank filled and making sure the lines are in good working order.
4. The climate
The last thing you’ll want to consider is the climate. If you live in a very cold climate, propane may not be the best option for you as it can freeze. Burying it underground can help prevent any issues with cold climate areas…but burying it will also come at a higher price tag.
Heating a Home with Propane: Who to Contact
If you’re thinking about heating a home with propane, we recommend contacting your local propane company. Common propane providers in the US are Ferrellgas and Amerigas They can help you determine if propane is right for you and they can give you an estimate of the costs involved.
The process usually starts with a site survey where someone comes out to determine the best place for your tank. For us, it took about two weeks to get this test done.
After the survey is complete, your chosen size propane tank delivery will be arranged. Once the tank arrives, the next step includes the gas company filling up the tank (they usually can not deliver it full due to rules, regulations, etc…).
You will also need to determine who is going to install the gas lines from the tank to your house. We are very fortunate to have friends in the construction world and a friend of Cully’s late mom is a licensed plumber who did all the piping for us.
Heating a Home with Propane Conclusion
Heating a home with propane is generally a good option for those who do not have access to natural gas and who do not want to pay the high price tag that comes with heating a home with electricity.
Using propane to heat a home is a great way to save money on your energy bill. It’s also very efficient and can be less expensive than electric heat. However, there are some things you’ll want to consider before making the switch, such as the cost of propane, the cost of installation, and the cost of maintenance.
We recommend starting by contacting your local propane company and licensed plumber to learn more and to get an estimate of the costs involved.
Are you one of the 7 million people who heat their home with propane? Share your experience in the comments below!
Until next time,
*Wisconsin U Propane Stats / **YCharts Stats
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Propane will provide many additional benefits to homes if used correctly. Knowing how to detect a propane leak, when to check your system and what to do if you think there is a problem can ensure that your propane system is running smoothly and safely, you can use the https://fluix.io/field-inspection-softwaresafety checklist to help you.