Propane vs. Natural gas: What to consider when comparing home energy options
May 8, 2019
When comparing energy options for your home, you want to make sure your choice is safe and reliable. Another major factor to consider is cost. But if you’re debating between natural gas and propane, there are more things to consider than just the fuel cost. The real cost for your home will depend on these other factors which you’ll want to keep in mind when making your decision:
Connection cost: If natural gas is new in your area, remember that home and business owners usually pay a share of the cost to bring the pipeline over from the roadside. The cost increases the further the pipeline is from your home or building – for those with long driveways, this can add up quickly.
Fuel Cost: In many parts of Canada where natural gas is available, it can be less expensive. However, there are many areas where natural gas is not the economical choice. For instance, consumers and businesses in the Maritimes have the highest natural gas bills in Canada due to dwindling production and supply. Further, in low density areas of Atlantic Canada, the cost to connect to the natural gas grid can cost more for those residents. Propane on the other hand is readily available from multiple supply sources and retail suppliers.
Heating efficiency: Propane and natural gas furnaces provide the same energy efficiency since both fuels typically use the same equipment. Most heating equipment will work with either propane or natural gas by adding a conversion kit for the specific fuel source. It is important that this is performed by a licensed professional. A Superior Propane Certified Partner can help with selecting and (if necessary) converting your equipment.
Expansion surcharge: The price of natural gas can be lower for the average home in some rural communities across Canada, but the cost to expand the infrastructure and connect to the grid is not. To help pay for expansion costs, natural gas companies often tack on an additional fee to everyone’s natural gas bill, including existing consumers. When added up, an average consumer can be looking at a payback of as much as 20 years.
Environmental impacts: Both natural gas and propane are clean burning. The difference is that propane is eco-friendly both before and after combustion. Propane is non-toxic and can't hurt water or soil in the event it escapes into the environment. Natural gas on the other hand contains methane, which when leaked into the environment before combustion is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. In most provinces, consumers pay a carbon price based on the amount of fuel used. Because both natural gas and propane are cleaner fuels, the cost for carbon is less than what you would pay if you used another heating fuel like oil.
Delivery method: Once installed, natural gas is delivered to your home automatically via a pipeline. But if you choose automatic delivery of propane, you’ll have a dedicated expert coming regularly to your home to resupply you with fuel and ensure everything is running smoothly. And with Superior Propane’s SMART* Tank™ and Residential No-Run-Out Guarantee†, you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel.
Appliance conversion cost: If you currently use propane and want to switch to natural gas, you’ll need to modify your appliances. Moving to natural gas-ready equipment can cost from $500 to $5,000, depending on the design and age of your current propane system.
The bottom line: As with any major home improvement decision, it’s important to do your research. Consider how long you plan to stay in your home and thoroughly weigh the benefits and costs to see which home heating fuel is right for you. In rural areas and markets that are underserved by abundant Natural Gas supplies, propane is the clean, affordable choice.
† The No-Run-Out Guarantee only applies to residential customers who meet the following qualifications: must have a SMART Tank installed on a tank storage greater than single 420 and no portable storage, be on an Automatic Delivery plan, have clear access to the tank, and account in good standing. Certain terms and conditions apply. Visit mySMARTtank.com.