Can You Convert a Propane Heater to Natural Gas?

To convert over from propane to natural gas requires a conversion kit that swaps the heater over. There are pros and cons to using natural gas. The main contention is that natural gas is more harmful to the environment.

You may have looked at your last gas bill and had a shock. It was quite high and you are wondering what you can do to reduce the cost.

One option is to convert your propane heater over to natural gas. The benefits of converting over are that natural gas is cheaper and it can be safer.

Yet, more and more people are making the switch. So if you want to jump over to the natural side of gas, let’s show you how to do it,

backyard with two propane patio heaters

Related Reading: How Long Do Propane Tanks Last For Patio Heaters?

You will need the right parts to convert over to natural gas

Most appliances will operate on either propane or natural gas. If you have been using propane gas and want to make the change, then you will need to change the fittings of your appliance.

Have a look to see if your appliance came with a kit that allows you to swap out the pieces. If not, then ring the manufacturer and ask if they have such a kit available.

It’s all about the pressure

Without getting technical, the reason you need to swap out the fittings and other components of your gas appliance is because of the pressure difference.

Propane gas has a pressure of 0.36 – 0.40 psi while natural gas pressure comes in at 0.25 psi.

Get the professionals in

Changing out the fittings may be easy enough for you to do, but then there are the regulators and burners that need adjusting. Perhaps the temptation is there for you to do it yourself. However, you’re dealing with gas.

Get the setting wrong and it could be disastrous for you.

Have a gas professional do this part of the job for you. Ring your manufacturer and see who they recommend.

It’s getting harder to convert

More and more gas appliances are being released on the market that are hard to convert over. That’s due to the industry trying to discourage DIYers. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, it simply means that you should let the experts do it for you.

There are some appliances, such as water heaters, that simply can’t be converted over. Unfortunately, the only solution, in that case, is to replace them.

How much does it cost to convert to natural gas?

If you have to completely replace a propane gas appliance in your house, that could cost a hefty sum. Therefore you need to weigh up the overall cost-benefit of converting to natural gas.

On top of that, you need to consider the ongoing cost of using natural gas. Propane gas can be two times hotter, which means that you don’t need to use so much gas for heating. That can save you on your utility bill.

If natural gas is available in your location, you will have to run the gas to your house. That can require excavating your property so that the pipes can be laid down. Now the cost of having natural gas is mounting.

However, if you look at things from a long-term perspective, the cost of going to natural gas can pay off. It may take around 15 years to reap the financial benefits after your initial outlay.

What to do with your propane tank

Once you decide to switch over to natural gas, your propane tank becomes obsolete. Depending on where it is located on your property, you may need to dig it out. There is the option of leaving it underground. It all depends on your situation.

If the gas tank belongs to a utility company, they may want it back. It will be necessary to at least empty the tank. Something that you can arrange with your gas company.

The pros and cons of natural gas

Let’s be honest, there are reasons why you should stick with propane gas. Yet, there are advantages to using natural gas. Let’s run you through the pluses and minuses of natural gas.

Pro: It’s always available

There’s nothing more frustrating than having your gas run out when you are in the middle of cooking. Or the heater flickers and then stops because it’s used up the last supply of your propane.

You don’t have these issues with natural gas. It’s constantly available and ready to go when you are.

Pro: It can be cheaper than propane

In a previous section, we spoke about the cost of converting to natural gas. Typically the cost of natural gas is lower than propane. It can be 30% cheaper.

For the budget-conscious among you, that’s something to seriously think about.

Pro: Doesn’t stick around as long

Natural gas isn’t as heavy as propane. So when you use it it’s going to leave your environment faster.

That gives peace of mind to people that are concerned about gas being released into the air around them.

Con: Natural gas contains methane

Though both propane and natural gas are seen to be environmentally friendly, natural gas is mainly methane.

As a greenhouse gas, it contributes to global warming thanks to methane oxidizing. In this process, the gas is converted to water and carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s the CO2 that is the culprit for damaging the environment, and methane is the source.

That makes propane are more “greener” gas than natural gas.

Con: It isn’t that energy efficient

The amount of energy produced by gas is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

Propane gas can release 2,516 BTUs as opposed to the 1.030 BTUs from natural gas. That makes propane gas twice as efficient as natural gas.

That’s important if you are wanting to have something heated fast such as food or water.

Con: Can be less safe than propane

Though both propane and natural gas are highly flammable, the issue with natural gas is if there is a gas leak.

Imagine a network of pipes running throughout your neighborhood. Then one of those is connected to your house. With so much hardware supplying gas to you and your neighbors, it is a major job to maintain the infrastructure.

The responsibility for this lies with your local government or the gas company that owns the pipelines.

A faulty pipe that is missed in an inspection can have the potential to create widespread disaster.

This type of situation is avoided with propane gas. That’s because the tank and gas line is confined to your property. If there is a leak or pipe that has worn out, then the safety issue is localized around your house and yard.

Continue Reading: Best Natural Gas Patio Heaters [REVIEWED]

Conclusion

As natural gas is being made available to an increasing number of homes, it can make sense to switch from propane.

Converting over your appliance requires changing over the fittings. Also, you will want a professional to come and adjust the regulators and burners. The benefit of changing to natural gas is that it provides a constant supply of fuel. Also, it can work out to be a cheaper option.

Yet, natural gas isn’t without its shortcomings. In particular, though it is a safe gas, it does contain methane. Methane contributes to climate warming through its production of CO2. Another downside can be the initial financial outlay required to convert your appliances over and the cost of having to remove your redundant propane tank. These can create a hefty price tag.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether the switch is worth it.