Gas fireplaces are quickly becoming the most popular type of fireplace. But when it comes to gas fireplaces, there are usually two options; natural gas and propane. But can a gas fireplace use propane?
Gas fireplaces use either liquid propane or natural gas to function. Since liquid propane and natural gas both burn differently using a different burner system, you cannot use propane in a natural gas fireplace, and you cannot use natural gas in a liquid propane fireplace.
Gas fireplaces typically function on either natural gas or liquid propane, not on both. There are a few clear differences between the two types, but they also come with different costs and usage.
Can A Gas Fireplace Use Propane?
A gas fireplace is designed to function on either liquid propane or natural gas. One made to use liquid propane cannot use natural gas, and one made to function on natural gas cannot function on liquid propane. This is because there’s a difference in how these gases burn, and they both require a different burner system.
Currently, there are two different types of gas fireplaces; ones that burn natural gas and ones that burn propane. A gas fireplace built to function on propane can, of course, use propane. But a fireplace built to function with natural gas cannot use propane.
The main reason for that is the fact that both gases are in different states (gas and liquid) and burn differently. Natural gas is, well, in gas form, while propane comes in a liquid form.
On top of that, propane fireplaces have different safety regulations (propane fireplaces need a manual valve to shut off the propane supply, but more on that later!)
Due to the different safety regulations and the fact that a different burner is needed, a natural gas fireplace cannot use propane. However, if your gas fireplace is built to function on propane, that would, of course, work perfectly fine.
Are Gas And Propane Fireplaces The Same?
Gas and propane fireplaces are not the same, as both forms of gas require a different burner system. The main thing that is the same is the fact that they both burn gas.
Despite both versions being a gas fireplace, they both use different fuel types, which leads to a few key differences.
Both of these different forms require a different burner. Also, propane fireplaces require different safety measures, as liquids are much heavier than gases. Whereas gas would just rise through the chimney to the top, liquid propane would lay still on the floor.
That’s why most propane-powered fireplaces have a manual valve that you need to open and close in order to use it. This prevents any propane from spilling into the fireplace or into the room, preventing a serious fire hazard.
Propane fireplaces also require a propane tank to be installed near them, whereas natural gas fireplaces can simply be connected to the gas lines of your home.
This does restrict the location of your propane fireplace, as there needs to be enough room for a propane tank. Usually, though, this really shouldn’t be an issue on the ground floor.
How Much Propane Does A Fireplace Use?
A propane fireplace uses about one gallon per 91,500 BTUs. How much propane the fireplace exactly uses depends on its BTU output, but on average, they use about half a gallon to a full gallon of propane per hour.
Of course, the exact amount of propane that a fireplace uses fluctuates a bit, but the average (and most fireplaces don’t stray too far outside of this range) is about one gallon per 91,500 BTUs.
How much propane your fireplace uses comes down to a few questions:
- How many BTUs does your fireplace put out?
- Is your fireplace the primary heating source of your home?
- What settings do you have your fireplace set to?
Gas fireplaces come in different shapes and sizes, and that also goes for the BTU output. Some fireplaces put out 50,000 BTUs, in which case, your fireplace uses about half a gallon per hour. Others put out 100,000 BTUs. In that case, they use a little over a gallon per hour.
Another factor is whether or not your fireplace is the primary heating source. If it is, and the weather is cold outside, the fireplace has to work a little harder to heat up the home. In that case, it will use more propane.
Lastly, there are also the settings. Gas fireplaces can be regulated and changed to as small or as large of a flame as you want. The highest settings will, of course, lead to higher propane usage.
How Much Propane Does A Pilot Light Use?
On average, a pilot light takes around 800 BTUs per hour. Per day, that comes down to 19,200 BTUs, which means it uses about 1/5 of a gallon of propane. This does depend on your exact model and whether or not you have a standing pilot light (one that always burns) or one you need to ignite electronically.
A pilot light is a small ‘flame’ that’s always on. It’s used to ignite the fireplace, so an actual flame will be produced when you open the gas valve. Now, there are two different types of pilot lights;
- A standing pilot light is the standard and most common pilot light. Standing refers to the fact that this pilot light is always on. Naturally, a pilot light that’s always on will use more gas/propane than one that’s shut off when not in use. Standing pilot lights are the most popular as they’re extremelly reliable and easy to use.
- An electronically lit pilot light is a pilot light that’s only on when the fireplace is in use. As the name suggests, the pilot light is lit electronically. This allows the pilot light to easily be switched on or off, leaving the pilot light only lit when the fireplace is in use. Unlike a standing pilot light, this one is lit way less, resulting in a lower gas/propane usage.
The electronic ignition system was initially developed to combat the waste of a standing pilot light. After all, you’re not using your fireplace 24/7, so having the pilot light constantly on is a waste of both gas and money.
Since the electronic ignition system only keeps the pilot light lit when necessary, there’s a significant difference in how much propane the two use. Even though the price for a gallon of propane is the same, regardless of how long the pilot light is on, standing pilot lights are on much longer than the electronic ignition ones.
Let’s just say you have your fireplace running for 2 hours a day. An electronic ignition system would have the pilot light running for 2 hours a day, whereas the standing pilot light runs for the full 24 hours.
On average, a standing pilot light uses about 1/5 of a gallon of propane per 24 hours. This is about 0,008 gallons of propane per hour.
If you have an electronic ignition system, and you keep the fireplace running for 4 hours, that would mean you use about 0,03 gallons of propane, compared to the 0,2 gallons of propane that a standing pilot light uses.
How Much Does It Cost To Run A Propane Gas Fireplace?
The average cost of running a propane fireplace is around $60 a month. Propane costs about $2 per gallon. The typical propane fireplace uses about 1 gallon every 2 hours, and the average propane fireplace runs for 60 hours a month.
How much it costs to run a propane fireplace perfectly ties in with how much propane it uses. Since the price per gallon of propane depends on how long you run the fireplace, it’s easiest to calculate how much it costs per hour.
We’ll work with the averages for this example, which are:
- $2 per gallon of propane
- Half a gallon of propane for every hour the fireplace runs
Luckily, these averages make for some easy calculations. Every hour you run your fireplace will cost you $1
On average, a homeowner runs the fireplace for 2 hours a day. This comes down to $2 per day, which comes down to approximately $60 a month.
But these calculations work for when the fireplace is on. One more thing to consider is the pilot light. We just discussed that there are two different types of pilot lights; a standing pilot light and an electric ignition system.
Here are the calculations for these two types of pilot lights and their costs:
One gallon of propane costs approximately $2. A fireplace with a standing pilot light runs 24 hours and uses about 1/5 gallon of propane per day. That comes down to a total of $0,40 a day.
If we take the same $2 per gallon, but with an electric ignition system, the price per hour would be $0,017. Running the fireplace for an average of 2 hours a day, you’ll pay only $0,034 a day.
Overall, a propane fireplace isn’t too expensive to run. The average homeowner spends about $60 on propane every month. But keep in mind that running a fireplace can also help cut down the electricity bill!
Does Propane Burn Hotter Than Natural Gas?
Propane and natural gas both burn at 3560 degrees Fahrenheit. However, propane generates about 2520 BTUs per cubic foot, whereas natural gas generates about 1012 BTUs. This essentially means that propane does a much better job at putting out heat than natural gas does.
While propane and natural gas both burn at the same temperature of 3560 degrees Fahrenheit, propane generates much more heat. This is measured with BTUs, which stand for British Thermal Units.
1 BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Propane generates more than double the amount of BTUs (a total of 2520 per cubic foot) when compared to natural gas (a total of 1012 per cubic foot), which means that propane generally does a much better job at pushing out heat.
In fact, propane heats nearly 2,5 times more efficiently, meaning that for every gallon of propane you burn, you need to burn 2,5 gallons of natural gas to achieve the same result.
This essentially means that a propane fireplace is much more efficient at heating a home than a natural gas fireplace. In addition, propane is also praised for its zero harmful carbon emissions.
What’s Cheaper; Natural Gas Or Propane?
Natural gas fireplaces are cheaper than propane fireplaces. The price per gallon of natural gas is about $1,50, whereas the price per gallon of propane is $2. However, propane produces twice as much heat when compared to natural gas.
Natural gas fireplaces are typically cheaper than a propane fireplace. The price per gallon is about 25% cheaper than that of a gallon of propane. Of course, gas and propane prices are prone to change, but historically, natural gas has been much cheaper than propane.
However, there is one major difference between the two, and we just discussed it:
Propane produces twice as much heat.
So despite the fact that natural gas is cheaper per gallon, you need twice as much of it in order to heat the same space that one gallon of propane can heat.
What it ultimately comes down to is that while the price for natural gas is about 25% cheaper, it’s about 50% less effective at generating heat.
If you were to spend $10 on both natural gas and propane, you’d find that propane generates more heat and is ultimately a better bang for your buck.