Propane or Natural Gas: what is the best option for my home?

Most people don’t understand the differences between natural gas and propane when thinking about energy source for a house. We will explain here the main concepts of both products.

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Natural Gas

Natural gas occurs deep beneath the earth’s surface, and consists mainly of methane, a compound with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Natural gas also contains small amounts of other hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon gases, and today is one of the most clean sources of energy. Geologists who study the structure and processes of the earth are the ones that helps companies to locate the place on earth to find the rocks that are likely to contain natural gas deposits (some areas are on land and some are offshore and deep under the ocean floor). If a site seems promising, an exploratory well is drilled and tested. Once a formation is proven to be economic for production, one or more production (or development) wells are drilled down into the formation, and natural gas flows up through the wells to the surface. In the United States and a few other countries, natural gas is produced directly from shale and other types of rock formations that contain natural gas in pores within the rock. The rock formation is fractured by forcing water, chemicals, and sand down a well. This releases the natural gas from the rock, and the natural gas flows up the well to the surface. Wells drilled to produce oil may also produce associated natural gas.

Natural gas reach your house by a complex pipeline system, with different pressurization areas – you can read more about that clicking here. It is a cheap option compared with oil and electrical sources of energy.


Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula C3H8. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel. Propane is one of a group of liquefied petroleum gases (LP gases). The others include butane, propylene, butadiene, butylene, isobutylene, and mixtures thereof.

To use propane as your source of energy for your house you need a tank and an agreement with a company that will provide you the gas whenever is needed (some companies also provide a rental service).

Propane vs. natural gas BTU comparison

Propane contains more than twice the energy of natural gas – one cubic foot of propane = 2,516 BTUs (British Thermal Units), while one cubic foot of natural gas = 1,030 BTUs,.

Propane is much more efficient than natural gas. Just as an example, in one hour a 100,000 BTU natural gas furnace burns around 97 cubic feet, while a propane furnace burns only 40 cubic feet.

Propane vs. natural gas cost comparison

Most of New England’s gas is piped via New York from points south and west through a limited number of pipelines. The transport system is not built up to meet consumption levels in New England. The constraints are now becoming evident, particularly in the high-use winter season. On cold days, the “spot”, or daily market price, can go through the roof: on some days over the past few winters, it was twice as high in Boston as in New York.

You have to do some math if you want to find out what is the best option for your house. If the natural gas cost is $15.00 per 1,000 cubic feet, for example, the same $15.00 will purchase around one million BTUs. This is the equivalent of slightly over 11.20 gallons of propane. If propane costs $2.50 per gallon, in this example, natural gas is the cheaper alternative.

The difference between natural gas and propane

While they are similar in many aspects, natural gas and propane also have differences. Although propane is a fossil fuel, it’s a hydrocarbon and over 95 percent of the propane used in the US is produced in North America. Like oil and coal, natural gas also is a fossil fuel. Natural gas was created millions of years ago from ancient plants and animal matter which decayed under the pressure and heat underground on planet Earth. Natural gas is known as a “clean energy alternative,” since it’s clean-burning, producing less harmful emissions than other fossil fuels (oil and coal).

Although natural gas is a greenhouse gas when released into our environment, propane is not on the same level, as it has no toxicity to harm the environment. That’s why propane may be the better choice if you value “green fuel” more than greenhouse gases. Propane also is called “liquefied petroleum gas,” or LP gas for short, like natural gas, it’s odorless so processing adds an odor so people can detect its presence.

How to calculate the energy you need

You can work together with your engineer, but you can also finds some valuable information at the internet. The residential energy calculator in this website is a very good place to check it. You can use this calculator to compare natural gas versus other fuels and discover the environmental advantages of using natural gas in your home.

Remember to check your appliances

When planing for your final home setting remember the type of energy you will choose.  Appliances can work on either natural gas or propane, but the two are not interchangeable; each fuel source requires special gas utilization fittings. If you want to switch between the two, you’ll need a conversion kit for the appliances’ manufacturer for the installation process. For electric appliances like heaters, ovens or water heaters, there isn’t a conversion process; you’ll need to replace the appliance with one specifically made for natural gas or propane.

Keep in mind these numbers in your design

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Sometimes we see dwellings with old designs that looks really strange. Kitchens that are very difficult to use, boots that do not fit in the closet, and windows that are to high or too low. Here are some important numbers to remember:

  • Windows – 38 / 42

Window heights are important on both inside in outside. From an outside view the ideal is to align the top heights of the windows and exterior door, mainly in the main entrance (ideally for the entire building). Sill heights of windows adjacent to furniture or counters should be at least 42″. View windows sill should not exceed 38″

  • Closets – 24 / 36

Plan to allow at least 36″ of closet pole per occupant, with a hanger depth of at least 24″. Remember that an ambient is only consider a bedroom if you have a closet there – so, provide at least one closet for each room. You can add closets near front and rear entrances (for coats and shoes also, in case you have ancillary entrances for a mud room), a linen closet an at least one generous walk-in closet in the main bedroom.

  • Passageways: 36 / 40

Width are dictate by the needs to move large furniture. For stairs, landings, main and minor hall, interior and exterior doors the minimum is 36″ but we recommend at least 40″ to have good room for movement. Basement doors need a minimum of 36″ but ideally use 48″

  • Kitchen work aisle: 42 / 48

The width of a work aisle should be at least 42″ for one cook and at least 48″ for multiple cooks. You need to measure it between the counter frontage, tall cabinet and the appliances. Also have in mind that the passageway close to the working aisle should be at least 36″

  • Shower size: 30 / 36

The recommended size is 36″ x 36″ with a minimum of 30″ x 30″. If a person with disabilities will live in the house you need to revise the ADA of 1990 (Americans with Disabilities Act) – Appendix A of page 36 – that specifies all the needs for this population. We will do a post on this specific topic soon.

Gorgeous luxury kitchens

We spend a lot of time in our kitchens, and in our projects we put a lot of attention on the appliance features. The budgets can vary a lot depending on the brand you are looking for, and sometimes your house will ask for a really gorgeous appliance lines

One of the companies that is the leader in luxury appliances is Jenn-Air, a  Since the introduction of the first self-ventilated cooktop in 1961 and downdraft ventilated range in 1965, Jenn-Air brand has consistently grown its reputation as a technology and design innovator. And also a luxury brand for your kitchen, that is now surprising again us in terms of design and connectivity.

The company unveiled its newest design collection (RISE) this year at the 2018 Architectural Digest Design Show that happened in March. RISE embraces an evolved kitchen aesthetic, turns its back on the tired ways of conventional luxury, and allows consumers to wield control. It is a commercial luxury grounded in strength and beauty.

All of the appliances feature WiFi connectivity, enabling home owners to control their kitchen from their smart-enabled devices. Collection highlights include:

  • The Jenn-Air Column Refrigerators, a series of standalone refrigerators that range in width from 18 to 36 inches wide. The interior has three separate cooling zones and precision sensors, and features an obsidian interior finish, all-glass and metal shelving, and over 650 LED lights. The column’s slim silhouette and flush door allows it to disappear into the wall until it is opened.
  • A series of cooktops and ranges, which range in size from 30 to 48 inches wide. The cooktops and ranges feature more than 30 configurations, including grill and griddle fittings and a choice of dual fuel or gas power. Standard features include both glide and resilient racks, cast-iron cooktop grates, and brass-accented knobs with LED backing that glows when the burner is lit or the oven is on.
  • The urban living offerings suite, a collection of compact, 24-inch appliances specifically designed for small spaces. The suite includes a steam and convection oven, a wall oven, a speed oven, a warming drawer and a coffee maker.
  • A variety of under-counter appliances, including a two-drawer mini-refrigerator, wine cellar, beverage refrigerator, dishwasher, and ice maker.

The products are not cheap. But if you are looking for luxury you already now that it costs more, don’t you?

Check more about this great Michigan company on their Facebook and Instagram links.