Outdoor gas grills such as propane barbecue sets are a common appliance in American households. Although propane barbecue grills are familiar to all, you can also buy barbecue sets that use natural gas. In fact, many would argue that natural gas is a better option than propane gas while others are steadfast in their support of propane. Here's the lowdown on the differences between propane and natural gas for your grill.
Propane gas comes in portable tanks, which means when the tank is empty you’re out of heat. Since a grill hooked up to natural gas taps directly into the supply running to the house, it is unlikely you’ll ever encounter a gas shortage during a family BBQ.
With the natural gas grill essentially hardwired to your home, you will have a constant stream of gas to grill with. Plus, there is never a need to replace or refill the propane tank. Although most gas grills come equipped to run with propane cylinders, natural gas models are now available and conversion is relatively easy. It’s important to note that natural gas is not available in all areas. In this case, propane gas is the obvious choice. Otherwise natural gas wins in the convenience category.
Natural gas is generally considered a safer choice than propane gas. This is because propane gas is heavy so it can hang out in the air rather than dissipating with a slight breeze. Anytime there is gas lingering there is the potential for it to ignite, making it slightly more hazardous than natural gas. Having said that, it is important to regularly inspect both natural gas and propane gas grilling units for leaks.
Propane gas has a higher calorific value (BTU) than natural gases such as methane, which means that propane heat will actually burn about three times hotter than natural gas. Natural gas provides a lower heat. However, grills set up to cook with natural gas use special nozzles that allow a higher flow of gas. This increased flow creates more heat so, in the end, propane gas grills and natural gas grills provide about the same amount of heat.
The expense of both propane and natural gas ebb and flow throughout the seasons based on supply and transport costs. With all factors considered, it’s sometimes difficult to accurately compare the two gases when it comes to cost. One thing to remember is that it takes half as much propane to do the same job as natural gas. Also keep in mind that propane is priced based on gallons or liters, while natural gas is measured in cubic feet or cubic meters. You might also find them both priced per BTU. You will have to check local prices occasionally in order to get an accurate cost analysis.
It has recently become possible to buy barbecues that accept both propane and natural gas, but these barbecue sets, known as "dual fuel" grills, can be expensive, without even counting the cost of fuel. Another option is to convert one type of BBQ to the other by replacing the valves to allow the proper amount of gas flow.