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Jul 15, 2008 09:49 AM

Gas vs. Propane

We are looking for a house right now and I am faced with a scary possibility of not having a gas line in the house. I cook professionally, and give cooking classes in my house, so living without a gas stove scares me. I called the gas company and it sounds like putting gas into a house that doesn't have a gas line right outside or at least close would be ridiculously expensive.

I know some people put a propane tank outside of their house and bring a line into the kitchen. If you have any experience with that, would you mind sharing what you think of it. Here are some specific questions:

1) Can you connect it to a gas stove and oven or are you limited to a gas cook top and an electric oven? I am asking because I really like gas broilers :)

2) Does propane feel any different than gas?

3) How often do you have a refill your tank if you cook every day?

4) How much does it cost to put this system in?

5) How much a refills?

Thank you!

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  1. W

    Jfood grew up on natural gas and moved to a neighborhood with no gas lines at all in the entire town so when he remodeled the kitchen he went propane cooktop/electric oven. So let him answer what he can.

    1 - Only have cooktop, 6-burner Viking. And he loves it.
    2 - There may be a slight difference but the 99% answer is no, there is no different feel. The quality of the gas stove itself will play much more into the equation.
    3 - A 100 gallon tank will last longer than you care to know, probably over a year. Now jfood only has the cooktop and some fireplaces on his abut it is negligible useage.
    4 - That depends on where you are. Plumbers are required to pipe and connect. Zoning laws will also dictate where the tank can go wrt proximity to the house.
    5 - Propane is running about $3.50 per gallon in SW CT.

    Hope that helps

    2 Replies
    1. re: jfood

      I have gas at home and propane at my cottage. While I agree with Jfood and the others most companies do claim their appliances loose some BTU out put on propane. Not all products are designed to work equally as well when converted. I also agree that the quality of the products you buy will have an impact but the quality of installation with propane is IMO more critical than gas due to the fact that the jets have to be converted and properly adjusted. I really think the biggest BTU loss and difference in feel is frequently the result of poor installation. Here it can be hard to get a 100# tank in a home. In fact at my cottage where I just run a propane range and propane refrigerator I had to get a 330# tank. I only need to fill it every 3 years. The down side is that many propane companies now have minimum annual service charges. I received a bill last fall for $150 for not ordering any fuel last year. Yes, you read that correctly. $150 for nothing. Annual lease for a tank here is $25. You can have your tank put in ground but it would be rather difficult and expensive to change propane companies unless you actually buy the tank. Free tank set specials are the norm here but that does not include running the lines and hook up. All of the propane companies in my area do their own hook ups so it's not very expensive and they do the work the same day they deliver the tank.
      Bottom line for me is that propane is light years ahead of electric.

      1. re: jfood

        Like jfood I have a propane tank outside my house and unlike jfood I did not have previous experience with natural gas. I also have a Viking range top with 6 15K BTU burners but there should be no problem with a gas range. I thought my tank was an 80 gal but I was later informed that it is a 40 gal tank and the dial reads in percentages. I only have the rangetop and the fireplace connected and the fireplace which is 95K BTU sucks up a ton of gas. I cook every day at least 2-3 meals a day and I could cook a year on that tank and not go dry. The fireplace uses about 5% of the tank an hour. Because I only have the two appliances the gas co. charges up the wazooh per gal to deliver to the house. I think it was like $4/gal last year. Sure it's more now.

      2. We also recently renovated in an area with no gas. My husband is a professional chef and I'm an ex line cook myself. One of my primary criteria was that I wanted to install propane. When interviewing contractors they all tried to talk me out of it. Boy am I glad that I stuck to my guns! We have a six burner gas cooktop and opted for double convection ovens. I sometimes wish I had chosen to go with a gas oven and hot water heater as well. I don't think there are limitations other than your budget. When the plumber piped for the propane, I also had him pipe directly to my six burner propane grill on the patio. What a joy it is to pop outside and have the grill lit at the push of a button without ever worrying about running out of fuel in the middle of a dinner party again. There are going to be certain restrictions re: distance from your home and your neighbors home if the tank is to be above ground. A larger tank can be sunk and there are fewer restrictions, but I agree with jfood on both counts, a bigger tank is completely unnecessary and while there is some difference between gas and propane (especially considering that we don't have a choice), the benefits far outweigh them. We have 100 gal too and have hardly needed any fills in the three years since, cooking daily with both resources. Our vendor stops by, checks the tank and tops it up which usually only amouts to +/- $20 every few months. The costs involved are the plumber (piping), the tank and initial fill from the propane vendor (depending on your area, they can be hard to find) & the permitting (which took ages). I chose the cooktop because of price. The comparable free standing stove/oven combo was over $10,000, my cooktop and double wall oven combined were under $5,000 at the time. My propane vendor happened to have a slightly used tank which saved us some money too. I live in S. Florida and figure I'll be really popular if we get hit with another hurricane. Bring on the meat!

        1. We also have a propane tank that we use for our gas grill, gas fireplace, and most recently, a new Dacor gas cooktop. I concur with Jfood's comment about the quality of the gas stove being one of your most important considerations. Be sure that whichever stove or cooktop you purchase, it comes from the factory ready for propane gas. Several brands are manufactured for use with natural gas, and come with a kit to modify it for propane. That modification results in a significant loss of BTUs. Most (maybe all) of the higher-end gas stoves and cooktops can be purchased for use with propane.

          9 Replies
          1. re: CindyJ

            I live in the mountains where natural gas is not available so we have propane. We use it to heat (in part--duel fuel furnace--heat pump most of the time and gas when needed), make hot water, cook, fireplace, dryer, etc. We probably use about 600 gal per year, and I opted for purchasing not leasing a tank, which is buried. IMO leasing is a fool's choice, just like with cars--they aren't going to save you anything in the end, and it ties you to just one supplier--the bit about an annual service charge is icing on the cake.

            All that said, I disagree that propane results in a significant loss of BTU's. There is a loss to be sure (maybe 10% or so???), but you can cook just fine. The switch with the kit is pretty simple--the gas guys who have to come to hook you up can do it in a flash (no pun intended). For the OP, natural gas is the way to go if you can, but if the house you want doesn't have that option propane works just fine. Yes you will have to bring in a line, and the cost of that will depend on your particular situation, but in the context of buying a house it certainly shouldn't be a deal breaker.

            1. re: johnb

              It's easy enough to determine the BTU loss attributed to the conversion kit by reading the manufacturer's specs. In my shopping experience, I found BTU loss of up to 20% in some brands, and at least SOME BTU loss in all models requiring a conversion. You really need to look at the larger picture: how many BTUs (on each burner) are you starting out with? How many BTUs (on each burner) will you be left with after the conversion? How adequate is that for your needs?

              1. re: CindyJ

                Manufacturers advertise loss as a % that they expect to be the maximum loss. That does not mean that every installation will loose that much. There are a lot of variables involved. The manufacturer has no control over quality of installation or conversion. Many will not notice any difference at all.
                However I do agree it is wise to consider the BTU output and at least consider what your loss might be. In your equation you may want to consider that there is probably a fair amount of marketing involved with companies that advertise lower percentages. The flip side is that I would gladly accept a maximum 20% loss Vs using electric.

            2. re: CindyJ

              We use propane for (some) heat, cooking, hot water, fireplace, and dryer. It cooks just fine. I disagree that the loss of BTU's with propane is "significant." There is a loss, but I doubt you'll notice it--it's maybe 10% or so. Sure natural gas would be better, but if you don't have that option then propane is fine. You can probably order your stove from the factory LP gas ready, but if you have to do a conversion it is not hard---the guys who come out to hook up your stove (must be done by a certified gas tech) can do the conversion easily using the proper kit. (Gas should never be a DIY project).

              1. re: johnb

                Is this post still active?? I hope so as I have a problem w/ my newly installed propane stove. It was converted to propane and takes forever for water to boil. I was wondering if anybody has an idea of how long it takes a quart of h20 to boil in a pot so I can test it against my stove?? many thanks in advance

                1. re: dcdunbar

                  you need to find out what the BTU output is on each of your burners. that is the apple to apple comparison.

                  1. re: dcdunbar

                    jfood is right, but to get a measure of btu's may be a challenge--I suppose there are devices to do that, but I am not familiar with them or how you would get hold of one. But you can probably solve the problem anyway. If you haven't already I'd suggest a call to the manufacturer would be a good starting point---it may be the conversion was not properly done (wrong size orifices??) and that is at the root of your problem. Another approach would be to have the tech at one of your local propane suppliers have a look--those guys are surprizingly good in my experience. Clearly, based on your description, something technical is wrong--the mere fact you are using propane isn't the culprit.

                    1. re: dcdunbar

                      how much water? When we converted from an electric range to a propane gas range top with reported 15k btu per burner I noticed it took longer to boil a large pot of water for pasta. Granted I had never timed it before but it just seemed longer. The burners get plenty hot as my pans reach searing temps without too much delay but I sometimes think my old electric coil stove top with the large burner was hotter. I wouldn't go back to electric unless forced to. I love cooking with gas.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        A friend of mine bough the identical Wolf 48” range as mine but his is propane while I have NG - we both agree that his produces less heat, takes longer to heat the oven , boil water, hear the grill. It’s not a huge difference 5 minutes on the oven but very large pots of water (10 Qt) from chilled well water to boiling can take up to 12 minutes longer on his stove than mine.

                        However, propane is infinitely better than electric.

                2. Number me in the "So glad that I have propane because it's better than no gas at all" camp. Our 500 gal tank is buried and has been filled three times in six years - right now it is at 40%. Two fireplaces, 4 burner BBQ, the pool heater (when we use it) and six burner + griddle Viking cooktop are all connected to this propane tank.

                  I know there is a great discussion about loss of BTUs AND I wouldn't trade my setup for the alternative - electric only. I cook a great deal, non-professionally now that I'm retired, and would replicate this propane business in a heartbeat. If there is loss of BTUs, I'm happy to make the trade-off.

                  NB: we did need to have someone qualified make the conversion from natural gas to propane, but one it was done correctly, it has worked flawlessly.

                  1. We're out in the country and I chose propane to have a working cooktop when the electricity fails (Ice storms do happen). Gas wasn't an option.
                    Wood is our primary heating fuel, passive solar is second and propane house heat is third. Our hot water heater is propane as well.
                    I use about 250 gallons of propane a year and refill in late spring when there is always a special. Our costs per gallon are significantly lower than the cost mentioned above.
                    I wouldn't go back to electric.