Propane for Your Home 101
So, you are new to propane and using this energy source for your home? Learning about residential propane appliances can feel overwhelming, but rest assured that although it may seem foreign, propane appliances are not much different than natural gas powered appliances in terms of operation.
Below we will discuss the benefits of propane appliances, what options are available, who should be responsible for the installation of appliances, and how to maintain your propane appliances. While this article is not one hundred percent comprehensive, it should serve as a guide to anyone with questions about their new propane powered home.
Benefits of an All Propane Home
Most often, consumers are using propane appliances because they’ve chosen to live somewhere away from natural gas lines. If this is the case, your energy source options are propane, electricity, or in some cases solar energy. While all of these choices can serve their purpose and can often compliment one another, using propane to power appliances has many benefits when compared to electricity. As stated above, one such benefit is that your appliances will function very similar to natural gas appliances which is what most consumers are used to. A few other overall benefits to propane include:
- A reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – In a study contracted by the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) and performed by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), results showed that propane appliances can reduce GHG emissions significantly when compared to electric appliances. Specifically, propane furnaces produce 50% less GHG emissions that electric models. (Residential-Appliances-Emissions-Data)
- Generally, the more propane appliances in a home, the more economical your investment. In a separate study conducted by Newport Partners LLC, an all-propane powered home saved consumers around $500 annually compared to an all-electric home. (Data can be found on page five of Building or Remodeling Your Propane Dream Home produced by PERC).
- Performance – Propane appliances perform more efficiently and often at a lower cost than comparable electric models. Additionally, due to the abundance of propane in North America it can be competitively priced against other fuel types. Propane works hard, burns clean, and is non-toxic and non-poisonous so it will not contaminate ground water.
Appliances That Can Be Powered by Propane
Propane powered furnaces run more efficiently than electric models. Running a propane powered furnace eliminates cold spots in your home that can be common with an electric source heat pump system. A propane system will heat the air already in your home whereas an electric system pulls air from outside your home. On cooler days the amount of heat an electric system is able to extract from the ambient outside air is minimal, causing the system to work overtime.
Water heaters are often the second largest energy user in the home.
Traditional storage tank water heaters will use energy to heat the entirety of the tank. Often these tanks will store in excess of 40 to 50 gallons. Imagine the amount of energy your water heater is using to heat up all that water. It’s not very efficient, especially if that water won’t be used right away. In contrast, a tankless water heater provides instant and continuous hot water only when you need it. Switching to a propane powered tankless model can reduce energy costs up to 50 percent. Propane powered tankless water heaters also provide the lowest total cost of ownership in most parts of the United States.
If you are still interested in a traditional storage tank model, using propane power will still improve efficiency over an electric model. A 40-gallon propane powered storage water tank will supply your home with the same amount of hot water in the first hour of use as a 50-gallon electric model. (ahridirectory.org)
RANGES & OVENS
Commonly, if certain appliances in your home are running on natural gas or propane your stove will be one at the top of the list. Most families, and most professional chefs, prefer cooking with propane or gas when compared to electricity. It’s easy to see why: propane allows for precise temperature control, offers nearly unlimited settings between a low simmer up to a high boil, and a propane flame will heat the pan directly. When using an electric stove, usual pitfalls can include uneven cooking, limited heat settings, and the fact that an electric cooktop will first heat the surface then heat the pan.
According to California’s Consumer Energy Center, an electric dryer costs 30 or 40 cents per load to run whereas a propane model 15 to 20 cents (Statistics provided by PERC). Despite the initially higher price tag on a propane dryer, approximately $100 more than electric models, the savings quickly add up because propane dryers are about 20% less expensive to operate. A main reason for their inexpensive operation is their cycle time – propane models will dry your clothes faster than an electric model. Propane models are also gentler on clothing and can reduce wrinkles.
Another clean option for your home is a propane powered fireplace. These units emit more heat than a traditional, log burning fireplace and completely eliminate the mess! With a traditional fireplace much of the heat is lost up the chimney but with a propane fireplace heat is directed right into your home. With proper venting heat can also be transferred to other rooms in your home. Wood burning fireplaces are no longer allowed to be installed in newly build homes in California and many counties restrict the use of them in homes that were originally built with these units. Because of these restrictions, many turn to either a propane powered or electric powered alternative. A propane powered fireplace insert will produce exponentially more heat than an electric model, making them more cost effective. In addition, a propane fireplace will produce an actual flame, giving it the look and feel of a traditional fireplace – not so with an electric model.
A standby generator is becoming an essential appliance in California as utilities continue enforcing rolling black outs. Propane powered standby generators can help keep the lights on and your home running. These standby generators are installed above ground and are fed by your existing propane tank. Additional benefits include:
- A virtually automatic start when the power goes out. Propane standby generators kick on in about 10 seconds of a power outage.
- Propane does not degrade over time like diesel and gasoline can so it’s an ideal standby fuel.
- These units are quiet and can produce as little as 60 decibels of noise.
- As with other propane powered appliances, they produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel or gasoline.
- A propane standby generator can handle the capacity of an average home’s energy needs for days at a time, unlike solar or wind-powered systems.
Propane living can exceed far beyond the walls of your home. Using propane to power outdoor appliances can also do great things for your pocketbook and environmental footprint. Pool heaters, outdoor kitchens, firepits, portable heaters, and lights are some of the many ways propane can maintain your creature comforts outside. Grilling outdoors with propane produces less greenhouse gas emissions than when using charcoal and choosing to build a permanent design eliminates the need to refill 20-pound cylinders periodically. Extend swimming season with a propane pool heater – delivering twice the heat of an electric heat pump water heater. As with an indoor fireplace, an outdoor propane firepit eliminates clean up. Portable or stationary propane heaters provide warmth on those chilly nights and propane powered lamps allow the festivities to go on all night.
Installation, Repairs, Maintenance of Propane Appliances
INSTALLATION & CONVERSION
Any installation of propane powered appliances should be done by a licensed professional. Delta Liquid Energy service technicians are not able to install your appliances as each system will require its own certifications. It is likely however, that the place you’ve purchased your appliances will install them for you.
Propane appliances must first be set up properly to run on propane. Most appliances purchased will be set up to run on natural gas. Due to the differing pressure in propane versus natural gas, attempting to use natural gas appliances with propane can result in malfunctioning of the appliance or more serious dangers. Natural gas is a lower pressure gas than propane. Because of the nature of this fuel, the openings in the connection to your gas lines that allow the gas to flow are larger than those on propane connections. Therefore, if you are using natural gas connections with propane, the result will be more propane flowing through your connection and a much larger flame on your pilot light(s) or stove.
Some appliances are not able to be converted so it is important to check any safety notifications posted on your appliance or within the manufacturer’s instructions or guidebook. ANY conversions from natural gas to propane should be done by a certified Delta Liquid Energy service technician. If your appliances are able to be converted, this will be stated on your appliance or in your user’s manual.
For more information about converting your appliances, contact your local office.
As with your appliances, an HVAC professional should do any installation of a fixed heating system – a combined furnace and air conditioning or cooling system. If not properly installed and ventilated, these systems can cause serious health hazards. Carbon monoxide can be produced in the combustion of warm air and, if the products of combustion are not being properly vented, the back up of gases can potentially enter the living area.
MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS
As with anything the better maintained your propane appliances are, the better they will perform. Scheduling annual service checks with your Delta Liquid Energy service technician can be helpful to mitigate any potential problems. In a previous article we discussed what to do if you suspect a leak. If you do think there may be a problem with your propane system, contact us immediately and DO NOT attempt to fix the issue on your own.
If you notice your pilot light(s) are low or are burning a color other than blue, your system may need an adjustment. It’s also important not to store any combustible material or liquid that produces flammable vapors near appliances. Those vapors will be collected by appliances and can result in major damage. Clean or replace your air filters too – dirty and clogged air filters will prohibit the flow of air to and through a furnace, in particular. Filters on your furnace should be replaced monthly.
Your Propane Appliance Connections
The connection from your propane line to your indoor or outdoor appliance is the final piece to the puzzle. Unlike with a natural gas hook up, a connection to your propane plumbing requires a gas valve. These valves and connections should be inspected and installed by a certified Delta Liquid Energy service technician if you are moving into a new home or are considering introducing new propane appliances into your home.