Gas BBQ: Propane vs Natural Gas Gas BBQ: Propane vs Natural Gas

If you're in the market for a new barbecue grill, you may be trying to decide whether to go with a gas BBQ or a propane one. The following information will help you with your decision by showing you the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed decision.

Understanding Propane Barbecues

Between 60 and percent of grills currently on the market are fueled by liquid propane. The propane comes in a portable tank that fits underneath or beside your grill. The tanks can be refilled by any qualified personnel at a gas station, or you can buy pre-filled tanks.

The tank connects directly to your barbecue with a connector or valve that looks similar to those used on garden hoses. Before use, you must decompress the propane by turning a valve that releases the gas and distributes it to the burners. A spark from an instant igniter creates a flame and heats the gas to create a hot cooking surface.

The most common size is a 20 lb. tank, which provides about 25 hours of cooking time.

Propane Barbecue Benefits

  • They're more convenient to use because they're portable. The propane tank can easily be detached and transported as needed with the barbecue.
  • Propane provides 2500 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per unit volume, which is higher than the 1000 BTUs natural gas provides per same unit size. 
  • Propane is environmentally friendly in that it does not contain lead, creates low greenhouse gas emissions and produces water vapor and carbon dioxide, which are both found naturally in the environment.

Propane Barbecue Disadvantages

  • Propane is more expensive than natural gas because it has to be transferred and stored.
  • Propane gas BBQs create a wet heat that can sometimes change the texture of the food being cooked. 
  • Propane, like natural gas, explodes easily. But it's heavier than air and stays concentrated and dangerous for longer periods of time than natural gas which dissipates easily because it's lighter than air.

Understanding Natural Gas BBQs

Natural gas BBQs cook food in the same way as propane barbecues except your gas source is attached to your house. Your grill needs to be plugged in to a gas line in your house to access the fuel. A hose is attached to the burners on your grill which are ignited by a spark created by an electronic igniter.

Natural Gas Barbecue Benefits

  • Fuel is automatically provided so you won't run out even during the biggest barbecues.
  • Natural gas is cheaper than propane at typically 1/6 of the cost of propane. 
  • Natural gas is classified as a greenhouse gas. Propane is not even though it is also an environmentally fuel.

Natural Gas BBQ Disadvantages

  • The location of your BBQ will be fixed. You won't be able to move it from one end of your deck or patio to the other, although a long, flexible gas pipe can give you some mobility.
  • Professional installation is required to use a natural gas BBQ and the initial cost of gas plumbing can be expensive.
  • Natural gas barbecues are more expensive than propane ones.

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