Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

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skives19
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Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by skives19 »

We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
BuddyJet
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by BuddyJet »

In your cost considerations, add the cost to convert your appliances from propane to natural gas. Some conversions are a jet change, others are more involved. Below is a link about water heater conversion.

https://www.hotwater.com/lit/partslists/psd3598a.pdf
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Valuethinker
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Valuethinker »

skives19 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:37 am We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
Broadly, yes, it's likely to be a worthwhile switch. An exception might be if you live in the Northeastern US states, particularly New England-NY.

Something I am pretty sure about

As I understand it, the price of Natural Gas is very much driven by North American specific factors. Although very high Liquified Natural Gas export prices have driven prices up recently. However fracking has meant the discovery of a lot of gas, and at higher prices, it gets extracted. Thus bringing prices down. Exports are unlikely ever to be more than c. 20-25% of total demand (total consumption of N American domestic supply).

New England is an exception because sufficient pipeline capacity is not in place & faces strong local resistance. LNG is imported to meet deficiencies of supply and the costs of that are at least 3x what is paid for piped gas - it's a global market for LNG and the Ukraine war has meant a massive shortage of gas in Europe which can only be met via LNG (& demand destruction).

NG prices also sets the price for electricity in most jurisdictions. Because natural-gas fired generation is the marginal fuel on the electricity system - the last MWhr bought or sold is typically generated by a gas fired plant (which can run up or run down very fast*, so able to respond to rapidly changing demand conditions).

Something I am less sure about

Propane on the other hand seems to more closely track the oil price. That is now, and always will be, a global market. US oil prices track world oil prices within a few dollars. Fracking is an important source of new oil, but conversely depletion rates for conventional fields are 4-8% pa, typically, so the world has to run very fast in terms of new discoveries just to stand still. World demand continues to rise at c 2% pa-- adjusting for the impacts of Covid and various recessions etc.

So you can get some pretty vicious price spikes in crude oil prices. In fact, history says you are sure to, at least every 10 years or so. It's not likely that world oil prices can stay below $60/bl, say, for an extended period of time because that leads to production cutbacks in fracking, deep offshore etc. By cutting investment in new fields and new sources, each slump sets the groundwork for the future recovery in price.

Something to think about

I don't want to get a simple thread shut down - see our debate about electric cooking. So I am making observations about what can be observed rather than judging whether it is good or bad, per se, or where it is going.

But it's definitely the case that the world is moving towards heat pumps (and electric appliances). This is a global phenomenon in every cold weather country. Europe in particular -- the Ukraine war has led to a massive acceleration eg in Poland (reducing dependence on imported gas, increasing use of domestic electricity which right now is primarily coal-generated but with increasing levels of renewables in all countries).

In the USA heat pumps are an air-conditioning led market. Basically in southern homes where for whatever reason gas connections were not available. US HPs tend to have poor cold weather performance compared to say, Japanese models. But this is changing.

Again there are incentives in some jurisdictions to skip the NG stage and go straight to HPs. Massachusetts?

So you will have to be clear in your own mind that you don't want to switch to a HP in the next 10 years, say. Probably in North America, you don't/ won't. Again NE USA (or perhaps the West Coast - both CA & OR/ WA) would be exceptions.

* less than 30 minutes. For "gas peaker" plants, as fast as 30 seconds (at lower efficiencies). A coal-fired plant takes many hours to get up to speed (they are typically kept as "spinning reserve" during periods of high demand, ie fueled up and running, but not synchronised with the grid). Only pumped storage hydro (dams) or (for short bursts of demand) batteries are as flexible.
sleepy06
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by sleepy06 »

BuddyJet wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 7:03 am In your cost considerations, add the cost to convert your appliances from propane to natural gas. Some conversions are a jet change, others are more involved. Below is a link about water heater conversion.

https://www.hotwater.com/lit/partslists/psd3598a.pdf
I would do it with the lump sum to get it cleared from my mind.
I'd ask them if they have someone that can convert the appliance or determine interoperability in one fell swoop.
Can they also have your propane tank removed/sold at same time?
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galawdawg
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by galawdawg »

As mentioned, that price from the NG supplier likely does not include the cost to convert everything in your home from propane to NG. You should consider that in the total cost to switch to figure out when (if ever) you would break even. Also, do you currently own or lease your propane tank?

One thing to consider is whether in your location there is competition for NG suppliers. If you are stuck with a single supplier then you have no choice but to pay their prices if you remove your propane tank and convert your propane water heater, furnace, cooktop, fireplaces, grill and such to NG.

If you currently own your propane tank, you can shop the various propane suppliers in your area and determine which has the best prices. Additionally, depending upon your use, you could fill your tank during the time of year when propane is at its lowest cost. One tank lasts us over a year so we can fill it once a year during the non-peak season (which here is usually around September-October).

Finally, realize that propane contains more than twice the energy of natural gas; one cubic foot equally 2,516 BTUs vs 1,030 BTUs. So a 50,000 BTU appliance will burn over 48 cubic feet of NG per hour, the same appliance will burn under 20 cubic feet per hour. So when you are comparing prices of NG to propane, be aware of the difference. Whether NG is less expensive than propane over the long-run depends upon pricing in your area.

Just food for thought...
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sunny_socal
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by sunny_socal »

Depends on long you'll stay in the house! You've already done some math to show when you'll break even.
beardsicles
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by beardsicles »

I personally would just skip the natural gas step entirely and move to heat pumps/induction. Especially when there are so many tax credits/rebates depending on your income.
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snackdog
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by snackdog »

Forget gas and go electric on everything as it wears out.
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AllMostThere
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by AllMostThere »

beardsicles wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:10 am I personally would just skip the natural gas step entirely and move to heat pumps/induction. Especially when there are so many tax credits/rebates depending on your income.
NG is simple and the infrastructure is already in place in most established MW & NE households so makes sense for most. My cooktop, water heater and furnace are all NG, so I am not anti-NG as today's mass media and political environment is leaning. However, the energy content of NG vs LNP considerations, the cost benefit for NG vs Electric is probably worthy of the in-depth analysis that includes "full" cost considerations as listed by poster galawdawg. As posted by beardsicles the inclusion of new tax credits and rebates makes the analysis even a little more difficult. Other considerations for this analysis would be is this your forever home? I would not do it I was thinking of moving ~ 10 years. If electric is cost viable, do you have adequate incoming power amperage? Does your electrical now need to be upgraded? Not an easy yes/no task.
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beardsicles
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by beardsicles »

AllMostThere wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 10:03 am
beardsicles wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:10 am I personally would just skip the natural gas step entirely and move to heat pumps/induction. Especially when there are so many tax credits/rebates depending on your income.
NG is simple and the infrastructure is already in place in most established MW & NE households so makes sense for most. My cooktop, water heater and furnace are all NG, so I am not anti-NG as today's mass media and political environment is leaning. However, the energy content of NG vs LNP considerations, the cost benefit for NG vs Electric is probably worthy of the in-depth analysis that includes "full" cost considerations as listed by poster galawdawg. As posted by beardsicles the inclusion of new tax credits and rebates makes the analysis even a little more difficult. Other considerations for this analysis would be is this your forever home? I would not do it I was thinking of moving ~ 10 years. If electric is cost viable, do you have adequate incoming power amperage? Does your electrical now need to be upgraded? Not an easy yes/no task.
Complicating things further, there are significant tax credits for doing all the electrical work you mentioned.

Fwiw, I’m in Minnesota and we put in heat pumps. Our electric bill for everything, including heating, is less than our combined natural gas and electric bills were.
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

I have propane and an ASHP and intend to switch our water heater to a heat pump from propane this year. Our kitchen appliances are already all electric. My house is large and leaky enough that I would need a backup heating source in my climate even with a more efficient cold-climate heat pump; for now, it seems most reasonable to maintain my propane furnace (and just rarely use it) rather than installing backup resistance heating.

If my furnace and propane storage tank itself were nearing end-of life AND I wanted to keep either propane or NG as a backup heating source, I would have the gas company run a line to my house now. It doesn't mean it has to be used; the line can be capped off until OP switches out whatever appliances they intend (although I already have the furnace parts to switch from propane to NG and OP may as well depending on when theirs was installed).

If I were a few hundred miles farther South or if I were considering pulling the trigger on geothermal...agree with other posters that I wouldn't be looking at spending any new money on propane or NG period.
Kuna_Papa_Wengi
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Kuna_Papa_Wengi »

skives19 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:37 am We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
Do you plan to sell your house sometime in the future? If so, a buyer might prefer NG over propane because they don't have to worry about the tank/getting it filled etc..

Do you have frequent power outages? Since you're on a propane tank, I would guess that you're in a rural area. Rural areas seem to be last on the list to get restored after storms. I'd be reluctant to go all electric in that case. It's nice to be able to cook and have hot water when the power is out.
Valuethinker
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Valuethinker »

skives19 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:37 am We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
Unless you have to borrow the money it is probably worth paying upfront?

Re comments above it is worth considering keeping propane backup but going all electric.

What is cost of converting furnace water heater & other appliances to NG?

What price are you paying per kwhr for electricity?
Big Dog
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Big Dog »

Worth doing, probably. The only questions that I would have would be: 1) costs to dispose of the propane tank; 2) costs to change over your current propane appliances (cooktop, oven, hot water heater, dryer, other), including lines, hoses and fittings. Don't forget to ask if their price includes a meter.

Personally, I prefer electric cooktop and oven, so I might just change out the water heater and dryer (and consider induction).
id0ntkn0wjack
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by id0ntkn0wjack »

Have you considered going electric instead? The Inflation Reduction Act will offer a series of rebates/credits that might make it the most economical choice: https://www.rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator
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beernutz
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by beernutz »

snackdog wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:19 am Forget gas and go electric on everything as it wears out.
Which is more common in your area, NG outages or electric power outages?

In my area we've never had an NG outage in over 20 years.
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criticalmass
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by criticalmass »

skives19 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:37 am We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
I would do it, and you are unlikely to get that installation price ever again. If your neighbors do the same, consider negotiating the cost.

The numbers provided impute about a 8.7% interest rate for the 10 year plan, so it makes sense to pay the lump sum. The fuel savings make that more attractive.

But let’s say you did take the 10 year option, can you pay off at anytime without penalty? If you sell the house in 2 years, what happens? Would you still be on hook for paying 8 years for someone else’s gas line, as they don’t have a contract to do so?
There may also be a lien placed to guarantee the payments, which would be a hassle if you sell or refinance, or if the gas company changes in nine years and “forgets” about the lien or how to remove it.
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Random Musings
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Random Musings »

From the numbers, it makes financial sense to switch to natural gas unless you feel the state you reside in is or will be making regulatory changes unfavorable towards the consumption of natural gas.

RM
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biscuit5
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by biscuit5 »

skives19 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:37 am We just found out the natural gas is being run down the road that connects to our road. The gas company is offering to run it to our house for approximately $3,600 lump sum or $45 a month for 10 years. The calculator on the gas company website says we will save $868 a year based on the amount of propane we used in 2022 and the amount we are paying this year.

What do you guys think is it worth it to switch?
what specific appliances in your home currently run on LP? furnace? stove? water heater?
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skives19
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by skives19 »

Only things that run on propane are the furnace and water heater.
Valuethinker
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Valuethinker »

skives19 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 4:55 am Only things that run on propane are the furnace and water heater.
Unless you plan to move to a Heat Pump in the next few years (this will vary by State policy, I believe) then the NG system is probably a good switch to do.

Does this mean that you will have to replace these appliances, though? That's quite a bit of money if you do, and has to be figured into the payback period.

Unfortunately because of price volatility of both propane and NG, the actual payback period will be quite uncertain. But it's worth taking a read on it.
onourway
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by onourway »

Admittedly this may change in the future, but for now, I think that in a northern region like you are in, having natural gas at the house is considered a pretty big positive and I'd think would have an impact on home value and/or how quickly it sells. This would be especially true if most of the neighboring houses had converted, but your house had not. I know that when we bought a couple of years ago, the fact that the house we were ultimately bought was on natural gas in its comparatively rural location was a significant factor.
biscuit5
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by biscuit5 »

Valuethinker wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 5:28 am
skives19 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 4:55 am Only things that run on propane are the furnace and water heater.
Does this mean that you will have to replace these appliances, though? That's quite a bit of money if you do, and has to be figured into the payback period.
Pretty sure both furnace and water heater can be converted, though most likely not DIY.

At that, with the push to ban natural gas stoves and the like (hard to miss all the articles on it and not going political here), it gives one some pause on a conversion? LP is considered a green fuel where natural gas is not.
mgensler
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by mgensler »

Op,

You should also check what the monthly meter fee is. Where we are it is $30/month. If you add all the costs up, it might make sense to switch to a HP water heater and a ducted cold climate heat pump. Depending on your electric rate, your monthly bill would probably go down.
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galawdawg
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by galawdawg »

One additional note: if you live in an area where severe storms can result in lengthy power outages OR if a power outage of even shorter duration is a hardship, with NG or propane you can run a whole house generator, such as a Generac.

If you don't have a source of NG or propane at your home, you have to rely upon a portable gas powered generator set up outdoors if you need to run a refrigerator (to keep medication such as insulin at the proper temperature), a CPAP machine or any other important electric powered devices. That doesn't always work when local gas stations have no power or are out of fuel or during severe winter storms when driving to get fuel is hazardous and even going outdoors to set it up and periodically refill the tank is less than desirable.
bradinsky
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by bradinsky »

mgensler wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 7:26 am Op,

You should also check what the monthly meter fee is. Where we are it is $30/month. If you add all the costs up, it might make sense to switch to a HP water heater and a ducted cold climate heat pump. Depending on your electric rate, your monthly bill would probably go down.
A heat pump water heater needs to be set on hybrid to handle the demands of a busy home. Using multiple hot water consuming appliances & baths/showers simultaneously depletes the tank quickly, if the tank is set to the heat pump only setting.
niagara_guy
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by niagara_guy »

you might be able to negotiate a lower fee for connecting, remember that the gas company will make money from you only if you connect, so it's in their interest to get you connected. OTOH, it may cost much more to connect later.

All of your propane devices (furnace, water heater, …) will have to be converted to run on NG, it's possible some will have to be replaced instead. And, NG pipe will have to be run inside your house to each device that uses gas. I would assume that you will have to contract with a heating company to get the inside work done. Or, does the $3,600 cover all the inside costs too?

I would probably not trust their estimate of $868 per year saving, since it's in their interest to convince you to connect but I believe that in general NG is way cheaper than propane.
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

bradinsky wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 7:45 am
mgensler wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 7:26 am Op,

You should also check what the monthly meter fee is. Where we are it is $30/month. If you add all the costs up, it might make sense to switch to a HP water heater and a ducted cold climate heat pump. Depending on your electric rate, your monthly bill would probably go down.
A heat pump water heater needs to be set on hybrid to handle the demands of a busy home. Using multiple hot water consuming appliances & baths/showers simultaneously depletes the tank quickly, if the tank is set to the heat pump only setting.
If the tank is undersized for normal household operations, yes. Same thing can happen with an undersized NG/propane or electric resistance water heater too, of course. This is why the "first hour" rating system is key to determining tank size.

Utilizing the backup resistance heating on more rare occasions, like when one has visitors and more showers are being taken than usual, is still likely far cheaper...a HPWH running in hybrid mode is still, by definition, going to at least be more energy efficient than a standard electric resistance water heater. Whether that makes it more or less cost effective than gas depends on a lot of other factors.
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

niagara_guy wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 8:14 am All of your propane devices (furnace, water heater, …) will have to be converted to run on NG, it's possible some will have to be replaced instead. And, NG pipe will have to be run inside your house to each device that uses gas. I would assume that you will have to contract with a heating company to get the inside work done. Or, does the $3,600 cover all the inside costs too?
It should be pretty easy in most cases to convert a relatively normal (i.e. not 40+ years old) propane furnace into a NG furnace. Many propane furnaces are just NG furnaces that are installed with a propane conversion kit to deal with different gas pressures and sensor monitoring needs with propane; mine (Lennox) I'd like this, and I still have the NG parts that were replaced as part of the conversion.

Some NG water heaters cannot be converted to run on propane (this relates primarily to venting and safety concerns with carbon monoxide), but it is more likely that OP's propane water heater can be converted to run on NG. Given the cost of water heaters and the shorter lifespan of propane water heaters in general though, getting a new one is probably more cost effective unless OP's is relatively new, and if replacing it anyway, a HPWH is definitely reasonable to consider, as would be an on-demand tankless water heater if OP wants something more efficient but was already running out of hot water with a relatively large reservoir tank.
jharkin
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by jharkin »

I would do it. The cost savings are a no brainer - Right now in New England I get propane for 3.75/gal and NG delivered is something like $2.40/therm. Given a gallon of propane only has 90% of the energy of a therm of gas that makes propane 70% more expensive. Pre-pandemic the spread was even worse with NG under a dollar and propane around $3... if the market heads back in that direction your savings will be even more.

As far as hooking up, once they run the pipe and install the meter the rest is easy. Unless your codes are really different the interior piping is the same (Ive lived with both and the plumbers use the same black iron pipe and fittings inside), typically its just a burner jet change and appliance side regulator adjustment (mostly on furnaces and boilers).

Longer term, I agree with the others to look carefully at heat pump heat, heat pump water heaters and induction stoves. Lots of states are offering incentives to switch and eventually we will all be all-electric. But in the intermediate term I would keep the gas and just changeover appliances one at a time as it makes sense. If you are in a very cold climate and/or an area prone to power outages its not a bad idea to add on the heat pump and keep the gas as a backup.
biscuit5
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by biscuit5 »

jharkin wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 1:33 pm Given a gallon of propane only has 90% of the energy of a therm of gas that makes propane 70% more expensive.
Using one cubic foot of natural gas produces 1030 BTUs where using one cubic foot of propane produces 2516 BTUs so one gets 2.5x the energy from propane.

Same posted above viewtopic.php?p=7076632#p7076632
talzara
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by talzara »

biscuit5 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 8:01 pm
jharkin wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 1:33 pm Given a gallon of propane only has 90% of the energy of a therm of gas that makes propane 70% more expensive.
Using one cubic foot of natural gas produces 1030 BTUs where using one cubic foot of propane produces 2516 BTUs so one gets 2.5x the energy from propane.

Same posted above viewtopic.php?p=7076632#p7076632
Those are at different pressures.

The quoted post is correct. Propane is sold by the gallon, and natural gas is sold by the therm. A gallon of propane contains 0.91 therms of energy.

Natural gas is not sold by the cubic foot because it contains a mixture of gases. It is metered by the cubic foot, but utilities convert the reading to therms based on their average composition of the gas over the billing period.
mark_in_denver
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by mark_in_denver »

If you go with electric you could get benefits of solar.
Valuethinker
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Valuethinker »

jharkin wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 1:33 pm I would do it. The cost savings are a no brainer - Right now in New England I get propane for 3.75/gal and NG delivered is something like $2.40/therm. Given a gallon of propane only has 90% of the energy of a therm of gas that makes propane 70% more expensive. Pre-pandemic the spread was even worse with NG under a dollar and propane around $3... if the market heads back in that direction your savings will be even more.

As far as hooking up, once they run the pipe and install the meter the rest is easy. Unless your codes are really different the interior piping is the same (Ive lived with both and the plumbers use the same black iron pipe and fittings inside), typically its just a burner jet change and appliance side regulator adjustment (mostly on furnaces and boilers).

Longer term, I agree with the others to look carefully at heat pump heat, heat pump water heaters and induction stoves. Lots of states are offering incentives to switch and eventually we will all be all-electric. But in the intermediate term I would keep the gas and just changeover appliances one at a time as it makes sense. If you are in a very cold climate and/or an area prone to power outages its not a bad idea to add on the heat pump and keep the gas as a backup.
Without checking, it's my guess that New England has the highest NG prices in the USA?

Propane prices should be much more even between regions (cheaper in the Texas-OK-LA area, because that's where the main wells and refineries are)? Local factors probably quite important (competitiveness of suppliers, who owns the tank etc)?
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sunny_socal
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by sunny_socal »

mark_in_denver wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 10:11 pm If you go with electric you could get benefits of solar.
Natural gas is one of the most cost effective and efficient energy sources on the planet. I've had solar and in some cases it makes sense, but I'd never give up having a gas line into the house. (Plus you're suggesting OP pony up tens of thousands in additional cash)

What I want on electric:
- Possibly water heater (if tank)
- Lights, obviously
- Spa

Where I like gas:
- Cooking
- Tankless water heater
- Central furnace

As someone else, power outages may be a reality depending on where you live. We've had power go out for weeks in the middle of winter, but we could still cook and heat the house (also have small generator.) Solar tends to come with strings attached and one of those is being grid-tied, so no thanks.
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:35 am Solar tends to come with strings attached and one of those is being grid-tied, so no thanks.
What do you mean by this? You don't even need battery backup for grid-connected solar to continue working during a power outage these days...there are now multiple solar inverter brands that will automatically disconnect from the grid during a power outage.
Valuethinker
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Valuethinker »

sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:35 am
mark_in_denver wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 10:11 pm If you go with electric you could get benefits of solar.
Natural gas is one of the most cost effective and efficient energy sources on the planet. I've had solar and in some cases it makes sense, but I'd never give up having a gas line into the house. (Plus you're suggesting OP pony up tens of thousands in additional cash)
It depends where you live on the planet. Right now in Western Europe it costs more per unit energy than oil-- Germans are switching their home heating, and their District Central Heating plants, back to oil from NG. And it's obviously completely unreliable-- and will be so indefinitely.*** Right now prices are down due to a relatively warm and windy winter. But the challenge turns to next year, where we may be competing with revived Chinese demand for the LNG that is out there. 2023/24 could actually have a tighter supply than this year.

Much of Emerging Asia is priced right out of natural gas markets right now. The Europeans, Japanese and Koreans have sucked up the available supply. China has been reselling cargoes that it was contracted to take -- but as the Covid wave abates, that may change. Also another really hot summer in Asia increases air conditioning demand & thus gas consumption.

In the US Natural Gas is expensive in New England-NY?* And Electricity is very cheap in the Pacific NW. It's also observable that in the southern states you find a lot of heat pumps as alternatives (originally for air conditioning reasons)? I also have a worry about earthquakes - I suspect that's why gas heating is not common in Japan? (That plus cities made of closely packed & flammable houses).
What I want on electric:
- Possibly water heater (if tank)
- Lights, obviously
- Spa

Where I like gas:
- Cooking
- Tankless water heater
- Central furnace
Rather than having a debate which will just get this shut down (see the thread on electric v gas cooking), I would note that there are perfectly viable electric options for all of these uses.
As someone else, power outages may be a reality depending on where you live. We've had power go out for weeks in the middle of winter, but we could still cook and heat the house (also have small generator.) Solar tends to come with strings attached and one of those is being grid-tied, so no thanks.
Solar does not necessarily have to disconnect itself when the grid goes down. As long as you have the right safety switch, that isn't necessary**.

This is an interesting one. Places with similarly harsh climates like Alberta, or Ontario, don't experience these kinds of weeks-long failures, that I know of, (ice storms have, on occasion, meant multi-day or even weeks service outages in Quebec and Maritime provinces - but they are not common). That's also the case in Scandinavia.

So it's a matter of utility and utility regulatory choice to an extent (electric utilities in Alta and ONT are privately owned; Hydro Quebec is state-owned). And it seems to be quite US-specific. In Texas, to keep the domestic gas supply up to the required pressure, they had to cut the supply to power stations (Feb 2021).


* so is electricity, because NG-fired generation sets the marginal price of electricity generation. Europe is looking at changing that because a small amount of gas-fired generation is creating conditions where coal, nuclear & renewables are reaping huge windfalls. So it is a choice of market.
structure.

** I have this nagging worry that someone will install solar without this, and contrive to use it when the grid is down. Somewhere up the line there is a lineman, working in difficult conditions to try to get power back online. And this could kill them.

*** the "mysterious" explosions crippling Nordstream 1 & 2 pipelines were warnings that Europe's piped gas supply can be cut off very easily. If the pipelines from the Norwegian fields into Europe were to be cut ... things would be very sticky indeed.
WestCoastPhan
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by WestCoastPhan »

Valuethinker wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:55 am Without checking, it's my guess that New England has the highest NG prices in the USA?

Propane prices should be much more even between regions (cheaper in the Texas-OK-LA area, because that's where the main wells and refineries are)? Local factors probably quite important (competitiveness of suppliers, who owns the tank etc)?
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas, and natural gas liquids such as propane, after Texas. In fact, those two states are far ahead of the rest. The reason New England doesn't have ready access to this PA natural gas is due to a lack of pipelines.

Top 4 producing states in 2021, and percentage of total U.S. production (Texas and Pennsylvania together are over 45% of U.S. production):
Texas—8.50 Tcf—24.6%
Pennsylvania—7.53 Tcf—21.8%
Louisiana—3.41 Tcf—9.9%
West Virginia—2.54 Tcf—7.4%
Diluted Waters
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by Diluted Waters »

We did this conversion from propane to natural gas in the US southwest region about 8 years ago and I'd do it again in a minute. Then, natural gas was about 1/5 the cost of propane. It's more expensive now but still seems to be a better long-term value than propane and much more convenient. No more reading the tank gauge in the dead of winter, finding the service didn't fill the tank and of course the bills.

We have heat pump also, but the one time a house sitter used it for heat instead of the gas boiler our winter electric bill doubled that month. Electric rates vary substantially all over the US, but I continue to marvel at the anecdotes about how cost-effective heat pumps are. Not for us.

On a macro scale when considering heat pumps, unless you produce your own electricity, it's worth considering that about 61% of electricity in this country is still generated with fossil fuels, but it's only a ~33% efficient process with about 5% loss in transmission on top of that. Gas is burned on-site with 85-95% efficiency. Gas emits less CO2 per unit of heat than burning propane.

Note that for efficiency and cost effectiveness, it's difficult to beat substantially upgrading the insulation in your home first. We did so and it cut our energy bills in half and the home is much more comfortable to live in both winter and summer.

Sources:

https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3
https://www.energy.gov/fecm/transformat ... er-systems
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=105&t=3
https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissio ... l_mass.php
sandramjet
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by sandramjet »

Just do it!

We switched from propane to NG years ago; had to pay substantially more than that to switch but it was worth it. Always there, available for whole house generator (power goes out frequently here), and cheaper than propane. Plus no more worrying about whether the delivery truck could make it out to refill the tank.
talzara
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by talzara »

Valuethinker wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 11:39 am In the US Natural Gas is expensive in New England-NY?* And Electricity is very cheap in the Pacific NW. It's also observable that in the southern states you find a lot of heat pumps as alternatives (originally for air conditioning reasons)? I also have a worry about earthquakes - I suspect that's why gas heating is not common in Japan? (That plus cities made of closely packed & flammable houses).
There are a lot of gas-heated houses in Japan.

This is old data, but Tokyo Gas reported that there were 27 million gas customers in Japan in 2003, and about 90% of them were residential: https://www.tokyo-gas.co.jp/en/IR/libra ... /03e05.pdf

There are 55 million households in Japan now, so almost half of them are using natural gas. It's just very expensive. Tokyo Gas is charging about ¥200 per m³, which is equivalent to $4.40 a therm! https://e-com.tokyo-gas.co.jp/ryokin/Default.aspx?tik=1

Japanese HVAC manufacturers took the lead in developing low-temperature heat pumps because natural gas was so expensive, not because it was uncommon.
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snackdog
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by snackdog »

Most of the developed world is in a rapid transition to electrification as we speak. A move from one non-renewable to another seems short-sighted.

I would wait until you need new furnace and water heater, then go electric. At that time consider solar and battery backup.
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sunny_socal
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by sunny_socal »

cmr79 wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:57 am
sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:35 am Solar tends to come with strings attached and one of those is being grid-tied, so no thanks.
What do you mean by this? You don't even need battery backup for grid-connected solar to continue working during a power outage these days...there are now multiple solar inverter brands that will automatically disconnect from the grid during a power outage.
Back when we had solar it was not allowed to have a disconnect of any kind from the grid (per the NEM agreement.)
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 10:28 pm
cmr79 wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:57 am
sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:35 am Solar tends to come with strings attached and one of those is being grid-tied, so no thanks.
What do you mean by this? You don't even need battery backup for grid-connected solar to continue working during a power outage these days...there are now multiple solar inverter brands that will automatically disconnect from the grid during a power outage.
Back when we had solar it was not allowed to have a disconnect of any kind from the grid (per the NEM agreement.)
This was common years ago for safety reasons, but these days the ability to automatically "island" homes with solar, batteries, or generators so that people working on the grid remain safe during power outages while you get to enjoy ongoing electricity is pretty standard. While I have no doubt that some localities or electric providers may not have updated regulations, they would be pretty far behind the curve.
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by jharkin »

Valuethinker wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:55 am Without checking, it's my guess that New England has the highest NG prices in the USA?

Propane prices should be much more even between regions (cheaper in the Texas-OK-LA area, because that's where the main wells and refineries are)? Local factors probably quite important (competitiveness of suppliers, who owns the tank etc)?
Probably - which means that if the conversion makes sense here (and I feel it does), it easily makes sense anywhere...
jharkin
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by jharkin »

cmr79 wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 2:30 am
sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 10:28 pm
Back when we had solar it was not allowed to have a disconnect of any kind from the grid (per the NEM agreement.)
This was common years ago for safety reasons, but these days the ability to automatically "island" homes with solar, batteries, or generators so that people working on the grid remain safe during power outages while you get to enjoy ongoing electricity is pretty standard. While I have no doubt that some localities or electric providers may not have updated regulations, they would be pretty far behind the curve.
Not standard at all.
To be able to disconnect and keep the house powered you either need to have batteries + a smart inverter that can run without the grid (not common other than Tesla installs), or an inverter that is capable of creating a microgrid without batteries (even less common).

I installed a solar system with Enphase a year and a half ago and the only option was batteries that where going to add another 10k+ to my upfront cost and provide less than a day of offgrid runtime in ideal conditions. The ability to do a no battery microgrid with Enphase was only implemented in the IQ8 series that became commercially avalable last summer.

The no battery microgrid option I find to be almost pointless. The system has to be setup to automatically load shed so you dont use more power than is being delivered at that exact moment, and of course at night and in bad weather (when outages tend to happen) you have no power.
JackoC
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by JackoC »

beernutz wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:20 pm
snackdog wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:19 am Forget gas and go electric on everything as it wears out.
Which is more common in your area, NG outages or electric power outages?

In my area we've never had an NG outage in over 20 years.
I'd just add though that's assuming you have a home generator that can provide electric power to the electronics and/or pump of gas heating or hot water system. In many places that's straight forward: permanent reciprocating engine generator fueled from the NG lines or your big propane tank. But where we are in urban area, the building department basically won't issue a permit for a professional type switch to take the house off electric main power and put it on a generator. We have a (portable gasoline) generator but we could only safely use it with extension cords for stuff like fridge, a few lights, sump pump, small electric resistance heater. There'd be no safe way to provide the NG furnace and water heater with power for their electronics/pumps.
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by pshonore »

JackoC wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 11:03 am
beernutz wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:20 pm
snackdog wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 9:19 am Forget gas and go electric on everything as it wears out.
Which is more common in your area, NG outages or electric power outages?

In my area we've never had an NG outage in over 20 years.
I'd just add though that's assuming you have a home generator that can provide electric power to the electronics and/or pump of gas heating or hot water system. In many places that's straight forward: permanent reciprocating engine generator fueled from the NG lines or your big propane tank. But where we are in urban area, the building department basically won't issue a permit for a professional type switch to take the house off electric main power and put it on a generator. We have a (portable gasoline) generator but we could only safely use it with extension cords for stuff like fridge, a few lights, sump pump, small electric resistance heater. There'd be no safe way to provide the NG furnace and water heater with power for their electronics/pumps./
They won't even allow a small 10 circuit manual switch ? I guess in an urban area you don't want generators running every 25 feet. I have a small 10 circuit switch that even supplies 220V for my water pump but most of the houses are on at least an acre.
cmr79
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by cmr79 »

jharkin wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:11 am
cmr79 wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 2:30 am
sunny_socal wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 10:28 pm
Back when we had solar it was not allowed to have a disconnect of any kind from the grid (per the NEM agreement.)
This was common years ago for safety reasons, but these days the ability to automatically "island" homes with solar, batteries, or generators so that people working on the grid remain safe during power outages while you get to enjoy ongoing electricity is pretty standard. While I have no doubt that some localities or electric providers may not have updated regulations, they would be pretty far behind the curve.
Not standard at all.
To be able to disconnect and keep the house powered you either need to have batteries + a smart inverter that can run without the grid (not common other than Tesla installs), or an inverter that is capable of creating a microgrid without batteries (even less common).

I installed a solar system with Enphase a year and a half ago and the only option was batteries that where going to add another 10k+ to my upfront cost and provide less than a day of offgrid runtime in ideal conditions. The ability to do a no battery microgrid with Enphase was only implemented in the IQ8 series that became commercially avalable last summer.

The no battery microgrid option I find to be almost pointless. The system has to be setup to automatically load shed so you dont use more power than is being delivered at that exact moment, and of course at night and in bad weather (when outages tend to happen) you have no power.
...but Enphase is the most popular microinverter line, and the IQ8 is their current product. And battery backup is cheaper than it was a few years ago and should continue to decrease with time. And there is no reason for someone to install a huge battery system akin to going "off-grid" if their goal is to avoid losing power during a blackout...the average power outage in the US (excluding hurricanes and California wildfires in which people may be evacuated and power may be out for more extended periods) is only 1-2 hours with most of the US seeing a total of 7-8 hours of outages per year...a small 3 kWh battery would almost certainly be sufficient for those purposes. And almost certainly cheaper than installing a gas generator and transfer switch, which achieves the same purpose of grid disconnection and safety. Inappropriate use of those transfer switches with "dumb" inverters to keep solar panels active while grid power was down was the original reason for "anti-islanding" technology to keep electric workers safe, but I would argue that "standard" technology has progressed a lot since then.

Anyway, if OP were interested in going fully electric in the future but was worried (as other posters clearly are) about electricity outages, I don't think concerns about solar not being helpful or battery backup being too expensive for this use case would be as big of an issue as they were in years prior. The cost for the ability to go off grid for >24 hours with a solar and battery system if the sun isn't shining, etc seems to be getting pretty far from OP's actual questions.
JackoC
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Re: Switch from Propane to Natural Gas

Post by JackoC »

biscuit5 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 7:14 am
Valuethinker wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 5:28 am
skives19 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 4:55 am Only things that run on propane are the furnace and water heater.
Does this mean that you will have to replace these appliances, though? That's quite a bit of money if you do, and has to be figured into the payback period.
Pretty sure both furnace and water heater can be converted, though most likely not DIY.

At that, with the push to ban natural gas stoves and the like (hard to miss all the articles on it and not going political here), it gives one some pause on a conversion? LP is considered a green fuel where natural gas is not.
I don't think anyone considers LPG (propane) much 'greener' than NG (burning NG produces less CO2 per unit energy though NG itself is a more potent GHG to the extent of leaks between the well and where it's burned). The public policy difference is that pipelines to an area have to get positive approval from public policy in that area. That's a reason NG is relatively expensive in New England vs. places much further from major NG production areas (PA being the No.2 NG producing state), as has been mentioned.

Yes, without politics, I think it's reasonable to say you're taking more public policy risk to spend upfront to go to NG now over just sticking with propane for no upfront cost, even if a relatively forced change over to electric isn't fully subsidized, you dodn't spend the upfront. But propane heating cost can be a killer in cold areas when prices are high in the meantime. My daughter lives in rural upstate NY, monthly propane bill can be crazy compared to our NG bill in the NY area (though it is bit warmer here): no NG hookups there, they are planning heat pump and keep propane system as back up. And as had been said, even with increased US LNG exports the limits on transportation can keep NG at lower price per unit energy than LPG, at least in places with ample pipeline capacity, for long periods. LPG being relatively more transportable comes closer to oil in terms of a relatively uniform world price. The US has been a major LPG exporter for years now. The specialized ships and facilities required aren't as elaborate and expensive as those for LNG.
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