Why Propane? The Basics
Propane is an energy-rich gas, C3H8. It is one of the liquefied petroleum gases (LP-Gas or LPGs) that are found mixed with natural gas and oil. Propane and other liquefied gases, including ethane and butane, are separated from natural gas at natural gas processing plants, or from petroleum at refineries. The amount of propane produced from natural gas and from oil is about equal.
Propane naturally occurs as a gas. However, at higher pressure or lower temperatures, it becomes a liquid. Because propane is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, it is transported and stored in its liquid state. Propane becomes a gas again when a valve is opened to release it from its pressurized container. When returned to normal pressure, propane becomes a gas so that we can use it.
TO CHECK FOR PROPANE: Carefully smell at floor level and in low spots – PROPANE IS HEAVIER THAN AIR AND WILL COLLECT AT FLOOR LEVEL.
Propane is a trusted and reliable energy source that is used by millions of Americans each day. It fulfills energy needs by burning cleanly and efficiently, giving consumers more value for their energy dollar. People use propane in or outside their homes for furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, air conditioners, outdoor grills and appliances; on farms; for industrial uses such as forklifts and fleet vehicles; and in millions of commercial establishments, including restaurants and hotels that depend on propane for heating, cooking and other uses.
Most people are familiar with propane as a fuel for cooking, hot water and heating. Everyone appreciates the low-maintenance of beautiful gas fireplaces and cast-iron stoves, and the warmth of a shower with water heated by propane. For those who live "off the grid," or experience power failures, gas refrigerators and gas lighting sure make life easier, and propane heaters can continue to heat your home when the power is out. It is ideal for backup generators, too, where gasoline or diesel goes bad after being stored too long. Propane-powered mosquito catchers can be used in your backyard to control mosquitoes where they are a nuisance or health hazard. New uses for propane are being invented every day, too! Scientists are using propane in development of fuel cells, cogeneration and distributed generation systems.
Propane can be up to 25% less expensive than electricity in most cities. In addition, when tank levels are properly maintained, propane provides a virtually uninterruptible power supply. That is reassuring when “brownouts” or “blackouts” occur when too many users are drawing electricity during high consumption periods, like cold winter months.
According to the US Department of Energy it could cost up to twice as much to operate your range, water heater, dryer or furnace with electricity than with propane gas. Propane gas furnaces and heaters provide more consistent warm air throughout your home at a lower cost than electric heat pumps and have a longer average life span of 20 years, compared with electric heat pumps’ 12-year average life span.
One of the qualities that make propane so popular is that it can easily be stored. At a customer's home, it is usually stored in steel or aluminum tanks. Tanks can come in the form of large bulk storage tanks, holding tens of thousands of gallons of propane. They can also be very small, like the 1-pound cylinders used with a propane torch for soldering. Legally, propane cylinders larger than the 1-pound cylinder for soldering must be stored outdoors at all times. This includes small cylinders for a barbeque grill. Propane for wholesale use is stored in salt caverns, like the ones in Harford, NY, and Watkins Glen, NY, awaiting the winter season.
Unlike electricity, propane delivers heat at a consistent temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Electric heat pumps deliver at 98.6 degrees. Propane-heated air feels warm and cozy at 120 degrees, whereas electric pump air at 98.6 degrees feels cooler. The lifespan of an average propane furnace is 8 years longer than that of an electric furnace and the cost of repairing a propane furnace is lower than the cost of repairing its electric counterpart.
There are environmental savings as well. Electricity is touted as being 100% efficient, but that is at the appliance. The energy used in operating the generation plants then distributing that electricity to your home reduces the overall efficiency to only about 25%. Propane, on the other hand, from the oil or natural gas fields to the burner tip, is about 65% efficient.
Simple landscaping, from plain grass to shrubs, is the easiest and most cost-effective way to hide your propane tank. Some people build screens or fences on one or more sides of the tank. Be sure to leave sufficient room so that your propane technicians can easily access the tank (Regulations call for 3 feet all around the tank). The tank may not be legally enclosed in any type of structure, and may not be located under a roof. Many customers prefer to hide the tank completely by burying it. Of course, this requires a tank manufactured specifically for underground use, and certain measures must be taken to prevent corrosion. But once the tank is in place, only a small, secured, dome protruding just inches above the ground is visible. The tank will remain hidden, silently supplying gas for the life of the home!