What is the difference between LPG and natural gas?
Most people in the UK are aware of natural gas, as it’s the most commonly used fossil fuel to heat homes. Liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, is not as well-known but has several benefits compared to natural gas and other fuel sources.
This guide will take a close look at both LPG and natural gas. We’ll examine exactly what they are and how they work, and compare the pros and cons of each to get you up to speed.
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What is LPG?
Liquefied petroleum gas, also known as liquid petroleum gas or LPG, is a fuel that’s used for vehicles, barbecues, cookers, and heating homes. It’s a colourless hydrocarbon gas that is pressurized into a liquid.
Three or four carbon atom hydrocarbons make up the majority of LPG. Therefore, the primary chemical composition of LPG (C4H10) is propane (C3H8) and butane. Other hydrocarbons may also be present in trace amounts.
LPG boilers are a popular choice for homes that aren’t connected to the mains gas network, as LPG is a more efficient fuel than a fossil fuels, such as oil.
LPG can be extracted from petroleum and natural gas processing streams but is usually a byproduct of refining crude oil. Its high efficiency is because it holds more energy when in a liquid form than it does as a gas.
How does it work?
So, how does an LPG central heating system work?
LPG heating is often what’s referred to as a wet heating system. Hot water flows to taps, and radiators are heated by an LPG boiler which warms the water in the system.
Many gas boilers, such as a combi boiler, are built to use mains gas that can be converted to LPG boilers.
How is it stored?
LPG has a very low boiling point, so it must be stored outside the home in either a storage tank or LPG gas bottles. This is so that the LPG doesn’t evaporate back into gas once it reaches room temperature.
Propane & butane
Unlike compressed natural gas (CNG), LPG can be made from two different gas types: propane and butane which is more suitable for certain situations depending on which gas LPG is made fans.
The boiling point of propane is -42˚c, which makes it suitable for lower temperatures, and it’s usually used for appliances and heating in caravans.
The boiling point of butane is much higher at -2˚c, making it best used for indoor settings. Butane supplies more energy per cubic metre than propane, making it a more efficient fossil fuel.
How do I know if my home has LPG central heating?
If your home has LPG central heating, you’ll have gas bottles delivered regularly. You may also have a storage tank outside your home where you can store LPG, which is cheaper than buying an individual gas bottle each time you run out.
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What Are The Costs Of LPG Heating?
It’s estimated that the average cost of heating your home with an LPG boiler is about £800 per year. That’s if your home uses roughly 12,000kWh during the year for hot water and heating.
However, the cost of heating your home will vary widely depending on several factors, such as:
- The fuel cost of your LPG
- Your home’s size
- The insulation in your home
- Whether you have an old or a new boiler
- The boiler type
- How efficient is your boiler is
- The amount of hot water and heating that you use
- Your home’s location
Advantages & Disadvantages Of LPG
- Cleaner burning fuel than coal and oil: This means it releases fewer greenhouse gases and is a more eco-friendly choice for homes off the grid.
- More efficient than coal and oil: This means that it can save money for you over time.
- Mobility: Able to be moved, transported, and stored as needed
- Greater heat: increases the temperature at which it burns for more effective cooking
- Excellent for rural clients: Ideal for folks who don’t have access to natural gas lines or who reside in rural locations
- The natural gas price is typically lower than the price of LPG, which means LPG is only really suitable for off-grid homes.
- LPG is still a fossil fuel and releases carbon dioxide when it’s used to power a gas boiler. If you’re concerned about your home’s carbon footprint, you should consider using renewable heating systems.
- LPG is not as convenient as natural gas as it has to be delivered by road. If you run out, you may be without hot water and heating while you wait for a new delivery.
Natural Gas Explained
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a hydrocarbon that is both non-toxic and colourless. It’s supplied to homes through main gas pipelines and is used to provide heat. Most homes in the UK use natural gas as it’s very efficient, widely available, and burns cleanly.
Natural gas is much more eco-friendly than coal and produces about 50% of the carbon dioxide as coal does. When it’s burnt, it also produces around 10% of the number of air pollutants that coal does.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of Natural Gas
- Natural gas is cheaper than both oil and LPG.
- There is no need to wait for deliveries: As natural gas is supplied to the home by pipelines.
- It’s much more efficient than LPG: Releases less CO2 than coal and oil.
- Natural gas is lighter than LPG: Meaning that in the event of a gas leak, it will disperse more quickly than LPG. This makes it a safer option than LPG.
- Realistic and trustworthy: A nonstop supply of electricity going straight to the house
- Lower operating expenses: Running costs for gas-powered heating, cooking, and hot water systems can be lower.
- Kinder to the environment: Compared to LPG and other fossil fuels, emits a little less carbon dioxide.
- Like all fossil fuels, natural gas isn’t 100% efficient and still creates CO2 emissions.
- The cost of natural gas is volatile and is affected by world events. As we are currently witnessing, this then causes the cost to the consumer to rise very quickly.
- Natural gas isn’t a renewable energy source, meaning it’s a finite resource that will eventually run out. Switching to renewable heating systems that use solar panels is a more sustainable option.
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What boiler should I use for LPG and Natural Gas?
It would be criminal if you didn’t choose the Worcester Bosch Greenstar 4000. This is a sure fan favourite for boiler fans and engineers. With the option for it to run on LPG or Natural Gas, the skills are limitless.
The advantages of the Worcester Bosch Greenstar 4000 are:
- ☑️ Its wide power range contributes to lower gas consumption and energy bills.
- ☑️ The innovative ‘Quick Tap’ water-saving function assists you in reducing water waste.
- ☑️ Its new modern design includes an easy-to-use colour display.
- ☑️ It performs admirably in areas with low water pressure, providing powerful and warm showers.
- ☑️ It is one of the quietest combi boilers on the market, making it easy to live with.
- ☑️ Instant hot water is always available.
- ☑️ Ideal for small to medium-sized homes.
Read more about the Worcester Bosch Greenstar 4000 here.
LPG vs Natural Gas: What is the difference?
LPG and natural gas, have very different important aspects, which is their main distinction. Propane is an LPG (C3H8), whereas methane is found in natural gas (CH4). The processing of natural gas and the refinement of petroleum results in the production of LPG.
Unlike natural gas, which is typically stored and delivered in pipes or gas mains, LPG is purified and kept as a liquid under pressure in gas bottles or tanks. By being separated from natural gas or by refining crude oil as opposed to natural gas that has just had NGLs* and impurities removed, LPG is kept separate from the hydrocarbon mixes.
Unlike natural gas, which is lighter than air, LPG is heavier than air. Both gases exist at regular pressure and temperature (STP)*.
*Natural gas liquids (NGL) are parts of natural gas that have been liquidised after being separated from the gaseous condition.
*STP, or standard temperature and pressure, stands for the nominal atmospheric conditions at sea level.
Why do we need LPG and Natural Gas?
It is a portable, clean, and efficient energy source that is widely available to consumers worldwide. LPG is also a byproduct of natural gas and crude oil production; its unique properties make it a versatile energy source with over 1,000 applications.
Natural gas is abundant and versatile, allowing us to meet the world’s growing energy demand while also collaborating with renewable energy sources. We cool natural gas to liquid so that it can be shipped to energy-starved areas, and we convert it into lower-emission fuels and other products.
Natural gas conversion factors for countries
|United Kingdom||39 823||39 354||39 612||39 636|
|United States||38 534||37 996||37 800||38 625|
|Canada||39 072||39 072||39 102||39 072|
|Ireland||37 803||39 573||–||38 917|
Average values for 2014 to 2019
Are LPG and Natural Gas the Same Thing?
LPG is propane, but natural gas is methane, therefore they are not the same thing. Processing of natural gas and refining of crude oil results in the production of LPG. LPG is processed and then stored in gas cans or storage tanks under pressure as a liquid.
Natural gas is no longer the assumed low-cost alternative because of the way that times have changed. Natural gas is frequently more expensive to deliver than LPG.
Between 1% and 10% of the natural gas flow is made up of natural gas liquids (NGL).
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Can LPG be used in cars?
LPG is a good option for powering your car. LPG is cleaner-burning than petrol or diesel, producing less residue. This means that less damage is caused to the engine, which in turn prolongs the life of the machine. This should save money on maintenance costs and repairs.
Is the government planning to phase out LPG boilers?
As part of the UK government’s 2050 net-zero target, gas-powered boilers will be banned for new homes from 2025 onwards. So, if you move into a new-build property after 2025, you won’t be able to have an LPG boiler installed in your home.
Instead, you’ll have to consider more eco-friendly options such as solar panels and heat pumps. These will reduce your carbon footprint and also make your home more appealing to buyers in the future.
Do I need to get planning permission when installing an LPG boiler?
If you’re planning to install an LPG boiler in your home, you may also want to install a storage tank. You don’t usually need to get planning permission for this, but there are some restrictions on the tank that you must follow:
- It must not exceed a maximum height of 3 metres.
- The capacity must not exceed 3,500 litres.
- If the tank is within 2 metres of a boundary, it must not exceed 2.5 metres in height.
- Always make sure, any boiler installations should be installed by a gas-safe registered engineer.
If you live in a protected area, you should speak to your local council before installing a storage tank.
LPG is a superior option for persons who aren’t linked to the main gas supply because it is significantly more efficient and emits fewer CO2 emissions than heating oil or coal for off-grid homes.
Natural gas, on the other hand, is far more practical and frequently less expensive, making it the ideal option for the majority of households in the UK for central heating.