Cook Off: Natural Gas vs Propane BBQs
You’ve decided you prefer a gas grill over charcoal. Great! That’s one big decision out of the way. But now that you’re shopping for barbecues, you’ll have to decide which type of gas is right for you. There are two main options: natural gas or propane. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand each option before making your selection. Check out this guide to the ins and outs of each type of gas grill to determine which one is the right pick for your home.
Natural Gas BBQ Benefits
Natural gas grills are powered by direct lines to the grill. This type of direct hookup makes natural gas the most convenient type of grill, hands down. There’s no worrying about whether you have fuel on hand; your grill always has access to however much natural gas you require to whip up a tasty meal. You’ll never run out of fuel when you use a natural gas barbecue.
If you like to grill often, you’ll also find that a natural gas barbecue is more economical to operate. Natural gas is about one-sixth the cost of propane; the addition to your gas bill will almost certainly cost less than one refill of a propane tank. Just keep in mind that if you’re using your barbecue rarely, you’ll still have a slightly higher gas bill each month.
If you’re concerned about the environment, natural gas is the way to go. While both propane and natural gas have relatively low carbon dioxide emissions, natural gas burns even cleaner.
Natural Gas BBQ Drawbacks
The thing that makes natural gas the most convenient type of barbecue fuel also makes it a little tougher to install. Those who happen to already have a natural gas line available for their grill won’t have this issue, but otherwise you’ll have to install a dedicated natural gas line. In addition, those who live in areas without natural gas service won’t even have this option to begin with.
The upfront costs can be prohibitive, both in terms of buying the actual grill (natural gas models are typically more expensive) and installing a natural gas line. Adding to the challenge of installing a natural gas line is the fact you’ll have to make sure that you’re abiding by local laws and restrictions; you may need a permit to complete the installation, and the gas company may need to be alerted that you’ll have to turn the gas supply to your home on and off during the process. A licensed plumber will need to be hired to install new pipes or valves.
Because natural gas grills must be attached to a natural gas line, the position of the grill will be fixed. You won’t be able to move the barbecue to different locations when using it. In addition, there are only about 1,000 BTUs per cubic feet produced by natural gas, so it doesn’t burn as hot as propane.
Propane BBQ Benefits
If portability is important to you, propane is the superior type of gas grill. The tanks and barbecues can be transported as needed and used in any location; you don’t have to be located near a gas line in order to use this fuel type.
The upfront costs of using a propane barbecue are also lower compared to natural gas grills. The cost of the propane barbecue is usually more affordable compared to natural gas models. In addition, you won’t have any type of installation to worry about; you’ll just take your tank in for an initial fill and you’re ready to start grilling.
The level of heat produced is another major benefit for propane. As opposed to just 1,000 BTUs from natural gas, propane produces 2,500 BTUs per cubic feet, which many people feel produces a better barbecuing experience. This type of gas doesn’t usually have an odorant added which may affect taste, either.
Propane BBQ Drawbacks
For some people, the inconvenience of filling a propane tank outweighs the convenience of portability. If you aren’t located near a gas station, supermarket, or other filling location, it can be a hassle to travel for a refill every time you feel like grilling.
A propane barbecue will also be more expensive to operate in the long run. While the initial costs are lower compared to natural gas grills, you’ll pay more over time in refills for your propane tank, which often cost about $15 to $20 a pop.
People who like to grill often may also be concerned about running out of fuel. Since you’re limited to the propane in the tank(s) you own, there is a chance that your tank could empty in the middle of cooking or entertaining.
Which BBQ Suits You?
Going over the pros and cons for natural gas and propane in detail can be overwhelming. Here’s a handy summary for each fuel type to help you make your final decision:
- Never-ending supply – Direct line is convenient and fuel won’t run out.
- Economical – Fuel costs less.
- Environmentally-friendly – Burns cleaner.
- High upfront costs – Grill and installation can be costly.
- Fixed position – Can’t move your grill.
- Lower heat – Doesn’t burn as hot.
- Altered flavor – Odorant may affect taste.
- Portable – Tanks and grills can be used anywhere.
- Low upfront costs – Grills are less expensive and no installation is required.
- Higher heat – Burns more than twice as hot.
- Less effect on taste – No odorant added.
- Limited supply – Tanks must be refilled and may run out.
- Higher long-term costs – Propane tanks cost $15 or more per refill.
Now that you know a little more about gas grills, you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.