We have a natural gas fireplace, but we were wondering if fireplaces could ever be run off of propane gas. After all, our grill runs off of propane, so we usually have a spare tank or two laying around. We did some research to find out more. So, can gas fireplaces use propane?
Gas fireplaces in homes and apartments can use propane as a source of fuel for heat if they don’t have a natural gas hookup. Outdoor gas fireplaces can also run on propane gas, which is common for home patios or those at restaurants.
So, while gas fireplaces can be run off of propane, what’s the standard, how much does propane cost, and can gas fireplaces be converted? Let’s find out.
What Kind Of Gas Does A Fireplace Normally Use?
The majority of gas fireplaces use natural gas as a fuel. You’ll find that most indoor gas fireplaces use natural gas while many outdoor, stand-alone gas fireplaces use propane. While natural gas is more affordable and safe, propane is more portable and can be used off-grid.
Generally, gas fireplaces are preferred to wood-burning or electric fireplaces because of their incredible efficiency. Not only are they 70% heat efficient, but they also require little monitoring, can be remotely controlled, and don’t require a chimney.
A gas fireplace can typically run off of one type of gas (either natural gas and propane gas), and the fireplace is usually built to match the source of fuel. For example, trying to run a propane gas fireplace with any other type of gas can be a safety hazard.
When it comes to choosing a gas fireplace, the choice of gas comes down to the owner’s preference and the availability of the type of gas.
If you have a national grid supply of natural gas, you can safely hook your natural gas fireplace pipeline to the national supply. This is why natural gas fireplaces are very common in homes and residences that are close to the national grid or that have a natural gas supply in their homes for other domestic uses (like gas stoves).
But if you don’t have a natural gas supply in your home and the cost of getting a natural gas supply is too expensive (probably because you live far away from the national natural gas supply grid), propane is a much better alternative to natural gas.
Also, installing a gas fireplace is rarely DIY work. For the safest results, contact a fireplace installer to prevent gas leakage or any other issues.
One of the best parts about gas fireplaces is that they can be installed in various spots in the house, as well as sometimes outside of the building with relatively low setup and operation cost.
Can You Use Propane In A Natural Gas Fireplace?
It is possible to convert a natural gas fireplace to propane gas and it usually involves changing the orifice and regulator. However, the ability to convert gas fireplaces comes down to the manufacturer and model of the fireplace. For best results, consult the manufacturer and a professional fireplace installer.
There are some dangers to converting a gas fireplace. For one, natural gas is lighter than air, so during leakage in a natural gas fireplace, the gas dissipates into the surrounding environment with a minimal chance of ignition. For this reason, natural gas fireplaces aren’t built with an emphasis on keeping the gas contained at high pressure, like propane gas.
Meanwhile, propane gas is heavier than air and won’t leave the surroundings during leakage, increasing the chance of ignition in the air.
Overall, it is possible to convert some gas fireplaces to an alternative source of fuel, but make sure to check with the manufacturer and fireplace professional before doing so.
Moving on, it may be helpful to know that there is more than one type of propane gas fireplace.
Types of Propane Gas Fireplaces
Direct Vent Propane Gas Fireplace
Direct vent propane fireplaces rely on a vent connected to the air outside the house to keep burning and to properly exhaust all by-products (gases and water vapor) of the combustion of propane gas. This type of propane gas fireplace requires no chimney and the vents can be installed through a wall or roof.
Overall, even though direct vent propane gas fireplaces are relatively safe, they’re not as efficient as ventless or vent-free propane fireplaces.
Ventless Propane Gas Fireplace
Ventless propane gas fireplaces are highly efficient as it prevents heat loss by not using vents. However, a ventless gas fireplace releases its gas emissions directly into the house and cannot be run for a long period.
To use ventless propane gas fireplaces, make sure that your house is well ventilated to prevent the build-up of toxic gases like carbon monoxide (CO) or nitrous dioxide (NO2) which can be deadly at high concentrations. Additionally, even though quality models come with exhaust monitors, it’s a good idea to place your own C02 and CO monitors in the room.
How Much Propane Will A Fireplace Use?
|Fireplace BTU||Gallons of propane per hour||Cost per hour|
Propane gas fireplaces burn an average of 30,000 BTU, which equates to 1/3 gallon or $0.70 of propane gas per hour. However, gas fireplace BTUs typically range from 8,000 to 60,000, so the actual amount can vary between 1/12 gallon ($0.17) to 2/3 gallon ($1.27) per hour.
The cost per hour of running a propane gas fireplace depends on the current market price of propane. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the residential price of propane gas is $2.118 per gallon in January 2021.
Of course, the amount of propane used will come down to the model you choose, how efficient it is, and how long you run it.
Natural Gas vs Propane Fireplaces: Pros and Cons
When it comes time to choose between a natural gas fireplace or a propane fireplace, it’s helpful to know some deciding factors. Some of these factors include gas availability, heat requirement, cost, ease of installation, and safety. Let’s take a further look.
|Natural Gas Fireplace Pros||Natural Gas Fireplace Cons|
|Runs on clean-burning fossil fuel||Less heat output compared to propane|
|Cheaper to build and maintain||Less control due to it being managed by utility companies|
|Fewer safety concerns||Harder to obtain compared to propane|
|The ignition does not need electricity||–|
|Propane Gas Fireplace Pros||Propane Gas Fireplace Cons|
|Better heat-output compared to natural gas||Uses an electric ignition, so it’s not functional during blackouts|
|Widely available||More of a safety concern|
|Easier to access (compared to getting a natural gas hookup)||Requires proper ventilation or precautions (especially the ventless models)|
Overall, one of the biggest deciding factors is if you can get a natural gas line. If not, then propane will be easier to manage. Also, consider the fireplace’s heat output and safety.
To see a propane gas fireplace in action, check out this video by Patti G.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10