If you’ve been thinking of a gas cook-top or fireplace for your home but natural gas is not available at your location, all is not lost. Propane can offer a great alternative to natural gas, and allows you many of the same options in selecting heating and cooking appliances.

Propane is a hydrocarbon that is produced during the processing and refining of both crude oil and natural gas. It is also sometimes called liquefied petroleum gas, so in addition to the name propane you will also see it referred to as LP, LP-gas, or LPG. As with natural gas, propane is colorless and virtually odorless, so an odor is added during processing to make it easier to detect and trace leaks.

DELIVERY AND STORAGE

Trucks are used to deliver the propane to your home, where it is placed into a storage tank. From the tank, the propane is then delivered under pressure through supply pipes to the various appliances in your home that utilize it. 

For a long time, one of the downsides to propane was the need to utilize a large, aboveground tank that was a little tough to blend in with the lawn and the rose bushes. In recent years, however, most propane companies offer the option of using an underground tank. Underground tanks are a little more expensive initially to install, but the aesthetic benefits for most homes are tremendous. The tanks are specifically constructed for this use, and are painted with a special coating to prevent corrosion. The tanks require no maintenance, and the typically will last 30 to 40 years.

Underground storage tanks are available in sizes ranging from around 100 gallons of storage capacity to over 1,000 gallons. A 120-gallon tank, for example, is about 2 feet in diameter and 5 ½ feet long, while a 1,000-gallon tank is about 3 ½ feet around and almost 17 feet long. For planning purposes, the size of the excavation will need to be roughly 12 inches larger than the tank on all sides, and needs to be in a location that is accessible to the supply truck.

The size of the tank you select should be based on the number of appliances you have and any needs you can project for the future. For example, if you want to install a cook-top now but anticipate adding a fireplace and maybe a water heater in the future, you should size the tank to meet all those projected needs in order to avoid having to re-excavate later in order to change tanks. Your propane dealer can assist you with selection of a tank that is properly sized.

Once the excavation is complete, the tank is set in the hole and then backfilled with clean soil or sand.  When the installation is complete, the only thing visible above the ground is a small domed lid, which provides access to the fuel gauge and filler spout. If the tank lid is in a place where it is exposed to possible damage from vehicles or other sources, a concrete-filled steel post should be added for crash protection.

Underground and aboveground tanks typically can be either leased or purchased outright. You can also arrange for deliveries of propane on a regularly scheduled based, to avoid the possibility of running out. Here again, your propane dealer can assist with financing options and scheduling needs.

SELECTING APPLIANCES

Virtually any appliance that you can purchase for use with natural gas is also available for use with propane, including cook-tops, ranges, ovens, water heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, barbecues, space heaters, and even swimming pool and spa heaters. Simply specify to the appliance dealer, home center, or other retailer that you will be using propane.

As with the selection of any appliance utilizing any type of fuel, you will want to check the appliance’s government-mandated energy card to look for appliances with lower energy usage.  For additional savings, wherever possible choose appliances that have electronic ignition as opposed to a continuously burning pilot light. 

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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