Gas grilling is becoming more popular by the year (especially in the US). This is because gas grills don’t require any preparations before cooking, unlike charcoal grills. You just fire up the grill and off you go cooking. But what makes gas grills even more stand out is the ability to regulate temperature. Convenience at its best.
These grills come in 2 types, depending on the type of gas they use:
- Natural gas
Propane grills are popular because the propane tanks are portable – great if you travel a lot or grill in different places in your backyard. Natural gas grills, on the other hand, have their own gas line which means an endless supply of fuel.
If you have a propane grill and are wondering if you can use natural gas instead of a propane tank, the answer is: not by default.
You can, however, convert it using a conversion kit and some basic tools. How do you do it and why you just can’t connect the grill to your gas line, keep reading and you’ll soon find the answer.
How Do I Know If I Have Natural Gas or Propane?
All grills have a rating plate attached to them that indicates the type of fuel the grill uses.
Rating plates with the letters “NAT” or “NG” are Natural Gas fueled. Plates with the letters “LP” stand for Liquid Propane fueled grills. The 2 fuels are not interchangeable; caution should be exercised when determining the type of gas is being used for grilling.
Are Natural Gas and Propane Grills the Same?
Propane is much more combustible than Natural Gas. As its name implies, Natural Gas occurs in nature as the result of decayed plant and animal compounds. Propane is a by-product of the fuel refinement process by cleaning contaminants out of impure natural gas. As a man-made accelerant, Propane is more efficient at burning and produces more heat from less fuel.
I wasn’t sure which one worked better so I thought I would do some homework.
How Natural Gas and Propane Stack Up
One cubic foot of Natural Gas equals 1030 BTUs (British Thermal Units) and Propane equals 2516 BTUs. That means Propane burns hotter than Natural Gas. Bar-b-que chefs and grillers know how quickly a Propane gas grill heats up as well as how it maintains temperature easily. It takes more Natural Gas to heat the same amount of food as it does Propane, however, there are some distinct differences that should be considered.
Can Propane Grills use Natural Gas?
No, each type of grill uses different nozzles and pressure regulators to distribute its gas. Propane starts as a liquid and becomes a gas as soon as it is introduced into the atmosphere. Natural gas remains a gas from source to the burner. Portable grills tend to use Liquid Propane and built-in home or commercial bar-b-ques tend to use Natural Gas from municipal gas networks.
Cost of Natural Gas versus Propane
Natural Gas costs less to produce 1,000,000 BTUs of heat than Liquid Propane. Natural Gas is sold by the cubic foot and Propane is sold by the gallon. It is possible to calculate the costs by converting the gallon of Propane to cubic feet of Propane gas. Then determine how much of each fuel is consumed to achieve the same temperature. The math goes something like this:
- 1,000,000 BTUs from Natural Gas = 1,000 cubic feet = $6.00
- 1,000,000 BTUs from Liquid Propane – 11.2 gallons = $23.00
Which Way to Go
I’ve found circumstances dictate options for gas grilling. If portability is important, Propane makes the most sense. If a home or office already has natural gas service for heaters or other appliances, Natural Gas becomes the fuel of choice. Many rural homeowners appreciate the value of Propane because it doesn’t require a municipal resource for supply. Propane can be delivered to remote locations.
Limitations of Using Propane
Those who have been wondering if they can use a propane grill with natural gas have probably been exposed to the limitations of a propane grill. Of course, such grills are portable and as such, you can around with them easily, but you are limited on the amount of cooking that you can accomplish.
Propane grills usually have a standard 20 lb. tank for fuel and this means your cooking is limited to the amount of fuel left in the tank. A full tank will allow you just about 8 hours of cooking time and woe unto you if your tank is not full.
You will run out of gas in the middle of a cookout and this can be quite frustrating. You will have to run to a propane dealer for a refill and this will take a lot of time. Your uncooked meals will remain exposed and they could even go bad by the time you get back with the refilled tank.
But you will not have to go through all these troubles when you are cooking with natural gas.
The Advantages of Natural Gas for Grilling
Cooking with natural gas is quite advantageous as you will never run out of fuel for preparing your meals. The gas is usually supplied to people’s homes by a gas utility company or the local government and this means that you will have all the fuel that you need for cooking at all times.
Your cooking capacity is, therefore, not limited and you can cook all the meals that you want. Great isn’t it? The only drawback of using natural gas if the fixed nature of such systems.
Since natural gas systems are fixed in people’s homes, you will not be able to move around with them and prepare your meals anywhere else other than in your home. Of course, you can use a flexible pipe for some mobility but its reach is limited to your compound as well.
Using your propane grill with natural gas also requires some effort but once you get this done, you will be able to BBQ more with minimal disturbance. Let’s now take a look at how to convert a propane grill to natural gas.
Can You Convert a Propane Grill to Natural Gas?
Yes, you can. You’ll need the right parts and tools for this.
Converting a Propane Grill to Natural Gas
The tools that you need for this process are the standard tools that are found in most of our homes and hardware stores. You will need:
- Needle-nose pliers
It is still possible to get the job done with a standard set of drills but it’s advised to get a numbered set of drill bits for the exercise.
You will also need a pipe joint compound for the threaded connectors and a camera for taking the pictures of the parts that you are taking down so as to help you put them back in the right manner. You will have to put the valves and orifices just as you found them for the grill to work properly and this is best possible by taking pictures of the set before dismantling it.
The entire process of doing this conversion should not take you more than an hour and your grill will be ready for some steaks. With all the tools in place, you will then have to find a suitable section on your home’s natural gas system to “T” off so as to get a line that you will connect to your grill.
A standard iron pipe will do and so will a flexible gas pipe. The pipe should be of an adequate diameter so as to ensure that gas flows freely to the grill. Natural gas delivers a lot of gas at any given time and you will need a pipe that can handle all that volume. The recommended diameter for the pipe used for this conversion is half an inch.
You should also make sure that there are no leaks in the entire system so as to guarantee your safety when you are using the grill and you can do this by applying soapy water on your connections and the entire system. Natural gas can blow up your entire house and this is one of the reasons why you need to check for gas leaks on the connections. Inhaling the gas is also not good for your health and this is another reason to be careful when making the connections.
You Cannot Use Natural Gas on a Propane Grill by Default
There are a lot of benefits to using natural gas for cooking. Read this comprehensive article if you have been wondering, “Can you use a propane grill will natural gas?” to find out how you can convert your propane grill to use natural gas and as well and the benefits and drawbacks of this conversion.
In the end, both fuels are eco-friendly and burn cleanly without putting contaminants into the atmosphere. Some folks prefer Natural Gas due to its more natural source rather than chemically-processed Liquid Propane. Some diners feel Propane provides a more authentic “grilled” flavor than Natural Gas, but most people can’t tell the difference at all. I believe grillers can go with either fuel and get excellent results.
When did you get your gas grill?