Can You Change a Natural Gas Water Heater to Propane?

Water heaters are an integral part of your home’s plumbing system, and if you live in an area with limited natural gas lines or access to propane, you might be wondering whether you can convert a natural gas water heater to propane instead.

Thankfully, you can, as it’s possible to change over a natural gas water heater to use propane fuel instead. However, this conversion process requires more than just swapping out the elements in your tank. Here is what you need to know before starting out with your conversion. 

Can You Use Propane and Natural Gas Interchangeably?

No, it’s impossible to use propane and natural gas interchangeably. This is primarily due to the differences in the way that these two fuels are delivered and stored; it is not recommended.

Propane is stored as a liquid under pressure in cylinders that can be transported easily. These cylinders can be connected directly to your water heater with a hose or regulator so that the gas flows directly into the heating unit.

Natural gas lines are typically buried underground and carry pressurized natural gas from a central location to individual homes through pipes made of steel or plastic; this makes them more difficult (and potentially dangerous) for homeowners to work with than propane delivery hoses which can be safely handled by most anyone.

Also, the regulators, burners, and other components of your heater are often calibrated to work with a specific type of fuel. This makes it hard to use both propane and natural gas interchangeably. 

What You Will Need to Change a Natural Gas Water Heater to Propane

In order to change your natural gas water heater to propane, you need the following equipment:

A propane tank

The size of this tank depends on the size of your household and how often you use hot water. The higher the BTU rating, the more hot water is available.

A propane gas regulator

This device reduces pressure in the line so that it matches what’s needed by your appliance and keeps it from blowing up or leaking gas into your house. It controls the flow of propane into your water heater. You will need to install one if you want to convert your natural gas water heater to propane. It’s a simple device that can be installed by a professional or DIY, but it’s best to have a professional do it for you so that they can ensure everything is done correctly.

Propane gas line tubing

You’ll need enough length to fit between all points of connection with no kinks or dips in its path through your home’s plumbing system; though this may not be an issue if you’re doing a DIY installation yourself, if not, then make sure to measure carefully.

Burners

Propane burners are more efficient than their natural gas counterparts since they use less energy to heat up water at any temperature level. And you will require to use propane burners since they are designed to handle propane when making your conversion. 

Burner air shutter

The burner air shutter is a safety device that allows gas to flow into the burner. It’s located at the base of the burner and consists of a small piece of metal that opens and closes to allow gas to flow into the burner. To make your conversion successful, you will need to use air shutters designed explicitly for propane fuel.

Full-conversion kits

You should know that full-conversion kits are more expensive than partial kits. But they’re also more energy efficient and reliable, which means it pays to invest in a complete conversion kit if you have the budget for it. Getting a complete conversion kit saves you the stress of having to buy different parts separately.

Full conversion kits come with everything you need to successfully switch from natural gas to propane and all necessary installation hardware. A licensed plumber will have no trouble installing these components on your property; it’s an easy job that takes just a few hours at most.

Installing the new unit

If you feel the conversion process is a long route, you can ultimately pull out the natural gas heater system and install a propane one instead. However, this method can be on the high side in terms of price. An advantage of doing this is that it keeps your mind at rest have you have less to worry about.

How to Convert a Natural Gas Water Heater to Propane

Converting a natural gas water heater to propane is relatively straightforward. The first step is to install the appliance regulator and burners in your new unit. Then, depending on whether you’re using a full conversion kit or just the components needed for an “aftermarket” conversion, you’ll have to install those as well.

Once the new unit is installed, you’ll need to make sure that proper venting and installation procedures are followed to ensure that there aren’t any leaks that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning or other complications.

Is Propane Cheaper Than Natural Gas?

Natural gas is cheaper than propane in terms of price. Although natural gas burns much faster than propane and produces less heat, it costs less per unit of BTU (British Thermal Unit). Propane costs more than natural gas at first glance because it’s more expensive than natural gas. However, if your apartment does not have a natural gas line pre-installed, then the cost of installing one will be much more costly.

Conclusion

So, there is changing a natural gas water heater to propane. You’ll need to know what kind of unit you have before you start and how much a conversion kit will be required. Also, it’s essential to consider whether your home has enough space for an additional propane tank.

The installation process will involve replacing many of the components of your current setup, so you’ll have to consider whether it’s worth it for you. When in doubt, consult with an expert like your local plumber or heating contractor, who can help walk you through the process step-by-step.