Why Is Propane So Efficient for Your Home or Business? Chemistry Is the Answer!

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Hello again! MS Propane here, back with some handy information about propane. As someone who uses propane for your residential or commercial property, you already know that propane is a cost-effective way to keep your appliances running smoothly.

But why is propane so efficient for your home or business? The answer is in the chemistry! 

Propane’s Chemical Structure

Propane has a very simple chemical structure, allowing it to burn efficiently. There are three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms in one molecule of propane. It’s a class of chemicals called hydrocarbons, all made up of hydrogen and carbon. Other hydrocarbons are butane, methane, and ethane.

When hydrocarbons burn most efficiently, small amounts of carbon dioxide and water are byproducts of this simple combustion reaction. (Fun fact: Water can put out a fire because it’s a product of combustion.)

How You Can Tell Propane Burns Efficiently

Propane is relatively safe because it burns at an extremely high temperature. You’ll need to heat propane up to 920 degrees Fahrenheit for it to ignite without a spark or flame!

Visually, you can tell when propane is burning at its best when you see the beautiful blue flame with tinges of lighter blue. If you see any orange or red, that means the flame is less efficient, and those flames will produce soot. (Another fun fact: That’s why wood burns yellow and makes soot. It’s all the extra stuff that’s not hydrogen or carbon.)

What Else Makes Propane’s Chemistry So Special?

Propane burns in a gaseous state. However, it’s compressed and stored as a liquid. Your whole-house propane tank can store a lot more propane in its compressed state, and it doesn’t turn into a gas until it’s burned at the source. This is also why propane is called liquified petroleum gas, or LPG.

Propane differs from natural gas in that refineries make it as a byproduct of crude petroleum production and natural gas processing. Some types of propane come from natural sources, such as natural fats, vegetable oils, and some kinds of grease! So, when you fill your car’s gas tank, you can understand that part of the same process that makes gasoline or diesel fuel also creates the propane that your home or business uses!

The Process That Creates Propane

In 2022, the United States produced around 2.2 million barrels of propane per day. Most of that came from natural gas processing plants, and the rest from petroleum refineries. Propane supplies are nearly constant because refineries always make it.

In a natural gas processing plant, companies remove propane, butane, and ethane from raw natural gas because these substances will condense in natural gas pipelines. Propane makes up around 5% of natural gas. Because propane has a slightly different chemical structure than other hydrocarbons, processing plants can run raw natural gas through several stages of refinement to produce pure propane by altering the temperature or pressure of specific systems and then siphoning off or collecting the gas in separate storage tanks.

The same process occurs during crude petroleum refining, only it takes a bit longer because crude oil is made into many different types of fuel. Refineries take crude petroleum and make gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and jet fuel, among other things. Once the crude is refined to a certain type of fuel through fractional distillation, a process that uses pressure to siphon off various fuels), heavier hydrocarbons sink to the bottom. So, gasoline and diesel sink. Meanwhile, propane and butane are lighter and rise to the top. Propane generally comprises around 1 to 4% of processed crude oil.

Since hardly any hydrocarbons are wasted during refining, Americans benefit from propane production!

Efficiency of Propane Vs. Electricity

We’ll look at propane furnaces when it comes to the efficiency of propane versus electricity. Propane is one of the most efficient hydrocarbons out there. A full 95% of every gallon of propane is converted to heat. By contrast, just 25% of the energy in every gallon of gasoline helps your vehicle run because the other 75% is turned into heat that radiates into your engine or out the tailpipe.

Why is propane more efficient than electricity when it comes to heating? Electric furnaces need to rely on the surrounding air to heat up first. Propane generates its own heat when it burns, so your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard. Propane furnaces last longer, typically 10 years longer than electrical ones. 

Propane also costs less than electricity, so you’ll get a more cost-effective heat source for your home or business.

Tips From MS Propane: Heating the Way!

We hope you find this guide to why propane offers a great source of energy for your home or business. We can supply your place with propane thanks to our propane delivery services.

If you have any questions about your propane supply, feel free to contact us!