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HVAC Education, Buying Tips, Furnaces, Technology

What is a Propane Furnace?

A propane furnace works on the same principle as a gas furnace, using propane as fuel instead of natural gas. Propane heating represents only about 5 percent of heating systems in the U.S. and is a good option for homeowners who live in areas without natural gas distribution, or where other fuel sources are expensive or difficult to get.

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What Is Propane?

Propane is a byproduct of petroleum refining and natural gas processing. It is nontoxic and colorless, and in its natural state is odorless (an odor is added during processing so it can be detected if it leaks). Propane originates as a gas, but it’s compressed into a liquid, stored in tanks, and converted back to gas for use as a fuel.

Why Use Propane?

Propane furnaces are popular in areas where there isn’t infrastructure for natural gas lines, such as rural areas with large lots and homes spread far apart. And they are used more often in areas with colder weather and longer heating seasons. A home using propane for fuel requires outdoor space for the tank, with regular propane deliveries to keep it full.

What Are the Costs to Use a Propane Furnace?

As with any other heating system, costs for a propane furnace can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the size of your home and your heating needs, your desired level of comfort, your energy efficiency requirements, and installation. Generally, propane furnaces are more expensive than natural gas models due to the costs associated with the required conversion kits and labor.

Fuel costs

The cost of fuel contributes to the long-term expenses of operating any furnace. The cost of propane gas can fluctuate from region to region, and according to supply and demand. Propane gas systems require a tank on your property, and there are costs associated with delivering the gas to your home.

The cost of propane is typically higher than the cost for natural gas. Using a high-efficiency propane furnace with variable-speed blowers and two or more heating stages can help mitigate fuel costs with higher efficiency operation.

Are Propane Furnaces Energy Efficient?

Because all Carrier natural gas furnaces can be converted to use propane, those furnaces offer the same range of energy efficiency. The minimum gas efficiency for furnaces required by the U.S. Department of Energy is 80 percent AFUE.

To be considered high efficiency, a furnace must have a rating of at least 90 percent AFUE. These models usually include a primary and secondary (or condensing) heat exchanger.

How Long Do Propane Furnaces Last?

The lifespan of a propane furnace depends on several factors, including whether the unit is sized correctly for your heating needs, the quality of the installation, your general use patterns, and the maintenance schedule.

Generally, a high-quality propane furnace from a reputable manufacturer can last up to 15 to 20 years before needing to be replaced.

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