Can I Use Propane On A Natural Gas Water Heater?

When it comes to water heating, natural gas has been a popular choice for many households. It’s efficient and cost-effective. However, what if you have a natural gas water heater and want to switch to propane? Is it possible, and what considerations should you keep in mind? In this article, we’ll explore the topic of using propane on a natural gas water heater, covering the conversion process, benefits, safety concerns, cost considerations, and more.

Using propane on a natural gas water heater requires strict adherence to safety measures. Propane is stored under pressure, making it crucial to handle and store it safely. Any modifications or conversions should be carried out by professionals to prevent safety hazards.

Understanding Gas Water Heaters

Gas water heaters are a common choice for homeowners, providing reliable hot water for various household needs. They typically run on either natural gas or propane, with each fuel source having its unique advantages. Natural gas is often preferred for its affordability and widespread availability, while propane offers portability and energy efficiency.

What is Propane?

Propane is a versatile and efficient fuel commonly used for heating, cooking, and powering various appliances. It is known for its clean-burning properties and high energy content, making it a popular choice for homeowners and businesses seeking a reliable energy source. Propane is typically stored in portable tanks and can be used in areas without access to natural gas lines. Its versatility and energy efficiency make it a valuable resource for a wide range of applications.

Propane Compatibility

Propane is a versatile fuel used for various applications, including water heaters, furnaces, and stoves. It’s essential to determine if your existing appliance, such as a water heater, is compatible with propane. Propane compatibility often depends on the equipment’s design and the availability of conversion kits. Understanding whether your appliance can run on propane is the first step in making the switch.

Boiler Fuel Conversion

For those looking to convert a natural gas boiler to run on propane, there are several key steps and considerations. This process may involve changing burner nozzles, adjusting gas pressure, and ensuring proper ventilation and safety measures. Exploring the intricacies of boiler fuel conversion is essential to ensure a smooth transition and efficient operation.

Gas Heater Differences

Propane and natural gas heaters have distinct characteristics and considerations. Understanding these differences is vital when deciding whether to switch from one fuel source to another. Factors such as energy content, cost, and environmental impact vary between propane and natural gas. Exploring these disparities helps homeowners make informed decisions about their heating systems.

CharacteristicPropaneNatural Gas
Energy ContentHigher energy content per unit of volume.Lower energy content per unit of volume.
CostPropane is often more expensive per unit.Natural gas is typically more affordable.
Environmental ImpactEmits fewer greenhouse gases.Emits more greenhouse gases.
StorageStored in tanks, limiting usage capacity.Delivered via pipelines, no storage needed.
AvailabilityMay require propane delivery service.Conveniently delivered through pipelines.
ConversionMay require a propane delivery service.Easy integration into gas appliances.

Converting to Propane

Converting to propane involves more than simply changing the fuel source. It requires a systematic approach, including assessing the appliance’s compatibility, acquiring the necessary conversion kits, and ensuring the installation complies with safety standards. Exploring the steps and considerations involved in converting to propane provides homeowners with the knowledge to make a successful transition.

Propane Conversion Kits

To use propane on a natural gas water heater, you’ll need a propane conversion kit. These kits are designed to modify the water heater to accommodate propane as the primary fuel source. While some water heaters come with the option for both natural gas and propane, conversion kits are available for older or natural gas-only models.

Benefits of Using Propane

Using propane on a natural gas water heater comes with several benefits, including:

Energy Efficiency: Propane is known for its high energy content, which means it can heat water faster and more efficiently than natural gas in some cases.

Portability: Propane is available in portable tanks, making it a versatile choice for locations without access to natural gas lines.

Consistent Performance: Propane water heaters can provide reliable hot water even in areas with inconsistent natural gas supply.

Safety Considerations

Safety is paramount when using propane with a water heater. Here are some essential safety considerations:

Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent the buildup of propane fumes, which can be hazardous.

Gas Leaks: Propane is flammable, so ensuring all connections and fittings are secure is vital.

Carbon Monoxide Detection: Install a carbon monoxide detector to alert you to any potential leaks.

Professional Installation: It’s advisable to have a professional install the conversion kit to ensure safety and compliance with local regulations.

Installation and Conversion Process

The process of converting a natural gas water heater to run on propane is a series of crucial steps that should be followed meticulously. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the conversion process:

Turn Off Gas and Water: Begin by turning off the gas supply to the water heater. This is a critical safety measure to prevent any accidental gas leaks during the conversion. Additionally, shut off the water supply to the heater. Disconnecting both the gas and water lines ensures a safe and dry environment for the conversion.

Drain Water Heater: With the gas and water supplies turned off, it’s time to drain the water heater. This step involves emptying the tank completely, as any remaining water could hinder the conversion process. By draining the tank, you prepare it for the switch to propane.

Install Conversion Kit: The heart of the conversion lies in the installation of a propane conversion kit. These kits are specifically designed to modify the water heater, allowing it to run on propane. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the conversion kit carefully. 

Check for Leaks: Safety is paramount when dealing with gas appliances. After the conversion kit is in place, thoroughly check for gas leaks. A common method for this is to use a soapy water solution. Apply this solution to all the newly installed gas connections and fittings. 

Adjust Gas Pressure: Propane operates at a different pressure compared to natural gas. To ensure the heater functions correctly and efficiently, you’ll need to adjust the gas pressure settings. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the correct pressure levels for propane and make the necessary adjustments. 

Maintenance and Inspection

Regular maintenance and inspection are crucial to ensure the safe and efficient operation of your propane-powered water heater. This includes periodic checks for leaks, proper ventilation, and ensuring all components are in good working condition.

Cost Considerations

When considering the conversion of a natural gas water heater to propane, there are several cost-related factors to keep in mind. The overall cost of this conversion can fluctuate based on various elements, including:

Conversion Kit Price: The initial expense involves the cost of the propane conversion kit itself. The price of these kits may vary depending on the brand, model, and specific components included in the kit.

Installation Fees: Professional installation is often recommended to ensure a safe and effective conversion. Hiring a qualified technician will incur additional installation fees, which can vary depending on the complexity of the job and regional labor rates.

Necessary Modifications: In some cases, modifications to the existing water heater setup may be required to accommodate the propane conversion. These modifications could include changes to gas lines, burners, and controls.

Environmental Impact

Switching to propane on a natural gas water heater may have environmental implications. Propane is considered a cleaner-burning fuel compared to natural gas, which could result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, the overall impact depends on various factors, including the source of the propane.

Therefore, while the conversion to propane may offer potential environmental benefits in terms of reduced emissions during usage, the broader environmental impact should be considered holistically, taking into account the entire lifecycle of the fuel source. Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that propane is stored and handled safely to prevent any environmental hazards or risks associated with its use.


Will propane work in a natural gas?

Propane doesn’t work directly in natural gas appliances, but conversion kits can adapt some devices for propane use.

Can a natural gas boiler run on propane?

Yes, with a proper conversion, a natural gas boiler can run on propane.

What is the difference between propane and natural gas heaters?

Propane heaters generally have higher energy content but cost more to operate than natural gas heaters.

How do you convert natural gas to propane?

Converting involves adjusting burner nozzles, gas pressure, and safety measures to accommodate propane fuel.

What is the difference between propane and natural gas heaters?

Propane heaters have higher energy content but are typically more expensive to operate compared to natural gas heaters.


In conclusion, it is possible to use propane on a natural gas water heater with the right conversion kit and safety precautions. The benefits of propane, including energy efficiency and portability, make it an attractive option for many homeowners. However, ensuring proper installation and ongoing maintenance is essential for a safe and efficient propane conversion.

If you’re contemplating such a conversion, it’s crucial to approach the process with caution and, if necessary, seek professional assistance to ensure safety and efficiency. Additionally, the environmental impact of the conversion should be weighed against the benefits, considering factors like the source of the propane.

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