Can a Propane Heating Unit Run on Natural Gas?

Propane and natural gas are two distinct fuel sources, each with its own unique properties and requirements for proper operation. While it is technically possible to convert a propane heating unit to run on natural gas, it is a complex process that requires careful consideration and should only be undertaken by a qualified professional. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the differences between propane and natural gas, the necessary modifications for a propane heating unit to run on natural gas, and the safety concerns associated with such a conversion.

Understanding the Differences Between Propane and Natural Gas

Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that is stored and transported under pressure in liquid form. It has a higher energy density compared to natural gas, meaning that a smaller volume of propane can produce the same amount of heat as a larger volume of natural gas. Propane is typically used in applications where a higher energy density is required, such as in portable heaters, barbecue grills, and RVs.

On the other hand, natural gas is a gaseous fossil fuel composed primarily of methane. It is delivered to homes and businesses through a network of pipelines at a lower pressure. Natural gas has a lower energy density compared to propane, which means that a larger volume is required to produce the same amount of heat.

The differences in energy density and pressure requirements between propane and natural gas have a significant impact on the design and operation of heating appliances. Propane appliances are typically designed to use smaller orifices to regulate the fuel flow, while natural gas appliances require larger orifices to compensate for the lower energy density.

Modifying a Propane Heating Unit to Run on Natural Gas

can a propane heating unit run on natural gas

To convert a propane heating unit to run on natural gas, several modifications are necessary. These modifications include:

  1. Changing the Orifice:
  2. The orifice size needs to be increased to allow for the lower energy density of natural gas.
  3. The existing orifice should be replaced with a larger one specifically designed for natural gas.
  4. The new orifice size should be determined based on the manufacturer’s recommendations or by consulting a qualified professional.
  5. Typical orifice sizes for natural gas range from 1.2 mm to 2.5 mm, depending on the size and model of the heating unit.

  6. Adjusting the Pressure Regulator:

  7. The pressure regulator needs to be adjusted to deliver the correct pressure for natural gas.
  8. This may involve replacing the regulator with one designed for natural gas or adjusting the existing regulator to the appropriate pressure.
  9. The required pressure for natural gas is typically between 3.5 inches and 7 inches of water column (wc), while propane requires a higher pressure of 11 inches to 14 inches wc.

  10. Modifying the Burner Assembly:

  11. The burner assembly may need to be modified to ensure proper combustion of natural gas.
  12. This may involve adjusting the air-fuel mixture or the size of the burner ports.
  13. Improper combustion can lead to inefficiency, safety hazards, or even equipment failure.

It is important to note that these modifications should only be performed by a qualified professional, such as a licensed HVAC technician or a gas appliance repair specialist. Attempting to convert a propane heating unit to natural gas without the proper knowledge and skills can be extremely dangerous and may result in serious safety issues.

Safety Considerations

Converting a propane heating unit to run on natural gas is not a simple task and should not be undertaken lightly. There are several safety concerns that must be addressed:

  1. Improper Combustion: If the modifications are not performed correctly, the heating unit may not burn the natural gas properly, leading to incomplete combustion and the potential release of harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide.

  2. Pressure Mismatch: If the pressure regulator is not adjusted correctly, the heating unit may not receive the appropriate amount of natural gas, leading to inefficient operation or even equipment failure.

  3. Fuel Compatibility: Propane and natural gas have different chemical compositions and properties, and using the wrong fuel can cause damage to the heating unit’s components.

  4. Regulatory Compliance: In many areas, converting a propane heating unit to natural gas may require obtaining permits and inspections from local authorities to ensure compliance with safety codes and regulations.

Before attempting any modifications, it is crucial to consult with a qualified professional who can assess the specific requirements of your heating unit and ensure that the conversion is performed safely and in accordance with all applicable regulations.


While it is technically possible to convert a propane heating unit to run on natural gas, it is a complex and potentially dangerous process that should only be undertaken by a qualified professional. The necessary modifications, including changing the orifice, adjusting the pressure regulator, and modifying the burner assembly, require specialized knowledge and skills to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the heating unit.

Before considering a conversion, it is essential to carefully evaluate the cost-effectiveness and safety implications of the process. In many cases, the potential savings from using natural gas may not outweigh the risks and expenses associated with the conversion. Ultimately, the decision to convert a propane heating unit to natural gas should be made with the guidance of a qualified professional and with a thorough understanding of the potential risks and requirements involved.


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