Does a Gas Hot Water Heater Work with Propane?

A gas hot water heater can indeed work with propane, but it requires some modifications to the appliance. The modification process involves changing the orifice, regulator, valve/thermostat, and burner to accommodate the different fuel source. While this process can be done, it is crucial to ensure that the water heater is compatible with propane and that the modifications are carried out correctly to maintain safety and efficiency.

Compatibility and Conversion Kits

Before attempting to convert a gas hot water heater to run on propane, it is essential to ensure that the appliance is designed to be compatible with both natural gas and propane. Many manufacturers offer conversion kits specifically designed for their models, which provide the necessary components and instructions to make the switch.

It is crucial to use an official conversion kit from the manufacturer, as these kits are engineered to ensure the proper adjustments are made to the orifice size, gas regulator, and other safety-critical components. Attempting to modify the water heater without the appropriate conversion kit can be dangerous and may result in improper combustion, gas leaks, or other safety hazards.

Modification Process

does a gas hot water heater work with propane

The modification process to convert a gas hot water heater to run on propane typically involves the following steps:

  1. Shut off the gas and water supply: Before beginning any work, ensure that the gas and water supply to the water heater are turned off to prevent accidents or damage.

  2. Disconnect the gas line: Carefully disconnect the gas line from the water heater.

  3. Install the new regulator: Replace the existing gas regulator with an adjustable appliance regulator designed for propane use. Adjust the regulator to the correct pressure for propane, typically around 11 inches of water column (WC).

  4. Replace the orifice, valve/thermostat, and burner: Install the new orifice, valve/thermostat, and burner components included in the conversion kit. These components are specifically sized and designed for propane operation.

  5. Reconnect the gas line: Reconnect the gas line to the new regulator, ensuring a tight and secure connection.

  6. Turn on the gas and check for leaks: Carefully turn on the gas supply and check all connections for any gas leaks using a leak detection solution or soapy water.

  7. Light the pilot light and adjust the thermostat: Light the pilot light and adjust the thermostat to the desired temperature setting.

  8. Verify venting requirements: Ensure that the exhaust gasses from the water heater are being properly vented to the outdoors, as per the manufacturer’s specifications.

It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely and to have a good understanding of gas appliance safety and installation procedures. Attempting this modification without the proper knowledge and experience can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided.

Benefits of Using Propane with a Gas Hot Water Heater

While the modification process may seem daunting, there are several benefits to using a gas hot water heater with propane:

  1. Easy Installation: Propane-compatible gas water heaters can be easily installed in locations where natural gas may not be readily available, providing more flexibility in home design and placement.

  2. Durability and Longevity: Gas water heaters, including those converted to run on propane, are known for their long-lasting durability. Many models come with limited warranties ranging from 6 to 10 years, ensuring reliable hot water for years to come.

  3. Consistent Hot Water Supply: Gas water heaters, whether natural gas or propane-powered, store a supply of hot water, making it readily available when needed. This can be particularly beneficial in high-demand households or during power outages.

  4. Energy Efficiency: Propane is a highly efficient fuel source, and modern gas water heaters are designed to maximize energy efficiency, helping to reduce energy costs and environmental impact.

Technical Specifications

When considering converting a gas hot water heater to run on propane, it is essential to understand the key technical specifications of the appliance:

Gas Type: The water heater must be designed to accommodate both natural gas and propane. Attempting to use a water heater designed solely for natural gas with propane can be extremely dangerous.

Thermostat/Gas Control: All gas water heaters come equipped with a thermostat and gas control system to allow users to set the desired water temperature.

Venting Requirements: Exhaust gasses from the water heater must be properly vented to the outdoors, and the venting requirements may vary depending on the specific model and style of the appliance.

Durability: Many gas water heaters feature a glass-lined tank and an anode rod to protect the steel tank from corrosion, ensuring long-lasting performance.

Safety: Gas water heaters are equipped with a temperature and pressure relief valve, which acts as a safety device to detect and relieve internal temperature or pressure if the tank exceeds specified limits.


In summary, while it is possible to convert a gas hot water heater to run on propane, it is a process that requires careful consideration, the use of the appropriate conversion kit, and a good understanding of gas appliance installation and safety. By following the manufacturer’s instructions and taking the necessary precautions, homeowners can successfully convert their gas water heaters to run on propane, benefiting from the ease of installation, durability, and energy efficiency of this fuel source.