What to Do and What Not to Do
Without question, propane is one of the safest fuels you can use in and around your Iowa home. But to stay as safe as possible, you should always pay close attention to the operation of your propane gas appliances. The best way to keep all your propane equipment running properly is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preventive maintenance. Also, be sure to consult your owner’s manuals for what’s required.
To help guide you through a winter that will be safe and comfortable, we share these tips, courtesy of the Propane Education and Research Council.
- Propane smells like rotten eggs or a skunk’s spray. Propane manufacturers add this smell to help alert consumers to propane leaks. If you have someone living in your household with a diminished sense of smell, such as elderly relative, look into purchasing a propane gas detector as an additional measure of security. Please visit our Propane Safety page to learn more about what to do if you suspect a gas leak.
- When appliances operate properly, propane burns with a blue flame. If you see yellow flames—or notice significant amounts of soot on any equipment–the gas may not be burning completely. This situation can create carbon monoxide. Arrange for an inspection from a propane professional if you notice a yellow flame or soot on your appliances.
- For the sake of safety, if you are renovating or otherwise need to move your propane gas appliances, please consult with a professional. This is not a do-it-yourself task—you may inadvertently damage the gas connector. Older connectors can easily crack if twisted, which can lead to a gas leak. Be aware that any time you disconnect and then reconnect an appliance, a gas leak test must be performed to ensure that the fittings are secure.
- Regularly check the outdoor vents of your appliances to make sure combustion gases flow unobstructed to the outdoors. Insects, birds, and small animals have been known to build nests in vent pipes. To prevent any damage, use a broom or a soft brush to gently remove any obstructions you find in your vents.
More Tips to Be Safe at Home
- Make sure that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are installed on every level of your home, following manufacturer’s recommendations for placement and maintenance. Test your CO detectors every year and replace batteries at the beginning of each heating season. You should replace the whole CO detector every five or 10 years, depending on the type of unit you have.
- If you have a propane backup generator, make sure it has enough fuel to run for at least a week in the event of a power outage. Run your generator periodically to make sure it is operating properly. This will also help critical moving parts remain lubricated. Be sure you follow a proper maintenance schedule for your generator also.
- Never store portable propane cylinders indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent.
- Never use outdoor propane equipment (grills, portable generators, etc.) indoors. Carbon monoxide from these devices is a dangerous and potentially deadly hazard.
Read more propane safety tips.
Avoid Run-Outs by Filling Up Your Tank Now
When a propane tank becomes empty, your life suddenly becomes more complicated. That’s because running out of propane is a serious and costly situation that can cause all kinds of problems– and potential dangers – for you and your family.
For starters, you will have to arrange for an emergency propane delivery, which costs more, compared to a regular delivery.
Your propane company also must conduct a system leak test for any tank that runs out of propane. Safety codes require your propane supplier to perform this gas leak test before refilling your tank and relighting your appliances. Here’s why.
When there is propane in your tank, there is constant pressure in the system; when the amount of fuel goes down, so does the pressure. Loss of pressure can cause leaks because of the expansion and retraction of the piping compound in the propane system.
Whenever there is an interruption in service—such as running out of propane—a pressure test will reveal any leaks in the piping, which we will then be corrected. Be aware that your propane company needs to charge you for this important service. Here are other problems a propane run-out may cause.
- Rust build-up inside an empty tank can mask the rotten egg odor of propane, making it more difficult to detect a leak.
- Pilot lights on your propane appliances will go out if your propane tank is empty – a dangerous problem if not handled properly.
Please read our propane safety tips.
Fill Up Your Propane Tank in Early Fall
To avoid the hassles described above, start the heating season off on the right foot by getting your propane tank filled up. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your family will be safe and comfortable in any weather that’s ahead of us in autumn.
Tips for Reading Your Propane Tank Gauge
Look for a round dial (like a clock face) on your cylinders or tanks. Often, the dial is under the lid of the cylinder or tank, although sometimes it’s located on the top of a cylinder.
Next, see what number the hand is on. That number is the percentage (not the gallon count) of propane in your cylinder or tank.
To determine the number of gallons, multiply the capacity of the cylinder or tank by the percentage. If you have a 120-gallon tank and the gauge reads 70%, multiply 120 x .70, which equals 84 gallons.
If the gauge reads 30% or less on your tank or cylinder, arrange for a delivery from your local propane company.
If you’re having trouble reading your gauge or don’t know the capacity of your storage, contact your local Iowa propane company for assistance.
Propane Delivery Services in Iowa
Your Iowa propane dealer is committed to supplying you with reliable propane deliveries throughout the year.
Your Iowa propane company may offer a solution with automatic delivery service. They track your propane usage and schedule a delivery to your home before you run low. You don’t have to call.
If your Iowa propane company doesn’t offer automatic delivery, or if you prefer the control of calling in your delivery order, you need to be vigilant about monitoring your propane tank gauge levels and request your delivery when your tank is between 25% and 30% full.
While your propane dealer may be able to make a delivery within a day in cases of extreme emergency, it is always best to provide a few days’ notice. This advance notice is necessary for scheduling your home into a delivery route.
Please check with your Iowa propane supplier to find out what services and options they offer.
State Law Protects Right to Choose Your Heating Source
Iowa is among 25 states in the country that has passed legislation protecting the rights of consumers to choose their heating source. This legislation safeguards continued access for the installation and use of gas appliances, such as those used for space heating, water heating and cooking.
Why was this law necessary in the first place? Well, about 100 communities across the country have been changing their building codes in the past few years to ban gas hookups in new residential and commercial buildings.
Momentum for this movement gained more steam when New York recently became the first state in the country to ban fossil fuels in most new buildings—including natural gas and propane gas stoves and furnaces. Under this new measure, New York will require all-electric heating and cooking equipment in new buildings shorter than seven stories by 2026, and in taller buildings by 2029.
Government leaders in New York and elsewhere have decided to aggressively promote electricity as the only clean energy solution. They do this at the expense of traditional proven fuels like propane, natural gas and heating oil.
Unfortunately, they also ignore the environmental value of low-carbon propane, which your local propane supplier delivers right now, as well as the promise of renewable propane in the near future. Read about renewable propane gas.
Fighting against climate change by lowering emissions requires a sensible approach to energy policy— not one that tries to force homeowners and businesses who like propane to switch to electric heating. We should all be pleased that that our leaders in Iowa are keeping us on track to incorporate a balanced and clean energy plan for our state.
Is It Safe to Use a Propane Gas Stove?
This year, the issue of gas stove bans reached a fever pitch when the focus shifted to harmful pollution inside the home. This was due to new studies that showed the potential for indoor air pollution hazards associated with the use of natural gas stoves. Unfortunately, rumors spread rapidly on social media that the U.S. government planned to confiscate all existing gas stoves from people’s homes. This is false.
Propane Gas Stoves vs. Natural Gas Stoves
Here is an important issue that we have not seen addressed in recent studies. Concerns have long been raised about methane leaks coming from natural gas, especially from deteriorating pipelines. Bringing to light indoor emissions leaking from stoves fueled by natural gas just added to those concerns. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and it’s the main component of natural gas.
But here’s something that has been overlooked. In its original form, propane is not a greenhouse gas and it’s considered a “green” fuel because of its low carbon content. Unlike natural gas, propane does not contain any methane gas! Therefore, it’s impossible for a propane gas stove to leak harmful methane gas into a home.
No Matter the Source, Cooking Produces Particulate Matter
Looking beyond the issue of methane gas leaks, research that’s raised alarm bells over the potential risks involved in cooking isn’t new. All cooking—whether it happens on a gas, electric or wood stove—produces some particulate matter (PM). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines PM as microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.
As an example, think about the smoke that’s produced when you’re searing a steak in a frying pan on your cooktop. It’s not healthy to be breathing that in because of all the particulate matter it contains.
This is why indoor air quality experts always advise using your kitchen range hood to vent particulate matter to the outside whenever you are cooking. If you don’t have a range hood, open a nearby window or use a portable to get at least some ventilation into your kitchen.
Propane Industry Insight
Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), noted that a 2020 study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that electric ranges cause household fires at a rate 2.6 times greater than gas ranges; civilian injuries at a rate 4.8 times higher; and civilian deaths at a rate 3.4 times higher.
“Am I suggesting we ban electric stoves? Of course not,” said Perkins. “Many factors affect things like indoor air quality and fire safety, and policymakers must weigh all of them.”
Perkins emphasized that work must continue to eliminate the presence of harmful emissions in and near homes.
Doing this, along with proper installation, ventilation, and yearly checkups by qualified technicians constitutes a common-sense approach to addressing health and safety concerns around gas appliances, Perkins said.
Propane Can Be Used All Around the Farm
Iowa has a diverse agriculture industry. Just about everyone knows that the Hawkeye State is the largest producer of corn in the nation. But Iowa farmers also guarantee you a hearty breakfast, producing your bacon and eggs, the cream in your coffee and the oats in your oatmeal.
Whatever their crop, Iowa farmers rely a lot on propane because this versatile, eco-friendly and efficient fuel reduces costs and maximizes labor efficiency. Take a look at some of the many tasks that can be performed with American-made propane.
Keeping animal containment areas like hog and chicken structures heated during the cold winter months is one of propane’s most important roles. Propane heating systems can also be found in the farmhouse itself. Propane building heat is also used in greenhouses to maintain proper temperature control to promote plant growth. Greenhouses may also use propane in their dehumidification process to dry the air to reduce the likeliness of disease in plants, increasing plant quality.
Propane-powered Farm Vehicles
Propane can power trucks, tractors, forklifts and more. Because it burns cleanly, propane-powered vehicles need less maintenance and last longer.
The new propane-fueled engines are better for the environment and more efficient than older propane models. They provide farmers with an immediate savings in fuel costs compared with diesel or gasoline.
Propane Grain Dryers
Harvesting early, while the crop retains small amounts of moisture, reduces grain field losses. The extra grain harvested can more than make up for the cost of propane drying. New propane-fueled units distribute a very precise heat, which ensures that the grain dries evenly, resulting in a high-quality yield. Today’s propane grain dryers are up to 50% more efficient than older models.
Propane provides a clean-burning and efficient option for orchard heating compared to diesel-fueled heaters. Diesel fuel spills can pose a significant risk to surrounding trees by contaminating water and soil. In contrast, if propane leaks, it vaporizes into the air. It’s also nontoxic and insoluble in water, eliminating any risk of contamination.
Having a backup power source is a must-have for farming operations. Propane doesn’t degrade over time like gasoline or diesel, so it’s always there for you when you need it.
Flame weeding is perfect for organic farmers who can’t use traditional herbicides, or any producer who wants to reduce their herbicide use. This device works by using intense heat to rupture plant cells, causing the weed to wither and die. Flame weed control can be used in a variety of weather conditions and growth stages, and it allows farmers to return to the field immediately after treatment.
Keep Iowa Growing with Propane
If you’re part of Iowa’s valued agricultural community, you can help protect our most precious resources —our air, soil and water. Propane’s many uses around the farm can help you use fuel more efficiently and reduce emissions. And you don’t have to worry about toxic spills.
Reach out your local Iowa propane provider to learn more about all the ways propane can make your farming operations perform better. There are also financial incentives to help Iowa farmers who want to switch to propane-powered equipment.
Enjoy the Gold Standard for Efficient, Precise Home Cooking
It’s a good bet that you don’t know about this tasty tidbit: 96% of professional chefs prefer cooking with gas over electricity!
Think about it. If you’ve ever been to a restaurant with an open kitchen layout, you might have noticed that the searing, boiling and sautéing was all taking place over rows of beautiful blue flames. Simply put, gas is the gold standard for people who like to cook — whether professionally or at home.
It’s no wonder, then, that propane consumers in Iowa City, Pella, Cedar Rapids and many other communities want to know about gas stoves, as well as other propane appliances. Here are answers to some of the frequent questions we hear about propane gas stoves.
How Much Propane Do You Need for a Gas Stove?
Generally, a propane gas stove for residential use will only need about 35 gallons of propane per year. If your family does a lot of cooking, anticipate higher usage in the 60-gallon range. You may be surprised by this relatively low annual usage, but there is a good reason. Propane gas ranges are incredibly efficient. One gallon of propane produces about 91,502 Btu of heat energy.
If one of the larger burners on your propane range produces 18,000 Btu per hour, then one gallon of propane will power that burner for over five hours.
That means you can power a propane-fired stove and oven — plus other propane appliances with a modestly sized propane tank on your property that doesn’t require too many fuel deliveries over the course of the year.
What Are the Other Benefits of a Propane Stove?
There are many reasons that propane stoves have been so prevalent in new home construction. Here are just three.
- precise temperature control.
- 30% less carbon dioxide emissions than an equivalent amount of electricity.
- propane gas burners heat quickly once lit, and when you turn off the burner, it cools much faster than an electric element.
What’s the Difference Between a Propane Gas Stove and a Natural Gas Stove?
Besides the type of gas used to power your stove, the major difference between a propane stove and a natural gas stove are the gas jet nozzles. Because propane is highly pressurized, the nozzles have much smaller holes. Natural gas isn’t pressurized as much as propane, so the nozzles have larger holes. That’s the reason propane and natural gas stoves can’t be interchanged as is. If you wanted to switch from a natural gas stove to one that’s fueled by propane, you would need to get a propane conversion kit for stoves. This is needed to replace the gas jets. For safety reasons, this job is best left to a professional.
Are Propane Stoves Safe for My Home?
Some homeowners are reasonably concerned about the safety and eco-friendliness of propane stoves. But many of the emissions at the center of the current debate don’t come into play with propane. For example, propane itself is entirely methane-free and emits virtually no particulate matter.
Particulate matter refers to microscopic solids or liquid droplets that can be inhaled and cause health problems. It’s worth noting, though, that all cooking produces some particulate matter, regardless of whether it involves a gas, electric or wood stove.
But particulate matter and other emissions can be largely mitigated with proper ventilation. If you want additional peace of mind, consider indoor air quality products. Many experts recommend using an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can significantly help reduce the level of nitrogen oxides that tend to build up in homes.
Read more about indoor air quality and gas stoves.
Getting to the Bottom of Gas Delivery Charges
When the pandemic started to throttle down last year, so did energy prices, and everyone in Iowa and everywhere else could stop holding their breath. That was true whether they relied on propane, natural gas or electricity to keep their homes warm.
As one example of how far prices have fallen, the Henry Hub spot prices for natural gas had reached the stratosphere last summer, climbing to nearly $10 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). By early 2023, that price had slumped to about $2 per MMBtu, according to the U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration.
So, we could understand why a lot of folks were scratching their bewildered heads after they heard about the recent announcement made by Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Company: they intended to file a request with the Iowa Utilities Board to increase its natural gas delivery rates in Iowa by 6% per month. This would force their customers to cough up another $60 each year just to get natural gas delivered to their home.
But it had nothing to do with the market cost of the natural gas itself.
In its announcement, MidAmerican cited several factors in their request, including the necessity of several infrastructure projects and upgrades, new security standards prompted by growing cybersecurity and physical threats to the gas delivery system.
Why Do I Pay Delivery Charges?
Gas and electric utilities split the charges to its customers into two categories: supply charges (the actual cost of the fuel itself) and the rather confusing delivery charges, which could take up 50% or more of your total monthly bill. These fees not only compensate the utility for the cost of delivering natural gas (or electricity) to your home, but also for its operations and services, such as meter reading, repairing or improving infrastructure, employee salaries, etc.)
Private Companies, Not Monopolies, Deliver Propane in Iowa
Most propane suppliers do their best to limit imposing fees on their customers, other than mandatory ones required by government regulations, such as the Hazardous Materials fee. Ask your typical propane company in Iowa about this and they’ll tell you that limiting fees and being open and transparent with customers about their pricing is just the right way to do business.
One of the great benefits of being a propane customer is that you interact with private businesses that do not operate as monopolies. Unlike the imposing gas and electric utilities, propane companies are not franchised by the state to work exclusively within a service territory awarded to them.
That means that propane customers in Iowa remain free to shop around for a propane gas dealer that offers them the best price and service.
If anyone in government ever gets the “bright” idea to monopolize propane companies and force them to play under the same rules as utilities, we can tell them ahead of time that this could easily result in chaos, and adversely affect the quality of propane service that Iowans have come to rely on for so many years.
Or as a frustrated government official once said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Propane Autogas in Iowa: a Cost-Efficient Alternative
One in eight households in Iowa rely on clean-burning propane for home heating. Meanwhile, high-efficiency propane-powered crop drying represents a critical phase in the harvesting process within our state’s 30 million acres of farmland.
But did you know that propane also plays an important role in powering motor vehicles with its clean, high-efficiency energy?
Propane autogas is the term used to describe propane when it is used as a fuel for vehicles. Propane autogas is the world’s most popular alternative fuel, which is defined as any product that bypasses the two big traditional petroleum fuels: gasoline and diesel
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, 60% of alternative-fuel vehicles nationwide now run on propane, from school buses to vans and fleet trucks to forklifts, lawnmowers and farm tractors. It is the third most popular vehicle fuel, next to gasoline and diesel.
Propane vs. Diesel and Gasoline Vehicles
Here are three key areas where propane-fueled vehicles have an edge over those that rely on diesel or gasoline.
Fuel: You can generally count on an average savings of 30 to 40 % per mile driven with propane autogas, considering both the cost of the fuel itself and expected fuel economy. Historically, propane has been 30% less than gasoline, and the savings are even greater now when compared to diesel, especially in the wake of the alarming price increases we’ve seen lately.
Fluids: New, lower emissions diesel technology presents extra costs because diesel emissions fluid needs to be purchased, stored and changed. Plus, in cold temperatures, diesel vehicles need anti-gel fluids to prevent fuel filters and fuel lines from clogging. If your fleet runs on propane autogas, however, you will benefit from reliable performance in any type of weather without the need and extra expense of additional fluids.
Filters: To meet emissions requirements, today’s diesel technology requires diesel particulate filters that must be cleaned. Excessive idling accelerates cleaning intervals. These extra maintenance expenses just add more to the total cost of ownership.
Converting Engines to Propane Autogas
For fleet owners who want the cost benefits of propane autogas but need the flexibility of a gasoline backup or who aren’t ready to purchase new vehicles, EPA-certified bi-fuel conversion kits can be installed on existing vehicles.
You can count on propane refueling technology to deliver as dependably as the vehicles themselves. Refueling with propane autogas is quick, quiet and safe. It’s the same experience as refueling with diesel or gasoline, making the transition to propane autogas easy for fleets.
Propane autogas fleet operators can also save money by taking advantage of the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit, which was recently passed by the U.S. Congress as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. You may qualify to claim a credit for every gasoline gallon equivalent of propane autogas purchased.
The credit is available through December 31, 2024 and extends back to January 1, 2022. The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) estimates that this credit will be a $200 million boon to the propane industry annually.
Besides federal tax credits, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) also offers state tax incentives to business projects for the production of biomass or alternative fuels. You can find out more about these alternative fuel production tax credits at the agency’s High Quality Jobs Program website.
Additionally, the IEDA provides grants for projects that support the implementation of the Iowa Energy Plan, including the purchase of Alternative Fuel Vehicles. You can learn more about qualifying for grants by going to the Iowa Energy Center Grant Program website.
Please contact your local Iowa propane provider to find out about autogas services or to find an autogas specialist in your area. Read more about propane autogas.
The Production of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG)
The roots of the propane industry were planted when American chemist Walter O. Snelling discovered that some evaporating gases could be transformed into liquids. Out of all the gases, propane turned out to be the most plentiful. From there, Snelling discovered a method to bottle the liquid gas. Bottle gas, or bottled gas, is a term that you will still hear or read about today.
The process itself of making propane has evolved over the last century or so. Today, there are two primary ways propane is produced.
Because propane is created through the processing of natural gas and crude oil, it is a fuel that is largely a domestic product. In fact, about 90% of the American propane supply is generated right here in the United States! That abundant, right-at-home supply in your propane tank makes propane a reliable fuel choice for your Iowa home or business, and all its potential appliances and equipment, throughout the year.
Propane from Crude Oil Refining
Some propane is created during the process of crude oil refining. There are a lot of products that can be derived from crude oil refining, including gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, jet fuel and heating oil—and, of course, propane as well. During the stabilization phase of the refining, the heavier hydrocarbons fall to the bottom. But propane, because it is a lighter hydrocarbon, stays at the top and it’s easily extracted.
Propane from Natural Gas Production
The process of crude oil refining plays a small role in the production of propane, however. The majority of propane is derived today from natural gas production. When natural gas is taken out of the earth, it is a mix of different gases. One of these gases is propane.
To stop condensation from forming in natural gas pipelines, propane is extracted from liquid compounds as the natural gas is being processed. Butane is also extracted during this process. Propane, being much denser as a liquid than as a gas, is stored and transported as a liquid in this form of production.
Propane: Affordable Energy for Everyone
Propane is an ideal fuel for many purposes, even beyond your water heater and heating your home with your furnace, space heater or fireplace. It’s also useful for stoves and clothes dryers, as well as for outdoor use, including grills, pool and patio heating and exterior lighting. And peace of mind is never far off when you have a propane-fueled generator on standby. So, you really have a lot of options when you get your propane delivery.
How Does Propane Impact the Environment?
Propane is a clean-burning fossil fuel that was recognized as an alternative fuel in both the 1990 Clean Air Act and the 1992 National Energy Policy. Unlike natural gas, propane does not contain methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the rare event of a leak, propane has no detrimental impact on the air, soil, water, aquatic life, marine life, or plant life.
Today’s high-efficiency propane heating systems and other propane appliances such as water heaters have high efficiency ratings. That efficiency, along with propane’s clean-burning properties, allows you to reduce your home’s carbon footprint without having to sacrifice comfort or convenience.
Please reach out to your local Iowa propane supplier if you have questions about propane delivery, your propane tank or anything else.
Why Propane Appliances Are a Better Choice
Efforts by government officials around the country to mitigate the impact of climate change has focused solely on supporting wide scale conversions to electricity to replace traditional fuels like propane. But that’s an extremely expensive path to take, and one that’s not very popular for people in Iowa and elsewhere who love the comfort and savings they enjoy by using clean-burning propane.
How clean is propane? For starters, when you use propane appliances instead of electric ones, you’re relying on a fuel that produces 43% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the grid.
Just as important in the propane vs. electricity debate is the topic of energy efficiency, which has a big effect on the environment as well. Because the less energy you use, the less impact you have on the environment.
Why Propane Is More Efficient than Electricity
Propane generates more Btu than an equivalent amount of electricity, so you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat energy. To appreciate propane’s big advantage over electricity in energy efficiency, you have to consider BTU content.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a British thermal unit (Btu) is a measure of the heat content of fuels or energy sources. It’s measured by the quantity of heat that’s required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit–at the temperature in which water has its greatest density (approximately 39 degrees Fahrenheit).
BTUs can be used to compare energy sources on an equal basis. To compare propane to electricity, we need to know that:
- one gallon of propane = 91,452 Btus
- one kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity = 3,412 Btu
To make these two energy sources “equal,” divide 91,452 Btus by 3,412 Btu. Your answer will be:
- One gallon of propane = 27 kWh of electricity. In other words, one gallon of propane contains the same amount of usable energy as 27 kilowatt hours of electricity.
Propane101.com makes this comparison to illustrate the efficiency of propane compared to electricity. A 100-watt light bulb left on for a full day–24 hours–will consume 2.4 kWh. If propane could be used to power the same light bulb. it would only use 9/100th of a gallon of propane.
Propane: Made in the USA
Almost all the propane used in the U.S. is produced domestically, meaning every gallon you buy contributes to the independence of America’s energy needs.
Maintaining a propane tank on your property gives you the ability to store a sufficient supply that’s always ready for immediate use, eliminating any dependence on an underground gas pipeline. That’s just one more reason to feel good about using propane every time you get a propane delivery.
Read more about using propane appliances for water heaters, space heating and more.
Renewable Propane and Net-Zero Carbon Emissions
The success story of propane and the environment doesn’t end here. Renewable propane represents the next step towards a zero-carbon emissions future.
Renewable propane is molecularly identical to propane. But it is made with renewable resources such as animal oils, plant oils, biomass, and other triglycerides.
As the renewable propane sector grows in the years ahead, more Iowans will be able to use it to lower their carbon footprint even further than they do now with traditional propane.
Read more about renewable propane.
Is There a Gas Stove Ban in Iowa?
The potential banning of gas stoves in parts of Iowa has been a growing concern for legislators in the past few years. That’s why the Iowa state legislature addressed the issue of a gas stove ban by recently passing a law that prohibited “counties and cities from regulating the sale of natural gas and propane.”
The Iowa legislation “to ban gas bans” in all municipalities and counties is similar to other new so-called “preemption laws” enacted in 19 other states, mostly in the South and Midwest.
The legislation has been considered a safeguard against what is happening elsewhere in the country. Dozens of other local governments—the majority in California but none in Iowa—have enacted ordinances that would outlaw gas connections in new buildings in an effort to reduce emissions and combat climate change.
Focus Shifts to Health
This year, the issue of gas stove bans reached a new flash point when the focus shifted from the environment outside to harmful pollution inside the home. This was due to recent studies that showed the potential for indoor air pollution hazards associated with the use of natural gas stoves. Unfortunately, rumors spread rapidly that the U.S. government planned to confiscate all existing gas stoves from people’s homes. This is false.
At the moment, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is only seeking to obtain public input on hazards associated with gas stoves. The CPSC is the government agency that strives to reduce the risk of injuries and deaths associated with faulty consumer products.
So, what’s the truth about gas stoves? Do all of the good people in Iowa who enjoy cooking on their propane gas stoves have any reason to be concerned about proposed gas bans heading our way in the future?
Evaluating Recent Studies
Last December, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study that concluded that “12.7% of current childhood asthma nationwide is attributed to gas stove use…”
Unfortunately, the researchers seem to confine their description to just “gas stoves,” apparently not realizing that there are some key differences between a stove powered by natural gas and one that’s fueled by propane. (More on that soon).
Cooking—On Any Stove–Produces Particulate Matter
Research that’s raised alarm bells over the potential risks involved in cooking isn’t new, however. All cooking—whether it happens on a gas, electric or wood stove—produces some particulate matter (PM). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines PM as microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.
“Anything with a red-hot element is going to generate particles,” said Iain Walker, an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab who studies home indoor air quality and ventilation. “That includes most stovetops, ovens and even small appliances like toasters. Frying and roasting cook methods both produce a lot more particulate matter than boiling or steaming.”
As an example, think about all of the smoke that’s produced when you’re searing a steak in a frying pan on your cooktop. It’s not healthy to be breathing that in because of all the particulate matter it contains.
This is why indoor air quality experts always advise using your kitchen range hood to vent particulate matter to the outside whenever you are cooking. If you don’t have a range hood, open a nearby window to achieve at least some ventilation.
The Stanford Study
An earlier study, done by researchers at Stanford and published in January 2022, revealed that all of the 53 natural gas stoves observed leaked methane gas, even when turned off. The research team also wrote: “In addition to methane emissions, co-emitted health-damaging air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into home air and can trigger respiratory diseases.”
Nitrogen dioxide has been shown to contribute to breathing problems like asthma. A 2016 study at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that the simple act of boiling water on a natural gas stove produces nearly twice the amount of nitrogen dioxide than the outdoor standard established by the EPA. Considering that about one-third homes in our country use natural gas for cooking, that’s something that needs to be addressed.
Propane Gas Stoves Vs. Natural Gas Stoves
Here is a critical point we have not seen addressed in either of these studies. Concerns have long been raised about methane leaks coming from natural gas beyond indoor emissions from stoves fueled by natural gas. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and it’s the main component of natural gas.
Now, compare that to propane. In its original form, propane is not a greenhouse gas and it’s considered a “green” fuel because of its low carbon content. Unlike natural gas, propane does not contain any methane gas!
Besides the type of gas used to power your stove, the major difference between a propane stove and a natural gas stove are the gas jet nozzles. Because propane is highly pressurized, the nozzles have much smaller holes. Natural gas isn’t pressurized as much as propane, so the nozzles have larger holes. That’s the reason propane and natural gas stoves can’t be interchanged as is. If you wanted to switch from a natural gas stove to one that’s fueled by propane, you would need to get a propane conversion kit for stoves. This is needed to replace the gas jets. This job is best left to a professional, however.
The Propane Industry Responds
The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) pointed out that there are competing studies about the adverse impact to indoor air quality that various types of stoves produce.
PERC cited The Lancet Respiratory Medicine abstract, which states: “…we detected no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”
PERC also found flaws in the Stanford study’s findings (noted above). “These are based on an extremely small sample size and unrealistic cooking conditions and don’t provide a clear picture of …particulate matter generated from electric cooking,” according PERC. (Electric stoves produce particulate matter…and emit dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde that can be toxic.)
Tucker Perkins, PERC’s president and CEO, points to a 2020 study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that found that electric ranges cause household fires at a rate 2.6 times greater than gas ranges; civilian injuries at a rate 4.8 times higher; and civilian deaths at a rate 3.4 times higher.
“Am I suggesting we ban electric stoves? Of course not,” said Perkins. “Many factors affect things like indoor air quality and fire safety, and policymakers must weigh all of them.”
Perkins emphasized that work must continue to eliminate the presence of harmful emissions in and near homes.
“Rather than gas bans, states should focus on natural gas supply chains and mitigate potential hazards….This, along with proper installation, ventilation, and yearly checkups by qualified technicians constitutes a common-sense approach to addressing health and safety concerns around gas appliances.”