A lot of people umm and ahh about whether they should have their BBQ set up for LPG or natural gas. Some don't have a choice, because they don't have gas lines, or some see hooking up to natural gas as a no brainer. There's always someone who's going to be on the fence. Maybe you're designing your new outdoor alfresco area and aren't sure if you should plumb a gas line in. Maybe you've got the ability to do both but have no idea which is better for you.
Let's look at some basic pros and cons for each...
What is Natural Gas and Where Does It Come From?
Natural gas is plumbed into your house through the underground lines that come from the street. Australia's gas supply comes from underground, both onshore and offshore and is pumped all over the country for use. It's a huge network of pipes and the majority of Australian households have access to it. Most commonly it's used for heating, hot water, ovens and stoves etc.
To be able to use natural gas for a BBQ you'd need an exterior connection on a wall in your backyard. This is the part that not everyone has. New builds with decent sized backyards and entertaining areas are more than likely to have it, but some houses would need to have one installed separately.
Note: just because you have gas plumbed into your house, does not always mean it is a natural gas source. It is possible to have LPG plumbed in to your house from a large communal tank. This is common in rural areas. For this, you need an LPG compatible BBQ with a new hose and regulator (not supplied or fitted by Heatlie).
Plainly speaking, you'll never run out. Your big weekend cook-ups are safe from disaster, and you won't ever have to worry about getting a Swap'n'go again. A natural gas line paired with a beautiful built-in outdoor alfresco kitchen can also add a lot of value to your house.
Natural gas can be expensive. Installation costs can skyrocket and a lot of different hands are needed in the process. You'll need to talk with your gas supplier and a gas plumber in order to coordinate it. On top of that, most BBQs come ready for LPG and need to be converted. Heatlie does sell factory-made natural gas BBQs however.
Another drawback is the fact that once you plug that bad boy into the wall, it's staying there. You won't have the ability to ever move your BBQ around for convenience sake, and if you move houses and the new place doesn't have a natural gas connection, you can't use your BBQ. You'll lose all the portability and flexibility that BBQing is supposed to offer you, until you can get it converted back to LPG at a cost.
What about LPG?
LPG is a bi-product of oil refining and natural gas extraction. It is housed in bottles to keep it at a pressure that allows it to form a liquid. LPG is a bit of a live wire. It has a high caloric value meaning it creates a lot of energy, or heat, in a short period of time. Gas is held in bottles at high pressure and through the use of regulators, BBQs extract it at a much lower, more reasonable pressure in order to provide heat.
Due to LPG being stored in small, easy to carry bottles, it is by far the more popular option. This allows you to keep your BBQ mobile. Whether you want to relocate your BBQ within the backyard, store it somewhere different to where it's used, move house, or take it on the road for a camping trip, you'll always be able to pick up and leave with LPG. Also, due to its higher pressure and burn rate, less LPG is needed to produce the same amount of heat as natural gas, making it more efficient (even if only slightly).
Obviously, with an LPG bottle, you're in danger of running out spontaneously. You can try to keep an eye on your tank levels but sometimes it's hard to predict. Always keep a spare full bottle for emergencies.
LPG is also slightly worse for the environment, emitting more harmful toxins into the air than natural gas. LPG gas tanks can be more dangerous too. That's not to say that natural gas doesn't have its dangers, all gas does, but often when you hear about a "BBQ explosion" in the news, it's a propane tank. If your bottle is not maintained and looked after, it can deteriorate to a point where leaks can spring. Gas leaks are hard to detect to the naked eye or ear. If you're worried, spray some soapy water around the neck and if it bubbles excessively, you most likely have a leak. Consult a gas specialist for instructions on what to do in this case.
Cost and Affordability
It's quite hard to nail down the cost of natural gas per kilogram or per megajoule, as the numerous suppliers across the country have different charges, and it varies by state. Gas suppliers also have a supply charge on top of usage that can get into the hundreds per year easily, and this on top of the installation and conversion fees for a BBQ, make LPG look like the much cheaper option. Most retail stores that offer LPG bottle refills charge anywhere between the $20-30 mark for a 9kg bottle and Swap'n'gos are generally around $30. One bottle can last a long time too, so the value of LPG certainly stands out.
Heatlie BBQs on Natural Gas and LPG
Heatlie's BBQ and Island Gourmet Elite range both have the ability to choose between natural gas and LPG. Our BBQs are all made to order, so whatever you choose is factory fitted and ready to go. You'll find some other brands only offer LPG BBQs with a natural gas conversion kit, or no ability to convert at all.
If you change your mind, you can always convert your Heatlie down the track with our gas conversion kit. Go from natural gas to LPG or LPG to natural gas as you please. We do strongly recommend that a gas fitter performs the conversion for you either way, as some internal gas fittings need to be changed and certified.
So that was a lot of information, but it's necessary to understand what you're purchasing and how it works. At the end of the day, you'll want to choose what's best for your current situation, as it's different for everyone.
If you're stuck, you can always drop us a line on Facebook, chuck us an email, or call us for some friendly advice!