converting heater

Can you convert a natural gas heater to LPG?

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Looking to convert your natural gas heater to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)? This Canstar Blue guide discusses the process involved and potential pros and cons of switching between fuel types.

From cooking on the stove or the BBQ to heating water or running appliances, gas is an incredibly versatile resource. But, with different types of gas available it can be confusing to know which type you will or won’t need for your home appliances.

So, what happens if you do buy an exxy appliance, like a natural gas heater, only to later move to a home that doesn’t have natural gas mains connection? Can you switch it to LPG? Or are you doomed to put your flash new rig on Facebook Marketplace?

In this Canstar Blue guide, we explain whether it’s possible to use LPG with a natural gas heater and set out the options available to you.

What’s the difference between natural gas and LPG?

The main difference between natural gas and LPG is the way that these gasses are produced and supplied. LPG is produced during oil refining or extracted during the natural gas production process. It is usually made up of a combination of propane and butane gas – in Australia it’s mostly propane-based – and provides high levels of heat in less time than natural gas. In order to be stable for transport LPG is put under pressure to form a liquid and stored in a high-pressure tank. You know those white gas canisters you can buy and swap at your local servo or Bunnings? That’s LPG. It also comes in bigger canisters that can be delivered to your house by an LPG supplier.

Natural gas is slightly different in that it’s extracted from the earth and can contain ethane, propane, butane and pentane. According to a recent Energy Networks Australia report, 50 per cent of Australian homes use natural gas for their hot water, appliances and heating systems. Unlike LPG, natural gas is delivered via pipelines (known as the gas mains) directly to your home. It tends to be more convenient for the larger systems required in the home, such as hot water systems. You also don’t have to keep track of how much gas is left or swap out bottles because it’s connected straight to the source.

Read more: Natural Gas vs LPG: What should you get?

Can you use LPG with a natural gas heater?

No, the two different gases operate at different pressure points, meaning that LPG and natural gas appliances are not interchangeable and have to be converted. However, not all gas appliances are able to be converted due to design or certification requirements.

If you try to use LPG in an appliance designed for natural gas without converting the appliance, the appliance may not be able to handle the pressure. This could cause it to malfunction in a way that could cause it to explode. That’s why it’s important to ensure you are using the right fuel or have a professional convert the appliance.

To see what fuel type your heater uses or to see if it can be converted from one gas type to another, it’s best to check the owner’s manual or look on the manufacturer’s website. Alternatively, you can contact the manufacturer directly to see what it recommends. It’s best to not convert your heating system without the help of licensed gasfitter.

How do I convert my natural gas heater to LPG?

To convert an appliance, such as a heater, from natural gas to LPG you’ll require the help of a licensed gasfitter. They’ll check that the appliance itself is suitable for conversion, as well as checking the gas source itself. It’s extremely important that you don’t attempt to do this yourself as if it is not done correctly it could lead to serious injury and/or death.

To find a local, licensed gasfitter in Victoria, New South Wales or South Australia – go to the Australian Gas Networks website where you can put in your postcode and see gasfitters and gas appliance stores within a 70km of your home.

The Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland has a similar service for Queenslanders, but its website covers a wider range of specialist tradespeople and produces results in a 30km radius of your home.

Likewise, the Tasmanian Government has a search feature for all kinds of trades and professional building services, from gas fitters to architects, that Tasmanians can use. Once you put in your postcode it will show you all of the businesses in the area that are relevant to the search categories you select.

The Master Plumbers’ Association of SA/NT also has a similar function when you put in your postcode, and has an advanced search filter that lets you choose between businesses that operate within standard business hours or those available for emergency services.

Natural Gas vs LPG: Which is better?

There are pros and cons to both natural gas and LPG use in the home. While choosing the best option for your lifestyle will come down to a number of personal factors, we’ve listed some of the pros and cons of both fuel types to help you with your research.

LPG Pros:

LPG canister with light reflecting on it.

  • Convenient and efficient: LPG is easy to transport, store and can reach higher heating levels than natural gas due to its higher energy content. This means that less LPG is required to produce the same amount of heat. It is also consistent and efficient, particularly when it comes to cooking.
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions: While LPG is considered a fossil fuel, it produces less greenhouse emissions than other gas sources.
  • Easily accessible: For those who live in rural or remote area, connecting to mains gas may not be possible and therefore LPG makes gas accessible.
  • Potentially cheaper: Because you only have to pay for a refill when you need it, LPG may be cheaper to use, as opposed to the daily supply fees usually associated with natural gas. This is only if you have smaller gas usage requirements. If you burn through gas quite quickly, mains gas may be more cost efficient.

LPG Cons:

  • Canisters require disposal: LPG either requires you to go and swap the bottles out yourself or arrange to have a company do it for you. This takes time and fuel and can be a bit of a hassle, particularly if you do not organise it prior to your gas tank running out.
  • More maintenance: With LPG, homeowners will need to regularly check their gas levels to ensure they’ve got an adequate supply.
  • Potentially more expensive: LPG can’t power everything in the home, only certain appliances, which makes it more expensive to use in large quantities.

Natural Gas Pros:

Natural gas stove top turned on with blue flame.

  • Less maintenance: Because natural gas is connected directly to your house, there’s no need for tank disposal or to track gas levels to make sure you don’t run out of gas, and thus hot water, in the middle of washing your hair!
  • Eco-friendly-ish: Natural gas is the most eco-friendly fossil fuel because it burns cleaner, according to the Australian Gas Networks. This means that it emits 50-60 per cent less carbon dioxide than regular oil or coal-fired power plants and the greenhouse gases that are emitted have a lower life cycle.
  • Potentially cheaper: While it’s true that with LPG you only have to pay for gas as you need it, the time and fuel required to switch out the tanks has to be taken into consideration. Natural gas is connected directly to the house, eliminating this need for travel.

Natural Gas Cons:

  • It’s still a fossil fuel: While natural gas is more eco-friendly than other gas sources, it’s still a non-renewable resource.
  • Less accessible for those in remote or rural communities: Because natural gas has to be connected directly to the house, it may not be possible to reach out to remote or rural communities. LPG may be a better option then due to its ability to be easily stored and transported.
  • Daily supply charges: Most natural gas customers are charged both for usage and supply, as you can see in this average natural gas bill. This means that users are charged a fee for the gas they use and for being connected to the network. So even if a customer doesn’t use any natural gas on that day, they’ll still receive a fee for being connected to the mains network.

Should I convert my natural gas heater to LPG?

Overall, whether you decide to convert your natural gas appliance to run on LPG will depend firstly on whether you heater can, indeed, be converted, and also on personal circumstances, such as gas usage, household size and local climate. If you do decide to convert your heater, it’s important you contact a licensed professional for further assistance.

Alternatively, it may even be simpler and more cost-efficient to purchase a new heater. If you are on the hunt for a new gas-powered heating system for your home, check out our latest portable heating ratings below. We asked real buyers to rate the portable heaters they purchased in areas such as effectiveness, reliability, value for money, functionality and overall satisfaction.

Best-Rated Portable Heaters

Image credit: OgnjenO/, pixelsnap/, LIGHTITUP/

Kelseigh Wrigley
Energy Specialist
Kelseigh Wrigley covers Australia's retail energy market, growing her industry specific expertise over the last 2 years. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism at the Queensland University of Technology and has contributed her skills to online publications Hunter & Bligh and local radio station 4ZZZ.

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