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Can a Propane BBQ Use Butane?

can a propane bbq use butane

Yes, propane barbeques can use butane gas, and butane barbeques can use propane; but you shouldn’t use them interchangeably. Propane and butane are two very similar natural gases. But have two properties that make the equipment considerably different, those are the boiling point and specific energy density.

As butane has four carbon atoms, as opposed to propane with three, it has a higher specific energy density. In other words, it burns hotter and the equal amount at equal pressure will produce higher heat. Because of this, gas regulators for propane and butane have different construction, and propane regulators allow for a higher rate of flow to compensate for lower energy density. Another problem is that the appropriate regulators for propane and butane use different connectors, which makes connecting the wrong gas to it extremely difficult.

When using either propane or butane as fuel for your barbeque, it needs to be vaporized so it would burn. This happens by heating the gas above its boiling point, in normal use just the warmth of the environment is sufficiently high for either of these two gases to boil as they reach the gas burner.

Can Propane and Butane Be Used Interchangeably?

No you cannot, as propane and butane have different types of hardware and regulators. But, rom the point of view of cooking the food over an open flame, they are interchangeable. There is no difference whether you barbeque with propane or butane. Because of their individual characteristics, there are some differences in the equipment, specifically the gas regulators.

Because these gases have different energy densities, propane gas regulators are designed to allow a higher rate of flow, because more of the gas is needed to provide the same amount of heat. If you would use a butane gas on propane equipment your barbeque or camp stove would produce a much higher amount of heat than expected, around 30%. In extreme cases, this can melt your gas burners.

Always use the proper regulator depending on the type of gas you will be using. This propane regulator is ready to use straight out of the box and maxes out at 80, 000 BTU,and is fiber reinforced to ensure quality performance. 

Should I Use Propane or Butane for BBQ?

In essence, it comes down to the availability and what type of barbeque you own. Both gases will perform the same when used in appropriate barbeques. The only difference can be created by less than perfect burners. In the case of incomplete burning of the gas, some of it will penetrate your food.

Propane has a boiling point between -44 and -43 degrees Fahrenheit, and butane between 30 and 34 degrees. Because of this propane will easily evaporate even in very cold weather, while with butane you can see improper burning and issues with pressure drops even in mild weather.

Because propane is odorless, it will not be apparent, but butane on the other hand has a slight gasoline odor.

Which Is Safer, Propane or Butane?

Both propane and butane have been around for ages, and their safety profiles are well-known and understood. If gas tanks and bottles are properly stored and cared for neither of them is safer nor more dangerous.

Propane produces less carbon dioxide per unit of volume, so it can be seen as safer for the environment, but it has a lower specific energy. And higher consumption of propane for producing an equal amount of heat makes propane and butane equal from the point of carbon emission.

Does Propane Give off Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas toxic for all living organisms that use hemoglobin for transporting oxygen inside their body. It has no color, it’s odorless, and has no taste. It is produced by the combustion of carbohydrates in an oxygen-poor environment.

Propane is a carbohydrate and its burning can produce carbon monoxide under certain conditions. Those amounts are very small, and thus propane can be safely used in properly ventilated spaces.

Can a Propane Tank Explode?

Under certain conditions, propane tanks can explode. But that requires tremendous efforts and extremely high heat. If a bullet pierces a propane tank, the gas will release very quickly into the atmosphere and that presents a different kind of danger. Propane tanks always have a pressure release valve that safely releases any excessive pressure from them.

Propane accidents that most often happen are due to improper handling of the equipment and gas leaks that can happen in such situations. Leaking gas in an improperly ventilated room can reach a concentration that is highly combustible or even explosive. This air-fuel mixture can be ignited very easily and lead to an explosion, but tanks themselves do not explode.

Why Do Lighters Use Butane Instead of Propane?

The key reason is that the gas in gas lighters is stored in liquid form, which means that it must be pressurized to sufficiently high pressure. How high pressure is required is in relation to the boiling point of a particular gas. Butane has a much higher boiling point, thus it can be stored at much lower pressure, around four times lower pressure.

Because gas lighters and gas inserts are almost always made out of plastic, it is easier and cheaper to make ones that can withstand lower pressure. And that’s the only reason, butane lighters are cheaper to manufacture.

Are Propane and Butane Regulators the Same?

No. Because propane and butane have different specific energy in barbeques they are used at different flow rates. The standard supply pressure of propane is 37 millibars, while for butane is 28 millibars.

Gas regulators have the purpose to keep this supply pressure at the same level while the pressure from the gas tank decreases due to use. Because of this they are constructed differently for propane and butane, and can’t be used interchangeably.

Are Propane and Butane Fittings the Same?

No, propane and butane fittings have very different sizes. Propane regulators come with fittings in one size of 27 mm, while butane regulators come in two sizes of 20 and 21 mm. Hoses and fittings for one type cannot be used on regulators of a different type. Additionally, there are high-pressure propane regulators which provide supply pressure of 500 millibars at their lowest setting and require high-pressure fittings and hoses.

Is Patio Gas the Same as Propane?

Simply put, it’s the same gas. The difference is in the design of the way that gas regulators are connected to cylinders. Patio gas cylinders are intended primarily for use in gas heaters, where it is convenient to be able to quickly connect or disconnect the regulator. This is why they use clip-on regulators.

On the other hand, propane bottles are expected to be changed less often and use screw-in regulators.

Does Propane Get Old?

Many of the hydrocarbons-based fuels, such as diesel, kerosene, gasoline; over time degrade and thus have a shelf-life. Propane on the other hand does not degrade and is chemically very stable when stored. When storing propane your concern should be with the state of the tank, as its deterioration can have dangerous consequences.

Is It Ok to Leave Propane Tank Outside in Winter?

Generally, it is safe to keep propane tanks outside in the winter. The main concern should be the state of the tank. While the low temperature will not damage it, atmospheric water can cause corrosion which weakens the tank. Thus, it is very important for long-term storage exposed to winter elements, that the corrosion protective paint of the tank is not damaged.

Final Thoughts

In short, a propane BBQ can use butane. You will need to make sure that the necessary steps are taken by making sure the correct regulator and hardware is installed before using each type of gas in your gril

Another key difference to take into consideration is the two different boiling points of the gases. Propane has a boiling temperature of -42°C while butanes is relatively higher at -2°C

This means that propane is more ideal in colder climates while butane can favor a more warmer climate.

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