Off the grid: LPG

Gas oil - LPG - Electricity

Focus on: Liquefied Petroleum Gas

LPG cylinder and tank storage jcw saunders

Also know as LPG this is the pressurised liquid state of a mixture of mainly Propane and Butane gas. They are stored in cylinders and are used in similar ways to natural gas with the difference being that it is a portable fuel source. And there’s more, If you are considering converting to, adding this fuel source to your property or perhaps you’re moving to a property off the mains gas grid, JCW Saunders’ have summarised the basics you should know.

Equipment options

Most popular central heating boilers come in a version that runs off LPG instead of mains gas, so if you are used to a mains gas boiler you will get identical functionality. There are plenty of options for oil burning boilers from well-known manufactures. Your gas safe engineer can recommend the best suited equipment for your needs. Unfortunately, LPG and oil burning boilers will not operate at the same efficiency rate as an electrical boiler due to the heat lost through the system’s vents and flue.

Unlike oil as a fuel, LPG can be used with a standard off the shelf cooker, with a simple conversion valve fitted, as LPG operates at a different pressure to natural gas. However with oil, a compatible oil fired cooker could cost anything from £1,500 to £5,000. If you are off the grid and currently using an electrical cooker, the ever increasing day rate per kWh could make the option of changing to LPG fuelled equipment look more attractive.

Tank options

The same can be said for both the oil as well as LPG storage tanks, as they are delivered via tankers, there’s the risk of running out before your next top up. As long as you remember to keep the gas topped up, LPG is otherwise a very reliable heating solution as well as a versatile source of energy around the home. If you are a forgetful person however, many fuel providers offer storage solutions that are fitted with a content gauge which give you the option to be notified when the level is low and to order some more, or bypass that process and orders automatically when the gauge is detecting a low level. 

Environmentally, LPG is a cleaner fuel overall than oil. Many suppliers would advise against putting oil tanks underground due to its potential to cause environmental damage. An undetected oil spill can have a severe impact on your property, health and the environment, especially from an underground tank or pipework. Being underground, it would make maintenance, checks and clean up more difficult and more costly.

LPG tanks can be buried underground safely as the autogas is non-toxic and poses no danger to groundwater or soils.

Cost and Efficiency

Figures taken from Energy Trust March 2016

At first glance, it may seem that Oil and LPG are expensive per sold unit compared to electric, but there are a few factors to look into. 

First of all, a unit litre of oil or LPG burns for a lot longer than a unit of electricity. However boilers run on electricity are usually 100% efficient as the system does not lose energy through vents and flues. Another factor is when the boiler is set up to come on, off peak electric rate is at a competitive rate to oil and LPG depending on your provider and boiler efficiency. Lastly, your tank has an installation and rental fee from your tank provider, these will also need to be maintained on a routinely basis and could result in costly repairs when leaks are found in them. As mentioned before oil leakage could also result in costly clean up processes as the fuel’s potential harm to groundwater or soils.

Alternatives

If you are off the grid, environmental conscious and are looking to be more self-sustained. You could consider installing a heating system, such as water-heating solar thermal panels or an air/ground sourced heat pumps.  These systems will allow you to generate power for more than just heating your house, additionally an incentive scheme will pay you for choosing these renewable options. Check out the Renewable Heat Incentive