What Is the Difference Between Propane and Butane? – Scooptimes

Propane and butane are derived from petroleum, found in natural gas or oil. Understanding these gas differences is imperative when planning camping trips, setting up barbecues, or exploring home heating options. This knowledge can aid in making informed propane delivery decisions. Although similar, these gases possess unique properties that influence their performance and application suitability.

What Is Propane?

Propane is a type of hydrocarbon that falls under the category of liquefied petroleum gas. This gas is colorless and odorless in its natural state. Propane is heavier than air. It can accumulate in low-lying areas if not properly vented. Propane can be used for heating homes. Stoves and grills can be powered by propane due to the high heat output and precise temperature control they offer. Propane can also fuel generators, providing a reliable power source during outages.

What Is Butane?

Butane is colorless, odorless, and highly flammable. It’s heavier than air and can cause asphyxiation in poorly ventilated areas. In its natural state, it exists as a gas but can be liquefied under pressure. Butane is commonly used as a fuel in lighters and portable camping stoves because it can be stored as a liquid and used as a gas. In some regions, butane is used for residential heating and cooking. Some refrigeration systems also use isobutane, a form of butane, due to its low environmental impact compared to traditional refrigerants.

What Are the Differences Between Propane and Butane?

Propane and butane may seem similar, but they have unique traits that make them stand apart. Some of the differences include:

Boiling Point

Propane has a lower boiling point of -42°C, while butane is higher at -0.5°C. This difference is primarily due to the size of the molecules and the intermolecular forces between them. Butane is larger than propane, and the larger a molecule is, the more intermolecular forces there can be between those molecules. These forces could increase the energy required to convert the gas into a liquid, resulting in a higher boiling point for butane. This difference in boiling points may impact the usability of these gases, particularly under different weather conditions. 

With its lower boiling point, propane can vaporize and be used even in frigid temperatures, making it ideal for winter use. Butane stops vaporizing at temperatures below freezing (0°C), limiting its effectiveness in colder climates. Since propane can vaporize even in colder temperatures, it may be a preferred choice for outdoor applications where the temperature might drop significantly, such as in grills and home heating systems. Butane’s higher boiling point can make it effective in indoor settings. It may be suitable for indoor applications like lighters and portable stoves.

Storage and Transportation

Propane is used more often because it remains a gas under a wide range of temperatures, exerting greater pressure than butane when stored as a liquid in a tank at the same temperature. This can make propane more suitable for outdoor storage and transportation, especially in colder climates where it maintains its gaseous state. Propane delivery tanks need to be stored in a well-ventilated area due to their pressure. This can allow its containers to be lighter and more portable.


Both butane and propane are clean fuels, emitting fewer greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels. Propane, when combusted, can produce about 1.5 kg of CO2 per liter. It also has a higher heat value, meaning it can produce more heat per unit than butane. This efficiency can result in less fuel usage and fewer emissions. Butane could emit approximately 1.7 kg of CO2 per liter when burned. Butane’s energy density is lower than propane’s, which may require more fuel to generate the same heat.

Hire Reliable Propane Delivery Services

Hiring a reliable propane delivery service can significantly enhance your propane usage experience. Research the provider’s reputation, pricing structure, delivery options, and customer service to know you’ll have a steady supply of propane catered to your specific needs.