Grilling is a favorite past time for many and while there are many grills on the market, both propane and natural gas grills have gained in popularity. Propane grills are the most commonly found of the gas fuel types in reference to grills.
While portable natural gas grill do exist and can easily be purchased, they are just not as readily found at brick and mortar stores.
However, some propane grills can be converted to natural gas so it depends on the specific make and model as to this being academic. In either case, hooking up a natural gas grill is easy but should be taken with care.
Conversion or Non-Conversion
As mentioned above, some propane grills can be converted to natural gas and some natural gas to propane. When considering to convert your grill, make sure there is a provision for this in the manual. Often, this can be accomplished by purchasing a kit from the manufacturer with the necessary parts.
One of the reasons why a grill requires a conversion kit is the while both fuels are gas there is a pressure difference between them and propane requires a regulator while natural gas does not.
Understanding the Properties Of The Gas
Propane is a derivative of natural gas processing and has different storage characteristics than natural gas. Natural gas is essentially a mixture of different gasses with methane being the highest in concentration. It is typically delivered to a residence by a gas line take on the main gas line in the street. Thus, you first need to run a line from your residential supply to your grilling location.
Most locations have certain building codes that pertain to the running of accessory gas lines on a property and some will even require a permit and the installation by a certified professional. Remember, this is to get the gas line to the right location, not to physically connect the grill. Of course, the gas company is willing to send someone out to hook your grill up for you but the charge for the service.
Hard And Flex
The hard line is the physical gas line from your residential supply. The flex line is the line from the hard line to the actual grill. Typically, this is a flexible hose or pipe that screws onto the ends of the hard line and runs to the connection on the grill.
It isn’t much different than the gas line that goes to the hot water heater and in fact, it uses the same type of hose/pipe and connections. Normally, one or more brass fittings will be needed to make the physical connection and to do so, it is best to take the connectors to the store to get the right size.
Sometimes the inlet port on the grill will be smaller so a reducer connector might be needed. Once you have all the connectors and pipe, the hard part begins.
The Hard Part
It really isn’t hard at all. You just have to be careful and make sure you are using the right parts and the right materials. Brass fittings have to be used as these are not degraded by the gas. Plastic and other types, including steel, will degrade when exposed to the gas and create problems for you in the future. Importantly, you have to treat the threads of your connections and connectors.
This can be a teflon tape or putty that will prevent the gas from seeping from the threads. This must be done regardless of how tight you make the connections. However, be sure to use a thread tape or putty that is rated for use with Natural Gas. It must say it can be used with Natural Gas and not just say Propane.
Chemically, these two gasses are different and thus can cause havoc with the wrong tape or putty. Usually, it is better to use tape but some people insist on using a synthetic putty as it fills any gaps.
Soap It Down
Spray the connections and if you see any bubbles or smell gas, turn off the gas and redo the connections. Don’t just tighten them. Disconnect them and reconnect them as you can damage the threads of the connections otherwise.
After you verify there are no leaks and no natural gas smell, then you should be able to activate your grill. However before you do, listen to your grill and see if you can hear any hissing noises. Do this before you ever touch the burner controls. If you hear a noise, shut off the gas and using your soap bottle check your grill for leaks internally.
Most grills that are convertible or are preset for natural gas have instructions for making the right connections. In fact, it is relatively easy to do and almost anyone can do it.
Natural gas is nothing to be scared of and just because you smell a small amount doesn’t mean that the gas is in enough of a concentration to cause a problem. Just uses common sense and follow the instructions present in the manual and be sure to use approved parts and parts rated for use with natural gas and everything should be fine.