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I've seen plenty of articles about gas stoves and the impact on indoor air quality. Specifically, there are reports of much higher CO2, NOx, PM 2.5 particulates, and formaldehyde, relative to electric stoves. However, I can't find any reference specifically to natural gas vs. propane.

How do natural gas and propane stoves compare in terms of indoor air quality.

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    For most people that is not a choice. Generally they get to choose between electrical and gas. Gas is dependent if natural gas is available or if they have to purchase propane. When doing the comparison also include the effects of generation, waste disposal, transmission losses, energy to maintain the lines, fuel lost with idle generators, etc.
    – Gil
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 3:30
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is not about home improvement. Check out sustainable living SE.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 13:37
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    I doubt you'll find a direct comparison, but you might just find something with hard numbers for propane stoves as they're an improvement on the alternatives (e.g. wood, charcoal) in some places
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 14:54
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    @ChrisH And that I'll definitely agree with - propane is going to be a lot safer, in many ways, than wood or charcoal. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 15:13
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    However, releases from food are moot to the question, since they will happen in all cases. And also could be mitigated by different cooking techniques. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 19:36

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There is basically no significant difference, and if you want a new range and care about IAQ, just go induction anyway

The difference in emissions between a propane burner and a natural gas burner is quite small; this is to be expected, because they're really almost the same (many modern NG appliances can be converted to propane service by exchanging a few parts in the gas train). However, a newer range is likely to perform somewhat better than a vintage appliance, mostly due to not running a pilot (or three) 24/7/365. (It will emit about the same when you're cooking, but it's not starting off behind the 8-ball from what it's already put into the air.)

As a result, the real choice with ranges is "do you want combustion or not?" It used to be the answer was "yes" if you had the choice to make, because electric resistance elements have inherent thermal inertia compared to a live flame, thus making them harder to handle for "dynamic" cooking operations like quick-frying. This isn't an issue any longer, though, as induction technology has come of age, giving us responsive, combustion-free cooking that has other advantages as well, such as easy cleanup and superior precision (especially at low power settings). Even though it's not without its downsides (induction cooking works with many clad pans and just about all cast iron ones, but not with copper cookware or the aluminum commonly used for nonstick-coated pans, and it requires the same wiring as an electric stove which can be a problem for some older houses that are gas-range-only), these options can be worked around by many, and induction also has a further benefit in this day and age in that you aren't contributing to demand for leaky gas infrastructure and its associated climate-change issues.

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  • Does induction cooking work with stainless steel cookware that has an enclosed (sandwiched) layer of copper in the base used to evenly spread the heat? Commented Apr 7 at 23:06
  • @EndAnti-SemiticHate -- as long as it passes the magnet test, it should work Commented Apr 8 at 3:01
  • Thanks for your reply. Of course high quality stainless steel won't pass the magnet test, but I'm not familiar with the quality of stainless steel used in cookware... only construction. That's a simple enough test to conduct. Much appreciated. Commented Apr 8 at 8:58
  • @EndAnti-SemiticHate -- well, it's dependent more on which alloy family you need for your application than "quality" per se, to the best of my understanding Commented Apr 8 at 11:37
  • Yes, that's definitely a better way to phrase it. Commented Apr 8 at 11:39
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As far as I am concerned, the only significant outputs are:

  • CO2 = Carbon Dioxide. This is a guaranteed result of burning any fossil fuel. CO2 is dangerous in high concentrations. But it is always present in the air at low concentrations (we produce it when we breathe) and with sufficient makeup air you should not have a problem.

  • CO = Carbon Monoxide. This is an extremely dangerous gas that results from incomplete combustion. You can't smell it, so a carbon monoxide detector is a very good idea. But if your appliances are in good shape this should not normally be a problem.

If everything is working properly, you will get lots of CO2 and no CO. If things are not working properly, you will get some CO - and you definitely don't want that.

If you "smell gas", that is not from combustion, it is from the gas leaking instead of burning. That is dangerous if it builds up to explosive levels. The smell is actually added - natural gas doesn't have much of a natural smell. Mercaptan is commonly added to both natural gas and propane in order to provide the distinctive smell for safety purposes.

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  • All of the things I listed in my original post are things that studies have shown exist in high levels in homes with gas stoves. I just want to understand the difference between propane and natural gas, in terms of those things.
    – Eric Marsh
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 4:11
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    For a person there is probably little difference between the two. Main difference is the heat amount each puts outs, this is usually shown as BTUs per volume and cost per volume. Most other differences you would need testing equipment to tell the difference.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 8:58
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    The OP has specifically stated they're worried about NOx; that concern is based on decent science. These oxides of nitrogen are produced when the flame heats the air enough for nitrogen and oxygen to combine (Wikpiedia on N2O). So you're wrong about significant outputs; more NOx would be expected than CO. H2O is also plentiful in the output, though not a hazard. There's no need for impurities when we can react N2 from, and there's partial combustion. Some good bits but doesn't really address the concerns.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 14:53
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    I might, if I could find sources and time - it's not as easy as you make out. "CO should be 0" (on a non-faulty stove with plenty of air, which we may assume from the Q) is one of your valid points. NOx is never going to be 0, and is reported to be enough to be a concern. An answer that claims that a non-issue is more significant than something known to be a problem deserves my downvote
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 14:58
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    To me, NOx is a real but usually minor issue. CO is a rare but extremely dangerous issue - it could happen at any time due to unexpected problems (i.e., a stove that works fine one day and due to clogged burners, etc. all of a sudden has a problem) that could turn deadly very quickly. And it has readily available mitigation - CO detectors are inexpensive and very effective. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 15:12

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