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Propane vs. Butane: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 16, 2023
Propane, a three-carbon alkane, has a lower boiling point and is used in colder climates; butane, a four-carbon alkane, is better for warmer climates due to its higher boiling point.

Key Differences

Propane, a hydrocarbon gas with three carbon atoms, is commonly used as fuel in heating, cooking, and as a fuel for engines. Butane, similar in use, has four carbon atoms and is often found in lighter fuel and portable stoves. Both are alkanes and are derived from natural gas and petroleum.
The boiling point of propane is -42°C, making it vaporize at lower temperatures than butane, which has a boiling point of -2°C. This property of propane makes it more suitable for use in colder climates, while butane is preferred in warmer conditions.
Propane is stored under higher pressure compared to butane, making its containers more robust. Butane can be stored under less pressure, resulting in lighter, more easily transportable containers. This difference affects the design and use of their respective storage systems.
In terms of energy content, propane provides more energy per cubic foot than butane. This makes propane a more efficient choice for heating and cooking purposes. However, butane's higher energy content per mass makes it ideal for portable applications like lighters and camping stoves.

Comparison Chart

Carbon Atoms


Boiling Point


Suitable Climate

Colder Climates
Warmer Climates

Storage Pressure


Energy Content

More energy per cubic foot
Higher energy content per mass

Propane and Butane Definitions


Propane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas with three carbon atoms.
Propane tanks are widely used for barbecue grills.


Butane is derived from refining petroleum or natural gas.
Butane extraction is part of the petroleum refining process.


Propane is extracted from natural gas and petroleum.
Propane production increases with natural gas processing.


Butane is used in portable stoves and lighters.
Camping trips often use butane-powered equipment.


Propane remains gaseous at lower temperatures.
Propane heaters are effective in cold weather camping.


Butane is a hydrocarbon gas with four carbon atoms.
Butane is commonly used in refillable lighters.


Propane is stored under high pressure in tanks.
Portable propane tanks fuel outdoor cooking stoves.


Butane has a higher boiling point than propane.
Butane canisters are popular in summer camping gear.


Propane is used as fuel in heating and cooking.
Many rural homes use propane for central heating.


Butane is stored under lower pressure than propane.
Butane cartridges are lighter and easier to transport.


A colorless gas, C3H8, found in natural gas and petroleum and widely used as a fuel.


Either of two isomers of a gaseous hydrocarbon, C4H10, produced synthetically from petroleum and used as a household fuel, refrigerant, and aerosol propellant and in the manufacture of synthetic rubber.


(organic compound) An aliphatic hydrocarbon, C3H8, a constituent of natural gas.


(organic compound) A hydrocarbon (either of the two isomers of C4H10 n-butane, and 2-methyl-propane) found in gaseous petroleum fractions.


A heavy gaseous hydrocarbon, C3H8, of the paraffin series, occurring naturally dissolved in crude petroleum, and also made artificially; - called also propyl hydride.


The n-butane isomer only.


Colorless gas found in natural gas and petroleum; used as a fuel


An inflammable gaseous saturated hydrocarbon, C4H10, of the marsh gas, or paraffin, series.


Occurs in natural gas; used in the manufacture of rubber and fuels


Is propane suitable for cold weather?

Yes, due to its lower boiling point.

How is propane stored?

In high-pressure tanks.

What is propane?

A three-carbon alkane gas used as fuel.

What is butane?

A four-carbon alkane gas, often used in lighters.

What are common uses of propane?

For heating, cooking, and as vehicle fuel.

Where is propane sourced from?

From natural gas and petroleum.

How does butane perform in cold weather?

Less effectively than propane.

Can propane be used in portable stoves?

Yes, but it's more common in stationary applications.

How is butane stored?

Under lower pressure than propane.

Is butane safe for indoor use?

With proper ventilation, it can be.

What is butane's primary use?

In portable stoves and lighters.

Is butane extracted the same way as propane?

Yes, from natural gas and petroleum.

Which is more efficient, propane or butane?

Propane, in terms of energy per cubic foot.

Are propane tanks heavier than butane ones?

Yes, due to the need for higher pressure containment.

Are both propane and butane flammable?

Yes, both are highly flammable and should be handled with care.

Is butane more expensive than propane?

Prices vary, but propane is generally more cost-effective.

Can I interchange propane and butane appliances?

No, they require different equipment setups.

Is propane more environmentally friendly than butane?

Both have similar environmental impacts as fossil fuels.

Does propane have an odor?

An odorant is added for safety to detect leaks.

Can butane be used for home heating?

It's less common and less efficient than propane.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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