Deciding between propane vs. electric for energizing a home is a debate common for homeowners who want to be both cost-effective and energy-efficient. Though the two energy sources are comparable in many ways, they are distinct in others as well.
To start, propane is a primary energy source, whereas electricity is secondary, that is to say, propane can be used ‘as is’ and electricity can only be used once it’s been created by another energy source. This means that it takes more energy to create electricity, which can affect its cleanliness, efficiency and cost. But, how do these variables compare to propane, which your house may or may not already be equipped to utilize?
Below, we compare propane vs. electric to see which is the better source of energy for your home.
To determine the different price points of propane vs. electricity, we first need to do a bit of math.
Propane and electricity are measured in different units:
However, both fuels are calculated on a per hour basis for efficiency and energy consumption, which helps as we convert total energy usage by appliances.
To get both sources of energy on an even calculation playing field, remember these statements:
We’ll use these conversions in a moment to calculate which energy source you should be using in your home.
Determining whether propane is cheaper than electricity depends on several variables like the age of appliances your home operates on and the cost of fuel and electricity in your area. But, in this section, we’ll cover how you can calculate the total cost of both energy sources, and show you how energy-efficient appliances can impact your total costs.
Comparing the cost of propane to electric head-to-head, is simple.
Which is less expensive?
Let’s do an example together:
So in this case, electricity is less expensive than propane by volume because $2.70 is less than $2.94.
The math gets a little more complex when putting the cost up against energy efficiency. Propane is considered an efficient fuel, which means it holds more energy per volume than other sources, which can reduce its overall usage cost.
Let’s review how appliances stack up when it comes to costs comparisons of propane and electricity.
A 100-watt light bulb will consume 1.2 kWh, per day. With propane, it would take roughly .024 gallons (341.21 BTUs/hr.) to light the same lightbulb.
Using the data points we discussed, lighting your home for 12 hours would cost:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario.
If you run a 1300-watt washing machine for 3 hours a day, you can expect to use 3.9 kWh, per day. The same machine would take 0.106 gallons (4435.78 BTUs/hr.).
Using the data points above, using a washing machine for 3 hours costs:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario.
If you run a 2,500-watt heater for 8 hours a day, you can expect to use 20 kWh, per day. The same machine would take 0.068 gallons (8530.3540825 BTUs/hr.).
Using the data points above, using a heater for 8 hours costs:
Propane is the more cost-effective fuel in this scenario, and as you can see, the cost gap between the two energy sources is growing with higher voltage appliances.
Propane is a non-toxic, non-poisonous fuel that burns cleaner than other fuels and produces environmentally-friendly emissions. Additionally, propane will not create an environmental hazard if spilled. For this reason, it’s possible for homeowners to have either an above-ground or underground propane tank without any worry of contamination.
While electricity has zero emissions, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% efficient. Because electricity is a second energy source, as we mentioned earlier, the primary source of energy may be less environmentally-friendly.
In fact, according to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, about 62.7% of electricity generated is from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), and 30.1% is attributed to coal. And, coal mining accounts for roughly 9% of total U.S. methane emissions and nearly 1% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to EIA, which is not environmentally-friendly.
Determining which energy source is best for you will depend on other factors apart from fuel efficiency and environmental impacts. It also depends on its availability in your region, the cost to equip your home for the energy, and your personal preferences.
If you are already equipped with an electric water heater, it might not make sense to convert to propane. Most homeowners save between $150-$200 a year with a propane water heater versus an electric one, but the cost of a new propane water heater could offset the savings for the first couple of years. However, if you purchase high-quality equipment, the cost-savings of switching to a propane water heater will eventually win out.
In short, propane is the most energy efficient of the two grills — and might be better for the taste of your food as well. Most electric grills can cook around 400 degrees, however, they aren’t typically designed to stay at high heats for long periods of time. So, quick meals on an electric grill works, but you may have an overall better experience using a propane option.
Some states give massive rebates to homes that switch from oil to natural heating solutions like electric, which can offset the margin cost differences, and wind up saving you more money in the long-run. There are often stipulations that come with the rebates though, so it’s wise to do your research to see if the options provided by the state make sense for your home. Further, not all regions of the United States have accessibility to both energy sources. Where you live might make your decision for you.
Apart from occasional check-ups to ensure your wiring, circuit breakers, outlets, and plugs are in working order, electric homes have little maintenance to adhere to. Propane requires a bit more observation, as the fuel will run out and the homeowner will need to reorder their supply. Luckily, many propane delivery services will monitor your fuel levels, and schedule automatic deliveries to help reduce the burden of fuel delivery.
Costs vary by region and by the household for both propane and electricity. Historically, propane has given consumers more bang for their buck when compared to electricity, but everyone’s situation will be different. If you want to find out more about propane vs. electricity for your home, contact an expert.
The differences between natural gas and propane can be confusing. Especially because propane is one of the fuels that make up natural gas, the other fuels being butane, methane, ethane.
While propane is a part of natural gas, it becomes a unique source of fuel on its own when it’s separated during processing. So, let’s take a look at both fuels. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which is best for a homeowner to use?
When selecting a fuel for your home, it’s important to weigh its safety, the cost, how efficient the fuel is, and what the environmental impact is. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of natural gas and propane, for each of the aforementioned considerations.
Both fuels are highly flammable and should be handled with care. But due to the infrastructure (and bureaucratic red tape) that comes with natural gas lines, leaks can be challenging to identify and fix. This is because utility companies and the public utility commission need to come to an understanding of how to fund repairs or upgrades before taking action.
And, when lines go unattended accidents happen.
For instance, in 2010 a natural gas line owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) exploded in San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people. After investigation, it was learned that the gas line was faulty, and PG&E was previously unaware of the line’s damage.
Though propane tanks can also explode, it’s much less likely. And, because propane tanks aren’t connected by wide-spread gas lines, the impact is less significant.
Furthermore, though some companies that supply natural gas add a scent like sulfur so that you can more easily detect a leak, natural gas leaks can be harder to detect because in its natural state the fuel is odorless.
Due to the severity of a mishap, as rare as they may be, propane is deemed a safer heating fuel.
Even though natural gas is considered a greenhouse gas, it burns roughly 50% fewer emissions than coal. Still, it’s toxicity is higher than propane, which is not toxic or damaging to the environment. If propane were to leak into the ground, it would not harm the local water or soil.
That said, both are still considered eco-friendly fuels. But, for this round, we give propane a slight advantage as a green fuel.
The true cost of propane vs. natural gas for your residence will depend on several factors, including if your home is outfitted for the fuels. But, for this comparison, we’ll examine propane and natural gas cost in terms of BTUs and gallons.
At the time this article was written, the average cost of natural gas cost is $6.23 per 1,000 cubic feet, which is roughly one million BTUs. The U.S. average cost for propane is $2.41 per gallon. One million BTUs of natural gas is roughly 11.20 gallons of propane. Which means for the same amount of fuel, you’ll pay $6.23 for natural gas and $26.99 for propane.
However, actual cost should also take into consideration efficiency
The more efficient the fuel is, the less you’ll use, which plays a role in overall cost. And, overall, propane is the more efficient fuel.
One cubic foot of propane equals 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas equals 1,030 BTUs. That means, propane is more than twice the energy of natural gas.
While the cost per gallon is less for natural gas, you’ll use more of it to heat the same appliances. If you get two times the heat from propane, naturally, you’ll use less fuel.
In this combined round, propane wins for efficiency and overall cost.
The most notable difference between the two fuels is how they wind up at your home, that is, how they’re delivered to you. To start, not every location in the United States has the option of either propane or natural gas. Depending on where you live, you may be restricted to only one option.
Additionally, how the fuel is stored at your home, and refilled, will be another differentiating factor.
Natural gas remains in its gaseous state and is delivered to the home through a pipeline, so deliveries aren’t required, but having the infrastructure in place to receive the fuel is. This infrastructure might include costs like:
These costs can rise to more than $10,000 for homeowners who need a complete conversion.
Propane comes in portable canisters or permanent storage tanks. To refill, customers will either go to a retail location themselves or turn to a company for delivery. For Santa Fuel customers, you can schedule automatic deliveries so that you’ll have fuel before your tank runs out, eliminating the hassle.
Because propane delivers more BTUs for your dollar, it’s often the choice fuel to run your home appliances more efficiently. It’s also typically better for cooking, especially if you utilize an outdoor barbeque, as it’s more cost-effective for high-heat grilling.
Additionally, propane is seen as an “off-the-grid” heating solution. Meaning propane is portable and can easily work if other systems in your house malfunction, or if you need to move to another location.
Natural gas, on the other hand, is a hands-off solution. You’ll never need to schedule a delivery because natural gas will always be flowing to your home. And, you’ll never pay for more than what you use with natural gas because there isn’t any fuel stored in a tank. You pay as you go.
If you’re already equipped with the infrastructure, it makes sense to stick with natural gas.
The ultimate winner will be whichever fits best into your lifestyle and current set up. Are you able to access both fuels, how much infrastructure would you need to implement to get either of the fuels and what do you plan to use your fuel for most?
If you’re in the Fairfield or New Haven areas in Connecticut, Santa Energy can help you assess which fuel makes the most sense for your home. Santa Energy is a dependable source for fuel delivery, equipment installation, maintenance, and ongoing support to ensure your home is maximizing energy, safely.