Propane vs. Electric Heating Cost and Maintenance Comparison
Propane has historically been less expensive than electric heat, but the price difference has narrowed considerably. Supply shortages and refinery closures have wreaked havoc on propane prices. While natural gas may still be more affordable in some areas of the country, the general trend toward electrification makes looking for other options a smart financial choice.
Propane vs. Electric Heat: Cost Factors
Is propane cheaper than electric heat? That might depend on two main factors:
The Size of Your Home - Most propane furnaces are 90% efficient, while electric heat is 100% efficient. As energy usage increases, the more that difference in efficiency adds up.
Local Energy Costs – Electricity and propane rates vary seasonally and regionally and are affected by national and international market trends. Depending on where you live, electricity may be a lot lower than the cost of fossil fuel, or vice versa. Take the time to evaluate average electrical retail prices and propane prices in your area or contact your energy provider for the most current rates.
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How to Estimate Your Energy Use
The BTU (British thermal unit) is the unit of measurement used to define how much thermal energy it will take to heat a home. In mild winter conditions, it takes about 1,000 BTUs per square foot per month to heat a home. Homes experiencing moderate winter climates need an average of 2,000 BTUs per square foot per month.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration considers one gallon of propane equal to 91,452 BTUs. Kilowatts are the unit of measurement used to determine how much electricity it will take to heat a home. One kilowatt-hour equal to 3,412 BTW.
You can use this calculator to determine energy needs and be sure to compare it to your current energy expenses.
Determining the Cost of Electric Heat
To determine the cost of electric heat:
- Start by deciding if you live in a mild winter climate (1,000 BTUs/sq ft.) or a moderate winter climate (2,000 BTUs/sq ft.).
- Take that number and multiply it by the square footage of your home. This is the total number of BTUSs needed.
- Divide the BTU number by 3,412 to convert it to kilowatts/hour.
- Multiply kilowatts/hour by the cost of kilowatts per hour in your area. (You can usually find the cost per kilowatt on your energy bill or from a local government source.)
- The end number will be a rough estimate of what it would cost monthly to heat your home with electricity.
Determining the Cost of Propane Heat
To determine the cost of propane heat:
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 above and determine the number of BTUs needed to heat your home based on the square footage and the climate.
- Divide BTUs needed by 91,452 (the number of BTUs in a single gallon of propane.)
- Due to propane heating systems being 90 percent efficient compared to electric heat systems, you will need to add 10 percent of your total number found in step 2 back to that number.
- Take the number from step 3 and multiply it by the average cost of a gallon of propane in your area to get the average cost per month to heat your home with propane.
Related Content: A Brief History of Home Heating
Other Cost Factors: Propane vs. Electrical Heating Systems
There are both upfront and long-term cost factors to consider with your home heating decisions. If you’re looking to choose a system for a new-build home or to replace an existing system, be sure to account for immediate costs of installation and repairs over the life of your heating system as well.
In most cases, electric furnaces are less expensive to buy and install than gas furnaces. Depending on where you live and the structure of your bill, propane companies may charge an additional delivery fee.
There are some differences between how long propane and electrical heating systems will last. Typically, electric furnaces will last 20 to 30 years, depending on the type. In comparison, propane furnaces last 15 to 20, with the potential to last much longer with proper maintenance services.
Both types of heating systems will need regular maintenance checks to maintain them and ensure proper working order.
Is It Worth It To Switch From Propane To Electric Heat?
Unless you are installing or replacing a broken or old heating system, it may not be cost-effective to replace a functioning propane furnace with an electric one, though you may recoup your investment in the long run. There may be less expensive ways to improve energy efficiency and lower energy costs without completely replacing your system, such as installing a smart thermostat. If you have questions about making the switch to electric heating systems, contact your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning to get the answers you need.
Need Help Choosing Between Propane and Electric Heat?
There are many things to consider when comparing propane and electric heat. Don’t let the decision overwhelm you, contact One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning for a free consultation to help you determine which heating system is best for your situation. Call us at (800) 893-3523 or request an appointment online.