Electric Vs. Propane Heating

Q. Due to space and teenagers! we are in the process of selling our present home and buying another. We are in the fortunate position of being able to choose what type of heat we want installed in the home. It is a large bi-level with 2 fireplaces, so we know we won’t have to rely solely on the furnace, but will have it installed with ductwork, etc. as part of the purchase agreement.  I am looking for information and cost analysis on electric versus propane (no natural gas in the country). I think the propane will be cheaper, but my husband has concerns. Any resources or suggestions?

I may not be the most versed in the area of heating differences but I can tell you our experience.  We bought our farm 8 years ago and it had electric heat.  It was always cold.   We ended up using 2 kerosene heaters most of the winter just to keep warm.  You could wear all the sweaters ect. you wanted but your nose and toes were always cold.   One February our electric bill was 350.00 – and we were cold the whole time. We saved our money and 5 years ago had propane installed.  The propane company sold us the furnace and then did all the labor for free.  I even had them run pipes to the stove and water heater so when they needed replaced I had a choice of what type to get.  Our house is now very warm, and My heating bills are less than half of what the electric was.  I had a large propane tank installed and  have it filled about late June or early July when prices are low.  If you wait until Aug. or Sept. the price starts rising and during winter it is much higher.  Watch oil prices and the propane (a by-product) prices will soon follow suit.  K.

I was an engineer for an electric utility for 20 years and know that propane or oil are the way to go. Personally, we have oil and If you can install the tank in ground or offsite you will not have to deal with the smell when they fill the tank. Ours is in the basement and the oilmen just don’t get it! they overfill every time!    >Unless the price of oil is at or above $1.00 per gallon, BTU to BTU it is the most economical (given the same furnace efficiencies). Propane and Natural gas are both good and safe sources provided you know the rules. The best thing to do is to read up on the safety rules of propane. It’s really quite simple and safe. If you will have a forced air system you will prefer the cleanliness of the propane as oil makes for much more cleaning. If you have the idea of going with a radiant heating system you may be more frugal to install an oil furnace. Just remember TANK PLACEMENT. Engineer

My feelings are that propane is comparable to heating with natural gas, and is FAR  (did you hear that…)FAR less expensive that electric.  Electric heat is THE most expensive way to heat a dwelling, unless you car producing the electricity, by say solar or wind generation. I live in rural New Mexico, and we have a 250 gallon propane tank, that cost me $190 to fill in fall, and I am on a top off schedule for February, which means they come in February no matter what and fill up whatever the tank can hold.  This last February isn’t a fair call because the winter was so mild, but in years past, this fill is generally not higher that $80 or so.  That’s for the whole year.  We do have a woodstove, and we do use it, but I wouldn’t think we’d spend more than another $100 in the year without it.  On the outside that would come to $370 – 400 in the event of a hard winter and no wood to burn.  That’s FOR THE YEAR!!!  You can expect a monthly electric billing somewhere near half that per month if you’re lucky heating with electric. A downside that is worth a mention, but has never been a problem for us so far  The electric company service is constant as long as they receive a check.  With propane you’re relying on a delivery to your remote location, and trucks do break down, supply can be interrupted, or weather can prevent delivery (typically when its the coldest).  None of these things have ever happened to us out here in the 7 years we’ve been here, but I am aware of this possibility.

Editor’s Note: With changing prices each person needs to evaluate their specific needs, to aid in this manner please consider the following formulations:

  • Multiply the oil heat price per gallon by 0.663 to give the equivalent price per gallon of propane
  • Multiply the natural gas delivered price per therm by 0.92 to give the equivalent price per gallon of propane
  • Multiply the electricity price per kWh by 27.0 to give the equivalent price per gallon of propane  

for more details on comparisons visit www.energykinetics.com/savingsHeatingFuelComparisons.shtml#comparePropane

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