An electric HVAC system is convenient for many reasons: notably, you don’t need to bother with a large, expensive furnace or a complex system of natural gas or propane hookups. When the weather gets cold, warming up is a simple matter of utilizing the same electricity that powers every other piece of technology in the house.
Is an electric HVAC system really efficient, though? Or are you better off, in terms of energy usage, opting for a furnace that burns propane or some other fuel? Below, we’ll discuss whether propane is more efficient than electric for a home.
What Do We Mean by Efficient?
In the case of home heating, efficiency simply refers to the amount of heat generated with regard to power input. Certain heating methods take a lot of energy to generate a relatively small amount of thermal energy. Others can use a comparatively small amount of fuel to effectively heat a home.
The efficiency of your home heating system, of course, has financial consequences. An HVAC system that isn’t as efficient as it could be will use a lot more power than necessary. This additional power usage will be reflected in your energy bill.
It’s worth noting, though, that opting for the most efficient system possible is not necessarily the best option when choosing how to heat your home. Other costs should also be taken into consideration, such as installation fees and the cost of the system itself.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Before making any major decisions regarding the heating and cooling of your home, there are a few questions you should ask yourself first. What is the climate like where you live? If you live in an area where the winter temperatures regularly dip well below freezing, you will probably need an HVAC system that can generate a great deal of heat, simply to get your house to a comfortable temperature. Not all heaters are equal in this regard.
If, on the other hand, you live in a more temperate area, where you don’t have to worry about problems like regular blizzards or about your heater freezing over, this will affect the decision you make about your HVAC system as well.
Another key question to ask yourself when planning to have a new HVAC system installed is about budget. How much do you want to spend on the initial installation? Some systems cost a good deal more than others. Are you willing to splurge a little on a heating and cooling system that can save you a lot of money on your energy bill over the years? Or would you not mind paying a little more overall as long as you can save money in the beginning?
Propane vs. Electric
The question, “Is propane more efficient than electric?” actually isn’t as simple as it may sound. You would think it would just be a matter of asking which one costs more, but this can fluctuate greatly depending upon a number of variables.
Another factor making the question more challenging is the fact that power generated by propane and power generated by electricity are not measured in the same way. Propane is measured in BTUs, while electricity is measured in kilowatts. The conversion rate between the two units of measurement is approximately 91,500 BTUs (or one gallon of propane) to 27 kilowatt-hours.
It’s possible to determine whether propane is more efficient than electric by comparing the price per hour of your electric bill to the cost of a gallon of propane. The cost of electricity in your area can simply be determined by looking at your electric bill, while the cost of propane can be found on the US Energy Information website.
You may have noticed that this article doesn’t simply come out and say which one costs more. That’s because there isn’t a simple answer to this question. There are many factors in play when it comes to the efficiency of these two methods of heating. An older electrical heater, for example, will be nowhere near as efficient as a newer one. For that matter, an older propane heater won’t boast the same efficiency as a newer one either.
In the past, propane was considered much more efficient than electricity, but modern electrical heaters are far more advanced, and so the answer is no longer as clear-cut. If you’re looking to install a new heating system, an electric heat pump, for example, can be extremely energy-efficient and save you a lot of money on your monthly bill.
Other Factors to Consider
Since the question of efficiency largely boils down to the equipment you have access to, what else do you need to consider when choosing the method you’ll use to heat your home? There are several things to think about. Does your home already have a propane connection? If not, installing one could be prohibitively expensive. There’s the aforementioned issue of climate as well: propane can achieve higher temperatures than electric heating, and it can do so more quickly. This doesn’t matter everywhere, but when the thermostat drops below freezing, it can be critically important. In more temperate areas, where it gets cold but not well below freezing, this is usually not something you have to worry about.
The cost of installation also matters. It can be more expensive to install an electric HVAC than a propane one, but this will also vary depending upon your area. For more information about the cost of an HVAC installation, contact the best local company you can find. In the Portland area, for example, that would be Entek. Opt for the best because they won’t simply be responsible for installing your new system: they’ll be responsible for maintenance afterward. No matter what type of heating method you use, repairs can be extremely costly if you don’t regularly care for your HVAC unit. Having a trusted technician who can perform regular checkups will save you thousands of dollars in the long run.