Propane vs. Electric in Homes

Black truck sitting in the driveway of a propane home

Source Energy Secrets and Home Heating

Propane is an ideal option to power homes in Missouri and across the Midwest. It’s a clean, high-performing and efficient energy that provides a long list of benefits for homeowners. Electric power is sometimes perceived to be clean energy as well. However, unless it’s generated from an on-site renewable source like wind or solar, that’s simply not true.

When comparing propane to electricity, it’s important to recognize that propane is a primary energy source, meaning that it can be effectively used in its current form. Electricity, on the other hand, can only be used after it is generated from a primary energy source such as coal, natural gas, or nuclear energy. That transition is particularly inefficient and costly.

Research backs this up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the source-to-site efficiency of propane is 1.01 which means one unit of energy used on site requires only 1.01 units created at the source. This is remarkably efficient. Electricity, meanwhile, has a score of 2.8 or almost three units of energy required at the source to provide one unit of energy at the site. That high ratio represents the inefficiencies of electric generation and transmission, obstacles that are difficult to overcome considering the infrastructure needed to create and transport electricity.

And because the DOE numbers are based on national averages, that ratio is likely much worse in the Show Me State. Most of Missouri’s electricity— 73 percent of it — comes from coal-fired power plants. For that reason, electric appliances used here are much dirtier than appliances that run on natural gas or propane.

Most of the rest of Missouri’s electricity comes from natural gas, which is cleaner than coal. But because of the inefficiency of the electrical grid, two-thirds of the energy generated at the plant never makes it to homes and businesses. That means utilities must use three times more energy to power a customer’s electric appliance than Missouri consumers use when they run an appliance directly on natural gas or propane.

After energy gets to your home, it’s important to understand how each form is measured. One gallon of propane contains the energy equivalent to about 27 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity. This one gallon of propane contains approximately 91,500 BTU’s (British thermal units) of heat while a kilowatt of electricity only contains about 3,413 BTU’s.

Tim Heitz, sales manager of JK Mechanical in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, makes the comparison from a heating cost standpoint. Heitz tells the editorial team at that at today’s prices, the cost of heating a home in a climate with low winter temperatures with a high-efficiency propane furnace will cost about two-thirds of what it would cost to heat a home with an electric heat pump. Not to mention, propane furnaces heat homes more comfortably, providing heat from the register that’s 20 degrees warmer than electric heat pumps.

For clean home energy that performs efficiently and is cleaner than electricity, propane is an ideal choice for Missouri homes. Learn more about propane’s uses and benefits in homes.