Ask The M-Network – Electricity vs. Propane

By glblguy

flamePhoto by: Tom Adams

Using the new Ask the M-Network feature,  a reader submitted a question asking about whether it was cheaper to use propane or electric appliances. The question was from Lynnea (no, not Lynnae from from Being Frugal), and she wrote:

We just made a move to the country…whew what a rude awakening when we got the first few propane gas bills. Over $100.00 a week. We now have the heat set at 62 and are using our fireplace…and checking our propane tank weekly.

We also have a propane hot water heater and range…Is it cheaper to run either of those using electric…I know the initial cost of replacing the appliances are an expense, but we will be glad to change if the cost reduction to run them is worth it….It is now a matter of principal, also..This country has to find more efficient and cost effective heating….whew

I just recently wrote on this topic and the answer is: “it depends”. You need to compare the cost of your propane to the cost of electricity. If propane is more expensive in your area, than yes you’ll save money by switching to electric appliances…BUT…it could take a long time.

The initial cost of replacing your appliances coupled with the cost of running the necessary electric wiring will be fairly expensive. You’ll need to divide that by the savings you will get from propane to electricity to determine how long it will take you in energy cost savings to pay for the new appliances. My guess? A long time. Assuming it is a long time, it really won’t be worth it to switch.

Let’s get some perspective from the other M-Network members:

David from My Two Dollars

Ahh, propane – I know it well. It is pretty expensive right now, and it can fluctuate wildly over the course of a winter. And since I doubt you are going to go and install a solar hot water heater or a gas fireplace, you are stuck living with it. As for appliances, an electric or gas hot water heater will probably cost you just as much, so you would not save much money there – at least not for a few years until you recoup the water heater cost in energy savings. (Unless you install solar power to run it!) And your stove barely uses any propane, so the money is not being wasted there. I would imagine that most of your propane bill is from heating your home and your hot water heater. So what are a few things you do to reduce the expense of heating your house?

1. Rolls of insulating tape cost a few bucks and can normally do several windows or doors. If you have a drafty house, spending $5 could go a long way to save you money and keep you warm.

2. Buy yourself a space heater. These can be very inexpensive and very efficient at the same time. We have one that we are able to move to where we are in case we are very cold. And they sure are safer now than the ones my parents had when I was a kid!

3. Close off unused rooms. We have a guest bedroom that is only used for when people stay with us – so we keep the door shut and the heat turned off in that space.

4. Turn down the hot water heater to somewhere in-between Warm and Hot. Leaving it at Hot all the time wastes money unless you have a family of 5 who take showers every day!

5. Wash your clothes only in cold water. Hot water just tends to set stains and shorten the lifespan of clothes anyway.

6. Open the blinds and drapes during the day and close them at night.During the day, the sun will come in and help warm up your house, and at night you should close them so the heat stays indoors.

7. Insulate your hot water heater. The kits are very inexpensive and do a good job of keeping your water hotter, longer.

And check out Inexpensive Ways To Stay Warm This Winter and Ten Ways To Save Money On Heating Bills This Winter for more tips. Good luck reducing those propane bills!

Patrick from Cash Money Life

It’s difficult to do a quick estimate on how much you could save by switching appliances because there are so many types available and utility prices frequently fluctuate. I don’t think I can give you a good answer there, so I can point you in the direction of making your home more efficient.

One thing you can do is a home energy audit which can give you insight into how well your home is insulated and see if there are ways you can increase your home’s efficiency.

In addition, there are many little things you can do around the house to make your home more comfortable and and less expensive to heat. Check out these tips free ways to save money on your heating costs and some cheap ways to save on heating”. Hopefully some of these can help you reign in your heating bills!

PaidTwice from I’ve Paid For This Twice Already

I don’t know comparisons of electric vs propane directly. I have been “told” that a gas range, dryer, water heater, etc are cheaper to run than electric. I will say our electric dryer is a total energy suck.

Use the fireplace all you can! That is all I can say. Argh heating.

Lynnea, I sure hope this helps answer your question. Readers, how about you? Have a perspective or opinion on Lynnea’s question? Feel free to chime in by adding a comment.

Do you have a question you would like to have us try to answer? Send it in to Ask The M-Network!

And please remember that our answers are opinions and should not be considered professional advice and we assume no responsibility of any kind. Please consult a certified financial expert as needed.


7 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Ask The M-Network – Electricity vs. Propane”

  1. Christina @ Northern Cheapskate Says:

    Our home had only an oil furnace (and we live in Northern MN)when we moved in so I can definitely relate to the sticker shock of home heating. One of the things we did a couple of years ago was to add off-peak electric heating. The electric heat runs most of the time, but during peak times, the electric company can shut it off, and the heat system automatically switches over to the oil boiler.

    This move has saved us $250 a month on our heating bill… and with the cost of heating oil, the new boiler paid for iteself in two years.

    We also have an off-peak electric hot water heater that costs us about $12 a month to run`- vs. the $40 it cost us to run a regular hot water heater.

    Check with your local utility company to see what off-peak options are available.

  2. Lynnea Says:

    Thanks to everyone for the help.

    Since my question I have been researching. Talking to peope in the area and online.

    Christina, that was a great idea..I will call the utilities and see what kind of off peak plans are available.

    My propane hot water heater is wrapped….I have caulked and ealed the windows..I have put heavy insulated drapes on all of the windows..asided from using plastic wrap on the entire house, I think I’ve done it all. We now keep the thermostat at 58. My propane tank was filled again..six weeks after the last fill and the bill wwas over $600.00…Outrageous. My home is only 2000 square feet..Two story…So the cost of propane varies from company to company. If like we do, you rent the tank, then you have to stay with the company you rent from. At this time we are paying $2.09 a gallon. Other companies in the area are charging $1.79 a gallon…hmm….Well I guess they get to charge whatever they want to.
    According to people who live in this area I should purchase an electric toaster oven. Cooking with propane is expensive. I believe it since my thermostat is set very low and I cook each day. We are a family of two plus a medium size dog.

    By the way, Tom Brokaw was on CNN yesterday, complaining about the cost of propane on his ranch. He has converted to solar panels..
    I am checking out windmills that can be placed on the roof, and generate a considerable amount of electricity. If we stay here 5 years all of the conversion will have paid for itself, and I understand that some people get paid from the electric company if they are generating more electricity that they need.

    I will keep you psted on my prgress, and thanks for the help.

    I love the new slogan I’ve been hearing…Enough, Sweaters are not the answer to heating our homes.

    Lynnea

  3. Jane Says:

    Lynnea,

    I know friends of ours are planning on putting in a roof mounted windmill for this reason. In addition to propane they went through something like 8 cords of wood last winter. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a local company or because it’s the best one but the are looking at one made by Cascade engineering. All I really know about that system is that the windmill looks to be about the size of a direct tv sattilite dish.

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