To understand a major difference between propane and electricity, one must first know that propane is a primary energy source and electricity is a secondary energy source. Energy from propane is consumed directly in the home or business, but electricity is used only after the electricity is generated from another energy source such as natural gas or petroleum.
Propane Vs. Electricity – Energy / Cost Comparison
To understand the true difference between propane and electricity, we must compare propane and electricity in terms of their energy content.
1 gallon of propane = 91,500 BTU (energy) = 27 kWh (hours of electricity)
If ‘current price of 1 gallon of propane’ < 'current price of electricity per kWh' X 27 ⇒ propane is cheaper and more efficient If 'current price of 1 gallon of propane' > ‘current price of electricity per kWh’ X 27 ⇒ electricity is cheaper and more efficient
Currently 1 kWh costs approximately $0.133 (as of Sept 2012 according to US Bureau of Labor & Statistics)
Currently 1 gallon of propane costs $2.385 (as of 10/25/2012 on the open market)
$2.385 < $3.591 ($0.133 X 27), so propane is currently 34% cheaper and therefore more efficient. More Efficiency Benefits
Propane can be the most energy-efficient and cleanest-burning fossil fuel available today. This sets it apart from even natural gas, which is known for its efficiency. Many people are surprised to learn that heating a home with propane is very efficient – from portable space heaters to built-in propane heating systems. In both cases, heating with a propane heater makes it possible to only warm the sections of the home where heat is required. This can be a real convenience when different occupants of the home prefer different temperatures. For people who prefer cooler bedrooms, the control setting on the unit can be set lower, while people who chill easily can use a higher setting on the heater in another room. Many of the propane heating units today are equipped with thermostats that automatically lower the flame as the room reaches a certain temperature, which can save a great deal of money on heating bills. Along with space heaters, propane heating equipment also comes in the form of central heating systems. As with electric heat pumps, these units also push warm air through ducts that run to each room of the home. A good quality propane heating system is capable of generating the same amount of heat as any electric system.
Heaters fueled with propane are also very handy in an emergency. When inclement weather causes a power outage, propane heating is still operational and can help everyone in the home remain comfortable until the power is back on.
People can use propane propane-fueled appliances too. Anything from your refrigerator to a clothes dryer can be powered using propane.
Environmental Impact of Propane Vs. Electricity
Because electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated by the use of another energy source, it is difficult to say whether or not electricity is the most environmentally friendly fuel available. It depends on the fuel and cumulative resources being used to generate it. The only true low or no emission electricity is generated by solar, wind, hydro or geothermal sources.
In the United States, 49% of all electricity is produced by the burning of coal. If your hybrid-electric car is charged through coal fired electricity generation, the chances of making a positive impact on the environment are minimal. For example, the environmental impact of a propane powered vehicles vs. electric vehicles can only be accurately compared based solely on the primary energy source of electric power generation.