Discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of propane as a potential replacement for electricity have inspired debate for decades. If you look back at the early days of propane use, however, you'll find that originally it was a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to electricity. Today, the lines are blurred as both industries implement more efficient technology. Consider the following pros and cons to find out which is best for your home.
New and Old Technology
One of the primary arguments in favor of electricity centers on familiarity. Since electricity is a familiar option, it's often considered safer than propane or even natural gas. In fact, people usually aren't afraid of blowing up their kitchens from a power surge, but they do fear gas leaks.
To look at propane in a new light, remember that along with natural gas, propane powered the majority of large kitchen appliances in the mid-20th century. In fact, propane was purified to safe levels for residential use over a century ago.
Know Your Energy Source
Most people don't stop to think where their electricity comes from. It's common knowledge that driving automobiles generates air pollution, but not everyone knows that residential electricity produces similarly harmful emissions. Traditional electricity comes from a primary power source, usually a power plant. In contrast, propane is a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas refining. Though it originates from the same source as fossil fuels, and results from a resource-intensive refining process, it burns much cleaner when used.
Focus on Sustainability
As recently as 2008, 49 percent of households still ran on the electricity produced from coal-burning plants. This inspires some well-founded concerns about sustainability and environmental health. Even if you take other measures to make up for electricity use, you can still cause damage to the environment. For instance, if you drive an energy-efficient hybrid car and charge it at a house powered by a coal burning plant, your sustainability efforts have been rendered null and void.
In contrast, propane produces very few contaminants when burned. If you can excuse the slight egg-like smell of propane, it's a powerful means of combating environmental degradation.
The Cost of Energy
For some people, protecting the environment isn't a strong enough argument. Instead, many homeowners also need to understand the cost of the energy they consume. Propane is usually a cheaper alternative to electricity, although prices can fluctuate. When propane first entered the market, it was much less expensive than electricity.
Today, however, comparing prices can be a much bigger challenge. According to Propane 101, the equation is simple. If propane sells for $3.24 per gallon or more, electricity is the more affordable option. If propane costs less, than $3.24, choosing this power source might be a smart move.
Next time you're dissatisfied with your energy bill, consider the larger picture. In some areas, switching to propane can save hundreds annually, while in other places it's not a viable option at all. Checking with your local propane provider doesn't cost you thing.
Photo via Flickr by Rennett Stowe