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Old 11-26-2010, 07:35 PM   #1
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Is Propane a more Economical Heating Source than Electricity.

We are now in the heating season and for those of us who are either fulltiming or snowbirding for the winter months the question that usually arises “Is it more economical to heat with propane or electricity for the area?"


Since propane and electricity are both sources of energy an equivalency exists between the two energy sources. There is slightly less than 28 kilowatt/hours of equivalent electrical energy in each gallon of propane, so if the cost per kilowatt/hour of electricity an RV park charges is multiplied by 28 it will result in the equivalent cost of propane. For example, if the RV park charges $.12(12 cents) per kilowatt/hour for electricity, multiply 28 x $.12 = $3.36 per gallon of propane. This is the breakeven point of propane, so if the local cost of propane is less than $3.36 per gallon it is more economical to heat with propane than electricity so propane is the energy source of choice.


Likewise, if you know the cost of propane in your area and want to find an RV park that charges less for electricity, divide the cost of propane by 28 and it will result in the breakeven point of electricity. For example, $3.36/28 = $.12 per kilowatt/hour of electricity. So if the RV park charges less than $.12 per kilowatt/hour for electricity then electricity is the energy source of choice.


DISCLAINER: The method described above evaluates the most economical source of energy between electricity and propane and
Consequently does not take convenience into consideration so ultimately the choice is yours.
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Old 11-26-2010, 07:43 PM   #2
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That's some very good info. Thanks for posting it.
I would imagine that a propane RV furnace is about 80% efficient. A heat pump is considered 90% or better efficient. Adjustments for these efficiencies should be taken into consideration also.
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Old 11-26-2010, 08:00 PM   #3
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KIX,
You make a good point about efficiency. Electric heaters are 100% efficient. Here is some more information.
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Old 11-26-2010, 08:58 PM   #4
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For the normal season and short stays, it's a much simpler comparison. Electricity is included in the site fee. You paid for the propane.
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Old 11-26-2010, 09:06 PM   #5
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frankdamp,
I agree with you about the short stays but for those who stay on a monthly rate the electricity is in addition to the site fee.
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Old 11-26-2010, 09:31 PM   #6
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The fact is that 100% of the electrical energy is converted into heat and there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease that energy conversion.

That article is not really "factual". There are small differences in the amount of electrical input converted to heat amoung these resistance space heaters. Some electrical input is converted to light, not heat, for example. Still they all have C.O.P. (Coefficient of Performance) of about 1 which should be the article's point.

A heat pump is not a resistance heater and has a C.O.P. of perhaps 4 at 40 degrees. So a heat pump may deliver 4 times the heat to the inside of your motorhome as a resistance heater for the same amount of electrical input.
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Old 11-26-2010, 09:46 PM   #7
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Here is a heating cost calculator that you can figure if propane or electric is cheaper based on the cost of each. It give results for a heat pump, electric heater or propane heater. You can leave the heating degree days and heat loss as the default value since we are only interested in the cost comparison and not the actual estimated total costs. Leave the natural gas cost default and enter your actual cost of electric and propane.
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Old 11-26-2010, 10:26 PM   #8
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marvel,
I disagree that the article is not factual. If you Google electric heater efficiency you will see that electric heaters are 100% efficient. On the other hand heat pumps are very efficient and puts more heat in a room than electricity consumed, or better than 100%.
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Old 11-26-2010, 11:55 PM   #9
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As far as the energy efficiency of the original fossil fuel burned, electricity gives you about 28 % efficiency whereas propane will give you at least 70 % efficiency. Are you concerned about fossil fuel usage or cost? With cost it can go either way.
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Old 11-27-2010, 07:22 AM   #10
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ralper,
A good point about converting our natural energy sources to useable point of use energy. The inefficiencies of each energy source is taken into consideration by its local cost. Power produced by nuclear energy and hydroelectric sources is more economical than those produced from fossil fuels and why energy rates vary so widely, and is reflected in local costs. That's why using the equivalency number above is useful.
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Old 11-27-2010, 07:46 AM   #11
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If I was fulltiming in cold climates, I'd be on propane and have a big outside tank just due to the temps being below 40. We'll be in S TX, and even though we have regular propane delivery, we use elec, the savings arent that much, and never running out of elec is a big plus.

So in the end, it really has more to do with whether the temps are below 40 or not.
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Old 11-27-2010, 08:11 AM   #12
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Use a factor of 22 instead of 28 to account for the lower efficiency of the LP furnace over an electric heater.

If the electricity is included in the camping fee, we always use electricity.

When we pay extra for electric like we do when we pay the monthly rate during the winter, the calculations usually show LP is less expensive (especially since the RV park raised electric rates last year). However, we still use the electric heater because it's more convenient (you have to refill the LP tank) and much quieter than the furnace. We may run the furnace for a short time to rapidly take the chill off the motorhome first thing in the morning if it has been colder than usual overnight, but then we switch to the electric heater until the sun gets up high enough to warm things up.
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Old 11-27-2010, 08:28 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick&Cheryl View Post
If I was fulltiming in cold climates, I'd be on propane and have a big outside tank just due to the temps being below 40. We'll be in S TX, and even though we have regular propane delivery, we use elec, the savings arent that much, and never running out of elec is a big plus.

So in the end, it really has more to do with whether the temps are below 40 or not.

Using your cold climate example and assuming electricity is a more economical source of energy, a good alternative would be to run an electric heater as a backup to the propane furnace. The electric heater will prolong the recycle time on the furnace and conserve propane.
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Old 11-27-2010, 09:45 AM   #14
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paz,
You are of course correct. Using an equivalency of 22 will account for an 80% efficiency of a propane furnace. However because of the “inefficiencies” of the propane furnace, many fulltimers and snowbirds use ceramic propane heaters and although they have special considerations of their own all of the propane consumed by the heater goes directly to heating the living area of the RV.

Let's face it, when temperatures get below a level when an electric hearter(s) is no longer capable of maintaining a comfortable living area propane will be the primary heating source regardless of the cost.


For fulltimers and snowbirds who most always head south for the winter seeking warmer winter temperatures. They need a source of energy to simply take the chill off in the morning and during those rare cold snaps. As economic times get more difficult Rver's will be looking for ways to make more informed decisions about their choices.
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