Is Heating Water by Propane Cheaper?

Heating water using propane can be a more cost-effective option compared to electricity, depending on various factors such as fuel prices, energy efficiency, and the specific needs of your household. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the technical details and provide you with a thorough understanding of the pros and cons of heating water with propane.

Cost of Fuel: Propane vs. Electricity

The cost of fuel is a crucial factor when comparing the expenses of heating water using propane or electricity. Propane prices can vary significantly by location, but on average, it can be more cost-effective than electricity.

For instance, in Pennsylvania, the average cost of propane is $3.08 per gallon, while the average cost of electricity is $0.1007 per kWh. When comparing the costs of heating 50 gallons of water by 70 degrees Fahrenheit, propane comes out as the more cost-effective option, even when considering the slightly lower thermal efficiency of propane (90%) compared to electricity (95%).

To illustrate this, let’s calculate the cost of heating 50 gallons of water by 70 degrees Fahrenheit using both propane and electricity:

Fuel Type Thermal Efficiency Cost per Unit Energy Required Cost to Heat 50 Gallons
Propane 90% $3.08/gallon 87,500 BTU $4.62
Electricity 95% $0.1007/kWh 35 kWh $3.52

As you can see, the cost of heating the water using propane is $4.62, while the cost using electricity is $3.52. However, it’s important to note that these figures can vary depending on your local fuel prices and the specific energy requirements of your household.

Heating Speed and Efficiency

is heating water by propane cheaper

Propane has a higher recovery efficiency compared to electricity, meaning it can heat water faster and more efficiently. This can lead to lower heating costs over time, as less energy is required to achieve the desired water temperature.

The recovery efficiency of a propane water heater is typically around 90%, while an electric water heater has a recovery efficiency of around 95%. This means that for every 100 BTUs of energy input, a propane water heater can transfer 90 BTUs to the water, while an electric water heater can transfer 95 BTUs.

The faster heating time of propane can be particularly beneficial in households with high hot water demand, as it can reduce the wait time for hot water and minimize the energy required to maintain the desired temperature.

Reliability and Resilience

Propane offers more reliability during power outages, as it is stored in a tank on your property and is not dependent on the electrical grid. This can be particularly important in areas prone to natural disasters or extended power outages, where a propane-powered water heater can continue to provide hot water even when the electricity is out.

In the event of a power outage, a propane water heater can continue to operate without interruption, ensuring that your household has access to hot water for essential tasks such as bathing, cleaning, and cooking. This can be a significant advantage over an electric water heater, which would be rendered inoperable during a power failure.

Environmental Impact

Propane is generally considered a cleaner-burning fuel compared to electricity, which can be generated from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels. Propane produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and has a lower carbon footprint than many other energy sources used for water heating.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, propane water heaters emit approximately 60% less carbon dioxide than electric water heaters, making them a more eco-conscious choice for homeowners concerned about their environmental impact.

Installation and Maintenance

The upfront cost of a standard tanked electric water heater is approximately $500, while a standard tanked propane water heater is around the same price. However, propane water heaters may require more frequent maintenance and inspections to ensure safe operation.

Propane water heaters need to be properly installed and maintained to prevent potential safety hazards, such as gas leaks or carbon monoxide buildup. This may include regular inspections, cleaning, and adjustments to ensure the system is functioning correctly and efficiently.

In contrast, electric water heaters generally require less maintenance, as they do not involve the handling of flammable gases. However, the ongoing fuel costs for electricity may be higher than the maintenance costs for a propane water heater, depending on your local energy prices.


In conclusion, heating water by propane can be a more cost-effective and efficient option compared to electricity, but it’s essential to consider the specific needs and circumstances of your household. Factors such as the cost of fuel, thermal efficiency, reliability, environmental impact, and installation/maintenance requirements should all be carefully evaluated to determine the best solution for your home.

By understanding the technical details and weighing the pros and cons of each option, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your budget, energy preferences, and overall household requirements.

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