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California Propane vs Electricity Energy Comparison Cost Chart

propane vs electricity

You have plenty of options when it comes to heating and powering your home in California. You can choose from natural gas (called utility gas by the Census Bureau), electricity, propane, solar, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, coal, and even wood. Most households in California rely on utility gas for their heating needs, with 60.2% of homes doing so; in most other states, utility gas is also the most common fuel source.

The second-most common home heating fuel in California is electricity, with 30% of households using this. And in third place is propane, with 3.5% of households utilizing propane gas for their home heating. followed by propane. 

If you’re in an area where utility gas is not an option, then your possible choices of energy narrow a bit. The two main alternatives are electricity and propane. If you’re deciding on which fuel source to use for your home, you should ask yourself: Which is cheaper, propane vs electricity?

Propane vs electricity energy cost calculator

Both propane gas and electricity come with their unique advantages, but their cost implications for running everyday household appliances can vary significantly. Here, we lay out a detailed comparative analysis. We’ve put together a series of charts showing the costs associated with powering common household devices with propane versus electricity in California. 

Whether you’re considering a switch in energy source, or simply curious about where your dollars go when the bills arrive, this comparison provides a comprehensive understanding of propane and electricity costs in California and America overall. All prices are based on the most recent price data compiled by the National Council on Energy (NCOE), sourced from EIA estimates.

HVAC appliances energy cost comparison

First, we broke down what’s usually the most costly use of energy in your home: heating systems. Why are heating and air conditioning systems usually the most expensive?

It’s because converting one form of energy — such as electrical energy or chemical energy — into heat requires a lot of power (Note: Power is measured in watts, W). More power means more money coming out of your wallet. Coastal California is certainly warmer than most of the U.S. during the winter months. But the interior deserts, mountains, not to mention California north of the Bay Area, can all get quite cold.

The wattage of most home heat pumps, in the warmer months of the year, typically ranges from 545 to 4,285 watts, with an average of 2,415. In the colder months, the range is from around 1,000 to 7,500 watts. Another popular generator of residential heat are space heaters. These are especially common in cities where access or usage of utility gas is limited. Not surprisingly, these same cities are where electrification has grown as the main home heating fuel. California has witnessed both an increase in homes using electricity and propane gas for heating since 2010.

Below is an energy cost comparison chart for a heat pump running for five months of the year during the warmer seasons, five months of the year during the colder seasons, a space heater running for five months, a 10-20 gallon water heater running for two hours per day, and a 30-80 gallon water heater running for two hours per day, in California:

Appliance (W, average)Length of Time UsedCost per Month: ElectricityCost per Month: PropaneCost per Year: ElectricityCost per Year: Propane
Heat pump (2415 W)5 months during warm weather$528.42$157.93$2,642.10$789.63
Heat pump (4250 W)5 months during cold weather$929.93$277.92$4,649.65$1,389.62
Space heater (1500 W)5 months during cold weather$328.21$98.09$1,641.05$490.45
Water heater (10-20 gallon – 1600 W)2 hours per day$29.17$8.72$350.28$104.69
Water heater (30-80 gallon – 4500 W)2 hours per day$82.05$24.52$985.17$294.43

As you can see, when it comes to heating systems, using propane as a source of heat and energy is way, way more cost-effective than electricity in California. Even though propane prices tend to rise in winter months, the increase in energy costs is usually still less than the increase in electricity prices, let alone California electricity prices.

From 2010 to 2022, the number of households in California using electricity for their home heating fuel increased by a sizable 37.9%. Plus, the percentage of all homes using electricity rose from 23.8% of homes in 2010 to 30% of homes in 2022. Fortunately, the percentage using propane increased too, by about 16%. Our energy comparison and cost analysis should really make that 30% of households rethink their energy and heating, and check out propane providers in California.

Kitchen appliances energy cost comparison

Next, we turned our attention to the energy costs of common kitchen appliances, including a refrigerator, dishwasher and your oven-stove combo, which is often called a range. Although you probably are well aware that propane can be used to fuel your oven and stove, you might not know that propane can also be used for refrigerators. Also, since the hot water in your dishwasher must come from a water heater, your dishwasher too can be powered by propane, because propane fuels the water heater.

To estimate how much it would cost to power these appliances per month and per year in California, we assumed your:

  • Refrigerator will be running all hours of the day
  • Oven/stove will be run for a total of 1 hour over the course of a day
  • Dishwasher will be run for 1 and a half hours per day

An important note on refrigerators: Refrigerators generally have a much lower “running” wattage than their stated average wattage. This is due to the fact they cycle on and off throughout the day. As a general rule of thumb, you can divide your refrigerator’s wattage by three to estimate its actual energy usage. So, a 550-watt refrigerator actually will use about 183 running watts.

Below is the energy comparison of the cost of electricity vs propane on a monthly and annual basis in California:

Appliance (W, average)Hours of Use per DayCost per Month: ElectricityCost per Month: PropaneCost per Year: ElectricityCost per Year: Propane
Refrigerator (550 W)24$40.11$11.99$481.64$143.95
Oven/stove (3500 W)1$31.91$9.54$383.12$114.50
Dishwasher (1800 W)1.5$24.62$7.36$295.55$88.33

With electricity costing an average of 29.99 cents per kilowatt-hour ($0.2999 per kWH) in California and California propane prices averaging only $2.42 per gallon, it is far cheaper to run kitchen appliances using propane vs electricity in California. Fortunately for those shopping around for different energy sources, California has several propane dealers across the state to choose from.

Laundry and living room appliances energy cost comparison

Lastly, we examined the average energy costs associated with the laundry room — namely, the washer and dryer — as well as that common focus of many homes — the fireplace. Non-wood fireplaces can be fueled by electricity or propane, among many other fuel sources. And since the hot water in your washing machine comes from your water heater, propane can be used to power your washer.

In order to estimate how much it would cost to power these appliances per month and per year, we assumed your:

  • Clothes dryer will be run for approximately 4 hours total, one day per week
  • Fireplace that will be running for approximately 2 hours total per day during five colder months
  • Washing machine will be run for approximately 4 hours total, one day per week

Below is the energy cost of electricity versus propane on a monthly and annual basis in California:

Appliance (W, average)Hours of UseCost per Month: ElectricityCost per Month: PropaneCost per Year: ElectricityCost per Year: Propane
Dryer (3250 W)4 hours, 1 day per week$16.94$5.06$203.29$60.76
Fireplace (1500 W)2 hours per day, 5 months during cold weather$27.35$8.17$136.75$40.87
Washing machine (900 W)4 hours, 1 day per week$4.69$1.40$56.30$16.82

As the table above makes apparent, it is significantly cheaper to run laundry appliances using propane vs electricity in California. The average cost of electricity in California roughly double the national average. However, propane’s low average price in California and its energy-efficiency makes it cheaper than electricity.

Get quotes from up to 5 propane dealers in your area today to get the best pricing on propane delivery.

Advantages of propane vs electricity

In terms of cost, propane is superior to electricity in California. In addition to the energy comparison breakdowns above, here are some other reasons why propane is better than electricity:

Environmental impact

While both electricity and propane have environmental footprints, the source of the electricity matters a lot. In regions where electricity is primarily derived from coal or other non-renewable resources, using propane might result in a lower carbon footprint. Propane burns cleaner than many other fossil fuels. It produces fewer greenhouse gasses and pollutants.

Higher heating efficiency

Propane has a higher energy content per unit compared to electricity, which means it often delivers heat more efficiently. When used in furnaces, propane reaches higher temperatures faster than electric heat pumps. This makes propane heaters more effective in colder climates where rapid heating might be essential.

Reliability and independence

Propane can be stored on-site in tanks. This allows homeowners and businesses to maintain an independent energy reserve. This contrasts with electricity, which might be subject to grid failures or blackouts. Having a propane tank ensures that even in the event of power outages or disruptions, a consistent energy source remains available.

Economic considerations

In many areas, propane can be a more cost-effective energy source than electricity. While initial setup costs for propane might be higher due to the need for tanks and infrastructure, the ongoing costs can be lower in regions where electricity prices are high. This can result in substantial savings over time for homeowners and businesses alike.

Versatility and adaptability

Propane is a versatile energy source that can be used not only for heating. It can also be used for cooking, water heating, and even refrigeration. This multifunctional capability means that homes and businesses can consolidate their energy needs under one reliable source. As technology evolves, propane appliances are also becoming more efficient and adaptable. This further enhances their appeal over electric alternatives in certain scenarios.

Is it cheaper to heat with propane or electricity in California?

Heating a home in California with a propane heating system is much cheaper than an electric system. Plus, over time, propane water heaters can cost one-third less to operate and heat water twice as quickly as electric water heaters.

Should I switch from electric to propane?

If you’ve been grappling with rising heating and energy expenses, it might be worth contemplating a shift from electric to propane. California generally has one of the highest costs of living in the U.S. Propane stands out as a remarkably efficient energy alternative. It often delivers the same, if not better, results with a smaller energy input compared to electricity. This inherent efficiency means you could experience comparable or superior performance. At the same time, you’ll have a noticeable reduction in energy consumption.

Converting from electric heat to propane offers not just an energy-efficient solution. It is also a potentially cost-effective one. With propane’s capacity to heat spaces efficiently, homeowners might discover that their homes remain cozy and warm without the hefty price tag often associated with electric heating. Over time, these savings can accumulate. That makes the switch a financially smart decision for those keen on optimizing their home’s energy use and reducing monthly bills.

Get quotes from up to 5 propane dealers in your area today to get the best pricing on propane delivery.

1 thought on “California Propane vs Electricity Energy Comparison Cost Chart”

  1. First Fuel and Propane provides residential and commercial propane delivery in Albany, Schenectady & Saratoga County, Columbia County, Dutchess County, Warren County Green County, WashingtonCounty, Rensselaer County in NYS and Berkshire County MA.

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