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Virginia Propane vs Electricity Energy Comparison Cost Chart

propane vs electricity

In Virginia, you have several options when it comes to heating and powering your home. You can choose from utility gas, electricity, propane, solar, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, coal, and even wood. Indeed, 1.6% of households in Virginia rely on wood for their home heating fuel, equivalent to 52,869 households.

However, most households in Virginia use electricity for home heating, with 57.6% of households doing so. The second-most used energy source in Virginia is utility gas, with 32.2% of homes using this fuel source. In third place is propane, with 4.4% of households relying on propane gas for their heating needs.

If you don’t have access to utility gas or fuel oils, then your choices of energy supply will likely come down to either electricity or propane. So, you may have to find out the answer to the question: Which is cheaper in Virginia, propane vs electricity?

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

Propane vs electricity energy cost calculator

When it comes to propane gas and electricity, both have their unique advantages and drawbacks. More importantly though, their cost implications for running everyday household appliances can vary significantly. As such, we put together a detailed energy comparison of the costs associated with propane vs electricity. We’ve also constructed several charts in order to highlight the difference in costs involved in powering common household devices with propane vs electricity in Virginia. 

You could be considering a switch in energy source. Or you could be simply curious about where your dollars go when the bills arrive, this comparison provides a comprehensive understanding of propane and electricity costs in Virginia 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

We’ll start our energy comparison of propane vs electricity by breaking down what’s typically the most expensive use of energy in your home: heating systems. Why are heating (as well as air conditioning) systems usually the most expensive?

Essentially, 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. The climate of Virginia can vary a lot depending on your location, with the Tidewater region having January average temperatures between 35 and 48°F, while the inland Piedmont has averages of 27 to 47°F. So, which heating system you adopt in Virginia is a very important decision, especially for your budget.

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 and regions where access or usage of utility gas is limited. Not surprisingly, these same places are where electrification has grown as the main home heating fuel. Virginia has witnessed an increase in both the number of households using propane and households using electricity from 2010 to 2022.

Below is an energy cost comparison chart for propane vs electricity. This hypothetical scenario includes 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 Virginia:

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$260.60$215.35$1,302.99$1,076.77
Heat pump (4250 W)5 months during cold weather$458.61$378.99$2,293.04$1,894.93
Space heater (1500 W)5 months during cold weather$161.86$133.76$809.31$668.80
Water heater (10-20 gallon – 1600 W)2 hours per day$14.39$11.89$172.75$142.76
Water heater (30-80 gallon – 4500 W)2 hours per day$40.47$33.44$485.85$401.50

As the chart makes apparent, when it comes to heating systems, using propane as a source of heat and energy is generally cheaper than electricity in Virginia. 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.

From 2010 to 2022, the number of households in Virginia using electricity for their home heating fuel increased by 33.7%. Its growth mainly came at the expense of heating oil, as the number of households using fuel oil, kerosene, and similar declined by 57.1% from 2010 to 2022. Hopefully, our energy comparison and cost analysis will make the 57.6% of households relying on electricity think about their energy and heating, and check out propane providers in Virginia.

Kitchen appliances energy cost comparison

Next, we turn to the kitchen and the energy costs of some common appliances, including a refrigerator, dishwasher and your oven-stove combo (often called a range). You’re probably well aware that propane can be used to fuel your oven and stove. But did you know that propane can also be used for refrigerators? Additionally, since the hot water in your dishwasher must come from a water heater, your dishwasher too can be powered by propane, because propane can fuel your water heater.

To estimate how much it would cost to power these appliances per month and per year in Virginia, 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

Here’s something to note about 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 propane vs electricity on a monthly and annual basis in Virginia:

Appliance (W, average)Hours of Use per DayCost per Month: ElectricityCost per Month: PropaneCost per Year: ElectricityCost per Year: Propane
Refrigerator (550 W)24$19.78$16.35$237.53$196.29
Oven/stove (3500 W)1$15.74$13$188.94$156.14
Dishwasher (1800 W)1.5$12.14$10.03$145.76$120.45

The average price of electricity in Virginia is 14.79 cents per kilowatt-hour ($0.1479 per kWH), which is less than the national average. The average price of propane in Virginia, at $3.30 per gallon, is higher than the U.S. average propane price. However, propane is so efficient as an energy source that propane proves more cost-effective than electric heating.

Laundry and living room appliances energy cost comparison

Lastly, let’s have a look at the energy costs associated with the laundry room — namely, the washer and dryer — as well as that common focus of the home — the fireplace. Non-wood fireplaces can be fueled by electricity or propane, among many other fuel sources. Furthermore, 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 propane vs electricity on a monthly and annual basis in Virginia:

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$8.35$6.90$100.26$82.85
Fireplace (1500 W)2 hours per day, 5 months during cold weather$13.49$11.15$67.44$55.73
Washing machine (900 W)4 hours, 1 day per week$2.31$1.91$27.76$22.94

The table above shows that it is a bit cheaper to run laundry appliances on propane vs electricity in Virginia. Fortunately for those shopping around for different energy sources, Virginia has several propane dealers across the state to choose from. Some of the biggest propane companies in the country are headquartered in Virginia, such as Southern States and Foster Fuels.

Advantages of propane vs electricity

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

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.

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. Plus, as technology evolves, propane appliances are also becoming more efficient and adaptable. This further enhances their appeal over electric alternatives in certain scenarios.

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.

Environmental impact

Both electricity and propane have carbon footprints. But the source of the electricity matters considerably when it comes to how “green” it is. 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.

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

Heating a home in Virginia with a propane heating system is cheaper than an electric system. Indeed, over time, propane water heaters can cost one-third less to operate. Propane heaters also heat water twice as quickly as electric water heaters.

Should I switch from electric to propane?

If you’ve been having a tough time with rising heating and energy expenses, it might be worth contemplating a switch from electric to propane. Virginia generally has costs of living that are around the national overall average. 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.

Can you run a whole house on propane?

In Virginia, a whole-home propane tank offers more than just an alternative heating solution. It can also serve as the fuel source for a backup generator. These propane-powered generators ensure uninterrupted electricity supply to your residence. When unexpected power outages occur, having a propane-powered generator means your home can continue to operate seamlessly. Its capacity to effectively power an entire household sets it apart as a reliable energy contingency plan.

The resilience of propane generators is truly noteworthy. They have the ability to sustain a home’s energy needs for up to five days on a single tank. This extended period can be critical during prolonged power disruptions by ensuring that vital appliances remain operational. This means that even during extended outages, homeowners can maintain the comfort of a functioning air conditioner or the safety of perishables in a refrigerator. Investing in a propane generator not only guarantees peace of mind but also ensures the continuity of essential household operations when they’re needed most.

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