Sponsored by PROPANE EDUCATION & RESEARCH COUNCIL™
Furnaces and water heaters don’t give much notice before they quit, so most homeowners don’t evaluate new-equipment alternatives before their old equipment bites the dust. It’s easy to think that installing an ultra-high-efficiency geothermal, hybrid or air-source heat pump unit is the way to go. Those heating technologies may appear to consume the least amount of energy, but that doesn’t mean they’re really the most cost efficient. In fact, a more traditional propane furnace or water heater or a propane dual-fuel high-efficiency unit is often a much better choice. Propane-powered appliances provide more warmth and faster hot-water recovery rates, and they pay back your investment in a shorter period of time. Here are some facts to consider before choosing an expensive heating unit:
Propane is a better buy
Geothermal, hybrid and air-source heat pump equipment costs much more than conventional propane heating units, and the installation costs are enormous. You’re sacrificing cash now for a return you won’t see for almost 15 years. That’s not a sound investment strategy, especially when you have more cost-effective options.
For example, if you currently have an oil or electric furnace and live in a region with moderate winters, replacing your dead furnace with a propane unit makes the most sense. Propane furnaces cost about the same as a replacement heating oil furnace or boiler, but they’re more energy efficient (90 to 97 percent, compared with about 85 percent for a heating oil unit). Plus, they’re more reliable than heating oil units. ENERGY STAR? propane furnaces usually qualify for credits and incentives.
Propane provides more warmth in high-efficiency applications
Many geothermal, hybrid and air-source heat pump systems rely on supplemental electric heating elements to boost plenum air temperatures to 90 to 120 degrees F. That may sound warm enough at first glance, but since air cools as it travels through your ducts, it may not be warm enough to make you feel comfortable on the coldest days. You’ll be just as uncomfortable when you get your electric bill.
Propane, on the other hand, boosts plenum air temperatures to 120 to 140 degrees F. That’s high enough to make all rooms feel toasty warm on even the coldest days. The higher temperature also allows your contractor to downsize the ground loop portion of your geothermal system, which significantly reduces the installation costs. Finally, propane costs much less than electric supplemental heat, so you’ll see a lower energy bill. Propane also leaves a much smaller carbon footprint. That’s why propane is the better choice when choosing a supplemental fuel for a geothermal, hybrid or air-source heat pump system.
Propane is the smarter choice for water heaters and ranges
Hybrid water heaters use a heat pump to maintain water storage temperature during off-peak periods. That saves on energy costs. But during peak demand periods, they rely on electric resistance elements, just like a traditional electric water heater. That means a typical hybrid electric water heater is limited to about 67 gallons of hot water in the first hour. A propane water heater, on the other hand, delivers about 80 gallons, so it keeps up with the demands of your entire family. In fact, a propane water heater costs far less to buy and install than a hybrid electric unit. Plus, propane often costs less than electricity, so your water heating costs will be lower.
Get the full story on propane before you buy
Overall, propane is the best choice for home water heating and cooking applications because it heats up faster and costs less than an electric resistance element. To get more information on the advantages of propane as a primary or supplemental fuel, go to
— Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Propane Education & Research Council. The opinions and text are all mine.