Comparing Propane Heater Energy Costs this Winter

Comparing Propane Heater Energy Costs this Winter

Propane heaters can be a fantastic way to take the chill out of the air this winter. Indoor spaces should nearly always be heated with an electric heater or a properly-vented fuel burning heater. Other spaces can be warmed with a variety of options, including propane heaters, kerosene, electric, or natural gas heaters.

As discussed at length at HeaterHut, each of these fuel choices carry their individual strengths and weaknesses, and each room or area may be a bit different.

One of the considerations you may weigh is the total cost to run your heater, as compared to the total heat output they can produce. Fortunately, a few quick rules-of-thumb can help you to decide which fuel style may be the best for your room as well as your budget. When any number of heating styles may work for you, sometimes the deciding factor can be made easily with your wallet.

First, Some Facts

You’ve probably noticed that heaters advertise their heat output in a unit called the BTU. This stands for British Thermal Unit, and is the standard unit of measurment for heat energy, used for fuel-burning heaters such as kerosene and propane heaters.

Conversely, the kilowatt hour (or kwh) is the standard measure of electric energy output, and applies to electric heaters like ceramic heaters or oil heaters.

To be able to accurately compare the heat output of these two styles of heaters, we should figure out a bit of common ground. Let’s see how many gallons of fuel or kilowatt hours it takes from each type of heater fuel to produce 1 million BTUs of heat energy.

Kerosene — 7.4 gallons per million BTUs.
Propane — 10.9 gallons per million BTUs.
Electricity — 293 kwh per million BTUs.

Using these numbers, it’s a simple matter of multiplying the average costs of each of these various fuel types by the above numbers. This will show you the approximate dollar costs to produce 1 million BTUs with each heater style.

For example, kerosene currently costs about $2.25 per gallon, so it would cost $16.65 to produce 1 million BTUs with a typical kerosene heater (7.4 x 2.25). Let’s do the rest of the math for you.

Average Costs per Million BTUs

Kerosene — $16.65 per million BTUs
Propane — $32.70 per million BTUs
Electricity — $32.23 per million BTUs

Now, obviously these numbers will depend on the current energy costs for your area, and may flucuate from season to season. However, this quick formula can save you tons of cash if you’re deciding which heater is right for your space.

Of course, there are other factors at stake. You’ll never want to use kerosene, natural gas, or propane heaters without proper ventilation inside a home, for instance. However, if you’re undecided on what heater style to purchase, it can help to run the numbers and bit and estimate the effect on your wallet.

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