By Russ and Tiña De Maris
For full-timers, keeping an eye on the budget can be critical to your lifestyle. When boondocking, your heating source choices are limited – gas prevails. But if you’re calling an RV park a temporary home – or any other place where you’re paying for electricity – the question is clearly: Which is cheaper, gas or electric.
It’s time to pull out the calculator as we’ll throw a few statistics out to help you make the call. All things being equal, electricity produces 3,800 btus per kilowatt, while LP produces 92,000 btus per gallon. Now to compare these energy apples and oranges: It’s a ratio of 24:1. As long as a gallon of propane costs you less than 24 times the cost of a kilowatt of electricity, all things being equal, the gas is cheaper.
In our part of the country (southern Arizona) RVers report paying about 17 cents per kilowatt of power in the typical RV park. Our favorite LP supplier is charging $2.05 per gallon. Remember the rule of thumb – a gallon of propane should be less than 24 times the cost of a kilowatt of electricity. A Kw of electric17 cents times 24 equals $4.08. LP down here is still the fuel of choice. But remember we said, “all things being equal”. Are they?
When heating with a factory equipped LP furnace, a great deal of heat is “going up the chimney” or rather, out the vent on the side of your rig. Let’s say it was 40% of the burned energy. That’s a lot of those btus heading out into space. By my calculations, once LP reaches $2.45 it might be time to think about running an electric space heater. But for those who use a non-vented heater, like a blue flame or catalytic heater, the efficiencies are MUCH higher and you’ll still find LP a great saver.
Of course, other factors come into play: If you buy your LP ‘in the park’ or delivered, you’ll probably pay a lot more money. But if your back disagrees with the idea of lifting and tossing a big, heavy LP container, electricity may be better for heating–and less needed for the heating pad.