Electricity Vs Natural Gas: Which is greener?
Do you give much thought to fuel source when installing appliances, upgrading outdoor appliances, or plumbing a new Arizona business or home?
Homes require a source of energy for heating, cooling, appliances and more. No means currently exists to generate all our power from renewable sources. That means all the energy used in our homes will have some form of impact on the environment.
While scientists are actively looking for less environmentally harmful energy sources—with the eventual goal of 100 percent renewable energy—consumers should be doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. One way is to take a closer look at the types of heating fuel, equipment and appliances we use in our homes.
So which would be the more environmentally-friendly energy source for our home, natural gas or electricity? Let’s take a closer look at electricity vs natural gas.
The pros of electricity:
- Electricity is a very clean energy source. The process of generating electricity doesn’t typically give off any harmful greenhouse gasses or environmentally hazardous byproducts, unlike most other fuel sources when converted to heat energy.
- Heat pumps—devices that can both heat and cool a home in the same way a furnace and air conditioning unit do—make electricity an affordable option for some people. Determining when a heat pump costs less than natural gas depends on the size of your home as well as how well insulated and sealed it is. A large, old home will be more expensive than a smaller, well insulated home.
Cons of electricity:
- Eventually, we may be able to generate electricity with only renewable sources, leaving only a small carbon footprint from our homes. However, until then, a large percentage of our country’s electricity is generated in plants converting fossil fuels. Note: hydro-electric generation does not require the combustion of fossil fuels, so from an emissions standpoint it is much better for the environment. However, hydro is not considered a renewable energy source as it comes with its own environmental costs.
- Older electrical resistance equipment such as electric furnaces, electric wall heaters, electric space heaters, and electric baseboard heaters are severely inefficient, adding to the increased use and cost of electricity.
- Heat pumps provide a cost-efficient means of heating and cooling a house, however, as long as natural gas prices remain low it will take a number of years for the energy savings of a heat pump to pay for the added installation cost.
- The average lifespan of a heat pump is shorter than both a straight cool air conditioner and furnace because it’s running year round, both cooling and heating your home. An air conditioner only runs during the hotter months and a furnace only has to run during the cool months, therefore, if you’re looking for a system you don’t have to replace very often, you may want to consider getting an air conditioner with a furnace.
Pros of natural gas:
- Natural gas is a clean, efficient, cost-effective fuel source.
- The cost is much lower, even if you’re running the lowest efficiency furnace.
- When efficiencies from natural gas are applied to other applications—such as kitchen ranges, clothes dryers, indoor or outdoor grills, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and pool and spa heaters—the savings are significant and the global benefits are amazing.
- Natural gas is considered a “green” fuel that helps reduce the ecological damage caused by the use of other fuels such as electricity or wood. It burns cleaner than electricity and other fuels, which means less carbon dioxide, less sulfur dioxide, less nitrogen oxides and no mercury emissions. That all adds up to cleaner air, a decrease in acid rain, and a safer food supply.
- Natural gas pipelines are considered one of the safest forms of energy transportation in the U.S. Service from local natural gas companies or utility companies is convenient and ensures that gas supply is consistently available.
- Most of the natural gas that is consumed in the U.S. is produced domestically, and it is a plentiful resource. There is enough natural gas currently available to fuel domestic needs for the next 75 years. And new sources are being acquired every year. This gives smart people plenty of time to develop better and better sources of renewable energy.
Cons of natural gas:
- Natural gas consists mainly of methane and other hydrocarbons. Because it occurs naturally under the Earth’s surface, it must be extracted. During the extraction process, much of the gas is lost to the atmosphere.
- Natural gas is transported across the country via pipelines, up to 2-3 percent of which is lost due to leaks. Natural gas is also transported by trucks and rail, which of course burn fossil fuels.
- Inside the home, burning natural gas can create carbon monoxide gas, which is clear and odorless, although inexpensive detectors are available. As long as they are functioning properly—and are properly maintained—natural gas furnaces and appliances are perfectly safe to have in a home.
Whether you choose electricity or natural gas as your home’s energy source, the important thing (not only for the environment but also for your bank account) is to increase your own home’s efficiency as much as possible by upgrading to high efficiency equipment.
Converting your home or business from electricity to natural gas
If you currently run your home on electricity, it is possible in many cases to convert to natural gas (we go into more detail here) by installing some natural gas piping. In almost any setting, natural gas furnaces, water heaters, range tops and fireplaces can be installed or upgraded at any time after initial construction.
- As natural gas is the number one consumer energy choice for heating homes and businesses, the conversion would be considered an upgrade, which means a higher resale value of your home.
- The conversion would pay for itself in a reasonable time through lower utility bills—as low as one-half to one-third of an electric bill. Natural gas has traditionally cost less to use than electricity because it costs utility companies less to produce.
- Many areas offer an energy rebate or tax credit to encourage consumers to transition to more energy-efficient systems with higher ratings, such as upgrading a wood burning fireplace to a natural gas fireplace.
RP Gas Piping can find out if your home or business has natural gas available to the site (learn more about that here), and whether it’s possible to install natural gas piping and reap the environmental benefits and lower utility bills. We can help you plan and install the new gas piping that will maximize benefits and meet local codes. If natural gas is not an option at your home or place of business, there is still a gas solution open to you. A propane storage tank and piping system can be installed.
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