Propane has gained in popularity since the green movement began in the late 1990s. Since then, propane appliances have expanded in their production and use. Home heating systems are the primary users of propane in the home, while ranges, barbecues, refrigerators and freezers are among the most popular propane appliances.
Propane is one of the cleanest-burning fuels available. It is stored in tanks outside the home or in large underground tanks for commercial purposes. In heating situations, propane is able to deliver up to a 96% efficiency rating, meaning that for every US Dollar (USD) spent on propane, $0.96 USD is converted directly to energy.
Propane can be used to heat both air and water. Propane appliances for heating water provide the same output as their electric counterparts for approximately half of the energy costs. This makes them popular not only for basic water needs, but for use with swimming pools and spas as well.
Natural gas-run appliances can be converted to propane appliances and vice versa. This makes a convenient situation for those who choose to undergo a home energy conversion from natural gas to propane. If appliances like a cooktop or range are already running on natural gas, a simple converter kit can save the cost of new appliances.
Cooking surfaces are among the most popular propane appliances. Compared to electricity, propane or gas ranges and cooktops can deliver a quick heat that can be adjusted with a simple twist of the knob as opposed to waiting for heat to build or dissipate. The portability of propane makes it an excellent energy source for barbecues that are located outside the home and don't have direct access to storage tanks.
Cooling propane appliances have become increasingly popular. Refrigerators and freezers are available to hook up directly to a propane line instead of the standard electric. Another steadily gaining appliance is a combination washer and dryer for clothing. One machine does both functions, reduces space usage while using low amounts of water. For those interested in conservation, this is an interesting alternative.
Propane appliances are not always cheaper to run that electric ones, although some believe so. For example, propane refrigerators consume approximately 1 lb (.43 kg) of propane per day. There are 4.25 lbs (1.93 kg) in one gallon (3.79 liter) of propane, so one gallon (3.79 liter) would last approximately four and a half days. In comparison, an average Energy Star® electric fridge burns 1.6 kWh.
In 2008, the national average cost of residential propane was $2.22 US Dollars per gallon, while the average cost of residential electric was $0.11 per kWh. Using these averages, an electric refrigerator would cost approximately $5.28 USD to run per month, while a propane one would cost $14.80 USD for the same time period. As these averages show, the perceived savings in environmental costs may not always match up with the monetary savings, particularly with the cost fluctuations of fuels throughout different regions.