What is cheaper: gas or electric?

The age-old question. Pretty much every big household appliance you can think of – *air conditioner, furnace, land mower, tankless water heater, fireplace, and so on* – can run on either electricity or gas. The question ‘is gas or electric’ cheaper makes a lot of sense, and knowing the answer can **save you $1,000s per year**.

To adequately answer if natural gas is more expensive than electricity we need to compare 3 key parameters:

**Price of natural gas.**Measured in cost per CCF (hundred of cubic feet) or in cost per therm.**Price of electricity.**Measured in cost per kWh (kilowatt-hours). Currently, the national average cost of electricity is $0.1319 per kWh.**Energy efficiency**of the selected appliance. Most electric appliances (like electric tankless water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces) have almost 100% energy efficiency. Gas-powered appliances (like gas furnaces, gas tankless water heaters, etc.) have lower energy efficiency; in the 40% – 95% range.

Now, we can’t just say what is cheaper gas or electric from therm and kWh prices. For example, the average price of US natural gas for residential use in July 2021 was $19.94 per thousand cubic feet. The average price of electricity was $0.1319 per kWh. *Does that mean that gas is almost 20-times more expensive than electricity?*

Certainly not. To properly compare the price of electricity vs the price of gas, we have to put them on the same common denominator. We **can’t compare apples and pears**; that’s why we’ll compare gas vs. electric *apples-to-apples*.

On top of that, we have to factor in the energy efficiency of appliances that use gas or electricity.

What makes the whole is ‘natural gas cheaper than electricity’ even more complex are the** ever-changing prices of gas**. The price of electricity is pretty stable compared to the price of gas. Gas prices change depending on the:

**State.**According to the July 2021 state-by-state natural gas price statistics provided by Energy Information Administration (EIA), the price of 1000 cubic feet of gas costs was $22.81 in Texas, $15.80 in California, and $13.98 in Minnesota.**Year.**In the 1980s, the price of 1000 cubic feet of gas costs was about $6. In the 2000s, it was about $13. Today, it’s about $15.**Month.**Natural gas prices are seasonal. If we just look at 2021, the average price of 1000 cubic feet of gas costs was $9.68 in January, $10.51 in March, $14.13 in May, and $19.94 in July. You can check the statistics provided by EIA here.

We will calculate quite a bit to get an exact answer ‘is gas more expensive than electricity’ or visa-versa.

However, in most cases this will happen when we run the number:

You will be ** really shocked** when you see how much gas is cheaper than electricity.

Ok, let’s start by putting gas prices and electricity prices on the same denominator

### Gas Prices Vs Electric Prices (Apples-To-Apples)

The simplest way to compare gas vs electricity prices and answer if gas or electric is cheaper is to express both of these in terms of **energy**.

**Price Of Electricity:** Let’s take into account that the price of electricity per kWh doesn’t change all that much. We will use the $0.1319 per kWh average in all our calculations.

**Price Of Natural Gas:** EIA provides us with average price of natural gas per month. Let’s take year 2020 since we have all the numbers, and calculate the average price of natural gas in 2020 like this:

($9.4 (Jan) + $9.1 (Feb) + $9.8 (Mar) + $10.4 (Apr) + $11.7 (May) + $15.3 (Jun) + $17.4 (Jul) + $18.2 (Aug) + $16.8 (Sep) + $12.2 (Oct) + $10.9 (Nov) + $9.75 (Dec)) / 12 = **$12.58 per thousand cubic feet**

Henceforth, we will use the average price of natural gas of $12.58 per thousand cubic feet. If you follow along, you can insert the price of natural gas in your state, and get more precise information on what is more expensive – electricity or gas – in your state.

Our common denominator will be energy; measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). You’re probably familiar with BTUs; they are a unit of energy frequently used in HVAC, especially for heating and air conditioning.

We will first transform electrical units kWh into BTUs. After that, we will transform the quantity of natural gas to BTUs:

#### Transforming Electricity (kWh) To BTUs

This is quite an easy task. We know that 1 kWh is equal to 3,412 BTU. The cost of this is $0.1319.

Let’s look at how much 100,000 BTU worth of electricity costs:

For 100,000 BTU, you would need 100,000 BTU / 3,412 BTU per kWh = **29.31 kWh**.

Here’s how much 29.31 kWh costs:

29.31 kWh * $0.1319 per kWh = **$3.87**

That means that **100,000 BTU worth of electricity costs $3.87**.

Alright, let’s now calculate how much 100,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs:

#### Transforming Natural Gas (kWh) To BTUs

EIA gives us a price per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. We have calculated that that amount of natural gas costs $12.58. Now we have to transform this unit ‘thousand cubic feet of natural gas’ to BTUs.

How do we do that? It’s a bit more complex than with electricity.

Luckily, EIA can help us out here with this simple formula:

**$ per Mcf divided by 1.037 equals $ per MMBtu**

Mcf is what we have; 1000 cubic feet of natural gas. We know that the price per 1000 cubic feet is $12.58.

MMBtu is 1,000,000 BTUs. The formula above tells us that if we divide our ‘per 1000 cubic feet’ price by 1.037 we get how much will a 1,000,000 BTU cost. Let’s apply this calculation:

**$12.58 / 1.037 = $12.13 per 1,000,000 BTU**

Now we know how much 1,000,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs. To compare this with the price of electricity (apples-to-apples), we need to know how much 100,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs.

This is quite easy: If 1,000,000 BTU costs $12.13, then 100,000 BTU (10-times smaller quantity) costs 10 times less. This **100,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs only $1.21**.

#### Comparison Of Per 100,000 BTU Prices (Before Energy-Efficiency)

We now have both numbers for prices of gas and electricity. We can compare them:

- 100,000 BTU worth of
(on average).*electricity*costs $3.87 - 100,000 BTU worth of
(on average).*natural gas*costs $1.21

What we clearly see here is that natural gas is cheaper than electricity. Considerably so, in fact. The price of electricity is about 3-times that of the price of natural gas.

Is that the end of the story? Electricity is more expensive than natural gas?

Not really. We need to also take into consideration the energy efficiency of an appliance. That’s because all that $3.87 worth of electricity will be used (100% efficiency) while we will have losses when using natural gas.

This is best explained using this last real-life example:

### Is It Cheaper To Heat My Home With Gas Or Electricity?

Let’s first calculate how much energy (in BTUs) an average household will burn throughout the winter heating season.

If we presume that a household has a 50,000 BTU furnace that is running continuously (24h per day) for 3 winter months (90 days), we see that the total heating needs amount to:

50,000 BTU/h * 24h * 90 Days = **108,000,000 BTU**

To answer if it’s cheaper to heat your home with gas or electricity, we need to know how much gas or electricity we need to produce these 108,000,000 BTU.

Electricity is quite easy. We calculated that 100,000 BTU worth of electricity costs $3.87. How much does 108,000,000 BTU cost? Let’s calculate:

(108,000,000 BTU / 100,000 BTU) * $3.87 = **$4,179.60 worth of electricity**

$4,179.60 is quite a lot. Why is that? Well, simply because heating by using electricity is incredibly expensive. Heating by natural gas is several times cheaper.

How much exactly? Let’s figure it out:

First, we need to be aware that gas heating is not 100% efficient like electrical heating. The energy efficiency of furnaces is determined by AFUE value; you have anything from 70% energy efficient to 95% efficient gas furnaces.

Let’s say we have a highly efficient 90 AFUE gas furnace. That means only 10% of the energy packed inside natural gas will be lost. That also means that to produce 108,000,000 BTU of heating output, we will have to buy this amount of natural gas:

108,000,000 BTU / 0.90 = **120,000,000 BTU**

These extra 12,000,000 BTU are to cover the losses of not-100% efficient natural gas burning. Alright, how much does 120,000,000 BTU worth of natural gas cost?

We know from the calculations we have done that 100,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs $1.21. Here’s how much 120,000,000 BTU worth of natural gas costs:

(120,000,000 BTU / 100,000 BTU) * $1.21 = **$1,452.00 worth of natural gas**

As we see, heating with natural gas is much cheaper than heating with electricity. How much cheaper exactly?

Well, in our case we have seen that we would need to pay $4,179.60 per heating season if we were to use electricity. However, if we use natural gas as a heat source, we will only have to pay $1,452.00. That is a giant **$2.727,60 in favor of heating with natural gas**.

That answers it: It’s much less expensive to heat your home with natural gas than with electricity.

Do note that all of these are just rough estimates. The prices of natural gas and electricity are always changing and it’s not possible to exactly figure out how much heating expenses you’re likely to have.

Nonetheless, using this kind of calculation, you can pretty accurately answer if it makes more financial sense to use natural gas instead of electricity for your big home appliances in your state.

IN the SAME ROOM, with the SAME insulation, the same 1000 cubic foot volume. WHICH IS CHEAPER? GAS OR ELECTRIC? That question requires a one word to answer.

Gas.

what if the gas furnace wastes 75-80% of the heat generated thru stupidity?

i.e. 2dn floor ducts travel up inside exterior walls so much of the heat is lost before reaching the 2nd floor rooms

plus exposed uninsulated ducts criss cross basement heating the basement to 95-100 f before the first floor gets to 70 f and the second barely reachs 60 f

Hello there, that’s quite an unfortunate waste. The solution here would be insulating the ducts with R-6 or R-8 value insulation. If you generate the heat by burning gas or via electricity, that heat lost doesn’t really change.

Exactly what I’m looking for!

The cost of gas is inaccurate, you should consider most utility companies charge a monthly service fee. In my case I use about $10 or so of actual gas and then I’m hit with a $20 fee on top of that. This creates a variable ‘real cost of gas’ = ((# of therms used * cost per therm) + service fee) / (# of therms)). In my case the argument still stands for gas heating but to a much closer race instead of the conclusion you’ve come to.

Hello Chris, you are right. It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the exact price of gas due to volatile gas prices on the market and various utility fees. That’s why we tried to simplify things as much as humanly possible to have some data points on the basis of which we can talk about gas vs electric.

By the same token, my central Ohio electricity provider, AEP, for June, charged me a Distribution Service fee of $24.03 and my actual electricity cost, which I can buy on the competitive market, was $23.31

They (the monopolists) have us screwed no matter what we use or do 🙁

I love this article and it is filled with sound reasoning.

Still burning renewable downed wood off the property in ultra efficient wood stove here saves us about $350 a month in heat, can’t get nat gas here in Eastern CT where we live…hoping to add some solar to the mix….we also have a passive solar construction home which has helped a lot.

come visit would love to experiment!

My contract fee for electricity is 4.5 cents per kw-hourplus a line delivery charge.That brings my cost to be $.06 to $.08. With the spike in NG after this article was written I wonder what the comparison is now. Are you using a heat pump in your calculation?

For my Northern Ohio home with 2400 sq. My electricity bill during January was a max of around $300, with electric stove, hot water tank, and dryer. No where near the $4000 for the winter.

Hello Joe, thank you for all the info; hope everybody can use it to compare prices a bit. The savings depend on how much electricity you use. In our examples, we primarily use heat pumps, yes, they have 20+ SEER rating and are the best cost savers out there.

I live near Toronto which is a bit north of you in Ohio but has similar weather since the Great Lakes moderate temperatures off of the prairies. My bill is roughly the same as yours now but I will be replacing the old heating system with a central heat pump. Although they can be 5 times as efficient as resistance heaters, if I count on an average of 3 times, there is the savings compared to gas right there.

What about heat pumps? In many cases moving heat into the space requires 1/4 or 1/3 the electrical energy of generating that heat using resistive heaters… and you get cooling in the summer on the same system.

Hello Tylor, heat pumps are very efficient. The efficiency depends on the SEER rating but if have a 20+ SEER rated heat pump, it is a good option. Be aware, however, that when the temperatures are very low, heat pumps become less efficient. That’s why we usually use a heat pump with a furnace; at lot temperature, a gas furnace kicks in because it’s just a cheaper way to heat a home. Hope this helps.

For 2022, I totaled my net electric costs & usage to my net natural gas cost & usage for the 12 months in Georgia. Calculating net cost per 100k BTU for electric was $2.91 and natural gas was $1.54. But gas costs are going up significantly, so I’m thinking the gas cost may be closer to $2 in 2023, but still lower than electricity.

Hi Shane, that’s very valuable information. Yes, it depends on electricity and gas prices, which are fluctuating (and sadly rising) a lot, this is a good case for gas in Georgia.

What you FAIL to mention is that an electric heat pump typically puts out 300,000 BTU of heat for every 100,000 BTU of electricity! Heat pumps can have an even higher Coefficient of Performance than 3.

Definition: COP is the ratio of how much useful heat (or cold) a heat pump will produce if we give it certain energy input.

So making people THINK that they need the SAME amount of electric energy to produce what gas does is NOT straightforward or candid, it’s insincere or misleading.

Heat pumps ranged from about 2.2 to 4.5 times more efficient than an Energy Star gas furnace on an annual basis, and in no climate was a heat pump less than 200 percent efficient (COP of 2). Simply put, for every an equivalent BTU of electricity compared to gas you get 2.2 times to 4.5 times that amount of BTU out as heat!

In addition, with an electric heat pump you get the benefit of air conditioning at no extra cost.

And for those who care (some don’t), the source of electricity in N. America continues to get cleaner and cleaner every year. In Quebec 95% currently comes from hydroelectric. Seattle gets close to zero of it’s electricity from coal or natural gas.

Hi there, you are completely right when it comes to heat pumps. In general, here we were talking about electric space heaters and electric furnaces; there do convert electricity directly into heating output at 100% efficiency. Heat pumps, on the other hand, use electricity to transfer heat from outdoors to indoors. Most of them will have a 3.0+ COP and will thus be 300% efficient, as you have correctly stated. It might be prudent for us to make a little bit clearer that we are not talking heat pumps here, but space heaters and electric furnaces.

Heat pumps are quite amazing.