DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

June 27, 2012

Electric or gas: Which appliances are better?

By Daryl Nelson
ConsumerAffairs.com

— Moving into a new home is one of the most exciting times life has to offer. Whether your new dwelling will be in a house or an apartment, the feeling of newness and fresh beginnings is hard to beat.

If you're moving into a new house and have the luxury to design your kitchen, should you set it up to run gas or electric appliances? The same question applies to those who are searching for a new apartment. Should you choose a building that uses gas to power its appliances, or electricity?

The main thing to look at when making this choice is, of course, cost, as we all want to minimize our utility bill.

On your bill, you'll see that electric use is measured by Kilowatt Hours (KWHs), while gas use is tallied by British Therman Units (BTUs), and of course the more these sources we use the higher the bill will be. So how does this translate to cost? It depends on the rates in your area.

For example, Connecticut's electricity rate is around 19.3 cents per kilowatt hour, while Colorado's is 11.23 cents per KWH -- enough to make a substantial difference.

According to a recent U.S. Household Electricity Report, consumers used a third of the total household energy in their kitchens and laundry rooms, since these areas have the biggest appliances and use the most power.

What's in the oven?

PhotoWhen choosing between electric and gas, many people think of ovens first before other appliances. ConsumerAffairs contacted A+ Appliance Repair in Washington D.C., and asked which oven type is cheaper.

"Gas is cheaper," a company repair person said without pause. "Natural gas is always cheaper than electricity."

And which type of oven lasts the longest and needs the least amount of repair? "Gas ovens have a longer life," the A+ spokesman said. "They have way less components to them, so they tend to breakdown less."

Many cooking experts also prefer gas ovens over electric, because they heat faster, and contain more specific temperature control. The main advantage of an electric oven is that most people consider them  easier to use.

Electric ovens are also easier to clean, as most newer models have completely flat services with no rack burner. It can be quite the pain  to remove tiny food particles in the oven's sunken areas.

The laundry

PhotoIn the laundry room, the dryer is the biggest appliance in the home next to the refrigerator, and many experts say the difference in cost savings between gas and electric dryers is quite minimal in the short term. Gas dryers are usually a little more expensive to buy, and any substantial savings will be seen only over the long run.

In addition, how your laundry room is set up will dictate what type of appliance to go with, just as in the kitchen. Changing the connection in either room will be very costly.

Salesmen at two major supply chains assured us that gas dryers typically dry clothes faster, as they heat up at a much quicker pace. And although gas dryers, along with gas stoves do use some electricity, it's minimal compared to  electric models.

Gas is greener

PhotoAs far as which type of appliance is best for the environment, gas ovens take the trophy in the kitchen. Gas cookers are generally considered to be more energy efficient and, unless your home is powered by wind, solar energy or some other super-green source, using natural gas will give you a smaller carbon footprint than electricity. 

Experts say that gas dryers use 30 percent less energy than electric ones, but also warn that proper ventilation should be created to avoid cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.  On the other hand, electric appliances also carry a slight risk of fire and electrocution if they're not installed and maintained properly. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, which helps minimize the risk of being gassed, and all appliances and home wiring systems should be kept up to date. 

Of course, all of this is probably not going to be very helpful if natural gas is not available in your area, which is in fact the case in a large part of the country. It's estimated that 58 percent of households use electric rather than gas appliances and that number's not likely to change very quickly, as installation of gas lines is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Photo

Grills & fireplaces

However, no matter where you live, you have a choice of gas or electric outdoor grills. You can even use charcoal, mesquite or anything else that will burn slowly at high temperatures. Keep in mind, though, that open flames contribute to air pollution and can be a fire hazard. Oh, and char-broiled meats don't do much to lower your cancer risk.

Fireplaces also offer some options. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you may want to consider converting it to propane. Even if natural gas is not available in your area, you can have propane delivered and stored in a tank outside your home.  Better yet, you can bury the tank so it's out of sight. 

Propane and other so-called bottled gases are expensive but they burn very cleanly and you won't be lugging all that dirty wood into your house, bringing termites and spiders along for the ride. Once again, proper installation is vital and having a carbon monoxide alarm is essential. 

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.