Updating Our Heating & Cooking Systems
When we first purchased our fixer upper in Maine, the heating system was run by burning oil and the hazardous old tank was barely standing on two (very rusted) legs. We took the opportunity to update our system and switched to a much more efficient energy source: propane.
Did we envision running entirely on solar like we do in Hawai’i? For sure. But there is quite an upfront investment which wasn’t realistic with all of the upfront renovation costs we were running in to (we’ll get there!) and we learned that while a home can run 90% on solar, propane is often needed to kick in during the winter months when we’re not getting as much solar rays and when the temperature drops below -25º.
We chose the most energy efficient option available to us for in-home heating (it’s not always as black and white or idealized as I thought) – just add this to the long list of lessons this house has bestowed upon us – and by installing propane, I was able to get the gas range I’ve always dreamed of having in our kitchen. Gas stoves are known for precise temperature control and more even cooking, so after many years of using an electric cooking source, it’s been such a pleasant upgrade. We would also love to explore a propane powered generator so if/when we lose power we have a great back-up system to keep our major appliances / heat running and to avoid water pipes bursting in the freezing temperatures.
What We Learned About Clean Energy
Some things that I learned through this process is that propane is non-toxic, so it won’t contaminate soil or groundwater like the old oil tank could have, making it safe to use. At first, I was quite confused how propane could be considered non-toxic as it is a byproduct of processing natural gas. But, from what I’ve researched, propane has a lower carbon content and as it burns, produces fewer emissions (like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxides) than petroleum fuels.
We use propane to power our gas stove. I was surprised to learn propane omits approximately 30 percent fewer CO2 emissions than electric stoves as I always thought of electric as ‘clean.’ Propane does not burn 100 percent clean, but it burns significantly more cleanly than other fossil fuels and is far less impactful to the environment than coal-powered electricity plants. Yes, electricity is clean where it is delivered, but much of our electricity is produced using coal power which means that the overall footprint of electric appliances aren’t 100 percent clean.
Navigating big decisions like this, especially when you are diligently aware and critical of the choices you make can be hard. Our goal was to make the most environmentally conscious choice within our means for our home’s needs in our specific region.
While we would all love to move away from fossil fuels in a snap of a finger, I’ve learned through our journey as homeowners that the infrastructure just isn’t here yet (and that certain options still need a second backup source in weather under -25º) and that it’s not currently as cut and dry as we thought.
By making educated decisions to the best of our abilities, we can collectively bring change, lower our personal footprint within our abilities right now and learn from one another.
Whether you’re looking for kitchen appliances, home heating, fireplaces, hot water solutions, a generator or even outdoor grills – propane is an excellent option that’s safe, cost effective and can potentially lower your environmental impact (depending on what you currently have!).
Have other questions about propane?
Let me know in the comments.
Thank you to the Propane Education & Research Council for sponsoring this post.