Snowbirding 101

Electricity or propane: which is cheaper?

How to determine which fuel is most cost-effective in an RV

Solar oven cooking dinner.
Use the sun to make your dinner in a solar oven. — iStockphoto

Question: Both our fridge and hot water heater can run on either electricity or propane. With the cost of fuel and all, we have become very cost-conscious and wonder if it is more economical to run them on electricity or propane. How do we figure which is most cost-effective? -C.S.

Answer: We also have an electric heater and stand-alone propane heater and when we are in the United States, we can compare the cost of a kilowatt hour with the price of a gallon of propane. Some wonderful mathematician has declared that the magic number is 22. Many RVers we know have experimented with this equation and agree with him.

Take the price of 22 kilowatt hours of electricity and compare it to one gallon (U.S.) of propane. In the park we are in now, the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity is 14 cents and propane costs $2.38 a gallon. So 22 kilowatt hours of electricity costs $3.08 and that is equivalent to one gallon of propane at $2.38.

I was surprised to learn that it is less expensive to use the propane than the electricity in this particular park. Be advised though, it is not always that way. Some parks sell the propane on-site and that makes it more economical.

Another interesting discovery is that some manufacturers put in microwave/convection ovens and do not even have propane-powered ovens in their RVs. That definitely limits your choices if you are an oven user.

Other cost-saving ideas

• Utilize your solar power. If you have solar panels, why not use the power generated by them? We unplug the electric connection in the morning once our batteries are fully charged and reconnect it in the evening when we use more electricity (and there is no sun shining). It is interesting how that can reduce our electricity costs.

• Try a solar oven. We are seeing more and more snowbirds using solar ovens. The first time we saw one, I couldn’t figure out why these folks had that small metal box sitting out beside their motorhome. Simple ovens have been used in various developing countries for years and can be made quite easily. More high-tech versions are available commercially as well.

• Don’t leave your hot water heater on all the time. We try to plan our time to do dishes, do cleaning and have showers one after the other so we can do everything that needs hot water in a short period of time.

Do you have questions about snowbirding? Send them to us at Snowbirding 101@RV

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