Think before pulling the plug

Posted on Dec 20 2016 in Orange County REMC



You may have seen a new marketing initiative by the propane industry that encourages homeowners to dump their electric water heaters in favor of water heaters fueled by propane gas.

The multimedia campaign, called “Pull the Plug on Electric Water Heaters,” makes its case with brochures, flyers, print advertisements, videos, radio spots, fact sheets, webinars, an e-book and even endorsements by a celebrity home-improvement expert. But make no mistake. The intent of the campaign is simply to sell a lot more propane.

At Orange County REMC, we believe electricity is the smart energy choice. It is safe, reliable, clean, predictably priced and adaptable to many uses — from the exotic to the mundane. Electricity powers everything from cars, cell phones and laptop computers to air conditioners, dishwashers, refrigerators, clothes washers and lighting. More than ever, America runs on electricity.

Still, you might be tempted to switch water heaters. The campaign developed by the Propane Education and Research Council is slick.

As your trusted energy advisor, Orange County REMC wants to provide you, our member-consumer, with the facts you need to make the best decision.

Let’s look at the propane marketing campaign. Some of the claims challenge common sense and would be hard to prove, including assertions about efficiency, environmental impacts and cost.

“With a propane water heater, you can use less energy, save money and reduce your carbon footprint,” proclaims Danny Lipford, host of the television program “Today’s Homeowner,” in a campaign video. “They really are that efficient.”

Really? Apparently Lipford neglected to mention that propane is a fossil fuel.

The campaign also resorts to scare tactics. Installation of propane water heaters is often a laborious process that requires running propane lines and exhaust vents. Turning reality on its head, the pro-propane campaign would have you believe that replacing an electric water heater “can take days longer, days you’ll spend taking icy cold showers,” Lipford warns.

Actually, in most cases, installing an electric heater is a snap.

At Orange County REMC, we believe electric water heaters are the smart choice for many reasons:

  • High-efficiency electric water heaters, including heat pumps, are readily available.
  • Electric water heaters are safe. They produce no carbon monoxide, and they pose no threat of combustion or explosion.
  • Electric water heaters can run on power generated from a range of energy sources, including solar, wind, hydro and other renewables.
  • Electric heaters don’t lose energy from exhaust or the replacement air that circulates into and out of a house. Propane heaters require on-site storage tanks.
  • Electric water heaters are easy to install. They require no expensive gas lines or exhaust flues.
  • The cost of electricity is less volatile than it is for other fuels. The cost of propane tends to fluctuate wildly.

Touchstone Energy has produced three fact sheets on water heating choices, water heater efficiency, and hot water distribution that are part of the home efficiency analysis tool. See To access these fact sheets, enter information about your home and go to the “systems” tab for the water heater sheets.

MARK BELCHER is the marketing/member services manager for Orange County REMC.