Electricity and gas can be used to do everything from heat water to run basic household appliances. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these energy sources, however.
The debate between these two types of energy has lasted for decades. Gas was originally used only for lighting purposes. That changed after World War II, however, as thousands of kilometres of gas pipelines were built. Shortly after this construction came the invention of gas furnaces, oven ranges, refrigerators, clothes dryers, and water heaters. Electric counterparts to these appliances were created around the same time.
What makes comparing these types of energy difficult is getting good measurements. It is estimated that 1 kWh of electricity is the same as 3.3 cubic feet of natural gas. This estimate does not take into account the efficiency of the appliance or heat delivery system, however.
Generally speaking, it has historically been less expensive to heat water with gas than electricity. In fact, it is estimated that an electric water heater will cost about 75% more to use and operate than a gas heater. Gas water heaters will also produce heat faster than electric water heaters. Electric water heaters, however, are typically cheaper to repair and replace than gas ones.
Gas is also more efficient than electricity for creating heat. On a range, turning on the gas means instantly getting a flame. On the other hand, electric ranges have to take time to gain heat before being hot enough to cook with.
On furnace costs, gas heat can be more efficient in most housing designs. The cost to heat with gas is often cheaper than to heat a house with electricity. Gas furnaces tend to be more efficient, but also require gallons of flammable fuel to be stored inside or near the home.
Gas powered refrigerators are also usually more efficient than those powered by electricity. These appliances, however are more expensive and more difficult to find in stores than electric models.
Not every residence has gas hookups, however. While almost every building has access to electricity, hooking up natural gas can be expensive, and in many cases it is not available. Once installed, however, it is usually cheaper than electricity. In cases where gas cannot be installed, homeowners can opt for delivered, bottled propane gas. A homeowner who has to have gas delivered will often see any savings they might have received over electricity disappear, however.
It is important to note there are risks with both of these types of energy. Gas is very combustible, and gas leaks can contaminate the air inside a house. Additionally, the chemicals released when burning gas can be harmful when inhaled in large quantities. It should be noted, however, that a properly installed gas system will not leak fumes into a home. Electric appliances, on the other hand, can require high voltages that can cause shocks and fires if a device is not installed properly.