Natural gas is used in about 70 million American homes, according to the American Gas Association. Long-trusted as a cost-effective and reliable fuel source, more home buyers are becoming aware that natural gas is also good for the environment. Compared to electricity, natural gas is a much better use of energy resources and produces much lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Making better use of energy resources
Using high-efficiency appliances and equipment is a great way to use less energy and live more sustainably. When deciding between natural gas and electric models, consumers often get confused by efficiency ratings. For example, Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) is the measure of water heater overall efficiency.
UEF indicates a water heater’s overall efficiency based on the amount of hot water produced compared to the energy it consumes for a given daily draw pattern — the higher the UEF, the higher the unit’s energy efficiency.
A high-efficiency electric water heater has a UEF of 95%, while a high-efficiency gas model may be rated at 67%. Sounds like an electric water heater is a much more efficient use of resources, right? Not when you consider the total fuel cycle of the water heater. Total fuel cycle includes not only the efficiency of the appliance, but also source efficiency — the efficiency of producing and delivering energy from its source to a home. In this, natural gas is the clear winner: 90%, compared to 31% for electricity.
The following table illustrates the total fuel cycle of electric and gas water heaters:
In other words, only 29% of the energy used to generate electricity at the power plant and delivered to a home is actually used to provide hot water. By comparison, the natural gas unit uses 60% of its fuel cycle energy, from the gas well to the burner tip.
Lower greenhouse gas emissions
In addition to being a better use of energy resources, the direct use of natural gas can help the environment by lowering greenhouse gas emissions caused by electric power generation. Electric power generation produces carbon dioxide emissions at more than three times the rate of natural gas consumption.
An average of one pound of carbon dioxide is produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An equivalent amount of natural gas produces only about 0.4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Clearly, the direct use of natural gas can have important environmental benefits.
The clean and efficient energy choice
Choosing natural gas to fuel appliances and equipment in your homes will not only attract buyers, it can have important benefits in terms of cost and efficiency. Lowering electric demand helps to reduce energy costs for both gas and electric. The superior fuel cycle efficiency helps to conserve precious natural resources while improving the health of the environment.