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What’s The Most Efficient Way To Heat Your Home?

Small toy brown house with blue door and windows cradled by a person wearing a pink winter coat and thick blue striped mittens, representing keeping your house warm.

What’s The Most Efficient Way To Heat Your Home?

When it comes to methods for heating your home, there are a lot of options available and it can be a confusing choice—especially if you’re concerned with finding the lowest cost option. We at PointClickSwitch want you to stretch your dollars as far as possible when it comes to energy costs. We’ve compiled some data that will help you compare gas and electric, as well as oil, propane and wood pellet. If you’re wondering what the most efficient way is to heat your home, check out the below data comparison of several heating methods, all reported in cost per million BTUs:

 

Compare Gas And Electric And Other Heating Costs (based on US averages)
Natural GasElectricityHeating OilPropaneWood Pellet
Estimated Cost
Per Million BTU
$13.72$30.72$28.92$23.94$19.00
Appliance
Efficiency
78%100%78%78%78%
Avg. Cost$1.07 per therm*$0.10 per KWh*$3.12 per Gal*$2.59 per Gal*$250 per Ton*

*Avg costs are pulled from the last 12 months

Next, let’s take a look at the practicalities of each of these different heating methods, including the pros and cons of using gas versus electric heat and other methods.

Electricity. Electric heating is produced by electric units that are obtained by power plants and then converted into heat energy. This energy is transferred to your home via appliances like space heaters, furnaces, water heaters and central heating systems.

Pros:

  • Electric heat is often associated with lower up-front costs. The costs of installing a water heater or furnace is often less expensive then installation of units for other heating methods such as gas furnaces.
  • Furnaces and water heaters are quite often easier to maintain and less apt to have issues versus their gas and oil counterparts.
  • Electric heat is often viewed as a “clean” alternative since the heating appliances generally have a higher efficiency than those associated with other heating sources. However, it’s important to remember that the way the energy is generated may or may not be “cleaner”. It may be generated from solar energy or by burning coal.

Cons:

  • One of the downsides of using electric heat is that it’s not a fast option. It typically takes a longer time to heat up a home using electric heat than other methods.
  • At this time, electric heat is generally pricier than other methods. Over the lifetime of heating, it costs more to run an electric heater, even if you are using an energy efficient appliance.

Natural Gas. Natural gas powered heating appliances use a traditional combustion process to produce heat for a home. A pilot light ignites and heats the natural gas that is used in an appliance such as a boiler or a gas furnace to transfer heat throughout the home.

Pros:

  • One of the biggest pros for natural gas users is that it’s extremely energy efficient, and can save consumers money in the long run.
  • Another benefit is that natural gas heating systems are increasingly constructed with energy efficient materials, which helps reduce air and water pollution.

Cons:

  • A big drawback to natural gas heating is that homeowners have to have either a gas line or gas storage tank installed on their property before they can begin heating their home. If a gas line is not already available for your property, this will be an expensive and complex option.
  • Also, gas heating units require complex ventilation systems in order to release byproducts. Installing and maintaining these systems can be expensive, but critical to the health of the homeowners.

Propane: Like natural gas, propane is a fuel that is ignited when a pilot light is lit in an appliance such as a propane heater or a water heater. The heat is then transferred to the appliance which can heat the space or home.

Pros:

  • Propane is an inexpensive fuel option and can save homeowners a lot of money on heating costs in the long run.
  • Propane heaters are highly efficient appliances and have the tendency to lose less heat then their electric and gas counterparts.
  • In general, propane heating appliances are less expensive to maintain than those associated with other heating sources, such as oil-powered heaters.

Cons:

  • A big negative of propane heating systems is that they can be very costly to install.
  • Another downside of utilizing propane heat is that in many cases the propane tanks are not owned by homeowners, instead they are rented out. Some homeowners find it to be a hassle to deal with delivery or supply issues.

Oil: Heating oil is a liquid petroleum, low viscosity fuel that is sometimes used in oil furnaces and other appliances to heat homes. Like the other fuels mentioned, it is ignited by a light source and then transferred to the appliance to heat the area.

Pros:

  • One of the biggest advantages of using oil to heat a home is that the heating systems that you purchase to use oil are not very expensive, so the setup costs are cheaper.
  • Oil also has higher BTU than other heating methods such as natural gas and electricity.
  • Although it is flammable, it is safer to store than other fossil fuels and does not produce carbon monoxide.

Cons:

  • The price of oil can fluctuate dramatically and it is currently a more expensive heating option compared to other options such as natural gas.
  • As with propane, most oil heaters use a tank that has to be installed somewhere on the homeowners property. The homeowner, then must coordinate periodic deliveries of heating oil.
  • There is generally more maintenance associated with oil heat, as the filters in the heating system have to be changed frequently.

Wood Pellet: Wood pellet stoves look similar to a wood burning fireplace, but are actually high-tech heating instruments that use wood pellets in lieu of fuel to heat the home. Wood pellets are made of processed wood and are renewable, so they are more environmentally-friendly than many other heating sources.

Pros:

  • Wood pellets emit almost no smoke and no air by-products, so they are an extremely environmentally-friendly method for heating.
  • Prices for pellets do not fluctuate significantly compared to other heating sources and they are generally less expensive to purchase.

Cons:

  • Electricity is used to power the pellet stove, so for a total operating cost analysis consumers should consider both the costs of the electricity to operate the stove as well as the cost of the wood pellets.
  • Wood pellets are sold in cumbersome 40 pound bags, which can make them difficult to manage.
  • Using and maintaining a wood pellet stove requires more time on the part of the homeowner compared to other heating methods.

Now that you have a good primer on your heating options, we hope you’re able to make an informed choice about the heating method that makes the most sense for you. If you’re ready to start saving money on your energy bill, visit PointClickSwitch, choose your state and provider and we’ll do the rest!

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Sources:

U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/natgas.php

U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_5_6_a

U.S. Energy Information Administration:  https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_wfr_dcus_nus_w.htm

U.S. Department of Energy: https://energy.gov/energysaver/home-heating-systems/wood-and-pellet-heating

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