Heat Costs

Heat and Cooling Costs

Are you confused by the costs associated with the different types of fuel available? Well, join the club! Here is the short version of how they compare …Natural Gas, Wood Furnaces, Wood Pellet Furnaces and (now) Home Heating Oil are all in the same ballpark for cost. Propane is about 2.5 times or more the cost of these and Electric is about 3 times more than Propane – and 5 times more than the first group. Why such a range of costs? First off, heating is heating and cooling is cooling – it doesn’t matter what the fuel is. Think of it like your car … you can run a hybrid engine (gas and electric),a regular gas engine, or you may have a diesel engine. Each of these fuel types will get you different “Miles Per Gallon”. In a similar way, each “Unit” of heating fuel will provide a certain amount of heat. Some just go farther than others so to speak. The other side of the equation is how much the fuel costs per gallon (or unit) … Looking at the table below, even though the fuel cost for diesel fuel is higher per gallon, because of the efficiency of the diesel engine, the overall cost is less than regular gas in a Camry …

Comparative Fuel Costs For Cars

In the same way, the main fuels for heating your home have a cost associated for every BTU they produce. Think of the BTU as the “Miles”  … except in heating fuels, there are a bunch of different units … but they all produce a certain number of “BTU’s Per … Unit” . And like different grades of gasoline, each fuel type has its’ own associated cost.

BTU Definition

So … put 1 pound of water in a kettle … pot … pan and it will take any of these heating methods 1 BTU to raise the temperature 1 degree …

Heat Types

How do we measure cost of each of these? It’s done in terms of Cost per Million BTU’s. In our climate during heating season the range of BTU’s required to heat an average home is between 3 – 6 Million BTU’s per month. The size, level of insulation, sun exposure and a whole bunch of other variables come into play when determining this … But so you can see the comparative costs of the fuel types, you can enter what each one costs you and what the efficiency of your system is.


So there you have it folks … we hope this little “plug and play” calculator helps you understand the relative costs of the different fuel types! Be careful using on-line calculators that don’t allow you to set the actual cost and actual efficiency of the fuel and system. Modern Natural Gas heaters can be up to 97% efficient … so calculations based on an 80% efficient system just won’t be true. On the other hand, an old oil furnace might be 75% efficient, and the newest models will reach 90%. This is a great tool to figure out if converting fuel types will give you a bigger bang for the buck than just upgrading your system.