If you have recently renovated or built a home, you probably had to answer the question, “Which fuel is best to heat my home both efficiently and economically.” Many people turn to the cheapest option theycan find in their area. However, price and availability of the chosen fuel can change quickly. As an example, home heating oil prices have doubled in the past 15 years. If you plan to replace your furnace, is it a good time to switch to a new fuel source, taking into account current and future prices, if possible. Environmental factors should also be taken into account when selecting your fuel source. In some areas, the difference between electricity and oil are minimal, but one of these produces twice as much gas house gas.
To help you sort out both the pros and cons of each fuel option, we will take a brief look at gas, electricity, oil and wood.
Gas, despite doubling in price in many areas over the past 10 years, offers the biggest bang for the buck. Over time, only wood can beat the price of gas. Natural gas fares well in states, like Louisiana and Michigan, and Canada provinces, British Colombia and Saskatchewan because it is produced in these regions. It should be noted, that approximately half the cost of fuel is attributed to shipping and distribution. Natural gas scores high in the environmental arena, since it is a clean burning fuel. Critics of natural gas point out that during the extraction process methane leaks into the atmosphere.
Currently, the majority of people who heat with electricity pay more per therm than those using the other fuel options. A therm or BTU (British Thermal Unit) is a unit of the energy content in fuels. This term also describes or defines the power of a heating or cooling unit, such as an air-conditioner or furnace. Electricity as a heat source allows homeowners to pinpoint heat to select rooms at any given time resulting in less electricity usage. Using such a method allows homeowners to reduce their usage significantly and may result in savings of 20% on their overall annual utility bill. Electricity as a fuel receives mixed marks in the environmental area because of the many different production methods. Hydro-electric dams are a major source of clean electricity in Canada. It currently produces approximately 60% of the country’s electricity. Nuclear power represents about 20% of Canada and the United States total electricity. The biggest single source of electricity in North America comes from burning coal.
One of the oldest few choices is heating oil, a byproduct of crude oil. Heating oil is readily available, sometimes cheaper than electricity, and it is the most common form of heating in many places. Many homes are already set up for heating oil thus a natural selection. Environmentally, heating oil is the dirtiest of our four contenders. It emits approximately 160 pounds of carbon dioxide per BTU. It should also be noted that the fuel must be trucked to the home resulting in additional emissions from the truck.
Wood, as a fuel will be significantly cheaper in rural areas since they have easy access to the source, whereas homeowners in suburban areas rely on companies to deliver logs when needed. When using wood it helps to have a high efficiency appliance that will require less fuel. It should be noted that the upkeep is quite demanding when using wood and requires tending a fire at least twice a day. Many argue that wood is carbon neutral, because it absorbs carbon dioxide during growth and emits it when burned. People who live near an inefficient wood-burning fireplace will question the environmental impact wood-burning actually has on the atmosphere. So, particulate matter and smoke are a problem for everyone. The emissions from trucks hauling these logs can add up in areas far from the source. Finally, the choice is yours, natural gas, electricity, heating oil or wood!