Heat Cost Comparisons

Many people want to know the operational costs of a particular heating system. The following should help you determine which heating system is right for you by using a fair, scientific comparison among heating options. These figures are based on product prices at the time this document was produced. Keep in mind prices and efficiencies will change. You should be able to use the same formula and provide the variables specific to your situation (heating system efficiency, product price) to determine your costs.

This formula converts all heating options to a cost per Million British Thermal Units (MMBtu). The formula to determine price per MMBtu is 1,000,000 Btu multiplied by the current price per unit of product (ton, cord, gallon, or kilowatt hour). This figure is then divided by the sum of the efficiency rating multiplied by the Btu produced by the unit of fuel. Examples are as follows:

Fossil Fuel Systems

Coal Stove 75% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu x $200/Ton 200,000,000 10.26 price per MMBtu
.75 x 26,000,000 19,500,000
Wood Stove 60% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu x $140/Cord 140,000,000 10.60 price per MMBtu
.60 x 22,000,000* 13,200,000
Pellet Stove 80% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu x $225/Ton 225,000,000 17.58 price per MMBtu
.80 x 16,000,400 12,800,320
Fuel Oil Burner 88% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu’s x $2.00/Gal 2,000,000 16.24 price per MMBtu
.88 x 140,000 123,200
Propane Burner 90% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu x $1.50/Gal 1,500,000 18.12 price per MMBtu
.90 x 92,000 82,800

Electric Heating Options

Electric Ground Source Heat Pump
100% Efficient COP of 4.0
1,000,000 Btu x $.13**/kWh 130,000 9.52 price per MMBtu
4.0 x 3,413 13,652
Electric Air to Air Heat Pump
100% Efficient COP of 3.0***
1,000,000 Btu x $.13**/kWh 130,000 12.70 price per MMBtu
3.0 x 3,413 10,239
Electric Thermal Storage
100% Efficient (Off Peak Rate)
1,000,000 Btu x $.082****/kWh 82,000 24.026 price per MMBtu
1.0 x 3413 3,413
Electric Resistance Heater (base board heaters or plug-in heaters)
100% Efficient
1,000,000 Btu x $.13**/kWh 130,000 38.09 price per MMBtu
1.0 x 3413 3,413

*BTU rating may be higher or lower depending on firewood used
**Claverack residential rate
***Air source heat pumps typically lose efficiency with lower temperatures
****Off peak rate for Time of Use participants

This information should help you determine your existing and potential heating costs by comparing various energy options.  Product prices vary and you should check the current product prices to determine accurate operational costs of these various heating options. Remember that regardless of the type of heat you use it is very important to have adequate insulation in floors, walls and ceilings.  Members choosing to invest in electric heat in their homes should consider equipment and installation costs, along with long term operating costs.  The best way to heat your home depends on your particular situation.

For further information on electric heating options, call your member services department at 1-800-326-9799 or 570-265-2167.

Many members have contacted the Claverack offices requesting information about heat pumps. Heat pumps are an excellent option for heating and cooling your home. There are many advantages to installing a heat pump.

There are basically two types of electric heating options. The first is electric radiant heat. Most people know this as electric baseboard heat, but it can also refer to portable plug-in heaters. Some members even have electric radiant heating components in a furnace. This type of heat is 100 percent efficient because all of the heat is applied directly to the living area. There is no loss of heat or fuel in a combustion process as there is with an oil, gas, or propane burner. You get 3,413 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat for 1-kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of BTUs to heat a typical home, and that can get expensive at 3,413 BTUs per 1kWh.

The second electric heating option is the heat pump. After the development of modern refrigeration, someone realized that the refrigeration process removed heat from the freezer to make it cold. The heat that was removed from the freezer got put into the kitchen. Anyone who has stood barefoot in front of the refrigerator can attest to this. This concept launched the heat pump.

A heat pump does not actually make heat, it simply moves heat through manipulation of the refrigeration process, as refrigerants can be super-heated or super-cooled. You may ask how it can move heat on a cold day. There is always some heat in ambient air (the normal outside air around us.) Let’s consider a freezer that is 20 degrees. If we continue to run the refrigeration equipment, we can remove more heat from the freezer until the temperature is further reduced, even down to well below zero. A central air-to-air heat pump outside your home can remove heat from the ambient air and apply that heat to your home. An advantage of this process is more efficient heating. A 300 percent efficient heat pump produces 10,239 BTUs for 1 kWh of electricity (three times the amount of heat compared to electric radiant heat.) Another advantage is that by reversing the refrigerant cycle, the same unit can remove heat from your home and move it to the ambient air (air conditioning.)

However, there is a downside. As the ambient air temperature goes down, it is more difficult to extract heat, and the unit must work harder. Efficiencies decline as ambient air temperatures go down. Historically, below 20 degrees, air-source heat pumps drop in efficiency to 100 percent (no better than electric radiant heat.) They do not drop below 100 percent efficiency. Because of this reduced efficiency, the cost of producing the same amount of heat is a lot more than the cost of producing it with an ambient air temperature of 50 degrees. Some people even experience cold homes when low temperatures are extreme because the heat pump simply can't produce the needed heat fast enough. This is why air-to-air heat pumps have been popular in the South. With advances in technology, we are now seeing more use in harsh Northern climates.

Many years ago, someone realized that the heat pump worked great when the ambient air temperature was 50 degrees or more. It was very efficient. Was there a way to have 50-degree temperatures all the time, in any climate? The temperature of the earth is about 50 degrees once you get below the frost line (about 5 feet underground) even in cold climates. What if we could use that temperature to run a heat pump? How could we harness the heat in that 50-degree soil? If a hole was drilled or a trench was dug, a series of pipes could be installed. Properly constructed, we could circulate water through a maze of pipes, and regardless of the water temperature going in, the return flow would be 50 degrees because of the ground temperature.  That 50-degree water could then be used to extract heat using the heat pump. Heat from the home could also be transferred to this ground loop if cooling were needed. This process is known as a ground source or geothermal heat pump.

The ground-source heat pump never loses its full efficiency because the groundwater loop temperature always stays the same. Some manufacturers claim newer models are achieving efficiencies of up to 500 percent. That equates to 17,065 BTUs for just one kWh of electricity. This heating option, when compared to others, offers tremendous savings.

The ground-source heat pump is not for everyone. Your home must be properly constructed and insulated to ensure that this option will work for you. Ground-source heat pumps are also very expensive to install, often costing $20,000 or more. Any serious consideration of a ground-source heat pump should weigh your investment against your expected payback in operational savings. When looking for heating alternatives, comparing electric heating options to traditional fossil fuel systems is a good idea.

Click here for a list of some local heat pump installers in our area. We hope that this information is helpful in your search for the heating system that is right for you. If you would like additional information about heat pumps please call your member services department at 1-800-326-9799 or 570-265-2167. 

If you do choose to install a Heat Pump (ground or air source) or a Heat Pump Water Heater, please remember to submit for a rebate using this link:  Rebate Form

Electric thermal storage is a type of electric heating system that uses lower-cost off-peak electricity to heat ceramic bricks in an insulated cabinet. The units release their heat as needed, even during the on-peak, higher cost timeframes.  ETS is clean, safe, dependable, and quiet.  ETS systems can also be retrofitted to existing hydronic systems and forced air ducted systems.

To take full advantage of ETS heat, you must utilize the time-of-use (TOU) rate. The rate features on and off-peak hours. Check out the link to our heating options page to compare operational costs of other systems.  For more information contact our member services department at 1-800-326-9799 or 570-265-2167.

ETS equipment sales and service:

Gene Gill
PO Box 40
Tioga Center, NY 13845