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Old 07-29-2010, 01:55 AM   #1
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Gas vs. electric heating (comparing MCF to kWh)


I had some astronomically high gas bills this past winter, which was the first winter in our 'new' house. Its a big old house with a big old gas furnace, so it wasnt' necessarily surprising - that is, if four $400+ gas bills can ever not be surprising...

Anyways, I was considering adding a couple in-wall heaters to help out the furnace, as we can't quite afford to have the furnace replaced right now. This lead me to wondering what was more cost effective for heatings, gas or electric. I always hear that gas is cheaper than electic for almost everyone, and based off my numbers I think that statement is true for me as well. We live in Northern WV and here's the info:

- 11.65 cents per kWh for electric
- $10.99 per MCF for gas

The conversion I found for mcf to kwh is as follows...
1,000 cubic feet of gas (Mcf) -> 1.027 million BTU = 1.083 billion J = 301 kWh

Which leads me to...
11.65 cents x 301 kWh = 3506.65 (move the decimal over 2 places and I get $35.07 per 'MCF' of equivalent electricity).

So if the math and conversions are right and I want to buy a 'unit' of energy, I would be paying $10.99 for gas and $35.07 for electric - over 3x as much for electric.

Now unfortunately comes the not-so-scientific measurements. Our furnace is very old (35+yrs according to an HVAC guy) which means it is likely only around 60% efficient, or less. On top of this, when the furnace runs it heats the entire house, not just specific areas, which equals wasted energy. My contemplation now becomes this; do these 2 downsides to our gas furnace outweigh the fact that electric costs over 3x as much as gas?

I don't know. We tried to keep the thermostat relatively low last winter, but the wife and kids don't like it under 70F. Then on the really cold nights (15F and lower) leaving the thermostat at 70F doesn't feel like it does when its say 35F outside. So sometimes during those times I kick it up a couple degrees.

I welcome any comments on the situation. Also if you see any issues with my numbers please explain whats wrong. Thanks for your time!

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Old 07-29-2010, 12:40 PM   #2
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Gas vs. electric heating (comparing MCF to kWh)


If it's an older house it may not have as good insulation as well. I would start by checking the attic and adding a couple more batts. Should be at least R60 I believe. The walls are kinda hard to do anything about unless you want to start demolishing drywall so I'd leave those.

I keep my thermostat at about 59F and only raise it to maybe 64F when I'm at home. I use a 500watt heater near my computer desk to keep me warm if I'm spending most of my time there, then I just leave the thermostat at 59. My gas bill is about 100 bucks per month or so. Have gas hot water heater as well though.

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Old 07-29-2010, 04:18 PM   #3
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Gas vs. electric heating (comparing MCF to kWh)


Search "heat of combustion" for natural gas.

Use http://www.onlineconversion.com/ to get your units straight.

1 therm of energy = 29.3 kwh of energy for elec. heat.

The average house uses 6 BTU of energy per sq. ft. per heating degree day,
http://www.degreedays.net/
with a wide tolerance [+/- 80%?] on this value.

Power equals the rate of dissipation of energy.

As for paying too much now per month vs. paying a huge lump sum and then less per month, the keywords are "present value of an annuity".
Your "investment horizon" is probably 7 years, which is the avg. time people live in a particular house.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 07-29-2010 at 04:59 PM.
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