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Old 02-13-2018, 10:44 AM   #1
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Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


I am renting a 750 square foot house. The living room opens out to the kitchen. The bedroom, bathroom, and small dining room have doors to close them off. It is very small, old house with 5 rooms in total. I've covered up all of the drafty windows with plastic. The heating for the house is oil.

My question is: Would using an electric fireplace (capable of heating 1000 square feet by raising the internal temperature by 8 degrees) be a good way to cut heating costs without significantly adding to my electric bill? My bill for electric is about $150/month in the winter.

I spend about $300/month in the cold winter months on heat alone because I work from home.

Thanks everyone. Trying to find a good compromise. The cost of oil heat is killing me in the winter.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:33 PM   #2
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Electric fireplace is simply an electric heater, you can get same performance using a < $100 oil filled heater.

Any electric heating will really drive up the bill. If you have cheap electricity, well under 10 cents per kwh, it may be cheaper.

Post your total electricity rate including all charges and your delivered oil rate. Post the age of the furnace or boiler, could be between 60 and 80% efficient which needs to be factored in.
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I am not in the business of any trade I give advice on. I have non-professional hvac experience + good knowledge of theory. Attempt repairs at your own risk. Never jump out safeties - especially pressure switches - on a furnace for testing with fuel supply on; use a meter. Do not troubleshoot with live line voltage present unless there's no alternative.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:53 PM   #3
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


RE: user_12345a

Thanks for your response. I'm really just trying to figure out if it will be cheaper in the long haul for winter to supplement with an electric heater. Paying twice as much for electric in the winter ($150/mo electric bill x 2 = $300) will still be cheaper than what I pay now for oil and electric (at least $300 oil/month + $150 electric = $450/month).

The rate for my area is about 15/kWh. I'm not sure about the age of the oil furnace (I'd have to find out that info from my landlord); the house is about 90 years old and I don't think the landlord has really made many modification to his childhood home (he's in the military) and hasn't been home in over 4 years.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:58 PM   #4
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


What's your oil rate?

Unless you have super expensive oil unlikely electric space heater will save much. 15c - pretty high.

What you can do is turn the oil heat down to 60 or something and heat only the room you're in during the day with electric. This may save by using less energy, not from electric being cheaper.

With a rental, you're pretty stuck, you can't modify the house. You have a combo of expensive fuel and an old house that hasn't been retrofitted.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:11 PM   #5
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


My oil rate is $2.75. I have a 275 gallon tank, so I have 250 gallons of usable fuel.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:20 PM   #6
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


1 gallon, 138,500 Btu

1 kwh 3412

Oil, 14.7 cents per kwh.

Adjust for efficiency at 80% ->18.45 cents.

Electric a little cheaper, but i wouldn't attempt to heat the whole house, only the rooms you're in. Don't run electric space heaters when sleeping or unattended.

Both are expensive sources of heat compared to natural gas or even a heatpump heat.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:43 AM   #7
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Your electric would need to be less than 11.93 cents per KWH to be cheaper then your oil heat at your post oil cost.

1,000,000 BUs of heat from your oil furnace at 80% efficiency is 8.928 gallons of oil. At 2.75 a gallon, $24.55

293 KWHs for electric heat to produce 1,000,000 BTUs at $0.15 per KWH equals $43.95
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:00 AM   #8
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Quote:
I am rentinDoug a 750 square foot house.
Ayuh,.... Years ago, I rented out this house I'm now livin' in,....

A tenant had the same brainstorm yer havin',....
His electric bill, Doubled,....
'n I had to replace a pile of frozen, busted plumbin',.....

A house is a System, of systems,....
When my tenant did what yer wantin' to do, the spot heat sorta kept 'im warm, but turned places normally heated, into Unheated areas,....
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:13 PM   #9
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Quote:
Ayuh,.... Years ago, I rented out this house I'm now livin' in,....

A tenant had the same brainstorm yer havin',....
His electric bill, Doubled,....
'n I had to replace a pile of frozen, busted plumbin',.....

A house is a System, of systems,....
When my tenant did what yer wantin' to do, the spot heat sorta kept 'im warm, but turned places normally heated, into Unheated areas,....
If the tenant is dumb enough to turn off the heat, not turn it down, that'll happen.


Quote:
Originally Posted by beenthere View Post
Your electric would need to be less than 11.93 cents per KWH to be cheaper then your oil heat at your post oil cost.

1,000,000 BUs of heat from your oil furnace at 80% efficiency is 8.928 gallons of oil. At 2.75 a gallon, $24.55

293 KWHs for electric heat to produce 1,000,000 BTUs at $0.15 per KWH equals $43.95
My calculations must have been off, wonder where I messed up.

just found this which is nice - http://www.pelletheat.org/compare-fuel-costs
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Last edited by user_12345a; 02-14-2018 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:20 PM   #10
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat.

Cost and efficiency do not belong together. 1oo percent of electricity will turn into heat so it is 100% efficient. That doesn't make it cheap..
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Old 02-14-2018, 02:24 PM   #11
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Re: Cost efficiency of electric fireplace vs oil heat


Quote:
Originally Posted by beenthere View Post
293 KWHs for electric heat to produce 1,000,000 BTUs at $0.15 per KWH equals $43.95
This is correct. I ran these numbers years ago, and still had the spreadsheet kicking around, so I threw in the costs quoted here and the 80% efficiency (mine is a little more) for the following results:



The last two numbers are the cost per 1M BTU. Almost exactly what beenthere came up with.

There is SO much confusion out there about electric heat. Ceramics heaters, fans or no fans, infrared or oil-filled, even Quaker-built fake fireplaces, are all misrepresented.

100% of the electricity is turned to heat. You can direct and diffuse that heat different ways, but in the end increasing the temperature of the room is going to take EXACTLY the same number of BTUs, regardless of the source.

Some heat of combustion, in the case of gas or oil, goes up the chimney. So that's why we factor in the (in this example) 80% presumed efficiency of your boiler or furnace.

But even with those losses, oil is significantly cheaper. I had to set the price of electricity at 8.4 cents per KWH to get to the same price as oil:



In most US locations, the only way electric heaters can be cheaper is if you shut down the oil burner and only heat a very small portion of the residence with them. Of course, there are zoned heating systems for this. And frozen pipes to worry about in some climates, not to mention comfort.

Last edited by CaptTom; 02-14-2018 at 02:26 PM.
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