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Why Is Electric Heat So Expensive Compared to Other Fuels?

There are plenty of ways to heat your home, and each one comes with its own distinct advantages—as well as downsides. These days, more and more homes are heated with electricity. However, many homeowners find this method to be too pricey. Why, exactly, is electric heat so expensive compared to other methods?

In this article, we’ll look at the cost of electric heating versus other methods, as well as the other risks and benefits that go along with the various ways of producing heat in a building.

The Benefits of Electric

Electric heating is popular for a number of reasons, unrelated to its cost. There are several advantages that this method of heating a home conveys. Often, these are beneficial enough that homeowners are willing to put cost aside when considering how to heat their homes in winter.

One of the biggest of these advantages is safety. Most heating methods utilize some sort of combustible fuel, such as propane. These can sometimes pose a fire hazard if there’s a leak or some other sort of damage to the system. Electric heaters don’t have this problem since they don’t make use of flammable gases, oils, or wood to produce heat.

Making use of electric heat, as opposed to other methods, leads to improved air quality in your home. Burning a combustible fuel like propane or natural gas produces byproducts that can enter the air. Over time, these pollutants can lead to allergies and other health issues. While a good filtration system can help reduce these issues, installing an electric heating system can eliminate them completely. Since it doesn’t make use of any sort of combustion, electric heating doesn’t produce any hazardous byproducts.

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The Cost

On the surface, electricity does seem to be one of the most expensive methods of heating your home. But is electric heat expensive? As you might suspect, the true answer is a bit more complex than a simple “yes” or “no.”

If you look at the raw numbers, electric heating is certainly more expensive than natural gas, coming in at an average of about $838 a year. While this is definitely a good bit more than the average of $574 a year to use natural gas, it’s actually still significantly less than the $1,912 a year to heat the home with propane or the $1,238 a year to use heating oil.

Of course, there are other factors at play, as well. These prices don’t simply reflect the cost of the power source itself. You also have to consider the cost of equipment, installation, and repair, all of which can vary depending upon your location and the sort of heating infrastructure you already have access to.

The Equipment

While it’s certainly true that natural gas is cheaper than electricity as a heating method, you also have to consider the equipment costs. Does your home already have a built-in furnace, and if so, what type? If you decide to use natural gas to heat your home, you’ll need to make sure you have pipes installed so the fuel can be delivered to your home. If you don’t have these pipes, you can, of course, have them installed by an HVAC company such as Entek, just make sure to factor that cost into your energy budget.

While electric heat can be more expensive, you’ll save on installation costs since your home almost certainly already has access to electricity. You’ll still need to shell out for a heat pump, so there are upfront costs to consider, but if you don’t have gas already in place, electric may still be your most cost-effective option.

Energy Efficiency

A major factor when considering the overall cost of a heating method is energy efficiency. That is, how much energy is needed to effectively heat your home. The more efficient, the less of your energy source you’ll need, saving you money.

Electric heating is actually one of the least efficient methods of heating the home. That is to say, you’ll need a lot of electricity to get your home to a comfortable temperature, which is part of the reason for its relative costliness. Other methods can heat your home far more effectively, due to the nature of the fuel source. Propane, for example, burns extremely hot, so you need far less of it to bring your home to your desired temperature.

Environmental Factors

Electricity is considered one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly energy sources. This is certainly true in some sense. An electric heater won’t fill the air with the pollutants that other heating methods produce. However, how “green” your electric heater is also depends quite a bit on your power source.

You can save a good deal of money on your electricity bill by utilizing solar power, but you’ll also have to consider the trade-off as far as efficiency goes. If you purchase your electricity from a power company, it may not necessarily be produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Since you’ll be using a lot of electricity to heat your home, as opposed to a smaller amount of propane or natural gas, the combustible fuel source may actually be a more green way to heat your home.

Climate

Your energy bill cost is affected in no small part by the climate you live in. Since an electric heater will take a good deal of power to reach a high temperature, it may not be especially cost-effective if you live in a part of the country that regularly reaches below-freezing temperatures.

Your electric heater may seriously struggle to keep you and your family warm during an icy blizzard. However, if you live in a more temperate part of the country, where you normally only need to increase the temperature by a few degrees here and there, electric heat may actually be the cheapest way to heat your home. So, is electric heat expensive? It depends on where you live.


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