Thursday, October 25, 2007

Most Expensive Places to Heat Your Home

Pretty interesting little article in Forbes today on the most expensive places to heat your home. Portland was #12. At first I thought that was pretty high, but then I realized that there aren't really that many cities in the North. NYC, Philly, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Umm....I'm running out. Well, about 11 others is right. Of course they're not including Sheboygan or other smaller towns...

It's interesting to think about the different factors- climate, length of season, heating fuels used, regional fuel costs, etc. One thing I really talk to clients about a lot is the difference between energy efficiency and energy cost- they're two different things. For instance, many folks perceive that electrical heating is "inefficient". In fact all electrical heating systems (generally) are 100% energy efficient- they convert 100% of the electrical energy into heat energy. By comparison the average gas furnace is 80% efficient. The big difference is energy cost- electricity costs 2x what natural gas does for the same unit of energy. This leads electrical heating (except heat pumps) to cost more to operate than gas systems. Many people assumed that electrical systems were just inefficient. As energy sources becomes more volatile, it will be more and more important to understand these differences.

I was also surprised to see in the article that there wasn't a huge variation in costs between most of the top cities- I would think that Portland would be much lower because of our "benign" climate. Once again, just like with solar energy, we're not so far from the average.

It's also a great sign to see a national magazine getting us thinking about our energy costs, what affects it, and what we're spending it on. This article would not have been written 4 years ago. 30 years ago, yes, but 4 years ago, no. A sign of the times....

1 comment:

Mark Fitz said...

My thoughts about our cost to heat is the reliance on cheap hydro power which pushed electric baseboard systems throughout the state in most construction throughout the 70's and 80's. Though efficient in a lab they don't do a great job of distributing heat through a home.

Electricity is by far the most expensive (most electricity users are in apartments or supllement with wood/pellet stoves).

Also, when you calculate the efficiency of the electricity generation with the loss during transmission of the power Electricity drops off pretty substantially. So unless your producing your own electricity from the life cycle view elelctric heat (especially a base board application) is a function of a power plant being tied to your home.

I am a pretty big advocate for heat pumps though. They take 8 months of the year's heat/cooling cost and reduces it substantially. Also, oil and natural gas blow electricity away on efficiency with water heat with many of the newer appliances.