The cost of heating your home can be complex. There are so many factors that go into your monthly bill that it can often seem like a mystery. In this article, we’ll break down the factors that determine the cost of heating your home with gas or electric heat and see which one is a better option for you. We will focus on the Northeast region of the United States since heating needs vary greatly across the country.
Cost of Gas vs. Electricity
Energy costs are constantly fluctuating, but it generally costs less to heat your home with gas than electricity. This is due to several reasons. First, although electric heat pumps have a higher efficiency rating than gas furnaces, the reality is that gas furnaces heat up faster than electric heat pumps and produce more BTUs per dollar. This makes gas furnaces a better choice for cold Northeast climates, including Pennsylvania.
Natural gas prices are also usually lower than electricity rates. If you don’t have access to natural gas, you can alternatively use propane. Propane prices vary, but it is possible to store propane and only buy at lower price points, whereas you don’t have this option with electricity.
However, there are several other cost factors to consider beyond just fuel costs.
Amount of Heat Generated
While the cost of the fuel itself matters, you must also consider the amount of heat you receive from the fuel source. Heat is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Individual heating systems will each have a BTU rating, which indicates how many BTUs/hour the furnace produces.
Another factor to be aware of is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This tells you how much heat is actually utilized out of that total BTU rating. For example, a system with an 80 AFUE rating will only use 80% of the BTUs generated. This means a system with a 120,000 BTU rating and an 80 AFUE rating will actually use 96,000 BTUs while 24,000 BTUs are wasted.
In summary, BTU rating and AFUE rating work together to help you calculate the amount of heat that is actually being generated by a system.
Measuring Heat Pump Efficiency
Two other ratings to be aware of are Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) and Coefficient of Performance (COP), which are specifically associated with heat pumps. HSPF essentially measures how efficient a heat pump is as a measurement of BTUs generated by a watt of electricity, and it’s directly related to COP. A heat pump’s COP is a ratio measurement of heat output over energy input of the amount of heat distributed into your home. The higher the HSPF and COP ratings, the more efficient the system.
Is SEER Rating Important?
One last rating that needs to be addressed is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). A SEER rating is typically associated with cooling a home rather than heating it. It makes more sense to evaluate a heating system based on its BTU and AFUE or HSPF and COP (for heat pumps).
SEER is important for evaluating air conditioning costs. However, in Pennsylvania and the rest of the Northeast, you will probably spend more on heating than cooling in any given season. This is because the difference between the temperature outside and the desired temperature of your home will almost always be greater in the winter than in the summer.
Size of the Heating System
It’s also important to make sure you select the right size heating system for your home. If your system is too large, it will have to constantly turn on and off to keep the temperature at the desired level, which will wear out the system more quickly. On the other hand, if it is too small, it won’t be able to keep up with your heating needs. You may resort to turning the thermostat up too high, wasting energy and money.
Distribution of Heat Throughout Your Home
Lastly, consider distribution. Oftentimes, when heating systems aren’t keeping up, it is a distribution problem. A major challenge in heating an entire home is making sure heat is circulated to every room. In some cases, you may have to change the way heat is distributed with the help of an HVAC technician. This could help you save on heating costs in the long run.
Overall, gas heat is typically cheaper than electric heat. That doesn’t mean you should replace your electric heat pump immediately. There are other solutions to explore, like modifying the distribution of your heating system. However, if your current system is more than 10 years old, it may be time to invest in a newer, more efficient model.
If you would like to replace your current heating system, reach out to RSC Heating & Air Conditioning. We are located in Lancaster, PA and are familiar with the Pennsylvania climate. Our expert technicians can help you find the best heating solution for your home.