Mainers Can Look to Appliance Efficiency to Save on Heating Costs

March 11, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, March 10, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.84 per gallon, down two cents from last week. The average statewide price for kerosene decreased two cents to $4.30 per gallon. The average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) dropped by three cents, to $3.49 per gallon. This is the largest drop in propane prices since the heating season began in October.

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.84) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $27.69. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.50 (at $1.55/therm); propane, $38.21 (at $3.49/gallon); kerosene $31.85 (at $4.30/gallon); wood pellets, $14.67 (at $242/ton); cord wood, $11.36 (at $250/cord) and electricity, $43.96 (at 15 cents per kwh). These fuel-only prices do not take into account the type of heating system, nor its efficiency.

As one of the most expensive heating seasons on record begins winding down, Maine families can look to increasing the efficiency of their heating system as another way to cut heating costs. Heating appliance efficiency is how well a heating appliance converts fuel into heat, measured in British thermal units (Btus). This is especially important with fuel prices being as high as they were this heating season. An inefficient heating system can cost the consumer approximately 65 cents more per gallon for heating oil or kerosene.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the typical heating oil furnace or boiler has an efficiency rating of 78%. This means that 22% of the potential energy in the heating oil is lost through the inefficiency of the furnace or boiler, causing consumers with heating oil furnaces or boilers to lose money as a result. At this week’s statewide average of $3.84 per gallon, the heating oil price per million Btu is $27.69, however with a furnace or boiler of only 78% efficiency, the price per million Btu increases to $35.50. If a homeowner installed a 90% efficient furnace, the price per million Btu is $30.76, a savings of $4.74.The chart below lists the efficiency ratings of different heating appliances and includes their cost per million Btu before and after efficiency is considered.

Heating Appliance Estimated Efficiency Fuel Type Fuel Price per Million Btu
(without efficiency)
Fuel Price per Million Btu
(with efficiency)*
Furnace or Boiler 78% Heating Oil $27.69 $35.50
Furnace or Boiler 82% Natural Gas $15.50 $18.90
Furnace or Boiler 78% Propane $38.21 $48.99
Air-Source Heat Pump 240% Electricity $43.96 $18.29
Room Heater 80% Kerosene $31.85 $39.81
Pellet Stove 78% Pellets $14.67 $18.80
Wood Stove 63% Wood $11.36 $18.04
Pellet Boiler 85% Pellets $14.67 $17.25

Source: EIA *note fuel prices used were statewide averages

Some efficient heating appliances, such as heat pumps and pellets stoves, may not be suitable as the sole heating source for the duration of a bitterly cold Maine winter, but they can work as great supplemental sources of heat. Their fuel units’ low costs can offset the higher costs of heating with propane or heating oil. Another option is to upgrade a furnace or boiler to a more efficient model. For more information on how the efficiency of a heating appliance affects a heating bill, download the EIA’s Heating Fuel Comparison Calculator at: http://www.eia.gov/

The Energy Office has a calculator on its web site that allows consumers to obtain more detailed estimates of home heating costs, and the price impacts of various types of fuel, heating systems and heating appliances. Heating costs vary considerably from home to home. The home heating calculator can assist homeowners in finding the best heating option for their home, location, lifestyle, and budget http://www.maine.gov/energy/index.html

As of March 10, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.84

3.84

3.85

3.84

3.80

3.91

High

4.20

4.20

3.95

4.00

4.00

3.97

Low

3.55

3.55

3.70

3.55

3.55

3.90

Kerosene

4.30

4.33

4.31

4.32

4.24

4.30

Propane

3.49

3.51

3.56

3.40

3.41

3.63

It is important to note that the price for heating oil is a statewide average, and that prices in a given geographic region of the state may be considerably higher or lower than this average. This week, within the Energy Office sample, the highest heating oil price ($4.20) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.55) was recorded in three regions. Also, the statewide average price for propane is based on a use of at least 900 gallons a year. Households using propane just for cooking or hot water generally pay a higher per gallon price. The table above provides current Maine cash prices in dollars rounded to the nearest penny.

Efficiency Maine Trust links Maine homeowners and businesses with qualified, certified contractors who provide access to energy improvement options. For program details call 866-376-2463 or visit www.efficiencymaine.com.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:
Lisa Smith
(207) 624-7445
lisa.j.smith@maine.gov