Wood Gaining Popularity as a Lower Cost Heating Fuel in Maine

March 26, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, March 24, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.75 per gallon, down five cents from last week, and nine cents from two weeks ago. The average statewide price for kerosene also decreased nine cents in the last two weeks, to $4.21 per gallon. Propane prices are also lower; the average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) is now $3.42 per gallon, a drop of 5 cents per gallon. Last year at this time, heating oil averaged $3.66 per gallon; kerosene, $4.11, and propane, $2.75.

With heating fuel prices at record highs this winter, wood has remained a relatively economic alternative for many Mainers. Wood used as a main heating source in the residential sector has gained popularity in many areas of the country, but the increase is most notable in the Northeast.

As the table above illustrates, all nine states in the New England and the Middle Atlantic region saw at least a 50% jump (from 2005 to 2012) in the number of households that rely on wood as their main heating source; in Maine, that figure is over 100%. And, as the bar graph below illustrates, households with lower incomes use more wood (wood and wood pellets) in their homes than their more affluent neighbors.

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.75) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $27.04. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.50 (at $1.55/therm); propane, $37.45 (at $3.42/gallon); kerosene $31.19 (at $4.21/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. For example, the electricity cost is for traditional baseboard heat. Other electric heating technologies, such as heat pumps and electric thermal storage (ETS), may offer consumers energy savings. Cold climate heat pumps, a recent technological advancement, are much more efficient than baseboard electric heat, so total energy costs are lower than many other types of heating fuels. ETS offers savings by utilizing off-peak electric rates, available in many areas of the state.

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 24, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.75

3.72

3.79

3.75

3.70

3.84

High

4.10

4.10

3.90

3.90

3.90

3.80

Low

3.40

3.40

3.65

3.40

3.40

3.85

Kerosene

4.21

4.22

4.25

4.20

4.17

4.24

Propane

3.42

3.41

3.52

3.33

3.31

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 ($4.10) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.40) 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