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When to Use Electric Heat

Is electric heat the wise choice for your home and climate?

There is an understandable interest in finding an alternative among the millions of homeowners who presently use gas to heat their home. CNN recently reported that the price of heating a home with gas recently rose 58%. This is on top of large increases over the previous winters as well. This increase means that the average winter fuel bill has risen by over $500.00 and most people simply cannot afford or don't wish to pay these huge increases.

What's the solution? Many people are turning to electric heat or heat pumps for relief. But is this always the right solution? The answer is yes and no. Heat pumps are much more efficient than straight electric heat and will cost less to operate. A heat pump is also an air conditioner so your winter energy costs will be lower compared to straight electric heat.

Electric heat is used in the extreme southern part of the country where the low temperature rarely drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In these cases, it is the logical choice for heating. If you would like to switch from propane or natural gas and your climate is colder than this, we suggest you consider a heat pump as an all electric heating alternative .

If you live in a very cold winter climate we suggest natural gas as your best heating option.

Straight electric heat is the least efficient way to heat your home if your local utility rates are about average for the country. Most homeowners are paying between .09 and .12 cents per kilowatt-hour of electric consumption. The formula for determining the cost of operation per hour for an example 10Kw electric heating element is as follows:

Determine the cost per kilowatt hour from your utility. We'll assume you pay .10 cents per kilowatt hour of electric consumption.(The actual kilowatt hour rate is posted on your utility bill)

Determine the kilowatts per hour of consumption of the heating element. In this case a 10Kw heating element consumes 10 kilowatts per hour. We know that each kilowatt hour of consumption costs .10 cents and we are using 10 units per hour so it follows that:

10 units of power consumed at .10 cents per unit = $1.00 per hour.

If you are considering or have a 15 kw heating element the formula is:

15 units of power consumed at .10 cents per unit = $1.50 per hour.

As you can see, electric heat is not exactly inexpensive to operate. However, in some areas of the country rates as low as .035 cents per kilowatt hour (3 and one half cents) are not uncommon. Let review our operating costs using this considerably lower utility rate for the two heating elements above.

10Kw heating element

10 units of power consumed at .035 cents per unit = 0.35 cents per hour

15Kw heating element

15 units of power consumed at .035 cents per unit = 0.52 cents per hour

As you can see, the total cost to operate these heating elements has been reduced from $1.00 per hour and $1.50 per hour, to .35 cents per hour and .52 cents per hour, respectively. The lower rate represents a 2/3 reduction in operating costs compared to the higher and more common rate of .10 cents per kilowatt hour.

In conclusion, before changing from gas heat to straight electric heat, do the math. Call your local utility or consult your power bill to determine your actual cost per kilowatt hour. Use the formula above to calculate your cost per hour of operation. This will help you make an informed decision and may prevent even higher heating costs from striking your home.

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