Gas Cost Compared With Other Fuels

Since 2001, energy prices rose to the highest level in history, then fell back sharply. Although Natural Gas prices often fluctuate, gas costs are still far less than other common energy sources. These are typical economics for most homes in Pinedale, over the past 10 years:

A mid-size home uses 90 million BTU's (or 900 Therms), or 25,000 kWhr (heat & hot water only) per year.

 

Natural Gas 900 Therms
$1.00 /Th plus monthly $15 charge
Annual Cost
$ 1,080

Propane

990 Gallons
$2.00 /Gal plus monthly $5 tank charge
Annual Cost

$ 2,040 (+89%)

Electricity


25,000 kWhr (for heat & hot water, adjusted for efficiency)
$.08 per kWhr
Annual Cost

$ 2,000 (+85%)


Over the past 5 years in Pinedale, natural gas has remained about 1/2 the cost of propane and 1/3 of electric heat. Why?

Propane is extracted from natural gas, so the cost per BTU must stay higher or no propane is made. The cost of truck delivery is also higher than by gas pipeline.

The all-electric house has been marketed for decades, even though the fuel cost has always been much higher than natural gas because most electricity is generated by coal-fired plants, where conversion is only 30% efficient.

If all-electric homes were widely sold, the US would need to burn 3x more coal BTU's (or oil or gas) in generators for home heating, compared with natural gas used directly in the home.

Electric heat pumps are more efficient than electric resistance heat*. But the heat pump needs a water well to exchange enough heat for Wyoming winters. The air output at 90°F doesn't feel "warm" like a gas furnace, and the heat pump lasts about 1/2 as long.

Over the entire life cycle, electric heat costs more. For these reasons, all-electric homes sometimes suffer on resale value because of the heating choice.

Renewable energies like hydro, biomass, wind and solar are good, but are still less than 6% of our total energy use. Nuclear energy produces about 8% of US energy needs, but the waste products are some of the most hazardous materials on earth. Electric heat still mostly comes from the inefficient use of fossil fuels, which isn't good energy policy, nor good ecology.

A few Pinedale homes are heated with fuel oil and wood or wood pellets*. Fuel prices and appliance efficiency vary widely. For a typical furnace or stove, the price relationship to natural gas is approximately

Fuel oil 1 therm per Gallon (adjusted for 65% furnace efficiency)
$2.50 /Gal = $2.50 per therm (vs $1.00 gas)
Firewood 22 pounds per therm (60% stove efficiency)
$120 /cord (2200 lbs) = $1.20 per therm (vs $1.00 gas)
Wood pellets 20 pounds per therm (75% stove efficiency)
$250 per ton = $2.50 per therm (vs $1.00 gas)


*Heat pumps, fuel oil furnaces and woodburners don't provide hot water, which requires about 250 therms per year. Electric water heaters cost about $20 per month more than gas, year after year.

Current rates for all Wyoming utilities are available from the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

Handy fuel cost comparison calculators are available at many websites:
http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/techline/fuel_value_calculator.pdf