Comparing Heating Costs With Various Fuels

The chart below shows how much it costs to get one million British Thermal Units (MBTU) of heat value from new appliances using the types of fuels listed. Fuel prices shown are current as of April 1998.

The EFFICIENCY column shows the listed overall heat extraction efficiency of the appliance used. For this chart, we used the manufacturer’s listed efficiency ratings for the Avalon 945/990 woodstove, the Waterford Erin pellet stove, the Hearthstone Sterling natural gas and LP stoves, and the Efel Harmony II oil stove.

The ANNUAL COST column shows the average fuel expense required to heat a typical 1500 sq. ft. house for one year (64.5 MBTU).

Because BTU content varies among species of fuel wood, the chart lists separate figures for the four most commonly available local fuel woods.

(Washington U.S.A.)

Type of Fuel Price Efficiency $/MBTU Annual Cost
Electricity 6.2¢/KWH 95% $19.12 $1,233.38
LP Gas 86¢/GAL 75% $12.33 $ 795.07
Wood Pellets $150.00/TON 79% $11.58 $746.76
Fuel Oil $1.01/GAL 70% $10.39 $670.06
Natural Gas 57¢/THERM 80% $7.60 $459.56
Alder $90.00/CORD 72% $7.02 $452.95
Douglas Fir $90.00/CORD 72% $6.15 $396.87
Maple $90.00/CORD 72% $4.88 $315.03
Birch $90.00/CORD 72% $4.70 $303.23

Note that the above chart compares NEW appliances. Efficiency ratings have improved dramatically in almost all appliance catagories in recent years: for example, if you’re currently heating with a typical 10-year-old woodstove, you could save up to 30% on your fuel bill by replacing it with a new, high efficiency model.