Q: I’m building a new home and trying to decide on a heating system. How do I compare heating fuel costs?
A: Heating system fuels are measured and sold in different units such as gallons of oil, therms of natural gas, or kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, so comparing the price of dissimilar units is not useful. A better approach is to compare the fuel cost per amount of heat produced. You can find a free Heating Fuel Comparison Calculator (in Excel) at the U.S. Energy Information Administration website, www. Eia.gov. However, don’t rely solely on fuel cost when choosing a system. Numerous factors will determine the heating system that best meets your needs, ranging from cost of the installation, maintenance and operational requirements, system efficiency, building codes and more. For example, one kWh of electricity can cost between $35 and $10.40 to generate a million Btu’s, depending on whether the appliance in question is a furnace or a geothermal heat pump.