# How to compare electric vs natural gas heating costs

Recently bought a house in the Seattle area, built about 1980. At the time the house was built, there was no gas in the area. The house has a heat pump, which is nearing the end of its life. Natural gas is now available in the area. I'm wondering if I should go with another heat pump, or natural gas. Since about 80% of the electricity here is hydro, it's relatively cheap, about \$.08/KWH. I don't know what the price of the gas is per cu', but I could find out. Is there a way I could get a rough estimate of how much natural gas I would consume to heat the house, based on the electricity used for this purpose? There are a lot of confounding factors, the relative efficiency of the 2 units (old heat pump vs new nat'l gas furnace), the fact that I also use electric to heat water, etc. (can probably find some rough figure for factoring this out) the relative costs of each type of replacement (I would add AC to the gas furnace, so I'm guessing the gas/AC unit would cost more to buy initially than the heat pump, especially if I have to shell out for the gas line to be run). Coming from the midwest, electric heat was always seen as significatly more costly than natural gas, but I don't know if this is still the case just in general, and particularly if it would be true given this region's relatively low electric rates. Any helpful comments appreciated.
TIA,
Dan
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Here. Lets confuse you just a bit more. Whats wrong with a 95% gas furnace with a heat pump instead of the usual straight cooling only? Ive got it and love it. Gives you a bit more ability to play with the fuel prices. Takes only a Honeywell Vision Pro stat (and outddor temp sensor) to control it all. Bubba
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Sounds interesting, I'll check it out.
Thanks
Dan
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Your electric is about half what I pay. You can plug in numbers here to get a pretty good comparison based on using the same Btu for your house. You need to know the cost of gas, of course. http://hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/fuel_cost_comparison_calculator/
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Thanks Ed, that looks ideal!
Dan
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Dan, I live in "The Energy City" where they have cheap hydro-power and a nearby nuclear power plant. We can generate more electricity to supply all of New York City in one of out buildings, yet heating the house with natural gas is less expensive than electrically heated. I have all gas appliances, except for A/C. You might get a better clue by talking with your neighbors.
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Phisherman wrote:

Are you comparing electric-resistive heating, or the current generation of electric powered ground source (geothermal) heat pumps? There is a very large efficiency difference between them.
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Agree. There is confusion of terms from the beginning of this thread. The term "electric heat" is usually used to refer to systems using resistance heating elements. Heat pump is a system that uses a compressor powered by electricity. And another factor is heat pumps can then use either air or geothermal to exchange the heat. Heat pumps systems usually have a backup heat source, usually electric to be used at lower temps. There is a world of difference in terms of operating costs between resistance heat and a heat pump. Just about everywhere, nat gas is going to be cheaper than electric resistance heating to operate. But a heat pump system could be a good alternative, depending on the climate and fuel costs.
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I don't know what confusion you're referring to, when I started this thread I clearly stated I now have & am considering a heat pump for replacement. Like most heat pumps, my current system has resistive backup heat for when it's really cold, but such low temps are pretty rare around here. I'm aware of geothermal heat pumps, though I have not researched them in depth. Our lot is a little over 1 acre, but about 80% of that is heavily forested and on fairly rough terrain. Obviously, the installation costs of such a system, whether the horizontal or vertical variety, would be significantly higher than simply plopping another box on the ground. Either way, I may not be living here more than about 5 years, so recouping higher installation costs over time, even for just a top of the line "high efficiency" gas or air-source heat pump, let alone a geo, is probably not going to happen.
Another factor is the potential price stability of the 2 energy sources. No one has a crystal ball, but it seems logical to expect the price of hydro-sourced electricity to be more stable over time than natural gas.
Thanks all for the replies.
Dan
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The title of you post was "How to compare electric heat vs natural gas heat". That's confusing, because what you're talking about is a heat pump, not resistance electric heat. Phisherman responded with a post saying where he lives, even with low electricity costs, electric heat is more expensive. I think what he means is electric resistance heat, not an electrically drive heap pump, is more expensive. But there is no way of knowing when you misuse the commonly acceptedus terms.

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You've got to be kidding me...
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Dan, Nope! He aint kiddin. Trader4 is an EE. That classifies him as a grade A #1 pencil pushing geek pain in the ass. Self proclaimed know-it-all on everything. In reality, he's pretty clueless about most everything. Just let him live in his "own little world", ignore him and everything will be all right. :-) Bubba
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Thanks Bubba, I'll keep that in mind ;-) Dan
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No, I'm not kidding you, only trying to point out that the answers you're getting may in some cases be wrong because people may have been mislead by the title of your post. If you want to get responses that are answering a question that was different than what you intended, that's up to you. For example, are you sure Phisherman understood you meant a heat pump when you titled your post "How to compare electric heat vs nautral gas heat?" I'd put odds on that he was thinking electric resistance heating because that's what the term "electric heat" usually means and I think that's what his answer was based on. Pete C picked up on that too, when he questioned whether Phisherman really meant electric resistance heat or a heat pump system. I was only trying to point out that the thread may have gone a bit astray because of confusion and that maybe his response was not what he really meant.
Here for reference is the definition of an electric heater:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_heater
An electric heater is an electrical appliance that converts electrical energy into heat. The heating element inside every electric heater is simply an electrical resistor, and works on the principle of Joule heating: an electric current flowing through a resistor converts electrical energy into heat energy.
Sorry that my attempt to straighten out some possible confusion, which is pretty much what Pete C did too, got you so bothered that you've followed Bubba, the village idiot, and turned it into a personal attack.
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That I was referring to an existing and possible replacement HEAT PUMP was made abundantly clear in the beginning of the post. I'm afraid your exacting editorial standards exceed the rigors of the medium. It's a newsgroup, not a journal article.
Lighten up, you'll live longer.
In any case, I'm not going to go back and forth about this all weekend, so go ahead and have the last word.
Dan
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If you want more answers regarding heat pumps vs natural gas, try googling for it in this newsgroup. There have been many discussion threads which you will find.

.
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On Sun, 9 Dec 2007 05:09:57 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I told you Dan, the guy (trader4.....) is a freaking idiot. Make sure you dot your I's and puncuate correctly. Otherwise he will find something else to nitpick. An EE with an adgenda. What a miserable life he must lead. Bubba
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I didn't read his last post. Why bother. Been doing NG's a long time. You can always tell the ones who'd rather argue than discuss, and who live for the "last word". Sad, really.
Dan
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I noticed you yourself still feel compelled to have the last word though. And that's after saying you were done with this a couple posts ago.
As for arguing vs discussing, again, all I did was point out that some of the responses may be from folks who were confused by your choice of terminology in the post title. It seems Pete C also thought Phisherman may have been talking about resistance electric heat when he gave his reply Hmmm, could it be because he came in on the middle of the thread, saw your post titled "How to compare electric vs natural gas heating cost" read some replies and perhaps never read the body of your post? I was polite and only tried to maybe get the track back on thread. You, in turn attacked me, personally.
So, here's a thought. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the advantages of a heat pump vs natural gas. You could just search this group. It's been asked, discussed and answered dozens of time. A simple google search will also uncover plenty of websites where it's discussed. And while you're there, sensitive genius that you are, maybe you'll learn that people don't refer to heat pumps as electric heating.
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On Sun, 9 Dec 2007 15:46:18 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

But you trader4 will NEVER figure out that no one really gives a rats ass what you say. I will admit though, you can be quite annoying and quite a boring little drip. Kind of like a pimple on my ass. "Pop". Oh, there you go. All gone. Bubba
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