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  • Get familiar with heat source types found in WNC homes

    Tuesday, January 10, 2023   /   by Amy Brown

    Get familiar with heat source types found in WNC homes

    January and February are our coldest months here in WNC and methods of heating a home tend to be specific to that region. So let's go over the types of heating sources in order of prevalence that you can expect to find here and their approximate cost.

    Heat pump - The energy source for heat pumps is electricity. For the modern home with tight construction, this is a very efficient heat source. Your heating cost per hour runs approximately $0.41 placing your average monthly heating bill at $135/month for six months out of the year or a total annual cost of $806.40.

    This site provides a generalized heating calculator that you can use to get an approximation.


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    Gas Hot Air Furnace - These run on either natural gas or propane. This used to be a less expensive heating source but in recent years the cost of natural gas has risen. It is still a very efficient and clean way to heat a home but your bill will vary with the size and efficiency of the unit installed. Sizes range from 40,000 to 140,000 BTUs with efficiency ratings from 80-99%. Most homeowners will pay $5.50-8.00 per day. My average natural gas cost for my home in December was $6.72/day with my monthly heating bill being $201.70. Keep in mind that this cost will fluctuate if you also use natural gas for your water heater and cooking appliances.

    Oil Hot Air Furnace - These furnaces are fueled by heating oil placed into an external tank that is either above or below ground. Heating oil, being a fossil fuel commodity, fluctuates in price per gallon just like gasoline. Currently heating oil costs in NC are $4.40 per gallon. The average oil burning furnace uses .8-1.7 gallons per hour while operating. Monthly usage averages 120 gallons per month during the coldest months for a 2000 sf home with temperatures slightly above freezing which will only be for 2-2.5 months. Most tanks will hold 300 gallons so you should need 1 fill per year at a cost of $1,320.00.

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    Monitor oil heater - this is a type of space heater attached through a fuel line that goes to the outside also fueled by oil with an external tank. Even though it is a space heater, the heat travels and is very efficient. Most people place these in the lower level of their home that has an open access to the upper level such as a staircase. While not recommended as your sole source of heat, it can be a great way to heat your home, especially during extreme cold. The downside to these is that the room that they are in usually gets too warm to sit in comfortably if you have them running long enough to heat the majority of the house. Costs are the same as for fuel oil above.

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    Electric baseboards - This is a more inefficient heat source found in homes built around mid century. They are metal heat registers that run along the floor usually on the exterior walls of the rooms. The metal elements inside heat up and radiate heat throughout the room. Heat is fairly localized to the room that the register is in and are usually operated by a single control per room enabling you turn off heat to some rooms and leave it on in others. You also will need to be careful as to how close you place furniture in front of baseboard heaters as they can be a fire hazard and it inhibits heat flow. Due to their inefficiency, if this is your sole source of heat, it can make up about 44% of your electricity bill. For a 2,000 sf home that uses 10,000 kWh per year at $0.13/kWh for heat, your heating costs should be about $1,300/year with bills during the coldest months being around $430. 

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    Radiant heat - This is one of the most eco-friendly ways to heat a home and is found mostly in green built specialty homes. There are two methods; hydronic (water-based) or electric. Each cost about $1-5 per day to run making this the most energy efficient and cheapest way to heat a home. The major investment for these systems is in installation and is best done when the home is designed, prior to construction, as it requires some planning. You can count on $6-20 per square foot for materials and installation depending upon the brand. For use as a whole home heating system you can install the panels in the walls as well as the floor yet due to installation costs most homeowners use these systems in specific rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens and in the floor only. Since water holds heat for longer, a hydronic system will be more efficient. You should expect your energy savings to be about 15% with the average monthly cost being $90.

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    Mini-split - A mini-split is an electric unit hung near the ceiling and can be used for heat, A/C, or both. Mini-splits do not have ducts making them a zone specific heat source. They work by utilizing an exterior condenser and are highly efficient since no hot or cold air is lost through ductwork which can attribute to up to 20% heat loss. They are especially easy to install and are useful in small spaces, attics, mother-in-law suites, and garage apartments. Homeowners have seen their energy bills reduced by up to 50% from using a mini-split. Most energy bills are less than $100/month. 

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    Stay warm!