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Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce Emissions

You could save anywhere from $300 to $1,262 per year on home heating costs and reduce your carbon footprint just by choosing a natural gas furnace, water heater or both.

These findings come with the release of AGA’s 2014 Representative Average Residential Space Heating and Water Heating Costs analysis which compares average annual costs for various types of space and water heating appliances. Based on estimated representative average fuel unit costs published by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, AGA analysts estimated the annual costs for natural gas furnaces and water heaters when compared to their propane, oil and electric counterparts.

A piece of equipment with a higher annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating provides greater savings for customers. For example, a 97 percent AFUE natural gas furnace provides the lowest cost space heating option for homeowners, followed by an 80 percent AFUE natural gas furnace. Both offer significant annual operating cost savings over comparable space heating options.

The charts below break down potential savings by each appliance option. For more detail, as well as information on how these numbers were compiled, view AGA’s recent press release. Heating Water Costs graph 1 Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce Emissions

Heating Water Costs graph 2 Natural Gas Appliances Can Cut Home Heating Bills in Half and Reduce EmissionsSavings can be attributed to the low price of natural gas driven by its domestic abundance, as well as the efficiency of natural gas delivery systems and appliances. Direct use of natural gas – when natural gas is consumed directly in appliances for heating and cooling, water heating, cooking and clothes drying – achieves 92 percent energy efficiency from the point of production to delivery to the consumer. In typical home appliances, the direct use of natural gas cuts energy consumption by 28 percent compared to a similar home with all-electric appliances and produces 37 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas water heaters, for example, are nearly twice as efficient as electric resistance water heaters on a full-fuel-cycle comparison.

You can work with your local natural gas utility to upgrade your appliances and get more tips to increase your energy savings. As part of their commitment to promoting cost-effective and practical approaches to increasing energy efficiency, natural gas utilities invested $1.1 billion in natural gas efficiency programs in 2012 and budgeted nearly $1.5 billion for the 2013 program year. Here are a few services offered by some utilities:

  • Offering low-interest financing, cash rebates and other financial subsidies for high-efficiency natural gas appliance purchases and whole home or building efficiency improvements
  • Providing home energy audits, weatherization kits and programmable thermostats
  • Supplying information on insulation and high-efficiency appliances
  • Connecting customers with experienced and reliable appliance and service providers
  • Making online information available such as energy usage calculators

Every day, America’s local natural gas utilities safely and reliably deliver savings and solutions like this to their more than 71 million residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout the United States. By providing access to our nation’s affordable, efficient and clean energy source, AGA’s member companies are helping to secure a sustainable energy future.

Christina Nyquist's picture

Thank Christina for the Post!

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 10, 2014 11:33 pm GMT

In typical home appliances, the direct use of natural gas cuts energy consumption by 28 percent compared to a similar home with all-electric appliances and produces 37 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Christina, what’s the assumption for the fuel mix used to generate electricity in your example?

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 11, 2014 3:31 am GMT

Fossil fuels will indeed be very difficult to trump when it comes to direct heating applications (both residential/commercial and industrial). Combustion of fossil fuels is very simple and involves minimal efficiency losses. As you show, even the highly efficient heat pump is still far from trumping natural gas heating. This becomes especially true in regions whee the temperature often goes below zero, dropping the heat pump COP. 

For water heating, I would like to also see the inclusion of solar thermal heating, especially in sunny regions of the US. Vacuum tube solar water heating is another elegantly simple application which can bring substantial reductions in heating costs and environmental impact.

 

Thomas Garven's picture
Thomas Garven on May 11, 2014 6:06 pm GMT

And Schalk said this:

“As you show, even the highly efficient heat pump is still far from trumping natural gas heating. This becomes especially true in regions where the temperature often goes below zero, dropping the heat pump COP”.

Well the real answer is it all depends doesn’t it? Natural Gas powered furnaces are not electricity free.  You have thermostats, electric motors to move the air, motors to exhaust the combusted fuel and to power the controls.  Just ask anyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy if their furnaces worked without electricity. And the same can be said for heat pumps – no electricity, no heat.

Also, it all depends on the type of heat pump and the source of the heat. While Air Source heat pumps lose efficiency as temperature drops, ground source units DO NOT. It is also true that ground source heat pumps are more expensive but in most cases can also include air conditioning as a side benefit which a natural gas furnace does not. Of course you can add air conditioning to a gas furnace for about another $3000-$6000.

What I find disingenuous about this posting is that no credit is given to either new high efficiency air source heat pumps or ground source heat pump technology. Its strikes me as nothing more than a hollow marketing campaign for the gas association. It is also disingenuous because it leaves the average reader thinking natural gas is the way to go which MAY or MAY NOT be true. It might be true when natural gas prices are low, installation costs are cheap and in a location that dictates the type of system that can be used.

However, we should agree to REVISIT this cost structure in 5 years from now. Natural gas could doubling in the next 5 years. Electricity rates could increase 50% in 5 years but I think a more realistic value might be around 15-20%. Of course the average homeowner doesn’t understand the relationships between the two do they?

I have had heat pumps on my personal residences for the last 30 years. Most of that time in California and Arizona where winter temperatures are mild with only a few days in the low 20’s F. Heating my 1700 ft. sq. home has NEVER required more than 1.0 hour of operation from my 42,000 BTU heat pump to make my home comfortable. That takes about 3 kWh of electricity at $.12/kW hour. On an average winter day it cost me $.36 to heat my home to a comfortable level or about $10.80 per month. A natural gas service to my location including local taxes, delivery charges, metering charges and minimum monthly service fees with zero cubic feet used would cost more than the cost of the electricity to run my heat pump. The moral of this story is DEPENDING on where and how heat pumps are used they can beat the pants off natural gas or any other fossil fueled device for that matter.

Have a great day.   

p.s. Almost forgot to add something about heat pump water heaters.  A whole home heat pump heating system can also heat your dometic hot water.  No need for a seperate system.   

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