The High Cost of Electric Heat
Can you lower fuel bills without making a huge initial investment?
I currently have electric heating in my raised ranch. Switching over to oil heat would cost about $9,000. As an alternative, I was considering purchasing a pellet or propane stove, which would cost about $3,500 installed. I'm currently paying about $3,500 a year for electric heat. What would you do?
— Michael, New York, NY
Richard Trethewey replies: I lived through the fuel crunch of the mid-1970s and, at that time, the same questions were raised. The answer is simple: how willing are you to work for your energy source? Many homeowners installed wood stoves, pellet stoves, or kerosene heater, but they got tired of removing ashes, lugging wood or pellets, and tending the fire during cold weather; they later added propane, oil, or natural gas heating units with the biggest miracle of all —a thermostat. They wanted to be able to take a winter vacation! The right answer is a cost-benefit analysis of the convenience, cleanliness, fuel cost, size of house, and how long you will live there. There are automatic fireplaces and room heaters that could eliminate the need for a central heating system in smaller houses. I showed a gas fireplace/room heater in our Santa Barbara project that looked great with a visible flame, could more than heat a room or two, and had its own wireless thermostat. A pretty interesting option.