As winter approaches home owners naturally think about what the costs will be to heat their homes. This is also on buyers minds as they look at prospective homes - the number one question realtors get asked when a home is heated with fuel oil is "is there gas on the street?" Hard numbers on heating fuel prices are readily available but a detailed comparison is harder to come by. As the MA Properties Online team takes a 'data driven approach' to real estate this newsletter will do the comparison for you.

Heating Fuels

Homes in Massachusetts are heated with a number of fuels so we'll focus on the main ones: natural gas, fuel oil, electricity, propane and wood pellets. The latest pricing data is available on the Energy and Environmental Affairs section of the mass.gov website. For electricity and natural gas costs we used the latest prices for NSTAR (electricity) and National Grid (natural gas).

Here are the average prices from 2011 to 2016:

Fuel Type
Fuel Price
Fuel Unit
Notes
Natural Gas
$1.23
Therm
Supply + delivery charges
Wood Pellets
$369
Ton
Average for premium and super premium pellets
Fuel Oil
$3.49
Gallon
 
Propane
$3.21
Gallon

Electricity
17.21 cents
KWh
Generation + delivery charges


Heating Oil Table


Cost Comparison

The costs comparison converts all costs to $/BTU and factors in an efficiency rating for various heating appliances. The calculations to do this came from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). As you look at this data remember that your fuel prices may differ from the prices listed above (perhaps because you pre-ordered fuel oil) and the efficiency of your heat appliance may be different (in general, more modern appliances will have a higher efficiency). The EIA estimates that the average usage in MA is 109 million BTU (this is for a 2,076 sqft single family home - so your usage may differ if your home is significantly larger or smaller than this).

Fuel Type
Fuel Price
Fuel Unit
Heating Appliance Type
Approx. Efficiency
Fuel Cost / Million BTU
Average Fuel Costs MA
Natural Gas
$1.03
Therm
Furnace or Boiler
82%
$12.54
$1,366.59
 
 
 
Room Heater (Vented)
65%
$15.82
$1,724.01
 
 
 
Room Heater (Unvented)
100%
$10.28
$1,120.60
Wood Pellets
$318.5
Ton
Room Heater
78%
$24.75
$2,697.47
Fuel Oil
$3.33
Gallon
Furnace or Boiler
78%
$30.78
$3,355.29
Propane
$3.13
Gallon
Furnace or Boiler
78%
$43.94
$4,789.02
Electricity
$17.8 cents
KWh
Furnace or Boiler
98%
$53.23
$5,802.45
 
 
 
Baseboard/Room Heater
100%
$52.17
$5,686.40

If we show this graphically (using the furnace/boiler data) we see the clear advantage of natural gas over all the other fuel types.



Reduce Heating Costs?

Given this data what can current or prospective home owners do to reduce their heating costs?

A good place to start is to get a Home Energy Assessment. This assessment looks at all aspects of your home's energy usage and (just as important) wastage. It will look at major mechanical systems (heating and cooling); insulation and air leakage; lighting and appliances. Look at the Online Home Energy Assessment section on the Mass Save website for details. Many utility companies also send a usage comparison report to all households and this gives a useful comparison tool when compared to similar homes in yur neighborhood.


Assuming there is "gas on the street", what is the approximate cost of converting from fuel oil or propane to natural gas? Part of this is easy to answer - if you are served by National Grid there is a fixed cost to bring the gas line into the house from the street (although there is a caveat if the distance is too large). The other things to consider are the costs of converting/replacing the furnace and converting/replacing the range. We recently helped a client looking to convert a home heated by propane to natural gas and the approximate costs were:

Bring natural gas line into the house from the street (National Grid)
$1,300
Convert propane furnace and gas fireplace to natural gas
$2,000
New range (existing range was electric)
$500

Your situations may be different and so there will be more things to consider and therefore additional potential costs - but this will give you an "order of magnitude" cost for a propane conversion.

There are also a number of rebates that you may be eligible for (the NSTAR website lists a few of these):

  • Free gas service line installation (if needed) if there is an existing gas main in the street in front of your home. The new service line can be up to 100 feet in length.
  • $300 to $1,500 in rebates toward new energy efficient gas heating equipment. Visit www.gasnetworks.comfor a rebate application.
  • Zero percent interest, 7-year loans for new high-efficiency heating systems. Visit www.masssave.com for more information.

It's more complex if you have a fuel oil furnace - at a minimum you will need to replace the burner, and many older models simply can't be upgraded. So, you'll need to talk to a specialist to see if your existing furnace can be converted. One other thing to consider if you have to replace your furnace - should you move to an on-demand hot-water system? So, lots to consider when you look into conversion and naturally the costs for converting your home will differ from the numbers I provided above.

The last comment on this - have you looked into Solar Heating (there are over 100 installations in Lexington)? It's too much to cover here and so we will devote a complete newsletter to this topic in the coming months.

References

Energy and Environmental Affairs section of the Mass.Gov website
www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/home-auto-fuel-price-info/

Home Energy Assessment section of the Mass Save website
www.masssave.com/residential/home-energy-assessments/about-home-energy-assessments/what-is-a-home-energy-assessment/

NSTAR conversion information website
www.nstar.com/residential/account_services/gas_heating/heating_equip/convert.asp

US Energy Information Administration (EIA)
www.eia.gov/

Wood Pellet prices
www.woodpelletprice.com/

If you would like an estimate of what your home would sell for in today's market I would be more than happy to come by, have a look at your home, and then provide a CMA (comparative market analysis) which will provide you with an estimate of what your home should sell for, along with a marketing plan to get maximum exposure for your home.

If you have any questions about any of this then please don't hesitate to reach out to one of us. We would be more than happy to help.