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Wood remains most economical heating option

Heating fuel prices vary widely from year to year, as supply and demand constantly fluctuates. Common heating options in Pocahontas County include wood, wood pellets, oil, kerosene, propane and electricity.

The following analysis calculates the cost of each fuel necessary to produce one million British Thermal Units (BTU) of heat in a typical heating appliance. Typical heating appliance efficiencies are assumed in the analysis, as follows: electricity, 100 percent; propane, oil and kerosene, 85 percent; wood pellets, 75 percent; and wood, 65 percent.

Hardwood stoves remain, by far, the most economical way to heat your home this winter. An average mix of hardwood produces 17 million BTU per cord. At a price of $150 per cord for wood, a typical hardwood stove will produce one million BTU for $13.57.

A wood pellet stove is the second-most economical heating method this winter. The current price of pellets in Marlinton is $232 per ton and wood pellets produce 7,750 BTU per pound. At that price, a pellet stove will produce one million BTU for $20.64.

The relatively low cost of propane makes it the most economical of the hydrocarbon heating options this season. The current cost of propane in Marlinton is $1.99 per gallon. At that price, a gallon of propane in a typical gas furnace will produce one million BTU for $27.55.

Number two heating oil is currently $3.70 per gallon and one gallon will produce 128,450 BTU. At that price, heating oil customers will pay $33.88 per one million BTU.

Kerosene is more expensive but produces more BTUs than heating oil. Many heating oil customers must switch to kerosene when the weather gets very cold, because heating oil gels at low temperatures. The current local price of kerosene is $4.10 per gallon and one gallon produces 135,000 BTU. At that price, it will cost $35.73 to produce one million BTU with kerosene.

Despite its high efficiency, electricity is easily the most expensive method to heat your Pocahontas County home this season. Including all taxes and charges, a kilowatt of electricity currently costs about 15 cents. At that price, it will cost $43.94 to produce one million BTU.

Heating appliance efficiency varies greatly. Older oil and propane furnaces can have efficiency as low as 65 percent. Newer models can meet and exceed 90 percent. Newer catalytic wood stoves have efficiencies exceeding 75 percent. If your furnace, boiler or stove is older than 20 years, chances are it’s a good investment to replace it with a high-efficiency model.

An upcoming edition of The Pocahontas Times will feature an examination of geothermal heat pumps, an efficient residential heating and cooling technology increasing in popularity in Pocahontas County.

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