From furnaces to heat pumps, there is a world of heating system types. As if this isn’t complicated enough, different heating and cooling methods may require different energy sources — and it can get even more challenging to make a decision. For example, is it more expensive to heat with gas or electricity? What is the average cost to heat a home with natural gas? What is the most efficient way to heat a house?
Well, none of these questions have clear-cut answers. Whether HVAC systems or simple portable heaters, there are many factors to be considered before you choose between heating with natural gas or electricity. Some of these things include the cost of energy where you live, your long-term plans and your monthly energy usage.
If you don’t know what to think about the whole gas-versus-electricity discussion, find out what to consider before choosing the most cost-effective heating and cooling system for your home or company.
Electricity vs. Natural gas
Should I heat with electricity or natural gas? The answer to such a question could be entirely different depending on who you are and where you live. Yet, there are some things all of us can do to investigate the effectiveness of a heating or cooling system.
According to a study called “An Examination of the Opportunity for Residential Heat Pumps in Ontario” by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the operating costs of heating systems are complex and depend on a number of factors, including:
- The costs of electricity and other fuels in your area
- The location of your home (and the severity of winter climate)
- The efficiency level of your heating system
- The size of your home
- Your behaviour at home
As reported by the Pembina Institute, electric heat pumps are vastly more energy-efficient than gas furnaces. In Canada, the average efficiency of heating systems powered by gas is around 90 percent, whereas the electric heat pumps can achieve efficiencies of 300 to 400 percent.
When it comes to cost-effectiveness, however, natural gas seems to be more affordable. According to Fortis BC, a natural gas furnace with central air conditioning can save you up to $250 a year when compared to an air-source heat pump.
Still, the Pembina Institute report suggests that the “natural gas vs. electricity” equation isn’t so simple as it depends on multiple factors, including the size of your home and how well insulated it is.
A website called Diffen compared the natural gas and electricity costs related to heating and cooling. Although electric heating offers significantly lower installation costs, gas heating provides consumers with a much lower cost per 1 million BTU ($18 in comparison to the $32 consumed by electric heating systems). The results were based on reviews by more than 200 users in the United States — and suggest that natural gas tend to be more cost-effective in the long term, as you will be receiving lower monthly utility bills.
According to data from Manitoba Hydro, energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness require more than a simple look at the costs at the time of purchase. Installation-related expenditures are indeed something to consider. In the long run, however, a natural gas heating system will pay for itself and save an average of $12,000 over its 25-year average lifespan.
Although these numbers seem impressive, they may not be enough for you to make a decision. The more companies and governmental agencies research on natural gas and electricity cost-effectiveness, the more options become available for consumers.
One of these options is the idea of a hybrid system, which combines electricity and natural gas to heat and cool homes and businesses. According to the “Future of Home Heating,” a report conducted by the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC) and Enbridge Gas Distribution, lifetime energy costs are significantly lower in a hybrid scenario in comparison with a full-electric scenario.
Is it the same everywhere, or does it change from province to province?
Many energy experts and specific reports point natural gas as the most cost-effective heating option throughout the years. Still, the whole scenario needs to be carefully analyzed. The location of your home, for example, is a key factor, not only because of the climate but also due to energy rates.
In Canada, the price of energy per province is highly affected by the natural resources available in each region. Usually, electricity can be found at cheaper prices in hydro-abundant provinces, such as Quebec and British Columbia, while natural gas tends to be less expensive in natural gas-rich provinces such as Alberta.
Whether you live Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina or Edmonton, the energy forecast — as well as historical rates — should be taken into account when you calculate the cost-effectiveness of your future heating and cooling system.
Energy rates, of course, have their share of unpredictability. Yet, historical prices will give you some idea of what to expect from future rates. If natural gas rates have been historically lower than electricity in your province, chances are high that they will be lower than electricity prices in the years ahead.
Your location is also a decisive element when it comes to offsetting the prices at the time of purchase. The installation costs of an HVAC system get much cheaper when there are rebates and other incentives available where you live.
In British Columbia, as stated by Fortis BC, consumers can get up to $2,700 in rebates when they install a natural gas heating system, or a heat and hot water system. Be it for electricity or natural gas systems, consumers should search for the incentives available in their area before they choose from heating with electricity or natural gas.
Compare energy rates in Canada
Whether you’re in Windsor, Edmonton, Calgary or anywhere else in Canada, you can find the lowest utility prices at EnergyRates.ca. This energy-saving tool is a leading unbiased energy price comparison website in Canada, and lists all the available cheapest energy rates and the best natural gas and electricity suppliers.
All you have to do to compare energy prices is visit EnergyRates.ca, filling in your residential postal code and checking the available natural gas prices and electricity rates in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia or Manitoba. In case you’re looking to compare electricity and gas prices for companies, small business, small commercial, large commercial and industrial companies can get a custom energy quote.