Montana State University

MSU Extension Forestry

Heating Fuel Comparison Calculator

Author: Martin Twer
Update: 10/24/2014

This calculator provides a quick way to compare the cost for various fuels to heat your home.
The calculator estimates the cost for each fuel to deliver the required BTU's in the form of heat, and takes into account the cost of the fuel, the energy content of the fuel, and the efficiency of the appliance.

Determine the annual energy demand for heating your home in Million BTU (mmBTU), for example here.
The default assumes 53 mmBTU/year (15,533 kWh) for an "average" 2,150 sq ft (1,900 sq ft heated), housing unit.1

Enter this value here mmBTU

Fuel Type Fuel Cost/Unit Heat Content/Unit (BTU) Appliance Efficiency (%) Heating Energy Demand (units) Primary Energy Use (units) Fuel Cost Net Emissions (lbs CDE)2
Natural Gas $/therm
LPG/Propane $/gallon
#2 Heating Oil $/gallon
Electric Resistance $/kWh
Electric (Heat Pump) $/kWh
Firewood, 20%MC3 $/cord
Wood Pellets $/ton
Corn (kernels) $/ton
Kerosene $/gallon
Coal $/ton


Notes:

Default prices and BTU values are based on data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov as well as local market prices.
Substitute prices for your area.

1 Data from the Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey for the Mountain North (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY). The average square footage per housing unit is 2,130 sq ft (1,883 sq ft heated), with an average annual energy consumption of 105 million BTU (49.3 thousand BTU per sq ft), 50% of which is used for space heating.

2 Net CDE (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) emissions are emission estimates associated with burning a fuel, and do not include energy involved in growing, extracting, harvesting, and transporting the fuel, or transmission line losses. Data adapted from EPA's Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID), EIA Carbon Dioxide Emissions Coefficients, and Iowa Department of Natural Resoures Greenhouse Gas Estimation Tools.

  • Wood/Corn is considered net zero because the carbon removed from the atmosphere by the growing plant is the same carbon released during burning.
  • CO2e emissions for electricity are an average for the US grid, and include a mix of coal, gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, and others. The actual values can vary from state to state and from utility to utility. They range from 2.2 lb/kWh in states with all coal generation down to almost nothing where nearly all is generated by hydro, nuclear, and/or renewables.
    See the EPA's Power Profiler to see where your state fits in.

3 MC = Moisture Content. For firewood, the unit is a full cord of wood -- 4 ft X 4 ft X 8 ft = 128 cubic ft of wood. Firewood is sold in an array of sizes, so be sure to get prices for a full cord.