With the recent snow, many of us are looking ahead to winter and planning our budgets. If you’ve wondered how to plan when you don’t know how cold it will be or what the price of fuel will be, take a minute to review this information prepared by Art Nash, UAF Cooperative Extension Service energy specialist.
Temperatures hit freezing in some places around Fairbanks in early August, although the current forecasts indicate the probability of a somewhat mild winter. Yet, no matter how mild it may be, you are going to have to pay for some sort of heating fuel.
Obviously, your current heating appliance is probably going to dictate what fuel you’ll use, but with the drop in the price of in fuel oil, relatively new, local processed wood products and the distinct possibility of community-wide piped natural gas within the next half decade, this may be the time to consider switching to a new appliance and/or fuel.
How do the raw fuels compare to each other (not accounting for stove efficiencies)? A few weeks ago I investigated prices by calling local vendors, cross-checking prices and comparing BTU values, and I came up with the cost of a million BTUs (MBTU) for each fuel. The following chart shows the cost of one MBTU for a variety of fuels and is based on prices posted on September 10, 2015:
Wood (birch mix), $16.33
No. 2 oil, $18.95
Manufactured log, $20.63
Wood (spruce), $20.72
Natural gas, $23.35
These numbers show you the relative price of fuel. As you can see, the price of electricity is more than double the cost of the next most expensive fuel, so it makes sense not to use a bunch of 1,500-watt space heaters as your primary heat source this winter.
Although the above figures represent is a moment in time, they provide information to help you choose the best fuel for the coming winter and give you an opportunity to look ahead and plan for future years. If you are planning to invest in a new boiler or furnace or a supplemental heat source, consider the cost of each fuel when purchasing the appliance. Also, be sure that you add in delivery costs when planning. Although the price of fuel will probably change, the cost today will allow you to make educated estimates for the future.
For further information on choosing a stove, boiler or heating appliance, contact Art Nash at the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, at 474-6366 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at email@example.com or by calling 907-474-7201