Despite its steep rise in price over the past year, the AmericanGas Association said last week that natural gas still will costless to use this year than any other major home energy source,based on information from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office ofEnergy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Nearly 61% of U.S. homes,about 58 million, have natural gas service.

On the front end, natural gas appliances cost more. However,they cost “far less to operate,” said American Gas Association CEODavid N. Parker. In fact, the average electric resistance heatingsystem would cost $1,423 this year to run, almost three times asmuch as a high-efficiency natural gas furnace, which would cost$525, he said.

“An average homeowner can save hundreds of dollars each year onenergy costs by using natural gas to heat their homes, produce hotwater and dry their clothes,” said Parker.

According to DOE, 1 MM Btu of different heating fuels will costthe following this year: natural gas, $8.37; heating oil, $8.86;kerosene, $9.41; propane, $11.28; and electricity, $24.30. In 2001,a 95% efficient gas furnace will cost $525, while a 78% efficientgas furnace will cost $666. In comparison, an 84% efficient oilfurnace will cost $673; an 80% efficient oil furnace will cost$682; a 95% efficient propane furnace will cost $702; a 78%efficient propane furnace will cost $874; an electric 8.0 HSPF heatpump will cost $702; and an electric resistance furnace will cost$1,423.

Every year the DOE forecasts the representative average unitcosts of five residential energy sources to help consumers selectthe most economical appliances, including furnaces, water heaters,clothes dyers and appliances through the Federal Trade Commission’s”EnergyGuide” appliance labeling program. DOE’s 2001 costestimates, which take effect April 9, were published in the FederalRegister on March 8.

AGA’s estimates are based on DOE’s 2001 representative annualcosts of energy using equipment listed in the most currentequipment directories and the cost for a 2,072-square-foot homelocated in a moderately cold temperature region, such as St. Louis.

Carolyn Davis, Houston

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