AGA Says Fuel of Choice Still a Gas

Despite its steep rise in price over the past year, the American Gas Association said last week that natural gas still will cost less to use this year than any other major home energy source, based on information from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy 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 CEO David N. Parker. In fact, the average electric resistance heating system would cost $1,423 this year to run, almost three times as much as a high-efficiency natural gas furnace, which would cost $525, he said.

"An average homeowner can save hundreds of dollars each year on energy costs by using natural gas to heat their homes, produce hot water and dry their clothes," said Parker.

According to DOE, 1 MM Btu of different heating fuels will cost the 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% efficient gas furnace will cost $666. In comparison, an 84% efficient oil furnace 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 heat pump will cost $702; and an electric resistance furnace will cost $1,423.

Every year the DOE forecasts the representative average unit costs of five residential energy sources to help consumers select the most economical appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, clothes dyers and appliances through the Federal Trade Commission's "EnergyGuide" appliance labeling program. DOE's 2001 cost estimates, which take effect April 9, were published in the Federal Register on March 8.

AGA's estimates are based on DOE's 2001 representative annual costs of energy using equipment listed in the most current equipment directories and the cost for a 2,072-square-foot home located in a moderately cold temperature region, such as St. Louis.

Carolyn Davis, Houston

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