How do I compare the cost of heating fuels?
When choosing heating fuels or heating systems, consumers may want to compare the cost of different heating fuels or energy sources. Because heating fuels are measured and sold in different units, such as gallons of oil and propane, cubic feet or therms of natural gas, and kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity, comparing the price of fuels in dissimilar units is not meaningful.
A more useful comparison is the price or cost of fuels based on the heat content of the fuels, such as dollars per million British thermal units (Btu) of heat content. The formula for this calculation is:
[ (Fuel price per unit) divided by (fuel heat content per unit) ] multiplied by 1,000,000.
However, there are other factors and issues related to the selection of a heating fuel or heating system to consider:
- Efficiency of the appliances that convert fuels and electricity to useful heat
- Costs of heating system installation, operation, and maintenance
- Availability of fuels, especially during the heating season
- Environmental issues associated with the production, transportation, and consumption of fuels
The U.S. Department of Energy has educational information on heating systems for consumers.
Heat contents of various fuels and electricity
(Note: There are 42 U.S. gallons in a barrel of heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)/propane, and there are 100,000 Btu in a therm.)
What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
What are the greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions factors for fuels and electricity?
Energy Units and Calculators
Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Heating
Last updated: October 19, 2020
Other FAQs about Prices
- Are prices published by EIA adjusted for inflation?
- Does EIA have ethanol price data?
- Does EIA have forecasts or projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- Does EIA have historical gasoline prices for each state?
- Does EIA publish coking coal prices?
- Does EIA publish data on peak or hourly electricity generation, demand, and prices?
- Does EIA publish electric utility rate, tariff, and demand charge data?
- Does EIA publish electricity consumption and price data by state and by utility?
- Does EIA publish energy consumption and price data for cities, counties, or by zip code?
- Does EIA publish gasoline prices by city, county, or zip code?
- Does EIA publish inflation-adjusted gasoline prices?
- Does EIA publish off-road diesel fuel prices?
- How do I calculate diesel fuel surcharges?
- How do I compare the cost of heating fuels?
- How much does it cost to generate electricity with different types of power plants?
- Where can I get help paying my utility bills?
- Why am I being charged more for heating oil or propane than the price on EIA's website?
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- What can I expect to pay for heating this winter?
- What do I pay for in a gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel?
- What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
- What is the price or cost of natural gas for U.S. electric power producers?