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New data suggests that the cost of electric heat is significantly lower than what has been reported.

As the holiday season begins in the United States, the current battleground of the gas versus electricity climate debate is centered on how Americans will heat their homes this winter and the associated expenses.

Earlier this year, there was uproar among Republicans and the fossil fuel industry over US regulators proposing to phase out gas stoves due to concerns about harmful indoor air pollution. In response, President Biden has dismissed the idea of implementing a ban.

Several sources, including the conservative Daily Caller, have revealed that American households using electricity for heating this winter will face significantly higher costs compared to those who use gas.

According to Rewiring America, a group advocating for the use of electricity, the statement based on recent federal data may cause worry for those thinking about replacing their fossil fuel-powered heating systems. However, it is very deceptive as it ignores the efficiency of modern technologies and the prevalence of electricity usage in American households.

Annually, the government’s Energy Information Agency releases a report on winter fuel projections, estimating the expected expenses for heating from November to March for households using various fuels. According to this year’s report, customers relying on heating oil will incur the highest costs at $1,856, followed by propane users at $1,337, electricity users at $1,063, and lastly gas users at $605.

However, this figure does not differentiate between older electric appliances that use resistance, such as electric baseboard heaters and electric space heaters – which are significantly more costly to operate – and extremely efficient electric heat pumps.

According to Wael Kanj, a research associate at Rewiring America, both machines operate using electricity, but they have distinct differences. He compares it to calculating the average top speed of a Power Wheels toy car and a Tesla.

Heat pumps are outdoor installations that have the ability to both heat and cool houses. In the summer, they push out warm air from the house, while in the winter, they bring it inside. They are highly efficient in warming homes as they transfer heat instead of creating it. According to the Department of Energy, heat pumps use half the energy of electric resistance heaters, and recent studies show that they use two to three times less energy than oil and gas-powered heaters.

This indicates that heat pumps, which are considered the most environmentally friendly option, will likely have lower operating costs compared to the $1,063 estimated by the Energy Information Agency for electric heating in their winter outlook report.

According to Rewiring America, there is another problem with the agency’s cost estimates. They factor in all uses of each fuel, which means that the projected costs for electricity customers also include the energy used to operate other electric devices like refrigerators and electronics.

The agency’s projections for gas, oil, and propane customers also encompass other applications of the same fuel – for example, gas projections incorporate the fuel usage for stoves. However, according to Kanj, electricity has the most diverse range of uses in American households.

The government report recognizes the disparity in fuel expenses between heat pumps and electric resistance heaters.

According to the statement, the total expenses will fluctuate from our predictions in this forecast based on the effectiveness of the equipment, as well as the features of the housing and its location. For instance, heat pumps are more efficient compared to electric resistance heating.

The agency’s expenditure projections include all purposes for each type of heating fuel. According to the press officer, Chris Higginbotham, the agency clarified this on social media to address any confusion among users.

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He stated that the report also contains an illustration to highlight the problem.

He stated that we make an effort to assist our data users in comprehending the entire content of our reports and encouraged readers to reach out to the agency for any inquiries.

However, the main numbers in the report do not accurately represent these nuances, and neither do most articles discussing the report. This poses a concern, according to Kanj.

If these problems were resolved, the outcome would be significantly altered. The group utilized information from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, which advises state officials on federal energy assistance initiatives, to accomplish this task.

According to the study, individuals who use heat pumps can anticipate an electricity cost of only $639 from October to March, which is over 60% lower than homes using electric resistance heaters.

The Biden government has endorsed heat pumps in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions from homes in the US. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act allocated a substantial amount of money to speed up the production of heat pumps. Recently, Biden utilized a law from the Cold War era to invest taxpayer money into domestic production of these appliances.

Despite attempts made, Kanj expressed that the Energy Information Agency has consistently undervalued the potential cost-effectiveness of heat pumps for households in the United States. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that the agency stays current with modern advancements.

Source: theguardian.com