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3. Comparing Annual Heating Costs

3. Comparing Annual Heating Costs

The combination of heating load, energy source and heating equipment efficiency determines the annual cost of heating.

Calculating Heating Costs with Different Energy Sources

You may be interested in calculating the costs of heating with electricity and even comparing this amount to the costs of heating with other energy sources such as natural gas, propane, oil or wood. In this case, you can use the following procedure. First you need to find out the cost of the energy sources you wish to compare and the characteristics of the heating systems that you are considering.

Step 1: Determine the Price of Energy Sources in Your Area

Call your local electric utility, or gas or fuel suppliers to find out the cost of energy sources in your area. This should be the total cost of fuel delivered to your home, including any basic costs for which the supplier might bill you, as well as rental charges, as for, say, propane tanks. Be sure to get the prices for the energy sources in the same units used in Table 1. Write the costs in the spaces provided. If your natural gas price is given in gigajoules (GJ), you can convert it to cubic metres (m3) by multiplying the price per gigajoule by 0.0375. For example, $5.17/GJ x 0.0375 = $0.19/m3.

Table 1
Energy Content and Local Price of Various Energy Sources

Energy Soure
Energy Content
Local Unit Price

Electricity 3.6 MJ/kWh 3 413 Btu/kWh
$0._____ /kWh
38.2 MJ/litre
140 000 Btu/kWh
$0._____ /litre
Natural Gas
37.5 MJ/m³
1 007 Btu/ft³
25.3 MJ/litre
92 700 Btu/gal (US)
30 600 MJ/cord
28 000 000 Btu/cord
18 700 MJ/cord
17 000 000 Btu/cord
Wood Pellets
19 800 MJ/cord
20 000 000 Btu/cord


Conversion: 1000 MJ= 1 gigajoule (GJ)

* The figure provided for wood are for a "full" cord, measuring 1.2m x 1.2m x 2.4m (4 ft. x 4 ft x 8ft.

Step 2: Select the Type(s) of Heating Appliance(s)

Choose the type of equipment you want to compare from the list of appliance types in Table 2 on page 36. Note the efficiency figures in the column titled "Seasonal Efficiency". By using these figures, you can calculate the savings you can achieve by upgrading your present system to a newer, more energy-efficient model, or by choosing a more efficient appliance that uses another energy source.

Table 2
Heating System Efficiencies and Energy Savings

Energy Source Technology Seasonal Efficiency (AFUE) %

Energy Savings % of Base**

Electricity Electric baseboards 100  
  Electric Furnace or boiler 100  
  Air-source heat pump *  

Earth-energy system

(ground-source heat pump)



Oil Cast-iron head burner (old furnace) 60 Base
  Flame-retention head replacement burner 70-80 14-23
  High-static replacement burner 74-82 19-27
  New standard model 78-86 23-30
  Mid-efficiency model 83-89 28-33
  Integrated space/
tap water system (mid-efficiency)


Natural Gas Conventional 60 Base
  Vent damper with non-continuous pilot light 62-67 3-10
  Mid-efficiency model 78-84 23-28
  High-efficiency condensing furnace 89-97 33-38
  Integrated space/
tap water system (mid-efficiency)
89-96 33-38

Propane Conventional model 62 Base
  Vent damper with non-continuous pilot light 64-69 3-10
  Mid-efficiency model 79-85 21-27
  Condensing model 87-94 29-34

Wood Central furnace 45-55  
  Conventional stove (properly located) 55-70  
  "High-tech" stove (properly located) 70-80  
  Advanced combustion fireplace 50-70  
  Pellet stove 55-80  


* Consult specialist

** Base represents the energy consumed by a standard furnace

Step 3: Select your House Type and Heating Load

From the list of cities and housing types in Table 3, select the combination that corresponds best to your area and house type. The heating load figures are expressed in metric units called gigajoules (GJ).

Table 3
Typical Annual Heating Loads in Gigajoules (GJ)
for Various Housing Types in Canadian Cities

City Old   New   New Semi-   Town-  
  Detached   Detached   Detached   house  

Victoria 85   60   45   30  
Prince George 150   110   80   60  
Calgary 120   90   65   50  
Edmonton 130   95   70   55  
Fort McMurray/ 140   105   80   60  
Prince Albert                
Regina/ 130   90   70   50  
Whitehorse 155   115   85   60  
Yellowknife 195   145   110   80  
Thunder Bay 130   95   70   55  
Sudbury 120   90   65   50  
Ottawa 110   75   55   40  
Toronto 95   65   45   35  
Windsor 80   55   40   30  
Montréal 110   80   60   45  
Québec City 115   85   65   50  
Chicoutimi 125   90   70   55  
Saint John 105   75   60   45  
Edmundston 120   90   65   50  
Charlottetown 110   80   60   45  
Halifax 100   75   55   40  
St. John's 120   85   60   45  

Note: "New" means houses built after 1990, and "old" means houses built before 1990. Due to construction practices, and weatherizing and re-insulating (which can be different from house to house), these figures are only meant to be used as general guidelines; they should not substitute for an accurate heating requirement determination, as discussed in Chapter 5, page 41.

Old detached - approximately 186 m2 (2000 ft.2). New detached - approximately 186 m2 (2000 ft.2). New semi-detached - approximately 139 m2 (1500 ft.2). Townhouse - inside unit, approximately 93 m2 (1000 ft.2).

Step 4: Use the formula

The annual heating cost is calculated as follows:

Energy Cost/Unit
Heating Load
______________ x ______________  
100 000- = Heating Cost ($)
Energy Content Seasonal Efficiency        
  • Enter the cost per unit of energy and divide it by the energy content of the energy source; both numbers come from Table 1 on page 35.
  • Select the heating load for your type of housing and location from Table 3 on page 37; divide it by the seasonal efficiency of the proposed heating system from Table 2 on page 36.
  • Multiply the results of these two calculations, then multiply that result by 100 000.

The result should give you an approximate heating cost for your house. If you know your actual heating costs, as well as the type of heating system you have, you can modify the heating load originally taken from Table 3 to relief real load of your house.

Sample Calculation: You have an new detached home in Toronto and you would like to know what it would cost you annually to heat your dwelling with an electric force-air system with a seasonal efficiency of 100 per cent. Using the above equation, let us specify that electricity costs $0.0826/kWh, the heating load is 80 (Table 3) and the energy content is 3.6 (Table 1).

Annual cost of heating
with electricity   __________
100 000 =

If you would like to compare this heating cost to those of other types of heating systems or energy sources, replace the numbers in the formula with the appropriate ones for your comparison using Tables 1 and 2. If you have access to the internet, visit http://energuide.nrcan.gc.ca and check for the Heating Cost Calculator under Heating and Cooling Equipment.

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Source: Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) - Office of Energy Efficiency