When searching for an apartment, it’s good to consider home heating options and how various heat sources will affect your utility bill. All heat–usually generated by gas, oil or electricity–is not created equal, as many renters will learn. Although renters don’t have control over which heat source their landlord uses in their apartment building, they do have a say in which apartment (and therefore, what heat source) they select when scouting out potential homes. Want lower heating costs? Be picky about your apartment’s energy sources.
Home Heating Options: Oil
Choosing an apartment building heated by oil will probably be expensive, especially for renters in northern cities like Chicago, New York, the Twin Cities and Seattle. Many U.S. homes are heated by oil, but demand has outpaced supply in many parts of the country. Experts estimated that homeowners using oil for heat paid more than $2,500 in heating costs this winter–a high price tag compared to electric and gas heat.
Another downside of oil is that it is one of those fossil fuels that have attracted so much attention for producing carbon emissions. If you’re looking for lower heating costs and a greener lifestyle, you’ll want to avoid oil heat if possible.
Home Heating Options: Natural Gas
To say that natural gas has been a hot topic in recent years is an understatement. The U.S. energy sector has found a savior in natural gas, as the country sits on large deposits of the fossil fuel. Because the supply is so plentiful (and will continue to grow as harvesting methods continue to garner investments), the price of this heating source is significantly lower than that of most other sources. Experts estimated that homeowners with natural gas heat only paid about $1,000 this winter in heating costs–significantly less than half what homeowners with oil heat paid.
Still, there are some negatives to natural gas. The fossil fuel is still difficult to extract, which means that the cost of natural gas is still slightly higher than the resource’s actual value–the result of a phenomenon called “true-up” pricing.
Additionally, homeowners will need to wait to see if natural gas pans out as a long-term energy source: Extraction of natural gas calls for controversial hydraulic fracturing (coined “fracking”) methods in which a variety of chemicals are spewed into natural gas deposits, causing the gas to fly up toward the earth’s surface. The chemicals present in the mixture have been accused of contaminating local groundwater, and the process’ significant water use is considered wasteful as droughts and water sources continue to plague the country.
Home Heating Options: Electric
Electric heat is popular with landlords, and is relatively inexpensive compared to oil. Experts estimated that this heat source cost homeowners about $1,300 in heating costs this winter. About a third of all residential buildings in the country are currently heated by electricity.
However, there are a few downsides to electric heat. Electricity is considered inefficient compared to fossil fuels, and is still a bit more expensive than natural gas. When looking for lower heating costs overall, though, electricity is probably a fine choice for renters.