Don’t Forget to Talk About Heat

When looking for a new home, there’s a number of questions you’ll need to ask your new landlord or roommate. Square footage, monthly rent, internet providers, and parking spaces are all good details to hammer out before deciding to visit a place. But while discussing the price of utility bills, it’s important to find out how the property stays warm too. Most houses and apartments in the United States get heat from three sources – oil, gas, and electricity. Solar-powered heat is gaining traction and heat pumps provide incredible efficiency, but oil, gas, and electric are the three types you’ll be choosing from in most circumstances.

Properties with oil heat need a tank of several hundred gallons buried underground that must be periodically refilled. This type of heat has a “set it and forget it” quality, but oil prices can fluctuate rapidly. Filling up a 400+ gallon tank can also cost over $1000, so it’s important to save money for the winter.

Electric heaters are effective, but pricey to operate. Heating costs for electricity are about equal to oil, but the added efficiency keeps the overall usage down (and therefore the bill). But you’ll still see some heavy increases during cold months.

Natural gas heat mixes efficiency with a much more modest price. Like oil, natural gas prices fluctuate but aren’t as volatile thanks to a steadier supply. Natural gas prices have historically been lower than oil and gas furnaces don’t sacrifice any efficiency. In fact, gas heating bills in the United States were nearly $1500 lower on average during the winter of 2013 – 2013.

Heating systems are often outsider a renter’s control, but make sure to consider it when searching for new houses and apartments. Oil prices tend to be higher in the winter and if you run out, prepare to pay emergency delivery fees. Natural gas heat is the best bang for your buck in almost every case.

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