How do we Heat our Homes? And for how much?

According to surveys conducted by the US Census, the breakdown in Trego is as follows:

  • Electricity: Between 18% and 44%
  • Bottled, tank, or LP gas: Between 1% and 20.4%
  • All other Fuels (including wood): Between 44% and 68%

Those are estimates- and fairly broad at that, but it looks like about half the people in the community are using wood heat. According to NorthWestern Energy’s Estimates for this month, the cost per thermal unit of firewood in a fireplace $1.97, while a wood stove has a cost of only $1.04 per thermal unit -efficiency has its merits.

Electricity (baseboard) is costing about $3.52 per thermal unit.That’s the highest number on their table of estimates. An Air-Air heat pump still uses electricity, but the cost goes down to $2.27 per thermal unit. An Earth-Air heat pump runs as little as $1.17 per thermal unit. The cost per thermal unit varies a bit for natural gas, depending on the efficiency of the furnace. It could be as much as $1.32 per thermal unit, or as little as $0.94.

This means that for anyone relying on baseboards- there’s a strong incentive to investigate other sources of heat. Firewood is popular here- but the estimates are for dry firewood. Wet firewood is less efficient, and costs more per thermal unit. The reason is that energy that would otherwise go to heat the house is instead wasted in turning the water within the wood into steam.

How do we compare to the rest of the state?

TregoLincoln CountyMontana
Utility Gas2.8%4.1%51.5%
Bottled, tank, or LP gas10.8%10.8%13.5%
Fuel oil, kerosene, etc.0.0%4.7%0.9%
Coal or Coke0.0%0.0%0.1%
All other Fuels55.8%35.8%7.6%
Each number is an Estimate taken from the American Community Survey; It’s survey research, so findings should always be taken with a grain of salt, especially for small populations.

Well, both Trego and Lincoln County as a whole use considerably less utility gas than the rest of the state. This makes sense- populations tend to be concentrated in urban areas, and those are the areas with the most infrastructure for utility gas. We’re considerably ahead of the rest of the state for “All other Fuels”, which is most definitely wood.

Why am I so sure that it’s wood? Because the other fuel source that the Census is admitting to lumping into “All other Fuels” is solar. And, with our day length getting shorter and shorter, it seems highly unlikely anyone’s trying to use solar as a primary heat source in our area.

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