Asheville Mountain Real Estate Blog

Asheville, NC real estate for sale. Information for buyers, sellers and mountain homeowners, without pressure. Rich content for those who are far away about what it is like to live here through the generous use of media. And some nostalgia with our, "Baby Boomers' Fun Stuff", Thanks for stopping by.

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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Asheville, Anywhere: Costs of Heat and Utilities

We write a fair amount about energy, it's an ever increasing factor whether owning or buying a home. We've had some recent snows, and this morning the blog Ashevegas informs us that Progress Energy is raising electric rates by 10% in December.

Seems like it is time to take a look at the cost of heat and utilities, and hopefully provide home owners, buyers, and sellers with some basic tools.

Opening Items
One of the most basic items to look at, whether buying a house or considering a retrofit, is to determine how efficient are the fuels that we have available. The basic fossil fuels, whether measured as therms of natural gas, or kWh of electricity have one thing in common, they turn out heat, with a single measurement, the BTU.

When we know the $/BTU for each fuel, we can ignore the differences in measurement units, (what is a therm anyhow?), and make easy monetary comparisons. We developed this little tool some time ago, which tells us the $/million BTU's for the five most popular fossil fuels.

By plugging in the local costs of different heat sources, we can then make choices, and see which is most efficient, (at least at that time). We can also see which offers the best payback for a retrofit, or makes sense in the purchase and cost of running a home at all.

Unit Cost of Local Fuels
You can plug in the local costs from anywhere. In greater Asheville, the cost of #2 oil, kerosene, or propane can be approximated at this location.

Natural gas on the other hand requires infrastructure. Availability is therefore hyperlocal. To determine such things for your neighborhood visit the PSNC website. The current cost of a therm in Asheville is $1.43.

For electricity, French Broad Electric is the major supplier for our county, website here. Progress Energy and Duke Power also serve the western part of the state. For Madison County, the current rate is $0.089/kWh.

An Asheville Snapshot
Using today's unit costs for #2 oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas and electricity and following the formula in our comparison tool, this is what Asheville looks like today, $/million BTU's, using typical burner efficiencies.

# 2 Heating Oil: $30.83/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Kerosene: $29.22/million BTU's, assumes 90% burner efficiency.
Propane: $32.64/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Natural Gas: $16.82/million BTU's, assumes 85% burner efficiency.
Electricity: $26.08/million BTU's, assumes 100% efficiency.

Burner Efficiency?
Not every burner converts its fuel into heat at the same rate, some are better, usually meaning newer than others. Every home should have its burner serviced annually.

When this is done, the technician will normally place a sticker somewhere on the unit. The efficiency for your burner will be noted there. That number will have an impact on the calculations above, and will alert you to issues about upgrades, upkeep, or retrofits.

That sticker with the date, is also a big clue to buyers, not only about the unit they might be purchasing with a home, but also about the representations and past diligence of sellers.

Old Utility Bills
Here is another resource from our archives for buyers. It is a list of items to bear in mind if and when you get a chance to examine past utility bills for a prospective home.

Not To Be Left Out
Fireplaces, so popular here in the mountains, whether gas log or wood carry certain responsibilities of upkeep.

Summary
Costs of energy are fluctuating wildly in the past 24 months, currently they are down, but still 20% to 40% higher than last year. The type of heat used becomes an ever growing part of the real estate equation, and the cost of operating that home deserves consideration like no time in the past.

Thanks for stopping by,
Black Bear Realty Website
828 689 2055
Anti Spam Graphic: info AT BlackBearRE DOT com

Filed Under: Tips For Homeowners, Tips For Buyers

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