Heating home cost comparison #154444 - Ask Extension


Heating home cost comparison #154444

Asked September 25, 2013, 8:19 PM EDT

I love your heating fuel cost comparison. I was wondering if there are any plans to include ethanol as a fuel? It seems like ethanol (particularly if feedstock is grown in permaculture style...see David Blume) is a really viable alternative for transportation needs. However, I'm trying to figure out how viable it is for heating a home. There are alcohol fireplaces which are beautiful but it'd be great to have your tool to compare the cost to wood. Thanks so much for your site and work!

Dane County Wisconsin

Expert Response

I am not sure which tool you are referencing.   Many of our state universities have a fuel comparison guide.  In general, ethanol has the energy value of about 83,000 BTU's per gallon.  That compares to the 135,000 BTU's for kerosene.  That means that the ethanol should be bought for 60% to 65% of the cost of kerosene if the the use efficiency is the same.  Many of the kerosene appliances have burning efficiency of 80%.  That means we can get about 108,000 BTU's of heat into our home from that gallon of kerosene.  Fireplace efficiency can be much lower.  If the ethanol burning appliance (fireplace) has an efficiency of 40%, then we would need to buy 2.5 gallons of ethanol to get the same heat into our home as the 1 gallon of kerosene.  So if the kerosene costs $4.40 per gallon, we could only pay $1.76 for the ethanol and have the same cost per BTU

Ethanol as an energy source for home heating is seldom discussed, because of the small number of appliances available to use the fuel in home heating.  Safety is also a concern.  Ethanol burns so cleanly that you cannot see the flames and the fuel resembles water in many ways.  Other volatile fuels used in home heating have colors and smells added to improve detection of leaks and other hazards.  
Frank Wideman Replied November 04, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Thank you for this very helpful response!
The Question Asker Replied November 25, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
You are welcome!
Frank Wideman Replied November 25, 2013, 8:57 PM EST

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