5 cities where heating hurts the wallet
Granted, it’s freezer cold in most of these places during the winter, but choice of heating method counts for a lot. A tip: Try natural gas.
Buffalo, N.Y., gets cold during the winter. Really cold. The average low temperature during January and February is 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Boston, at the same latitude, posts an average low of 23 degrees during that time.
Yet the typical Buffalo family will spend $333 less to heat a home this year than Boston families will. In fact, Buffalo residents will likely spend less this winter than those in Washington, D.C., who have been complaining about the oppressive late-autumn heat in the Potomac River Valley.
Why? The need for heat depends on temperature, of course. But local prices, inventories, refining capacity and choice of heat also play a role. In Buffalo, 88% of residents use natural gas; this is the most efficient and least price-volatile energy source available. Only 2% of residents use more expensive heating oil, compared with 36% of Bostonians.
Other spots feeling the heating-bill burn include Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia. Like Boston, all rely heavily on heating oil, which is up 38% in price this year, according to the Energy Department.
The Energy Department supplied, for this story, 12-month projections for the local costs of heating oil, electricity, propane and natural gas, the four most popular heat sources in America. Forbes examined the country's 40 largest metropolitan areas, singled out 20 based on size and geographical representation, then calculated how much an average family of four with a 2,100-square-foot house would spend each month to heat its home.
Energy-demand figures came from 10 years of National Weather Service data on what are called "heating degree days." This index measures daily temperature and power demand and points to how much colder the outside temperature is than a room temperature of 65 degrees. This makes a difference, because it takes more energy to heat a home on a 5-degree day than on a 45-degree one. The colder the day, the more British thermal units (Btu) of heat are required.
Most of those high on the most-expensive list are cold-weather cities, but there are some surprises.
For instance, homes in Cleveland, chilled by the winds whipping off Lake Erie, cost about the same to heat as those in mild Portland, Ore. The reason is simple: Only 11% of Cleveland homes are heated by electricity, one of the most expensive methods of warming a house. In Portland, it’s 44%.
Here are the top five cities feeling the heating-bill burn:
By Matt Woolsey, Forbes