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After a downright frightening heating bill, I am thinking of switching to electric heat. I want this to be as little impact to the house as possible. I currently live in a 1100 sq ft manufactured home (mobile home... its a trailer) with a bedroom on each of the polls and a massive kitchen and living room area. My plan is:

  • A small space heater per bedroom

  • A baseboard heater for the kitchen livingroom area

My home has 100A line coming in with a 60A main breaker. The electrical is already heavily separated and my panel has enough room for two more 15A breakers. I do not have ready access to a 230V line. (I know enough not to do any work here myself)

Is there anything that I need to know before committing to this? Does anyone have any similar stories that can help me with this?

P.S. It may be worth noting that I currently pay $5.10/gal (!!) for propane and $0.08/kwh for electric. The current system is forced hot air.

UPDATE: I have equipped the main rooms with electric, oil-filled heaters. During the day they keep the house warm enough and at night our bedrooms are fine (the living room and kitchen suffer but I'm the only one who wakes up early enough to notice so moot point).

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    Do the research and make sure you will be saving money. No sense spending money to change systems, only to find out you actually spend more. – Tester101 Dec 30 '10 at 17:01
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You should consider a few conditions when deciding what is the most efficient (often cheapest) method for heating your home.

The Department of Energy site has some good resources about regional heating fuel costs.

Their heating fuel comparison calculator is a useful example: http://www.eia.doe.gov/ask/conversionequivalents_faqs.asp#compare_heating_fuels

Consider installation costs as well as operating costs. There are obviously some pretty efficient heating techniques (geothermal and solar) that unfortunately, still have extremely high installation costs. This often makes their installation untenable.

  • The energy calculator was wonderful. With it I roughed out about $20 per million btu for electric, $70 per million btu for propane. Geothermal is out because I don't own the land under me and I don't plan on being there long enough to recoup solar (solar electric) nor do I want to put holes in my roof/wall for additional duct work (solar heat). – Bob Roberts Dec 30 '10 at 17:01
  • @BobRoberts -- keep in mind that an air to air heat pump is cheaper than straight resistance heat yet still in terms of electric bills :) – ThreePhaseEel Nov 19 '18 at 1:52
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Consider putting your money in to conservation instead of new equipment. For example:

  • Turn down the thermostat. Dropping it a few degrees takes about 10% off your fuel usage.

  • Get a digital thermostat. It lets you set the temperature exactly where you want it, instead of guessing and over- or under-heating.

  • Get a programmable thermostat. You can let the house be cooler while you're sleeping under heavy covers, or while you're out during the day.

  • Insulate yourself. A wool underlayer doesn't affect your appearance or mobility, but makes your body warmer. I wear these pretty much all winter long:

http://www.rivbike.com/products/show/wool-semi-tights/22-271 Semi tights

  • Move around when you get cold, instead of turning up the heat.

  • Insulate the structure. Make sure the walls, floor, and ceiling all have insulation. There are limits (thickness of the walls, for example), but do what you can.

  • Reduce air infiltration. Air exchanges carry a lot of heat out of a house. Look for crevices that let air in/out. Maybe some weather stripping around the doors. Of course, you want to keep enough air moving to keep it healthy.

  • Insulate windows. A single pane of glass is only R-1. That's almost nothing. Even 3 panes of glass is only R-3 - a huge improvement, but still much lower than your walls probably are. Some options:

    • Replace with better windows. This is pretty expensive.

    • Put a layer of plastic on the inside or outside (or both sides!) of your windows. Even though they don't insulate much, they slow down convection over the surface of the glass.

    • Put up blinds and/or drapes and close them when the sun goes down.

    • Cut styrofoam insulation panels to the size and shape of your window frames. Insert them when the sun goes down. To make them look nice, cover in fabric.

  • Great ideas! It's also cheaper too. =) – Mike B Dec 31 '10 at 6:04
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Two 110-volt 15 A circuits would give you 15 A × 110 V = 3.3 kW of power. I think that's too little.

Here's my back-of-the-envelope calculation: I live in a house that's a little bigger than yours, but presumably better insulated, so let's assume they're equivalent. I use ~100 gallons of heating oil per month in the winter. A gallon of heating oil has 41 kWh of energy, so I use ~4100 kWh of energy per month. That's for heat and hot water. A month is 720 h long, so the average power is 5.7 kW. In reality I need more power than that, for more heat is needed at night and on particularly cold days.

How large is your propane tank, and what is the fastest you go through it in the winter?

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    We have 200gal, and between the most recent bill and the previous bill, used 130 gal in 90 days. There is only one heating zone. My house was built in 2004 and is reasonably well insulated – Bob Roberts Dec 30 '10 at 19:51
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Look at using a heat pump, as the give about 4 unit of heat for each unit of electric used, however they are not cheap.

ALso spending a bit on inproving your insulation may give a much better payback then spending the money on the heating side.

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    I don't believe I will go with the heat pump. I like the idea but I don't believe the payoff will come before before I move. I will be looking into my insulation though. – Bob Roberts Dec 30 '10 at 19:58
  • That link is dead. Can you update it? – Hank Nov 5 '12 at 0:00
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I know of a person who uses two electrical oil-filled radiators with total output of 2,5 kW to heat a room in a 440 sq ft log house in a region where -10 Celsius is typical in winter. However, he only does so from late fall till early winter and from early spring till summer since it's a summer house and he lives in an apartment most of the time. He does so for three reasons - it's very clean, it doesn't need any manual labor to run and it can be left unattended for the workdays when he is in the city. He never brought up what he thinks of the prices but I guess he doesn't suffer much or he would complain otherwise.

My two cents are the following: First, electricity is safer when done right - gas equipment can leak gas and cause a devastating explosion. Second, try to keep at least part of the already installed equipment so that in case of a power outage you have a backup way to heat your house. With electricity you depend on the supplier heavily and once in a while even major cities experience days long blackouts.

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    Thank you for your answer. I will keep the current system only out of the fact that it has my AC built in and I need the propane for my stove/oven. If the power goes off though, my goose is cooked (or frozen perhaps) as the forced hot air requires a blower. – Bob Roberts Dec 30 '10 at 16:29
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I think you're on the right track. I live in a city and my 80% efficient, 15 year old natural gas heating system is up and down. It costs so much to run I decided to exhaust all alternatives before paying for a system and continuing to pay outrageous amounts for natural gas. My house: 1925 bungalow 2000 square feet with no insulation in the plaster walls. Here is what I have done to be comfortable without a huge bill.

  1. I closed in my crawl space: closed vents, applied 6 mil vapor barrier, etc. Now the cold winter wind doesn't blow under and through my house. Big comfort gain.
  2. I bought two oil filled radiator heaters - only buy the ones that have real, programmable thermostats that read in degrees. These serve as my thermostats for different areas of the house to keep the temperature consistent. We tested many other heaters then sent them back.
  3. I get my baseline of heat to 64 or 65 degrees with the cheapest heat source I can find. For me that is an unvented propane infrared wall mounted heater - nearly 100% efficient - all of the heat stays in the house. I just open doors to adjacent rooms to provide more air than necessary for combustion - otherwise your air quality will suffer.

Everybody wants to sell you more insulation - its very expensive and still doesn't transition you to an affordable heating source. If your house is sealed to prevent air infiltration more expensive insulation won't pay your power/gas bill. Going to 100% efficiency in a heat source will get you a long way there. Electric heaters converts nearly all of the power to heat except for what runs the blower - unvented gas heaters also have a very high efficiency ratio.

Then you can say goodbye to high heating bills without sacrificing your comfort.

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I changed from propane is 100% electric. We have a 1344 sq ft double wide mobile in the country. We have 3 infra red heaters, 2 in the kitchen living room area and 1 in the rear hallway. We have a direct replacement 20kw electric heater with central air in the original place. Down to 30 degrees the small heaters keep it at 70 degrees, they run 24/7. The main heater only comes on below 30 degrees when the others cant maintain. Small heaters set at 74 degrees main heater set to come on at 69 and off at 71. Recovery time on main heat from 69 to 71 degrees around 10 to 15 minuets.Winter rates @ .086 up to 1000 kwh and .051 after that.Last year my total electric bill for heating/ac and everything averaged 198.00 per month.25 kwh equal 1 gallon of propane-25kwh times .051=127.50 propane,same rate all the time does not change

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    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. This is great information, but a little hard to understand. Would you edit it to clean it up a bit, perhaps break it into paragraphs? Thanks. – Daniel Griscom Nov 18 '18 at 15:35
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In your case, electricity appears to be a much cheaper source of heat than propane.

A gallon of propane yields 91,600 BTUs of heat. Google can convert that for you:

https://www.google.com/search?q=91600+btus+in+kwh

BTUs vs. kWh

So with propane costing you $5.10 / gallon, the same heat from electric is costing you 26.84531 * $0.08 or $2.15 - less than half the price.

When you consider that electric is lower maintenance - I see baseboard heaters all over, every day, that have been working for 20 years without any service - it's an even bigger savings.

Electric heat also lends itself to more thermostats and easily controlling more zones, even room by room - not easy to accomplish with other heat.

I've had good luck with those oil-filled space heaters too.

Your electrician will be able to check if the load can handle it, but there's probably room for a 20A or 30A baseboard heater for the main room, and that might do it for you. You might still need the propane on top for the coldest weather, depends on your insulation and your climate. Make sure you tell him you're using the space heaters in the bedrooms. He might rearrange the panel so those are on opposite legs of the service.

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My electric conversion above required 2 60 amp circuits and my breaker box was not big enough to handle the furnace. I had 200 amps at the outside pole and was only using 100 amps for the house. I installed a 100 amp box at the pole and put two 60 amp double breakers in side. I then ran 4 #6 cable wires and 2 10 guage ground wires in 1.5 inch conduit under ground.These wires go under the home and straight up to the heater. There are breakers at the pole and on the furnace.Also if 1 gallon of propane is 1.30 we heat with 1 kwh = .05135. Therefore Im paying about 1.37 = 1 gal propane. Price is the same 24/7. Cannot run dry. no explosions. No gas line checks. No 300 gallon min fills. Not at the mercy of farmers drying corn or supply lines down for maintanance. This my 3rd or 4th year on the conversion. I dont think this would work as well as it does for me if I didnt use radiant heaters with this setup. Im happy with it but it may or my not work in your situation. email me if you want moer info.

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