Electric heat refers to heating systems powered solely by electrical power, instead of the traditional heating oil or gas. They include permanent baseboard heaters or portable heating units, and may feature forced air or radiant heating. To keep your budget in check, it's helpful to calculate your total electric heating costs each season. Knowing how much your heat costs can help you make smart decisions that can save energy and help lower your expenses.
Find the Wattage for Your Heater
Check the label on your heater to find out the wattage. If your heater lists watts outright, you can use this number to calculate heating costs. If not, you'll need to calculate the watts using other available information.
Look for the amps rating for your heater. To calculate watts, multiply amps times voltage. Standard voltage for a plug-in heater is 120 volts, while standard voltage for a permanent baseboard heater is 240 volts. For example, an 8-amp plug-in heater would be 8 times 120, which equals 960 watts.
Divide the wattage for your heater by 1,000 to convert the watts to kilowatts.
Calculate Electric Heating Costs
Determine the cost per kilowatt hour (KWH) for electricity in your area. Check your utility bill for this information, or contact your local electric company. You can also find information on average electrical rates in the Resources section of this article.
Multiply the total kilowatts for your heater by the price per KWH of your electrical power. For example, a 1.5 KW heater at $0.20 per KWH costs 1.5 times 0.2, which equals $0.30 per hour to operate.
Estimate your total electric heating costs per day, month or season. If you operate your heater for 10 hours a day and it costs $0.30 per hour to operate, you'll pay $3.00 a day to run your heater. Multiply this figure by 30 (or the number of days in the month) to determine your monthly cost. In this example, electric heat would cost $90 a month. If you use your heater for 3 months out of the year, expect to pay $270 a year for electric heat.