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Gas vs Electric: Space and Domestic Hot Water Heating System Fuel Source Implications on Low-Energy Single-Family Dwelling Sustainability Performance



Eric G. O'Rear, David H. Webb, Joshua D. Kneifel, Cheyney M. O'Fallon


With an increasing interest in more sustainable infrastructure, greater focus has been placed on cost-effective low-energy residential buildings, including state policies requiring new homes to be built to reach net-zero energy performance. Common factors considered in the feasibility of reaching net zero building design goals include the definition of net-zero selected (e.g. site energy versus source energy) and location of the building being constructed (e.g. climate). However, limited research has been completed on the impact of heating fuel type selection has on sustainability performance when evaluating low-energy building design goals. Heating fuel type is an important factor because space and water heating accounts for a significant fraction of home energy consumption and consumers often have an option between natural gas and electric heating systems. Using data from the new BIRDS v4.0 Incremental Energy Efficiency for Residential Buildings Database, this research case study observes the impacts of fuel source type on a building’s sustainability performance based on comparisons of low-energy and net-zero energy building designs. Results suggest that electric-powered heating equipment is likely to perform better in terms of energy savings. However, these savings come at the expense of increased life-cycle costs as well as a greater environmental footprint.
Journal of Building Engineering


Natural gas, electricity, space heating, domestic water heating, low-energy, net-zero energy, whole-building simulation, residential buildings, life-cycle assessment, life-cycle costing
Created May 6, 2019, Updated May 28, 2019