I am looking to replace my forced air oil furnace and air conditioner in my 2200 sq/ft tri-level home in Virginia this summer. The equipment is close to 30 years old, and the fuel oil system, while getting nice and hot, is running me out of the house on fuel costs. My wife and I like it warm, and typically like to run the heat around 72 degrees or so while at home.
Natural gas is available in the area, and the gas company will run a line to the house for free if I have a gas furnace installed. Now, I have noticed that natural gas, although cheaper, is getting more expensive, as more power plants convert from coal to gas. The electricity rates in Virginia have been quite steady at around $.095/ kilowatt for several years now. Several people around here have dual fuel gas & heat pump systems. A straight heat pump seems to be the most inexpensive to install and operate based on the history of electric rates, but will give the least amount of comfort. A natural gas system with straight air conditioner seems to be the next most expensive to install, and right now, will give almost as inexpensive operating wise, but what is natural gas rates looking like 10 years from now? The last option of a dual-fuel system looks to be the most promising because I could choose the cheaper fuel, and also be the most comfortable, as the gas furnace will make hotter heat. It is the most expensive for the install however.
What are your thoughts on natural gas prices and electric prices over the next 10 years. Stay about the same? I am thinking natural gas is going to continue to rise, and I am worried about being in the same conundrum as I am now with the oil furnace that is too expensive to run if I go straight gas?