Dual Fuel Heating Programs Can Help Save You Money on Your Electric Bill

DULUTH, Minn — The cost of keeping the lights on and our houses warm in the winter continues to be on the rise.  As we look to cut costs elsewhere to afford the changing energy costs, one way of saving money might be with your power company.

Here in the Northland, a lot of energy is required to keep our homes warm during the cold winter months. During long periods of extreme cold, the demand can strain the power grid. Power companies such as Lake Country Power have programs to keep electricity reliable during these peak times while also saving the consumer money.  One of these is called dual fuel heating.

Dual fuel heating works by having your heating system connected to two different power sources.  Electric power is the primary source. The secondary source would act as a backup.  When you sign up for the dual fuel program, you allow the power company to cut off electricity to your heating unit during peak times.  Power to the rest of your home is unaffected. In exchange, you get electricity at a reduced rate year-round.

“We also have a device that we have there that’s called a demand response unit. And ultimately it’s a device that we can communicate to, and it controls a relay. And that relay then will shut off the electric system and it ultimately is wired in a way that will turn on their redundant backup system,” said Lake Country Power metering engineer Ryan Ferguson.

Jake Koen, a Lake Country Power technician, walked us through a customer’s home where a dual fuel system is set up.  The customer, who is also a Lake Country employee, keeps his house warm using a boiler. The boiler heats a liquid that runs through tubing underneath his floor which warms his house from the ground up.  When power needs to be interrupted during peak times, a backup propane system kicks on which keeps the boiler running.  The propane is stored in a tank on his property. This is just one of many setups that can be used.

“There’s lots of different ways you can utilize the dual fuel programs. Slab heat is just one of them.  There’s other types of heating.  You can use baseboard heating, anything, any electric heating that you want to use in combination with a fossil fuel backup that automatically takes over when we control so that you, your house won’t get cold,” said Koen

Lake Country Power requires the backup system to run on a fossil fuel such as propane, natural gas, or fuel oil, and they say propane is most commonly used by their members. There will be an investment in getting that secondary system installed in your home, but once it is up and running, Lake Country says your electricity rate per kilowatt hour can be reduced by up to 50%.

“That’s the big benefit right.  You’re paying a lot less per kilowatt hour for your power to have the ability to be interrupted when we need to shed load.  It helps save the co-op money.  It helps save the customer money,” said Koen

Different companies have different dual fuel program requirements and rates including Minnesota Power and Superior Water Light and Power. Your power company can help you figure out how long it will take you to make up for your initial investment based on how much power you use and how much your electricity rate goes down.

If a dual fuel system isn’t right for you, there are other programs available through your power company that can help you save money throughout the year.  Reach out to them and they can help you with your options.

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