Kansas History of Home Heating
From Wood to Gas: Changing Trends Across America
Among all the modern conveniences you are probably thankful for, we are going to assume a furnace isn’t one that comes first to mind. We take it for granted that we have a device working each winter to keep our home comfortable and warm. But the ability to heat our homes so well and conveniently really has not been around for all that long. A look just over the past 80 years show how incredibly far home heating innovations have come.
If you are like a majority of Kansas homeowners, you use gas to heat your home. You rely on this gas heat to make your house warm and comfortable no matter how frigid it is outside. Gas heat is a great convenience to have and one that really has not been around for all that long.
How much has home heating changed in Kansas? If anyone knows that answer it’s the Hanna family who founded and still runs Hanna Heating & Air Conditioning. For three generations, the Hanna family & team has been installing heating systems in homes across the greater Wichita area!
We have seen a great number of changes in home heating technology. And we have seen how much new advancements and devices have helped homeowners be able to have more reliable and comfortable heat.
Kansas Heating Trends Compared to Other States
Eighty years ago, life was very different in states across the United States. From cars to television and methods of communication, our great-grandparents lived different lifestyles than we do. This includes how they heated their home. What sort of heater did they have? What was their energy source? Chances are, what they used many generations ago is not the same heating source for your home.
Kansas heating trends have changed a lot over the years, even more so than in most other states. The way we heat our homes in south central Kansas has evolved in different ways than in other parts of the country.
Burning Wood and Coal for Heat
If you ask your great-grandparents what they used to heat their homes when they were young, most will say with wood. If you look back 80 years ago, 3 of 4 homes were heated by coal or wood, with most of that being from wood. Back in 1940, Kansas was relying upon wood for heating just about as much as the national average. But in Kansas, wood was even more preferred. While nationally about 55% of homes were heated by coal or coke, the number in Kansas was closer to only 40%.
But homeowners quickly turned away from heating with wood and coal. As we entered the new millennium, less than 2% of homes were heated by coal or wood. But the story is different in the northeast. In Vermont, about 1 in 10 homes are still being heated by wood today.
In the 1950s we saw a lot of change in home heating. Coal and wood usage dropped dramatically with less than half of homes across the country using it. And in Kansas, that drop was even more dramatic. By 1950, only about 6% of all homes across the Sunflower state were getting their heat from wood.
It’s interesting to note that using wood to heat homes did see a comeback somewhat recently. There was a bit of an uptick of people converting their home to use wood for their heat source in the 1990s. But that didn’t last long and wood burning statistics are dropping again.
Kerosene & Fuel Oil
While this is another type of fuel that has been used by homeowners across the country for the last century, it has never been very popular. And that’s especially true in Kansas. Few homeowners here relied upon kerosene and fuel oil. While across the country, 1 in 10 homes used this heat source in 1940, less than 4% of Kansas homes used it. By the turn of the century, only 2 homes in a thousand use kerosene or fuel oil in Kansas.
You will find a different picture in the northeast. In such states as Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont, most of the homes there use this type of oil for heating.
Electricity is the second most used way Americans heat their homes today. But back in the 1940s, electric heat was so uncommon that it wasn’t even included as a heating source in that year’s U.S. Census. The government began recording usage of electric heat in the 1950s when less than 1% of homes used it. And even in the 1970s only about 1 in 12 homes had electric heat.
But by the 1980s, heating with electricity started growing dramatically in popularity. The U.S. Census reports that by the 90s, a full quarter of all American homes had electric heat. Remarkably today, 1 in 3 homes in America are heated by electricity.
Kansas has been ahead of the curve when it comes to utility gas. While gas is the #1 way homes are heated today, only about 1 in 10 were heated with gas in the 1940s. However, 1 in 4 Kansas homes used gas heat. By 1950, more than half of all Kansas homes used natural gas.
The popularity of gas heat did begin to grow across the country. By 2000, half of all homes relied upon heat from a gas utility company. And it continued to grow here in Kansas with 71.5% of our homes being heated with gas.
Kansas was not alone in adopting gas heat early on. Three other states were early to embrace gas. Even in the 40s, about 45% of Texas and Oklahoma homes were using gas. Remarkably, two-thirds of all homes in California were heated by utility gas.
Few states use gas heat more than Kansas does. In Illinois and Utah, more than 80% of homes are heated by gas. Colorado and Michigan also rely upon gas heat.
Differences Among Kansas Communities
While we are listing statistics for Kansas homes, that is the statewide average. County by county you will find a different picture. For example, only about half of homes in Riley County use gas for heat. In Butler County, usage of gas heat is just shy of 60%. Harvey County is just slightly off the statewide average with about 65% of those homes heating with gas.
There is an obvious reason why. Gas companies don’t reach every community. As you’ll see on this map of the various utility companies supplying gas to Kansas towns, there is a lot of blank space where none is available. A majority of nearby areas are serviced by Kansas Gas Service. Black Hills Energy is another large supplier to south central Kansas.
Converting to Natural Gas
There is a good reason why Kansans and so many others across the country have switched to gas heat over the decades. Using natural gas is generally the cheapest energy source to heat your home. It is significantly cheaper than using electricity. Many homeowners have converted an electric system to a gas one in order to lower their energy bills and to decrease their environmental footprint of using up less energy.
If you’re wondering about switching from electric to gas, contact us at Hanna. We are professional furnace system installers serving the Wichita, Andover and Newton communities. We can help determine if gas is available for you and provide a free estimate for what it would take to convert the heat source in your home.
Heating Today & Future Trends
You have more options than you probably realize when it comes to heating your home. There are a variety of residential systems that use traditional heating sources like electricity and gas but in a substantially more energy-efficient way.
There are also new home heating options now available. Ductless mini split systems are also a great option for homeowners looking to get better control over the heating and cooling of particular rooms or spaces. They run off electricity and are small and easy to install. Hanna Heating and Air provides professional installation of mini split systems in the greater Wichita area.
Another great energy saving option for home heating and cooling are geothermal systems. They work underground with a system of pipes to supply the warmth or cooling your home needs. Learn more about the geothermal systems for homes in this article.
HOME HEATING TRENDS TRIVIA ANSWERS
- 80.2% of all homes in Maine are heated with some sort of fuel oil. That’s 4 out of 5 homes!
- Florida has the highest percentage of homes (87.2%) using electric heat. South Carolina comes in 2nd with 58.4%.
- Nearly half of all homes (44.3%) in Hawaii report using no heating source.