How Kansas Led the Way for Energy Efficient Gas Heat

Standard Plumbing Heating Air Conditioning serving Manhattan, KS since 1923

It’s always comforting to come home to the gentle hum of a well-working furnace pushing warm air through your vents. If you’re like most Kansans, you have a gas furnace working efficiently to conveniently keep your home comfortable no matter how cold it is outside. This wonderful technology of furnaces are a luxury we’ve all gotten used to. But obviously it’s not always been like this.

If anyone knows how much things have changed, it is our team at Standard Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning. We have been installing heating systems to homes across the Manhattan area for nearly 100 years! We have seen the many changes in HVAC technology and how dramatically these advancements help homeowners enjoy even more reliable and comfortable heat.

History of Heating Trends in Kansas and Across America

Old wood burning fireplace to heat a homeLife was very different across the United States 80 years ago. From cars to sources of entertainment, our grandparents and great-grandparents lived very different lifestyles than we do today. How they heated their homes was also quite different.

And while life has changed and become more efficient and convenient for so many of us, it’s not the same from state to state. The way we heat our homes in Manhattan is not the same as those on the coasts. You may be surprised to learn how heating trends have changed over the years and how they are still dramatically different in different states.



Coal & Wood Heat

Old fashioned wood fired heating unitBack in the 1940s, about 3 out of every 4 homes was heated by coal or wood, with most of that 75% using wood. Back then, Kansas was right in line with these statistics for relying upon burning wood for heating. Where Kansas was different was with coal. While about 55% of homes across the country were heated by coal or coke, here in Kansas that number was closer to only 40%.

As you can imagine, this source of heat comes with a host of problems and difficulties. There is no wonder why, when at the turn of the century, less than 2% of all homes were still heated by coal or wood. Today, heating with wood or coal amount for just 2% of all American homes. The greatest average usage is in Vermont where about 1 in 10 homes are heated by burning wood.

We saw a lot of change how homes were heated in the 1950s. Coal and wood usage dropped from a combined 75% to just 45% in just a decade. The decline was even more dramatic in Kansas homes. By 1950, heating by wood was only happening in about 6% of all homes across the Sunflower state.

Heat from wood burning has made a bit of a comeback recently. Sometime in the 1990s there was an uptick of people converting their home to use wood for their heat source. Although the popularity of wood-heating has since decreased over past decades.

Kerosene & Fuel Oil

Here is where we really see how Kansas differed from the rest of the country in how we heated our homes. Kansas did not rely upon kerosene and fuel oil as most other states did. Nationally, 1 in 10 homes used this heat source in 1940. But in Kansas, it accounted for less than 4% of homes.

As this source of heat became less popular, today it has all but disappeared from homes here. By 2000, only 2 homes in a thousand in Kansas use kerosene or fuel oil for their heat.

However, things are very different in the northeast. In states like Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island you’ll find most of the homes are heated this way.

Heating Trivia “In Maine, what percentage of homes are heated with kerosene or fuel oil?”

Electric Heat

Many homes today use electric furnaces to heat their homes. We can thank Thomas Edison for inventing the lightbulb which was what was used in the earliest electric heaters. This was at the end of the 19th century. However, it was so incredibly rare as a heat source back in the 1940s that it wasn’t even counted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Even in the 70s electric heat had not really caught on. Only about 1 in 12 homes used electricity for heat.

But the popularity of using electricity to heat homes began to rise in the following decades. According to the U.S. Census, by the 1990s a quarter of all American homes were heated this way. Today, a third of all homes across the country are heated by electricity.

Heating Trivia ”Which state has the highest percentage of homes using electric heat today?”

History of Heating with Gas

Natural Gas drilling rig in Texas, a main source of heating energy in KansasThe standard way most homes are heated across America today is with gas from a utility company. Gas heat has been around for a while. We can trace some of its roots back 100 years when inventor Alice H. Parker patented the first gas fired furnace.

Back in the 1940s, at least 1 in 10 homes were heated with gas.

Here in Kansas, you might say we were ahead of our time. Even as far back as 80 years ago, a quarter of homes in Kansas were using gas heat. Only a handful of other states were using it as much or more than Kansans.

But there were 3 states that really were early to embrace gas heat. In fact, about 45% of Texas and Oklahoma homes were using gas, California topped the list with having two-thirds of all homes heated by utility gas.

Things quickly changed for homeowners in the Sunflower State. By 1950, at least 60% of all Kansas homes used natural gas. That’s more than double the amount of homes to adapt to natural gas over the previous decade.

Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. In 2000, half of all homes across the country were getting its heat from a gas utility company. But in Kansas, 71.5% of homes are heated with gas.

Our state is among several midwestern states that veered off the national average. Illinois and Utah really varied from the norm with having more than 80% of their homes heated by gas. The only other states that had as much, or more, homes using gas heat as Kansas are Colorado and Michigan.

Manhattan, KS is a Different Story

Here in Riley County, we don’t seem to follow the statewide trend. While more than half of the homes in our county do rely upon utility gas for heat, it is not as dramatic. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, gas is used to heat 56% of Riley County homes. This is 15 percentage points lower than the state average, but nearly in line with the national average of 51%.

What are homes in our area using instead? Electricity. Compared to the Kansas average of 17.2%, at least 34% of homes in Manhattan and other towns in our county rely upon electricity to heat our homes. That is about 7,500 homes.

Converting to Natural Gas

A great benefit to using natural gas as your heating source is your monthly energy bill. Natural gas is a much cheaper energy source than electricity. Many homeowners are choosing to convert their electric system to a gas system. They end up with lower energy bills and a lower environmental footprint having a system that is so much more energy efficient.

Is natural gas available for your home? It is possible that natural gas was not an option for your home at one time, but that may have changed. Check with your neighbors. If any of them are using natural gas, then it’s likely you will be able to as well. You can also call the Kansas Gas Service to check for availability to your home. You will also want to ask if they are currently offering any rebates for converting to natural gas.

If you’re wondering about switching from electric to gas, contact us at Standard. We are professional furnace system installers serving the larger Manhattan, KS community. Not all areas, especially in rural Riley County provide access to natural gas, but many areas are serviced by Kansas Gas Service. 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 Trivia “In 2000,nearly half of all homes in which state had no heating source?”

Heating Today & Future Trends

The options for heating your home have never been better. Today you can choose from a variety of furnaces that use traditional heating sources but do it in an energy-efficient way. Beyond better gas and electric furnaces, new options are now available. These different types of heating units are becoming great new solutions to the heating problems many of us once just had to learn to live with.

Heat Pumps are a new option that wasn’t available to homeowners decades ago. Ductless mini split systems are also a new option for heating your home. What is great about both systems is that they provide both the heating AND cooling your home or space needs. They can be the solution to those places you have had to use space heaters and window air conditioning units.

Standard Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning provides professional installation, maintenance and repair for heat pumps and mini split systems in the Manhattan area. Call us today at (785) 776-5012 to learn how these systems work and if either is right for your home. You can also contact us online for a free estimate.

Standard Heating furnace installer unloading van at Manhattan, KS home


  1. 2% of all homes in Maine are heated with some sort of fuel oil. That’s 4 out of 5 homes!
  2. Florida has the highest percentage of homes (87.2%) using electric heat. South Carolina comes in 2nd with 58.4%.
  3. Nearly half of all homes (44.3%) in Hawaii report using no heating source.