10 minutes read

Missouri History of Home Heating

Stephen Jabro

From Wood to Electric to Gas: Changing Trends Across America’s History

It’s easy to take life’s modern conveniences for granted. Whether it’s your smartphone or your vehicle, it’s easy to forget how different things were even just a few decades ago. Your furnace is one of those great modern comforts that has evolved over our country’s history.

We have come to just rely on this great invention in our home working hard each Missouri winter to keep our homes comfortable and warm. It wasn’t always this way. Most of the easy ways we heat buildings today weren’t so common – or even available – all that long ago. Just looking back over the past 100 years shows just how far we’ve come in making heat our homes be easy, convenient and energy efficient.

If you are among the majority of Missouri homeowners, you use gas to heat your home. You rely on gas heat from a utility company to keep your house warm no matter how freezing it is outside. Gas heat is a convenience that has not been around for all too long. Coming in a close second is electric heat.

Owner of Jon Wayne Heating & Air with sign on building decades agoHow much has home heating changed in Missouri?  Jon Wayne Heating & Air is the right company to ask. Having provided furnace and heating service to Springfield, Mt Vernon and towns across southwest Missouri for years, we have repaired and replaced old heating units of all types.

Our team of experienced heating technicians have seen a lot of changes in home heating technology. We have experience in working with the latest advancements and HVAC technology that help homeowners have more reliable and more comfortable heat than ever before.

Comparing History of Missouri Heating Trends vs. National

Everyday life was very different in states across America in the mid-20th century. Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived different lifestyles than we do today. One big difference is in how they heated their home. What sort of furnace or heating device did they have? What was its source of energy? It’s a safe bet to say that what they used several generations ago isn’t the same heating source you use today.

Missouri heating trends have changed a lot over the years. But it’s not the same across the state. Even here in southwest Missouri, some counties have changed more dramatically than others.

Old fashioned wood fired heating unitBurning Wood and Coal

It’s likely that your grandparents or great-grandparents were using coal or wood to heat their homes. Looking back 80 years ago, about 75% of homes nationally were heated by coal or wood.

But it was even more prominent in Missouri. According to the 1940 US Census on home heating, 9 out of every 10 Missouri residents relied upon burning wood or coal for heat. A majority of them were using coal (or coke).

It wasn’t long before homeowners turned away from using wood and coal for heat. By the turn of the century, less than 2% of homes were heated this way. Here in Missouri, there was absolutely zero use of coal reported while 3.5% said they still burn wood for heat.

The northeast part of the country relies the most on this heat source. About 1 in 10 homes in Vermont are still heated by wood.

In 1950, heating from coal and wood decreased a lot.  Less than half of homes across the country were using it. In Missouri, we dropped from 90% to 65% of homes using wood or coal in just a decade.

Using wood for heat did make a comeback. 30 years ago we saw an increase in people converting their homes for wood burning. That didn’t last; and wood as a heat source is decreasing again.

Kerosene & Fuel Oil

Kerosene and fuel oil has been used to heat homes across the country for the last century, but it never was very popular, especially here in Missouri. Back in 1940, about 1 in 10 American homes used oil for their heat source. But only 3.5% of Missouri residents reported using it. By the year 2000, as few as 6 homes in a thousand in Missouri used kerosene or fuel oil.

Much like the trend of using wood for heat, it’s a different story in the northeast. Most of the homes in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont still heavily rely on this heating source.

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

Electric Heat Source

Electricity is the 2nd most common way we heat our homes in the United States. But it’s made the most remarkable jump. Back in the 40s, getting heat from electricity was so rare it wasn’t even included in that year’s census. Even by the 70s, only about 1 out of 12 homes relied upon electric heat.

In the 90s, heating with electricity really became popular. According to the U.S. Census, a full quarter of homes across the country had electric heat. One in three homes are heated by electricity today.

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

Utility Gas Heat

Gas is the most common way homes are heated today, but only about 1 in 10 homes were heated with gas in the 40s. In Missouri, it wasn’t even half that number. A decade later a lot changed. By 1950, gas heat was utilized by a quarter of all Missourians.

The popularity of gas heat continued to grow over the 20th century. Twenty years ago, half of all homes reported using gas from a utility company. Here in Missouri, we are a bit above the national average at 57.5%

Some states adapted to gas heat much more so than others. In California, two-thirds of all homeowners use gas. In Illinois and Utah, we find that more than 80% of homes use gas heat.

Differences Among Missouri Communities

Depending on where you live in Missouri, you’ll see different heating trends. For Springfield and towns across Greene County, homes are mostly heated with gas. This area trends higher than the national average with two-thirds of homes relying on utility gas.

Meanwhile homeowners in Mt Vernon and those surrounding towns are less likely to use gas heat. Only 41% of homeowners in Lawrence County have it. Where these two different communities are alike is with electric heat. Just about 22% of homeowners in both counties use electricity.

Here is a map from Southwest Electric Cooperative of available energy sources for our region.

Map of available energy sources for Missouri communities

Map of Missouri counties served by Spire energy, supplier of natural gasGas is a great source of heat that is energy efficient, but not every community is serviced by a utility company. Some providers, like Spire Energy, provide gas upgrade rebates from time to time for homeowners and businesses looking to switch to natural gas.

As you can see on this map, Spire Energy provides gas service to many counties throughout Missouri including Greene, Lawrence and Andrew Counties.

Converting to Natural Gas

There are great reasons why a lot of Missouri homeowners decided to switch to gas. Natural gas is usually the cheapest energy source to heat your home. Converting an electric heating system to gas can lower your energy bills and lessen your environmental footprint.

If you’re thinking about switching from electric heat to gas, contact us at Jon Wayne Heating & Air. We are southwest Missouri’s professional furnace installers. With a location in Springfield and one in Mt Vernon, we service towns all over the area. We can help you find out if natural gas is available for your home and give you a free estimate on what it would take to convert your home to gas.

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

Heating Today & Future Trends

While a lot has changed over the last few decades, there are even more home heating options available today. A heat pump is a great device that can help you improve the heating and cooling of a particular room or space. These systems run off electricity, are quite small, and are fast and easy to install. Jon Wayne Heating and Air provides professional installation of heat pump systems.

Jon Wayne Heating & Air HVAC truck outside Springfield home for a new furnace installationAnother great energy saving option for home heating and cooling are hybrid systems. These efficient devices combine an electric heat pump with a gas furnace to save energy.

Call us today to learn about the new options that can solve whatever heating or cooling your home is having. Call (417) 831-9500 for the Springfield area and (417) 466-2515 for the Mt Vernon area.


  1. In Maine, 80.2% of homes are heated with fuel oil. That’s 4 out of 5 homes!
  2. At 87.2%, Florida has the highest percentage of homes using electricity for heat. South Carolina is next with 58.4%.
  3. Nearly half of homes in Hawaii (44.3%) report having no heating source.

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From the S Kansas Expressway, exit on Bennett St. heading west, then turn right on S. Scenic Ave and we’ll be on your right. Coming from W. Sunshine Street, you’ll take S. Scenic Ave going north and we’re just about a mile up the road on your right at 1324 S. Scenic Ave.

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