Which Heating Fuel is best for My Home?
Cold weather means rising costs for keeping your home warm. While you may be fine putting on a sweater or simply enjoy the cooler temperatures, others have already turned on the heat. Here’s the thing: Your heating bill may be higher than it needs to be. Furnace age, type of fuel, and the current market price for fuel are all factors in determining just how much you’re going to spend per hour of comfortable warmth this winter.
Today’s furnaces can be electrical or fueled. Fueled furnaces are sustained by oil, natural gas, and propane. Each of these sources has its own benefits. It’s important to note, however, that there’s more to saving money than just buying the cheapest fuel . Fuel efficiency, cost, and output are all separate things. Fuel costs are also as volatile as the fuels themselves, changing constantly based on the current market. So while it’s good to look at cost when you’re upgrading your furnace, it’s more important to consider the efficiency and purpose of your energy over this month’s price.
Oil – High energy output at roughly 138,500 BTU per gallon of fuel oil. Oil storage tanks are dangerous for the environment if they fail (though that’s true of most storage tanks, oil seeps into the ground while propane and natural gas escape into the air). The problem with oil is its native efficiency. Fuel oil has a lot of potential but most furnaces are roughly 86% efficient. Higher efficiencies are possible with fuel oil, but the furnaces are expensive.
Natural Gas & Propane – these aren’t identical, but they are sold similarly because they come from the same source. Natural gas is often found during oil drilling so gas and petroleum are sold hand in hand. The benefit of gas is that it burns in a much cleaner fashion than oil. Natural gas has, for efficient units, a 96% efficiency for BTU output in a natural gas furnace.
Electric Furnace – High energy efficiency and high cost during the winter but electric furnaces are easier to regulate, with no outside storage tank or fuel refilling necessary. Unfortunately, this is typically the most expensive option. As long as the power grid is functional you have heat to spare. The costs are higher in winter due to increased demand for electricity but this can be offset somewhat by solar panels.
For fuel based heating in your home, natural gas and propane are looking like the way to go, that is, if you’re planning to upgrade or replace your existing furnace. While Btu output per gallon is somewhat less, the efficiency for heat output is higher, meaning fewer losses and better heating in your home.
As we said with electrical furnaces, you can offset costs for heating your home with solar power, but you can do the same for every fuel-type through solar heating. Other key factors to consider are how well your home is insulated and sealed against drafts, whether or not your attic is insulated properly, and when to use a fireplace or space heater. Keep in mind that both fireplaces and space heaters should always be watched closely. To save money you should be in the room with the heat source but to stay safe you should never leave either unattended.
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