Alternatives to Home Heating Oil

Written by melinda rizzo
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Alternatives to Home Heating Oil
(Photographs Courtesy of Melinda Rizzo)

While home heating oil has been one of the most common and available sources of heating fuels since the end of World War II, it has become less attractive because of higher costs, a volatile market and unstable supply conditions.

Many homeowners, either for financial, environmental or sustainability concerns, are looking to a variety of different fuels to heat their homes.

Other homeowners may find local supplies a more attractive economic value, preferring to keep not only their money, but also the source of their home heating fuel close at hand.

Types of systems

Different heating methods require different delivery systems.

For example, most central heating systems rely on oil, electricity (heat pump) or natural gas.

Other central heating options include geothermal, wood, solar and coal. These systems may not work with an oil-based furnace.

Oil furnaces, with the right adaptations, may be converted to systems using natural gas, vegetable oil or biodiesel fuels.

Wood-fired boilers are also commercially available.

Freestanding stoves, among the more popular methods of avoiding a central heating system, reduce or eliminate the use of oil fuels.

Types of freestanding stoves

Plentiful and commonly available fuel for freestanding stoves includes natural gas, wood pellets, firewood, coal and bottled liquefied petroleum, or propane, gas.

Each type of stove or fireplace system requires a chimney or some other ventilation system to remove dangerous gases and smoke from the inside of the house.

Alternatives to Home Heating Oil
These chimneys each vent a wood burning stove and a wood fireplace.


Central heating systems deliver heat through duct work or piping, using either steam or hot water,

Freestanding stoves deliver radiant heat, which can then be moved throughout the home by the use of fans. Radiant heat warms objects, rather than furnaces, which warm the air.

The exceptions include radiant piping installed either in flooring or in the ceiling.


Oil heat and bottled gas must be delivered from a supplier via a truck. Electric and natural gas are delivered to the home via a grid or piping network, or may be site-generated, such as solar energy or geothermal sources.

Alternative fuels, like coal, wood and pellets, are usually picked up by the user. Some companies offer home delivery on coal, wood and pellets. This adds to the cost of these fuel choices.

For alternative fuel products to be cost effective, it is best to live close to the source.


Alternative fuel sources can offer heating flexibility, cost savings and independence.

Alternative fuel sources can also require expensive one-time start-up costs, which are offset by the reduced heating costs through lower-priced fuels.

For those eager to save substantial money, firewood, a fuel source that a do-it-yourself enthusiast can obtain for free or very low cost, can dramatically reduce home-heating costs. Look for dry, seasoned wood.

An added bonus: Gathering, splitting and stacking firewood may offer health benefits to the person doing the work.

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