Home Heating Gas Vs. Oil

Written by spencer hendricks
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Home Heating Gas Vs. Oil
Heating a home effectively is critical in the winter months. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Casey Serin)

No one wants to escape the cold on a winter day by going into a house that is roughly the same temperature as it is outside. If the home has a functional heating system, this will not be an issue. While it sounds simple enough, choosing the right heating system--gas or oil--can be overwhelming, and homeowners will benefit from some research and choosing carefully.

Fuel Types

Although the types of heating systems available in modern times are plentiful, traditional fuels are still popular, such as gas or oil as fuel. Gas can come in a few forms, most commonly natural or propane, whereas heating oil is similar to automotive diesel. When comparing gas and oil for heating systems, it is important to note that price and availability vary based on location. These are just a few factors one has to consider when deciding which of the two is the better option for home heating.


Thermal energy is measured using the British Thermal Unit, or BTU, of which one unit is said to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. By this measurement, oil is slightly more energy efficient, as it has an energy content of about 100k BTUs per therm. For propane, that number is just slightly less, coming in around 91k. Oil is noticeably higher with a rating of 139 k BTUs, making it a better option if the only question is which type of heating system burns more efficiently.


Here is an area where gas gets the clear nod. Although prices vary with location and the time period, on average gas hovered around £1.40 per gallon in 2009, while oil was at £1.60 per gallon as of January 2009. Furthermore, oil requires a higher-quality burning system, thus meaning the heating appliance itself will cost more than a gas fired version. Furthermore, natural gas is piped in automatically when needed, while oil must be delivered to fill a tank. If this is done near the end of the cold season, the money spent to fill the tank may end up being wasted.


Although a leaky oil tank can be inconvenient to say the least, it is not considered a life-threatening problem. Gas, on the other hand, can prove to be deadly if a pipeline bursts, as by nature both propane and natural gas are combustible. Especially in the case of propane, as it is even more combustible and odourless in its natural state, making it nearly impossible to tell if there has been a leak.


The decision may ultimately come down to where the house that needs heating is located. Most homes in the United States use natural gas or propane simply because it is convenient, particularly with natural gas, since many homes come with hookups. Oil heating is more popular in the Northeast, where an abundant supply typically makes it cheaper. Since gas is generally cheaper and nearly as efficient as oil, in most parts of the country, it is a more practical choice.

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