Propane Gas Vs. Oil

Propane gas and oil are the fuels of choice for the majority of modern non-electric home heating systems. If you want to install a new heating system but don't plan to use electricity, perhaps the toughest decision you will make is what kind of combustible you should use for your central heating. Before getting a new oil heating system just because your neighbour told you he likes his, learn a bit more about their differences between gas and oil systems, and which one would do better for your type of home.

Direct Vents vs. PVC Vents

An oil or propane system needs ventilation for the fumes and pressure that build up within the system while combusting the fuels they consume. An oil system calls for direct ventilation, which usually sticks out of the side of the house and shows the world a big ugly oil vent instead of your wall. Aside from that, it also stains the paint on the surrounding wall, costing you money in maintenance and repainting. Propane systems require only a small PVC vent through the roof. To solve the direct vent issue, you may vent your oil system through ducts installed towards the chimney, if you have one, making for a much nicer evacuation system.


If you're looking to save money, do some math first. Even though propane generally comes cheaper than oil, it produces less energy per gallon than oil. Take these things into consideration when trying to decide what to use. Look at the prices over the last 50 years and take an average for each to determine what to expect in the future. Seeing that oil generates 130,000 BTUs of energy and propane generates 95,000 BTUs, and given that oil produces 85 per cent of its total potential while propane generates 95 per cent, you may create a formula that encapsulates how many BTUs you get to the dollar you pay for each type of energy. Multiply the BTU potential of each fuel by its efficiency percentage and divide the result by the amount of cash you pay per gallon. In the average household, propane and oil have just about the same efficiency to the dollar, unless there is a major price difference between gas and oil in your area.

Messy Oil

Oil has a tendency to produce a lot of soot when burning after a long time. This creates problems with system maintenance, since you have to stop heating your home while the ducts are cleaned. If you have concerns about system cleanliness, you should use propane to heat your home. When combusted with the right ratio of oxygen, the byproduct of propane combustion is water and carbon dioxide.

Dangerous Consequences

While both forms of heating have potential dangers, you have the highest chance of something going wrong with an oil heating system, even when properly installed. Due to the amount of maintenance required for an oil heating system, it negligence can become an issue. Additionally, oil tanks are not as reliable as propane gas lines or tanks, which have a thick metal casing to hold the pressurised gas. If you still opt for a propane heating system, have it inspected every year.

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About the Author

Mikhail Polenin has been working with computers since 1997. His experience also expands to astrophysics, masonry, electricity and general appliance repair. He's written about various different subjects regarding astrophysics and electrical circuits for various online publications. Polenin attended the New World School of the Arts and the University of Florida.