When you're building a new home or doing renovations to an existing one, you may find yourself in a conundrum when it comes time to choose a fuel source for your heater. Both oil and propane have their advantages and work well in a home that's not connected to a natural gas line, but neither is a perfect choice for everyone. Here's a look at the pros and cons of each.
When it comes to safety, it is hard to beat oil. Though its combustibility allows it to be used as a heating fuel, it is not explosive, so you do not have to worry about your tank exploding and causing injuries and damage to your home. Oil can only be ignited with the advanced system in your furnace and will not start on fire in other circumstances -- even if a match is dropped in a pool of spilled oil.
Oil burns hot, which means that when you have oil heat, your home heats very quickly. Never again will you be left shivering for hours while your heater slowly increases the temperature of the room. There is an abundance of oil available, so you should have an easy time finding a supplier in your area and having your tank filled regularly. With 28.6 million Americans using oil as their heating fuel, oil suppliers are prevalent and are used to dealing with residential customers.
Though today's oil furnaces are pretty clean-burning and efficient, oil is not considered an eco-friendly heating option and will not help you meet green building standards if that is your intent. An issue some homeowners face with oil heating is cleaning up spills. If oil is spilled on your property while the tank is being filled up (or when a tank springs a leak), it can cause harm to the plants in your yard and take many months to clean up.
Look at this website for additional information on heating with oil.
Propane is known for being an eco-friendly heating fuel, and thus may be a good choice if you're trying to meet green building standards. It was specifically listed as a clean fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act. Propane is also known for its efficiency; most propane furnaces are at least 95 percent efficient. While there are high-efficiency oil furnaces available, many fall between 85 and 95 percent.
Another advantage of propane heat is that you can use it for other appliances in your home in addition to your furnace. You can power stoves, ovens, water heaters, and even your barbecue grill with the same propane tank connected to your furnace. Most propane sold in the U.S. is produced within the country, so using propane is a way of supporting the national economy. The cost of propane is often lower than the cost of oil. In New England, for example, the cost of propane was about 20 cents lower per BTU than the cost of oil in 2010-2011.
While accidents are rare when propane is used safely and the tank is maintained properly, it is explosive, and there have been cases in which propane tanks have exploded and caused serious injuries and property damage. Also, propane appliances are typically vented through small PVC pipe vents rather than through chimneys. If you're remodeling an older home with a chimney, this may mean you have to have your chimney sealed off and a new vent pipe installed should you choose to go with propane heat.
If you're looking for the safest heating possible and don't mind potentially dealing with some messy spills, then oil is a great choice. On the other hand, if green building is your priority, a propane heater may be a better option. Weigh your options carefully to be sure you're happy with your final choice.