Heating – Propane Vs Oil

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Update: This is a popular article written several years ago. While pricing may have changed the basic comparison still holds true today.

Heating Fuel – Propane Vs. Oil

Propane Furnace for Radiant Heat 300x225 Heating   Propane Vs OilWhen we built our new house one of the big decisions I had to make was what type of heating fuel to use. Should we use the traditional oil heat that over 90% of people in New England rely on? Or should we use propane (natural gas is not available here in this part of NH).

Pros and Cons

The answer to that question is pretty complicated when you sit down and think about it. For us I already knew we’d have propane in the house to cook with and for our direct vent fire place. For me one of my biggest concerns with oil was having an oil tank in my basement that could potentially leak some day.

The other big issue to consider was venting the two different types of fuel. An oil fired boiler would require either a direct vent out the side of the house (this is really ugly, stains the house and gets quite hot) or a traditional chimney. Today’s modern gas boilers allow you to vent the furnace through regular PVC pipe up through the roof or wall. To make a long story short I chose the gas boiler. The biggest reasons I chose it was the lack of an oil tank, the venting through the roof and the ability to have a high efficiency boiler.

One thing I really didn’t investigate all that much was a cost analysis of the two fuels. So after last winter and my rather high fuel bills I did some research on the comparison of the fuel costs. It’s not as simple as comparing the price per gallon of the two fuels. Currently (2007) where I live a gallon of fuel oil costs $2.69 while a gallon of propane costs $1.93. So on the face of it propane sounds like a huge bargain to the laymen. The real issue however is the energy that one gallon of each fuel can produce. Fuel oil can generate approximately 130,000 BTU’s while propane is approximately 95,000 BTU’s. However, most oil boilers average about 85% efficiency at best while the gas boilers can produce an efficiency of 95% or more.

Using this data I tried to come up with the cost per BTU for both types of fuel with the assumptions above.

FUEL OIL: 130,000 BTU * 85% / $2.69 = 41,078 BTU’s per dollar
PROPANE: 95,000 BTU * 95% / $1.93 = 46,762 BTU’s per dollar

So in this example the propane is slightly more cost effective. Now let me give a big disclaimer here. If you ask a bunch of heating folks most will tell you that typically oil is a better deal. It depends on so many variables and the actual equipment involved. For me what it tells me is the two fuels really are pretty similar in cost per BTU.

For me the fact that I’m burning a cleaner fuel, my boiler has almost zero maintenance, I have no oil tank to leak, I have just water vapor and carbon monoxide exiting my vent, and I needed propane anyway to cook with and run my fire place, the decision still seems to be the correct one for us. I encourage you to look at these issues next time you select a new heating system for your home.

Another PRO that is often overlooked with regard to using propane over oil is tank size. Typically propane users will have a larger tank than an oil user. Homeowners typically have 500 to 1,000 gallon propane tanks while most standard oil tanks are 275 to 400 gallon. On the surface this doesn’t appear to make a difference but it can have a huge impact.

I like to fill up my propane tank in the summer when fuel prices are historically lower than during the winter. The larger tank allows me to buy more propane at a lower price than I could if I was filling up the smaller oil tank during the summer. If you own a 1,000 gallon propane tank that can make a big difference at the end of the year.

Would you like a propane vs oil calculator (spreadsheet)? If so check out our Oil Vs Propane Fuel Calculator.

 

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176 Comments »

  • Tom Grunstra says:

    Hi,
    I work for a company that provides both heating oil and propane. Although your numbers are close, there are a couple of specifics I would like to bring up.
    Oil is about 139,000 Btu. per gallon while Propane is actually about 92,000 Btu. per gal.

    The emission from your vent includes carbon dioxide, not monoxide, although it may have a very tiny amount of carbon monoxide as a normal part of combustion. A smoking cigarette creates carbon monoxide! (Large amounts will occur only if it has been tampered with, is broken or not adjusted properly).

    The factor of efficiency as you mention also needs to address variable capacity and boiler supply water temperature which can be done with the gas boiler and directly affect the use of fuel when demand is low. The best comparison I can offer is highway mileage in a small car vs a large car. When the boiler operates in low it is the most efficient, similar to the extraordinary highway mileage a smaller car can achieve over a larger. The boiler can ramp up and still provide full demand capacity when required.

    Much more can be said about mixed return water and what can be done with each fuel etc. However the controls, labor, set-up and maintenance to achieve the similar savings using fixed capacity and even condensing oil equipment is so much higher that the tried and true gas equipment available today gets high marks from me right now.

    Tom Grunstra

    • Marty says:

      I’m glad you guys posted this thread. I just built a cabin/cottage in very cold country in Alaska.

      There is no natural gas available at the cabin, so my choices are propane, electricity, and fuel oil. After weighing the options along with pros and cons, I went with Propane and Electricity and skipped the fuel oil.

      Although Toyo oil heaters are extremely popular here, I don’t care for the cost, maintenance, and the smell of the exhaust. The propane burns so much cleaner, and I’m happy with that.

      I also have one fuel source for heat, cooking, and my on demand water heater. Electric heat is a supplement to the propane heat. I’ve found that once the propane stove brings the cabin up to temperature, a relatively small electric heater will maintain that temp quite easily. (I went big time on the insulation)

      The price for either was close. Bulk propane is costing me $3.45/gallon and fuel oil is roughly the same in Alaska.

      Since this is not a full time residence, I have resorted to “zone” heating using electric heaters to heat small rooms with the doors closed, and allowing other parts of the cabin to remain cold.

      So far, my system is working out. Of course I have yet to get in to the cold part of the winter where temps of -20 to -30 are the norm.

      I enjoyed all the information on this post that helped me along the way.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I’ve been wondering about whether I should get a oil or propane heating system for my home which we just broke ground for in Columbus, Ohio. I was leaning propane, but this article helped me come to a final decision. Thanks

    -will

    http://www.homebasecolumbus.com

  • Tricia says:

    Thanks for this! I just had a sales guy tell me that a gallon of oil and a gallon of propane provided the same BTU’s and I didn’t think he was right.

    We did decide on the gas system to replace an existing oil system due to the higher efficiency system and the lower cost per gallon of the fuel. Seems that the cost of propane is not rising quite as quickly as the price of fuel oil right now.

    Although the salesman was not right on the BTU’s per gallon thing I still feel that the gas was the right choice for us.

  • Todd says:

    Typically I agree with you. However, propane may not always be cheaper. For me the biggest benefit was not having two fuels in my house. We use propane to cook, grill and in our fireplace so the decision was easy for me.

  • Anonymous says:

    It is interesting to note that no one has mentioned the source of the fuels. It is my understanding that we import 70% of our oil and that this country has vast reserves of natural gas. This would be one application in which we could reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

  • Anonymous says:

    Like these other comments I am also in a position to decide to stay with oil or switch to propane for my home heating as I need a new furnace and I too have use propane for the stove/dryer. My question is it safe? I have read stories of home explosions from gas/propane . .

  • Fratzels says:

    If you’re already using propane in your home I would argue there is no increased risk. In fact, having a contractor come in and install a new propane furnace would ensure that your current gas lines are checked and evaluated for the new furnace. Today’s gas lines are typically run with a continuous piece of pipe which limits the number of joints and leakage potentials. Most of the explosions you hear about on the news are due to natural gas lines that are hit during excavation outside a home which causes gas to leak into the home. I can’t decide for you but I feel it is safe for my young family.

  • Rob Parkman says:

    Hi
    Just my two cents here. If you can live without ac I highly reccomend radiant heat using an instant hot water heater that uses propane. If you are building new get your 1/2 inch special pex lines in your floors concrete or wood in 300 foot loops, I have four loops heating my ground floor which is cement, no basement because were on a hill in the woods. Make sure you go propane because oil boilers heat to180 degrees and has to be tempered (cooled) and that’s just stupid, most instant hot water heaters heat between 110 and 140 degrees which is ideal, mine is set at 120. These compact gas instant hot water heaters also come in natural gas versions. You can also use these heaters in baseboards and air handlers if you are resoursefull because you can get more heat out of the heaters to do so. Sorry this really a summary, any questions email me, I’ll try to help you out. Rob at humblpie@yahoo.com

  • Anonymous says:

    To correct what was said earlier…Propane does not come from domestic sources (for the most part), it is derived as a by-product of the oil refinery process. So indirectly it is imported just like fuel oil.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m glad I found this. I too have been looking at oil vs. propane.

    After pricing a geothermal system at 40k (!!!!) we were left with these two options. Since we have propane already for hot water and cooking this is a no brainer after seeing the numbers.

  • dac122 says:

    To correct what was said earlier…Propane does not come from domestic sources (for the most part), it is derived as a by-product of the oil refinery process.

    Propane can come from either oil or NG. In places like Canada 80% comes from NG. This is one place where we can become less dependent on people that don’t like us.

    Also, if you are planning to build new or replace forced air or A/C, consider a dual fuel setup with furnace and heat pump. Even in cold climate and low NG/Propane prices and high electric rates you can get cheaper BTU costs at moderate temperatures. The equation gets better at higher NG/Propane and lower electric rates.

  • Anonymous says:

    Nicely put. We are building new and needed to decide between the propane and the oil, but since we were already needing propane for the fireplace, I was leaning towards the propane. This helped immensely. Thanks

  • Adnan Adil says:

    Hi,
    I am trying to work out a correlation formula between propane and oil prices viz., plug n play type of formula where I can see the propane price US$ per ton based on oil prices in US$ per bbl. Can anybody help me on that. If possible then please do drop me an email on a.syed@tasnee.com
    Regards

  • Ken says:

    One more thing to consider is the source of fuel. Here in Western Mass, the propane companies own many of the tanks in the yard (like a lease) and only the owner of the tank will fill it.

    So we are forced to go with a company that charges us >70c per gallon more than the open market. No other companies will fill this in ground tank and we are trapped. We use > 1000 gallons per year, so do the math. I looked last week and the open market price for LP was $2.35, company XX was charging their customers $2.49, our company, EO Osterman, is charging us $3.03!!! Last year we paid more than a $1000 over market price. Sounds like it should be against the law, doesn’t it.

    Monopoly in our area. Check yours and see who owns the tank and liability. I am thinking about converting from LP to oil to get out of this price fix.

    • Todd says:

      @ Ken – Around here all the fuel companies have agreements in place. So let’s say you change propane suppliers the new supplier owes the previous supplier a tank. Basically they all keep score on tanks and it ends up working out fine. In fact, here you can actually own your own tank and shop around for pricing and get better deals.

    • Javier says:

      Ken…We have the same problem here in PA, the Poconos area.I had a buried propane tank which came with the house,but what happened it was too closed to the house, 7ft away, so by law it has to be at least 10ft away if it’s near a window,i called the propane company i told them that they were in a state code violation and that they have to remove the tank ASAP which they did.I bought my own 250 gallons i called another propane company who charge me $1.25 less per gallon than the first company i had before,they asked me if i had the received or bill of sale for the tank,which i did,they came over inspected the tank and now they have me as a customer.May be if you call a few companies and tell them that you have your own propane tank and that you have the bill of sale or receive,they might take as a new costumer at a better rate.Good luck.

    • R.S. Wildman says:

      Purchase the tank from the company, get a certificate of ownership and shop around for propane.

    • Debbie says:

      Hey read your post…you do have options regarding your supplier. You can offer to purchase the tank that is inground, ask them to come and dig it out (they are required to make the yard look as it was afterwards), or require them to match the price of the lowest company. I am a saleswoman for a propane company, we do this all the time. They can not hold your hostage, the other option is to get the company you want to use, to swap a new tank with the current company. No one will disturb your land, but the new company will then own the tank in the ground. Your best bet is to purchase the tank, then you can get it filled by who ever has the best pricing when you need it. Hope this helps, if you have any questions please email me.

      Debbie

    • Dave says:

      You should lobby your local government. In the state of NH, we use to have the same problem. Dont quote me on this but I’m pretty sure a law was passed forcing the companies to sell the tanks to the new company if the customer changes. it allows competition.

  • Stan says:

    Sorry to disagree but if you check out the DOE web site http://www.npga.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=914 you will see that Propane is $20.47 per million BTU and Heating oil is only $16.01 per million BTU so propane is at least 23% more expensive than heating oil. I have had a monitor heater that is over 95% efficient and my heating bill was only $50 a month in the north west including some 20 below zero weather.

    Of course the cheapest energy of all is natural gas. Check it out for your self.

    • Todd says:

      @ Stan – Couple things, first of all you’re not considering the true efficiency’s in the boilers. Also, you’re using 2007 pricing information before the huge sore in prices of oil. In addition, when you do the numbers which I have pointed out oil and propane actually flip flop from year to year depending on pricing. There is no huge winner in the debate and it actually comes down to personal preferences. Thanks for the link.

    • Gene says:

      What is a “monitor heater that is 95% efficient?” I am planning on replacing my a/c and oil furnace and installing a hybrid setup.. heat pump and furnace (oil or propane.. not natural gas available in my development. Thanks

      • Todd says:

        Gene – Around this part of the Country we don’t typically hear about monitor heaters. From the little I know about them they are like a glorified space heater. Maybe another reader can share some knowledge on them.

  • Jim Kozack says:

    I’m not getting much definitive info to make a comparison. Seems like LP is more efficient, yet oil is cheaper per gallon – and I believe a gallon of LP goes further than a gallon of oil.

    Outside of the simplicity of having only one fuel source for heating/stove/dryer – is propane equal cost-wise to oil per gallon in this current day?

    Thanks for any info on this matter so I can determine which route I want to take with a heating system where the burner cost is the same for both.

    Jim

  • Chris O says:

    A few things to consider.

    Heating Oil is not mostly from these ‘foreign lands’ everyone tries to make it out to be. Actually Natural Gas, Heating Oil and Propane came from the same spots in the ground (shocking). 85% of Heating Oil is from America. The U.S. is currently the country with the second most proven oil reserves in the world (thanks to the Dakota Fields). Two of our three biggest importers of oil are Canada and Mexico (wow they are actually our biggest importers of the other stuff too…shocking). 90% of the worlds refining process, which breaks up Crude Oil into products is done in the United States.

    Any heating source being ‘cleaner’ or the ‘cleanest’ is debatable. If you are looking strictly at CO2, yes you can gauge those types of things but considering Natural Gas is made up of Methane (54 times worse than CO2) and leaks 7-11% in the transmission process I’d say its not ‘cleaner’ for humanity or the environment.

    Heating Oil isn’t explosive or even flammable (that’s right throw a match in a gallon of oil). The same cannot be said for Propane or Methane (Natural Gas).

    Heating oil is the cheapest of the three per BTU equilvalent 90% of the time. Actual running efficiency of any ‘condensing’ units that tell you they are 95% efficient are usually much less.

    This all being said, almost every source of heating is as good as the other and it is all just preference. Look what CECA (the Consumer Energy Council of America) says about converting from one to the other. Basically any of these sources are just as good as the others.

    • Todd says:

      @ Chris – Thanks for the input. It’s very true that if you break down the numbers that there’s really not much difference in the cost for each fuel especially if you look at th average over several years as the price of fuel fluctuates so much.

    • Cristi says:

      We already have fuel oil, but need to redo the chimney liner. It was an option to convert to lp. We decided to stay with the fuel oil, because it is a hotter heat, which I love in Michigan winters. You just don’t get that warm of heat from lp. I am happy we made the decision to stay with the fuel oil. We only have a cellar where the tank is stored anyway. Besides a furnace man told us that it is much safewr than propane, no invisible smell, etc.

      • Cristi says:

        I forgot to mention, we only use the fuel oil as a backup to get us through the night, in mid winter, as we mostly heat with a woodstove.

      • Todd says:

        Cristi – Thanks for sharing. As I said the choice isn’t always cut and try. I’m not sure I agree about the “hotter heat”. Oil will produce more BTU’s per gallon which does mean it’s hotter per gallon but that’s really not relevant. A properly sized boiler with either fuel should generate BTU’s to maintain a certain temperature in the home. After all what we seek to do is hold our homes at a certain comfortable temperature.

    • craig hill says:

      85% of our fuel comes from America? Wow, what drugs are you doing these days? I’d like to come under the influence as you’re under…if not for anything but to make me forget what I’m, paying for FOREIGN oil that, which is the bulk of what we use HERE in America. If we got 85% of our fuel from Canada, et al and NOT rip off OPEC do you honestly think for a second that gas prices would be headed to over $4.00/gal and heating oil bursting through the $3.75/gal high mark? Do you have less than an “efficient” IQ? If you think for a second that we’re not getting the bulk of our oil from ‘unfriendly’ nations, you’re either in denial, a total idiot or simply uninformed/misled. Wise up, we’re in this piss poor shape in 2011 America with gas and oil prices SKY HIGH, because of the Middle East EXPLODING!—-get it?

  • john says:

    In responce to heating oil not being flamable, is not true, all products have a flash point, just like jet fuel which is nothing but extra clean kero, that is very similiar to heating oil, which is the same as Diesel, just dyed red. Product like this is what took down the World Trade Center.

  • Alex says:

    I live in MA. I currently have Oil and Propane in the house. I will be replacing the boiler soon (it’s 22 years old and inefficient).

    I know about the difference in heat capacity between oil and propane, so everything else being equal, you’d go with oil.

    But there are several questions I’d like somebody to answer:

    1. Most older homes have baseboards sized for 180F heat (actually 140-180). So if you put in a condensing boiler, you won’t get much if any condensing savings, right? (Condensing boilers get most of their value if the return is in the 60-70 range and no more than 120.) So you’d have to run an expensive condensing boiler without enjoying the claimed savings. Experts: is this correct?

    Since the stimulus bill has raised the floor to 90% AFUE efficiency, you might buy one of these condensing models just to get the $1500 tax rebate.

    2. Most homes heating systems that old oversized, and if you try to size realistically (we have a cape), the input BTU assuming a low temp of 0 degrees F is no more than 60K. Yet most non-condensing oil boilers are sized 80 or above and if you try to run an oil burner too low it gums up. Thus you would tend to try to adjust things with a fancy outdoor reset like the Tekmar 260. But you might still short cycle, wasting fuel.

    3. Gas boilers generally can modulate (turn down the flame like on a gas stove) so that you have effectively a range of input BTUs that can adjust to the real heat loss of the house based on the outdoor temp, return temp, etc. Here’s the question: is this modulating capability enough to make up for the difference between propane and oil heat content (92K vs 139K)?

    4. Our chimney will probably need expensive lining for an oil boiler but with gas we could get a direct vent PVC pipe. That might save money.

    5. Is there any other factor (other than yearly cleaning costs favoring propane) that we should be considering?

    Thanks for any insights.

    • Todd says:

      @ Alex – Great questions. I’m certainly no heating expert but I can say that typically the oil vs heat battle is a wash no matter how you look at it. It really comes down to personal choices about the fuels. I’m not really sure that the return water on condensing units is that low (I could be wrong). I had a condensing unit installed in my first home that had baseboard that was 40 years old and it worked great.

      Hopefully one of the readers can answer your questions. Have you asked some of your local heating experts?

  • Mark says:

    Great discussion. One more consideration
    aesthetics… Gas boilers are quieter.
    Don’t hear that motor boat taking off in your basement
    every 30 minutes in the winter…

  • Eric says:

    Hi,

    Does anyone know what would be the overall energy cost of using propane, if one was also using propane to power the water heater, range and dryer? I suppose if one uses oil, the above items must run on electricity.

    Any ideas?

  • les says:

    I’m interested in the groups thoughts on the Eric’s about heating water and a dryer, we all know he benefits of gas cooking.
    I may represent a different population of users in that I need a
    fuel that works at low tempersture (a seasonal home set at 50 during the winter and hot water for 2 people most of the time. From what I’ve seen the in-line tankless flash heater’s would seem the best for my application but I’m not sure wether or not that tips it to propane heat (the system the central furnace will be married to is forced hot water.)

  • Dan says:

    what is the cost for a oil boilers vs propane boiler and is there any maintenace on a propane boiler?

    Thanks

    Dan

  • Lou says:

    Todd,
    Living in rural upstate NY, I have a concern about the safety of a propane tank that might be accidentally shot during the hunting season. (This is not as absurd as it sounds: I pulled a large slug out of our shed siding this summer.)

  • Mike says:

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned the maintenance or a oil boiler vs a propane boiler. You have to figure in the $100+ dollars a year to tune up your oil burner / furnace. A propane boiler or furnace is not as clean as natural gas but it is a heck of a lot cleaner than oil. Also since oil burners burn hotter than gas the cast iron chambers have a significant chance of cracking like mine did after just 10 years. (Burnham boiler pv73wc-tbwn) I’m now replacing it again and can’t decide whether to go with another CAST IRON boiler or a STEEL boiler. ANY FEEDBACK WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED. I’m currently on well water with a water conditioning system in place that works well but the water is cold. There are pros and cons of each. But replacing an oil burner every 10 or so years is an astronomical expense to a homeowner. I know Burnham has had a lot of problems with there boilers over the last 12 years, (since 1997) but searching some of the best boilers like Weil Mclain, Dunkirk etc. they all seem to have the same issues. I guess quality really went down the tubes – no pun intended.
    I think a gas boiler or furnace is definitely the way to go and its a whole lot cleaner than oil.

  • jim says:

    Hi, I just switched from oil to propane for many of the reasons listed,the one question I have is with propane will I be using more or less gal. of fuel?

  • jeff says:

    My 81 yr old mother is weighing the propane vs heating oil furnace replacement. She now has a heating oil furnace that is old and unlike many here, it is a forced air furnace and not a boiler heating water. There is a tank outside and from what I read here, it seems a new heating oil system is in order.

    My question is….. is there a name brand heating oil furnace that anyone can recco? Thanks and she lives in northern WVa.

  • Mike says:

    I have a 1975 oil boiler with baseboard heat for a ranch style house in Western Maine. The oil boiler also supplies our domestic hot water.

    After reading comments from many of your readers, I’m inclined to switch to a propane boiler. My question centers around the salesman’s claim that I also need inline on-demand propane hot water unit. is this redundant? We also burn 4 cords of firewood annually.

    • Todd says:

      @ Mike – I don’t agree with him. Frankly most on-demand propane boilers can do both with priority given to domestic hot water. We’ve built several new homes with a single on-demand boiler that does both domestic and hot water for heat.

  • Barry says:

    Great discussion. Just going through the process myself up here in northern Ontario and looking at replacing my 15 year old oil furnace with a propane unit. A couple of other points. Insurance companies around here are getting really fussy with oil tanks….replacement every 5 years, minimum distance from your well, an over flow reservoir, etc. Those factors plus the wear and tear on my chimney is leading me to propane. Just a little concerned about the volatility.
    Barry

  • Doug says:

    I have just met with an HVAC contractor this morning to discuss furnace replacement. I currently have FHA heat fueled by oil. The furnace is original to the home so is 31 years old and well past it’s prime. I also use propane for the dryer, fireplace and a Jotul stove. I also have a seperate 40 gallon oil-fired hot water heater which I would also change to a propane solution if I went that way.

    Currently I am paying $2.69 for oil and $3.19 for propane. I’m not happy about the price I pay for propane but the company tells me the cost per gallon is based on useage. If I used more, the ppg would drop. Do most companies use this pricing method?

    The contractor is recommending a conversion to a high efficiency propane furnace and I am leaning toward that path yet I’m not quite off the fence.
    I know that with oil, I have the flexibility of changing oil companies easily but not so with propane since each company provides the tanks and switching would require tank removal and replacement.

    • Todd says:

      Doug – First off it’s not that uncommon to hear of different price structures for propane based on usage. Secondly, at least here in this area (NH) the tank issue really is a non-issue and here’s why. All propane dealers around here have an agreement in place so that if you change fuel companies, the new company just “owes” a tank to the previous company. People switch so much that the companies pretty much keep score. Also, quite a few (including myself) home owners actually own their own tank and then it doesn’t matter at all plus the companies here give a deeper discount if you own the tank.

      As far as cost of fuel goes, they both work out about the same when you start comparing price vs efficiency.

      Good luck!

      • Dan Lanciani says:

        Can you recommend a NH propane supplier that is friendly
        (or at least not hostile) to installing customer owned
        tanks? I seem to be having trouble getting this done.

        Thanks,
        Dan Lanciani
        ddl@ipswitch.com

        • Todd says:

          Dan – Couple questions.

          1. Are you looking for them to bury the tank? If so that would be an excavation contractor.
          2. Once the tank is buried you need the gas company to make the gas connection.
          3. Where in NH are you located?

          • Dan Lanciani says:

            Yes, I want underground tanks. The GC has an excavation
            contractor, but he can’t buy the tanks. His suppliers
            say that you have to work through a propane dealer now.
            I don’t know if this is a new requirement. The house
            is in Barnstead.

          • Todd says:

            Dan – We typically have the homeowner purchase the tank through a propane dealer. That part is pretty standard. Have you already purchased a tank? If not then I would call several suppliers, tell them you want to purchase your own tank and ask what their policies are.

          • Dan Lanciani says:

            No, I haven’t purchased a tank. I started trying
            to get this done in the spring. One propane dealer
            got as far as making a site visit but once I convinced
            them that I was serious about owning they sort of
            faded away. They also said that they can’t just
            supply the tank; they have to hook it up to something
            and they have to bring any appliances in the house up
            to current code which would be “expensive”. At that
            point I think they just wanted me to go away. The
            only appliances in the house are the stove and a through-wall heater that will be removed. I will
            have a new central furnace, water heater, dryer, and
            generator.

            In any case, this seems kind of catch-22. I was
            hoping there was a dealer with a track record of
            supporting customer-owned tanks. If this is going
            to be a huge hassle I will go with oil and a diesel
            generator. It’s getting cold…

          • Todd says:

            Dan – It is true that gas fitters must inspect the system they are connecting to and that makes good sense. It can be quite a hassle but worth the leg work. I think most dealers don’t want you to know about it because they end up selling the gas for a higher price point when they “own” the tank even when it’s buried in the ground.

            I would call several of them and tell them exactly what you want to do, there’s got to be one in your area willing to work with you.

  • Guy Thomas says:

    It’s time to replace my propane hot water heater. I have a new oil furnace with space for a domestic hot water coil so you can see my question is should I buy a new propane hot water heater or install the coil for the oil furnace. I reviewed my last 2 propane bills and found $4.80/gal and $5.47/ gal. Heating oil $2.70/gal. Looks like I am really getting screwed by the propane dealer. As the oil furnace is new it looks like I will head in that direction. My question is does the oil fired hot water coil require a storage tank or can it just be hot water on demand. There is only myself and wife so demand is limited. Does this short cycling of the oil furnace cause maintenance headaches during summer operation or actually help in by running it during the summer? Thanks for all the intelligent discussion on this subject. Albany NY area

    • Todd says:

      Guy – Your propane dealer is definitely putting the screws to you. Have you shopped around for a cheaper price?

      If your oil furnace is new it may make sense to use that for your domestic hot water. However, check with your heating professional and find out if your oil furnace has the ability to monitor the outdoor air temperature and adjust the boiler temperature accordingly. Lots of new boilers have that capability which makes them much more efficient in the summer months. If the outside air is above X (let’s say 65 degrees) then the boiler will only make hot water to let’s say 120 degrees versus some hotter temperature when it’s making hot water for heat. Make sense?

      Another option is buying an On Demand hot water heater, either propane or electric.

      The tank issue really depends on the type of boiler you have an what options are available. For an oil boiler I would imagine a high efficiency storage tank would make more sense.

      I hope this helps.

      • Guy Thomas says:

        My propane dealer wants to change my tanks and review my equipment”for complience”. Sounds like a make work project for them which started me reviewing my energy needs. As my waterheater and clothes dryer, (both propane), are both 15-30 years old and the cost of propane is excessive, now is the time to make this change. I will consult with the furnace provider to understand the costs benefits of the domestic hot water from the oil furnace. Electric for the clothes dryer is a necessity and possible the water heater. I have attached a interactive fuel/btu evaluation link which is very helpful for evaluating your costs for energy. Thanks for the help.

        http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls

  • Anthony says:

    I live in New Jersey in a townhome, and have Oil Heat. I had the option to switch to Natural Gas when I bought it 5 years ago, but it didn’t make sense, because the chimney had to be relined, the tank taken out of the basement, and it wasn’t practical in todays world of High efficiency washer & dryers, and stoves, to switch to gas for savings, because quite frankly, there is none. When I bought the home I got all new HE electric appliances. A new Oil Furnace, and converted from Electric Hot water, to a 30 gallon oil fired water heater. Best decision I ever made, the water heater provides an endless supply because of how hot oil burns and how quickly it recovers itself. The previous house that I had a gas water heater in, I always ran out of hot water if multiple appliances were running at the same time. I only use about 5 to 7 gallons a month of fuel oil for water. My electric bill averages $150, and $90 a month for heating oil.

    Do your homework before thinking of switching to gas. It really isn’t cleaner, it produces a ton of methane, which is not good at all for the environment.

    • Todd says:

      Anthony – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Not sure I agree but that’s the beauty of sharing. Today’s gas furnaces have no problem creating sufficient hot water and they run much cleaner than even the best oil furnaces.

  • Dory says:

    I’ve been following this discussion with quite a bit of interest for the last month or so. I too have been wrestling with the question of oil vs propane. I live in rural upstate NY and in the end have decided to go with propane so that I may more easily add a whole house propane generator to the total package of my furnace upgrade. I am buying my condensing boiler equipment from an HVAC company that does not sell fuel, so it has no vested interested in my final decision: it sells and services both oil and propane units. They actually recommended that I buy my own 1000 gal propane tank which eliminates the whole issue of leasing from a fuel company, something that is a bit of a concern in NY since even 200 gal tanks cost about 100 dollars a year to rent. I’ve checked with several suppliers and no one had a problem filling my size tank at the reasonable rate of about 2.59 per gallon. I am also switching out my electric range for a propane one. I like the idea of having one type of fuel, I hate the smelly oil tanks in my basement, and, for where I live, a whole house generator is a necessity at times. Additionally, by direct venting the furnace out the wall, I will have the option of relining my old oil flue to fit it out for a wood burning stove or pellet stove. I have wood heat on my first floor but adding more to the basement would help a lot in keeping the floors warm. Best of luck to all who are dealing with this issue. No matter what you do, it doesn’t come cheap!

  • Jenn says:

    Hi,
    We just purchased a small home, 816 sq ft, home for our son in coastal CT. We have gutted the home and are trying to decide on a heat source. We have a propane tank on site currently but it is a large cylinder type not inground. If we decided to go with propane we could get an on demand tankless hot water system and run a propane baseboard heating system. We are have no idea on the cost of running the system but would like to eliminate the oil tank from the basement. In coastal CT would we need a large buried tank or would the 200 gallon tank be enough. We would be running the stove, water heater and heater off it. Thanks for any input.

    • Todd says:

      Jenn – It really depends on how well insulated the house is and the efficiency of the gas appliances. A 816 sq. ft. home is very small and would likely not use much fuel if it were well insulated. On the other hand, if the home is old and drafty you could burn through quite a bit of gas. It’s also possible to have multiple tanks which might be a good idea. I would speak with the heating guy and also the gas supplier and find out what they recommend.

  • Paul says:

    We are currently in need of a new furnace. Our current system is an oil boiler system which supplies 2 floors of a log home with baseboard hot water heat on seperate thermostats. My question is do we change from oil boiler system to a propane boiler system or an electric hot water on demand system? My step son recommends the electric hot water on demand system but I wonder about the distance the water would have to travel throughout the house to be efficiently effective. We use wood as our primary heating source. I am leaming toward a propane boiler system since we have a well and the water is very cold. What do you think?

  • John says:

    I’d rather go with wood, pellets, or coal. All three are domestic and much cheaper than conventional heating fuels. If I had to go with a conventional heating fuel, Natural Gas, Propane then Oil.

  • My Brother and I have similar size homes in the same area CT, He uses Natural Gas for heating at a cost of about $350 per month Jan and Feb while I spending about $700 per month for oil heat.
    Anyone know if these new hybrid electric/heatpump hot water heaters are cheaper to operate than propane Hot water heaters.
    Cheers.

  • UrbanDigs says:

    Ok, I just bought a house in Southbury CT and here is the deal. All the heating appliances are old and past their design life. Specifically, I need to replace:

    1. Oil furnace, 40yrs old, hole in side, its done
    2. Oil Tank, bottom is porous and risk of leaking in near future
    3. Water heater is electric, 17 yrs old, its done

    Its forced heat duct system and only a 1760 sft Cape house.

    Now, we are cooks so 100% we will install propane tank and hook up outside BBQ and new gas stove for cooking purposes. My question is:

    What do we do about oil vs propane for heating? Do we:

    a) replace oil tank, oil furnace, keep electric water tank + clothes dryer?

    or

    b) install larger propane tank and convert to propane furnace, propane water heater and clothes dryer?

    My main concern with heating using propane is smell of gas and hazards of breathing in byproduct of gas? Is this warranted? Propane is definitely cleaner and cheaper, so what should I do??

    HELP!

    • Todd says:

      Well first off let me say I’m glad you realize it’s the time to replace all of them together.

      We NEVER smell gas in our home or any of the new homes we’ve built using propane. The only way you’d smell it is if there was a leak which in of itself would be a VERY rare situation. Propane burns much cleaner so I’m not sure what byproducts you’re worried about. Obviously with any fuel burning appliances it’s a good idea (and the law in some places) to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector.

      Our home is 100% propane, heat, cooking, fireplace, grill, etc and we love it.

  • Lee says:

    Really found this posting to be of great help after searching fruitlessly on the internet for some realistic info – thanks for this.

    We’re thinking about buying a home that has all oil, and NG isn’t available in that area. We were thinking about the possibility of swithcing to gas since we don’t want to deal with the oil. Also, we would like to have propane for cooking.

    The question is, what will it cost to convert from oil to propane? Obviously this is a complex question, but I was hoping for a semi-ballpark, at least, so that I can think about it when considering the cost of the house.

    It seems to me that I would need to purchase a new boiler and water heater, and a tank, and installation… are we talking $5,000? $50,000? Any advice here? I don’t want to waste a contractor’s time getting a quote on a place if I don’t buy it in the end.

    Any help appreciated, thanks!

    • Lee says:

      Whoops, edit – I mean, we want to switch completely to propane. NG not available at all there.

    • Todd says:

      Great question. Part of the answer depends in part on how you’d heat the home. Do you currently have baseboard (hot water) or forced hot air? If you have baseboard heat then you can switch to just a boiler which can also make your domestic hot water. In that situation you’re looking at a new boiler, gas piping, and potential costs to bury the tank if you go that route.

      Without knowing much about your situation you’re likely looking at best case of $7,500 (maybe less but I doubt it).

  • Amy says:

    Great discussion. I have a few questions no one has addressed. We had a freak flood in our basement and lost our oil furnace. Our oil usage was mostly for laundry and showers (four boys in the house)not for heating the house because it has new windows and is a log home covered with clap board. Therefore the salesmen have recommended a oil furnace with an in-line water heater. We have a small propane tank outside for cooking so I think it would be a good idea to consider switching over entirely to propane. Would it be a good idea to purchase a propane water heater and place it in the pantry (away from future floods) and get a smaller propane furnace for the basement? Also, when we lose power we can still cook with our propane stove. If we lose power again, will the propane water heater and furnace still function? Another thought: If we contact areas propane dealers here in PA and state that we are considering switching to propane heat, won’t I be able to negotiate/lock-in a better rate? Todd, I see that you’re a structural engineer, so maybe you can advise me as to whether I should have a general contractor or a structural engineer inspect my homes foundation following a flood that completely filled my basement which has a dirt floor and stone walls. Thanks for any feedback you can give.

    • Todd says:

      I would suggest you strongly consider going to all propane for heat and hot water. Today’s on-demand hot water heater/furnaces are so small they can be hung from a wall or ceiling. This would allow you the benefit of getting the unit up off the floor in case of a future flooding event.

      I’m not sure how much negotiating power you’ll have on future fuel prices but it’s worth a shot. Getting rid of an oil tank from your home is another added benefit.

      Most propane heaters will NOT work without power. However, they will run fine if you have a back-up generator at your home.

      Flooding can cause structural damage if it causes shifting of structural components or foundation bearing soils. If you’re concerned that there is structural damage (visual signs of movement) then you may want to call in a professional. It’s really hard to give you advice without seeing the damage myself.

  • Domingo says:

    Todd,

    We just bought a house in Easton CT that currently has oil heat (Oil boiler, furnace and a couple of hydro air handlers, one for second floor and one for the in law on top of the garage). The main floor has an old furnace that gets direct oil as well.

    We come from a house that had NG for everything (cooking, heat, etc)…Now we have this house with oil heat, electric cooking…

    I am so scared of the oil prices and I want to prepare for the winter. I want to get a propane generator and stove.

    Here is the question, should I switch all together to propane?…

    i will have to:
    – Purchase a new boiler and a new hydro air for the main floor. The gas company will lend me the tank if I do business with them

    Please advice

  • DW says:

    Hi Todd, just ran across this site, found it interesting, informative, and thought provoking. I see most folks responding live in colder regions than myself. Down here in Maryland we don’t see the nasty winters you all get, but they can be respectably harsh on us. I just moved into a 40 year old 2-story knowing the HVAC setup will need some attention in the next few years. Oil fired boiler with baseboards in 4 zones, forced AC from attic, and no generator. Miss Irene (hurricane that is) was the cause of our third power outage since moving in 3 months ago. It is like generator city here after a storm, I may be the only resident with no back-up system. Anyway, I am looking at a whole-house generator and since there is no natural gas in my neighborhood, propane seems the only real option. If I plan this right; have a big enough tank burried and set up the generator, I could switch out the boiler next year or so and go with propane. So my question is, is propane better for really cold climates or would this be a relatively good move, all other things being equal. Would a 500 gallon tank be big enough or should I go bigger. I have already begun contacting venders for pricing a generator and another for the tank. I prefer to do most of the grunt work myself, I have some experience in electical, plumbing, etc. but plan to let the experts get the hook ups and permits done right. Like others here, I am scared of propane in the house but that is probably more from a lack of any experience than any real dangers. Any thoughts would be apreciated.

    • Todd says:

      DW – Thanks for visiting the site. I sure hope you find it useful and consider signing up for my FREE newsletter.

      Standby generators are so popular now because they’ve become somewhat affordable. I can tell you that having a 500 gallon buried tank is more than sufficient in size for heating your home and backup power. Having said that you’ll want to discuss sizing with your supplier and make sure you’re using enough of the 500 gallon tank in a season so the propane doesn’t get too old. Here’s another article worth reading over: http://www.homeconstructionimprovement.com/underground-propane-tanks/

      It’s really difficult to say that propane or gas for the matter is better than oil. If you really study the historical pricing data the different fuels seem to be quite competitive with each other. What you need to look at when comparing costs are the dollars spent per BTU, oil has more BTU’s per gallon than propane for instance.

      For me one of the biggest reasons to use gas is getting the darn oil tank out of the home. Oil spills in a house are far more common and costful than leaking propane. Propane is also much safer in your home than natural gas. I have all propane appliances and two very active young children and we’ve never had an issue with the gas leaking.

      Not sure if I answered your question but I’d certainly evaluate the propane as it’s a good solution especially when you use it to cook, heat and power.

      • Marianne says:

        I am in a position where I have to make a choice between oil heat or propane. I have zero experience with propane, yet I seem to have a fear of it only due to some of the things I’ve heard and read about explosions. Many of the comments on this post have really helped to educate me and open my eyes to the safety of propane heating and cooking! Thank you! Marianne, Toronto, Canada

  • Nativebloke says:

    An informative weblog. We are in southern Maine, not quite the tropics except as compared to northern Maine. Still, the degree days are about 7,500 to 7,800.

    It seems that there are wildly differing views on the price of propane. It has been mentioned to me in the past, and now on this site, that price can vary considerably with the gallons delivered. A 100 gal. delivery will cost more per gallon than a 1,000 gallon delivery. Is this true – or not true – depending on the region?

    Even as energy prices rise, there is only relative stability in regulated electricity and natural gas. Oil and propane both seem much less stable, so it is somewhat of a crap shoot as to what one will pay down the line. Relief can be bought in various conservation measures beyond the usual envelope tightening. A notable one is radiant floor heating. This better matches boiler output temperature to return temperature. Feedwater for boiler and domestic use, either from wells or utilities, can be tempered with passive solar before being heated.

    There is at least one hot water boiler system in which the burner assembly can be switched out from oil to propane. We might replace our 23 year old HW oil fired boiler with domestic HW coil to a new one. If oil prices really run up, it could be changed to propane later as more dealers get into the market based on demand and hopefully stabilize the price.

    Also, I keep hearing about whole house generators. Not needed in my opinion. We just have a 6,200 watt generator which is sufficient to run the hot water furnace, well pump, refrigerator, microwave, garage doors, and a few lights. It runs on gasoline. In 6 years the longest we have been out of utility power was 2 days and 6 hours, courtesy of Irene, and we survived just fine. The outage cost me about $8 in gasoline as we cycled the system on and off during the day. The cost of installation and generator was about 1/4 that of a whole house system which is quite cost effective for the two or three times a year we use it.

    • Todd says:

      Yes there is certainly a great range of pricing for heating fuels. If you study the pricing of propane and oil though historically they average out. This is especially true when you compare the cost of BTU’s and not gallons.

      I think I disagree on the radiant heat comment. Not only do I have radiant heat in my home but we build a fair majority of homes with it today. I have yet to find a single situation where running radiant is cheaper than baseboard hot water. This is mainly due to the fact that radiant runs more often.

      • Charles says:

        Todd, are you saying that you regret installing radiant heat, and wouldn’t recommend it?

        I’m in the design phase of building a new home in R.I. and was considering radiant heat for master bath, but also thought about it for the whole house if I end up with oil heat (no NG in the area).

        I seem to be all over the map on heating/hot water. I’m thinking maybe central air with a heat pump, and propane for hot water and fireplace inserts to supplement the heat pump if needed (two, one on each level). Is it even feasible to heat a home through a rhode Island winter with a heat pump?

        If you had to do it over again today, what system(s) do you think you’d go with?

        • Todd says:

          Charles – I don’t regret it at all. I just want home owners to be educated by 3rd parties that have no skin in the game. The heating industry will tell you over and over again that radiant heat is the most efficient heat out there. I’d disagree strongly. Radiant heat is more money to install, and it’s more money to run. Having said that it’s the most comfortable heat I can think of and something I’d install in my next house all over again.

          I will tell you that I like installing radiant on the 1st floor of houses, and then using baseboard heat on the 2nd floor. This cuts down on installation costs. There is a trade off though, as the boiler will need to make hotter water for the baseboard and then you use a mixing valve to temper the radiant heat down lower.

          If you go radiant then I’d let your boiler also make the domestic hot water. I’d also recommend using propane if you want to cook with it as well.

          I hope that helps.

          Please consider signing up for our FREE Weekly Newsletter for more tips and advice.

  • At today’s average costs, LP is slightly more expensive to heat your home. Using 1,000 gallons of heating oil per year at a locked in price of $3.65 per gallon (avg. Sept. 2011 prices), you would pay about $3,650 per year. To achieve the same amount of heat with propane that you would with 1,000 gallons of heating oil, you will need about 1,373 gallons of propane. For 1,373 gallons of propane at a locked in price of $2.99 per gallon (avg. Sept. 2011 prices), you would pay about $4,105 per year.

    You should always check current propane prices with your fuel supplier. http://www.irvingenergy.com/2011/09/heating-oil-vs-propane/

  • sally says:

    Hi, First -off thank you for providing this informative site and creating a community where we can all discuss and share on the topic intelligently outside of talking to salesmen which have our heads spinning:) Please allow me to apologize for making this so long winded.

    We live up in Litchfield county CT and our home was built 60 years ago and is approx 1300 sq ft. We are not sure of the age of our system but it is at least 30 years old. And it is time for us to replace our furnace/oil burner and hot water heater. Our current system lives in a 4Ft high crawl space and none of the companies like to service it.

    In any event, after laboring over it, we have been pretty much sold ourselves on a wall hanging/mounted “Triangle Tube Prestige 110 Gas Condensate boiler fitted into a closet upstairs on ground level. No one has told us the price we would be paying for the accompanying Phase III Smart 30 indirect water maker and when asked, said it is lumped in and included in the final estimate total.

    It is all pretty overwhelming and a significant amount of money. Although, everything we have read tells us this particular system is popular with these companies because it’s one of the easiest to install?

    So far the price/estimates for installation and removing the existing oil burner system from the crawl space along removal of the the oil tank which lives in our garage, is coming in at $14,400 plus an additional $1,400.00 Gas Hook-up, plus the carpentry work involved approx $400.00. This by our calculations adds up to $16,200 ( funny we had clearly said we don’t want to exceed $14,000 total for any new system).

    To date None of the companies have provided us with an itemized estimate for parts, materials and labor. Is it so unusual that we would like to know what we are paying for? The triangle comes with a 10 year warranty and everything else with a standard 1 year. A fine printed clause stating, ANY alterations/deviations will become an extra charge. (Not sure what this could mean potentially).

    Does this sound about right? And we were concerned about pipes freezing in the crawl space because the furnace won’t be keeping the area warm anymore. We leave for the winter but were told they can put antifreeze (RV Antifreeze in there.)and that because it’s underground it isn’t a concern.

    Does this pricing make sense and is it so unusual to ask for an itemized estimate? They tell us it just isn’t done this way and if we insist then they would rather not do the work.

    Thanks for any advice and we look forward to hearing from you.

    • Todd says:

      Sally,

      Thanks for visiting the site. No worries on the long comment, this site is exactly for this purpose.

      Without knowing your home some of this will be guess work on my part. I’ll start with some questions.

      1. Did the old furnace have a chimney from the crawl space?
      2. How is the new furnace to be vented? Is that included in the space?
      3. Was your existing furnace a hot water baseboard system? I would think that if this is true, then you might want an on-demand boiler that will make both domestic hot water (on demand with no tank) and also your heating hot water.
      4. Do all the heat pipes and domestic water pipes run in the crawl space and is the crawl space un-heated?
      5. How many estimates did you get? Where they all similar in scope and price?
      6. Did you ask for referrals and did you check with the Better Business Bureau?

      The pricing seems a bit high but without knowing how much work is involved it may not be. If you’ve only got one estimate you really should get a couple more.

  • Bob H. says:

    Great information. Thanks to everyone.
    In light of the recent problem with CL&P power outages in CT, I’m in the market for a standy Gen. These all seem to run on propane. Doing the math, it seems that a 7KW Gen will burn through 1g of propane in an hour at half load. SO I’m guessing that I’ll need a relatively LARGE tank (500g) to survive a week w/o power. If i’m going to have to buy a tank that large, it got me thinking that perhaps a propane boiler could be cheaper than the $4+ oil I’m currently buying (yes… that is >$4/g, thank you DDLC).Here’s my question. I know I can get a wood burning or pellet boiler that will hook into my existing oil heating system. The thought being that the pellet or wood would be the primary (since its cheaper)and the OIL would be the backup. Does anyone know if this type of set up is doable with propane? I’m think that it should work since the only interface will probably be a heat exchange and circulator. Was wondering if anyone has done or seen this.
    thanks

  • Nate says:

    A high eff gas condensing boiler installed in a home that was designed for oil heat with conventional baseboard is not the best answer! A condensing boiler needs to have a return water temp of below 140-150 to actually condense this is great during the mild days of spring and fall but during the winter the boiler will need to be pumping out 180 water and it will not cool down tO the condensing temp so the eff drops ! There are oil boilers on the market that are 90% eff and are non condensing Buderus makes one and with outdoor reset controls that are available on both lp and oil I bet oil is the better option! Studies have shown we have more oil right here in the USA and nat gas that we don’t have to depend on forgin oil but a lot of people need to pull the tree out of their @$$ the process of fracking the nat gas from the ground is causing many debates on water contamination and sooner or later the price of that will shoot up like everything else! Here in the northeast oil was the cheapest way to heat for many years but over the last three nat gas it less but for how long?? I work for an oil and lp company and we make a lot more $$ selling customers lp than oil and the people that panic and switch spend thousands of dollars for the new equipment only to find in a couple of years the cycle comes around again so what was really saved?? Pull the tree out and let them drill!!!!! We will always need oil and gas

    • Todd says:

      Nate – This is why trained professionals like yourself need to educate the customer on a case by case basis. I’ve found so many situations where Oil and Propane beat each other out. It really comes down to personal preferences like storage.

      I agree….drill baby drill!

  • Jim Kayo says:

    Just wanted to add this–whatever you do, just don’t go with natural gas. Gas companies are hydrofracking so feverishly because they are exporting most of the gas to foreign countries. The outcome is, our land, air and water are poisoned for the gas companies’ profits. If you have a conscience at all and love this country, do NOT go with deadly natural gas.

    • MIKE says:

      Thats right, the sky is falling. The big, bad, boggieman energy compeies are out to ruin the world.

    • Jack C says:

      I love you green energy libs. Especially the ones that drive cars,
      heat homes, and use all the items made by byproducts of oil.
      Until someone makes a car driven by windmills we will be using fossil fuels. And by far the one with less greenhouse gas emissions is Natural Gas. That is the future of America and fracking is and will continue to happen. The states that are fracking have developed safeguards to protect the environment and these safeguards will continue to improve. Until environmentalists
      get off their tree hugging stands this will continue to be a topic that is filled with non factual scare tactics. PA is laughing at NY, which has one of the largest fracking reservoirs in the US. The state has been studying this since 2008 and can’t or won’t make a decision on fracking all while NY is going bankrupt and driving businesses and homeowners elsewhere.

  • Christine McCabe says:

    Ok, so I have read a ton of information here. First I was oil, then propane, then back to oil. Now I have no idea!

    Here’s our situation. We have a 1400 sq ft cape in northern CT. We have an oil burner which does heat and hot water. Hot water made within the burner. There are baseboards throughout the house. Three different zones.

    I’m considering switching to propane. With a separate hot water tank. It was suggested by a few people to put a thing outside to regulate the temperature of the boiler. (no clue exactly what this means, but it sounded like a good idea)

    I’m wondering, which would be the better option. Replace the existing oil burner with another oil burner. New oil burner with separate hot water tank. Or Propane with a separate hot water tank.

    I do have a small prperty. So placing the tank for propane may cause a little bit of a problem. Underground just isn’t in my financial cards right now. And natural gas isn’t available in my neighborhood.

    Any help on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

    • Todd says:

      Christine – It’s really a toss up. You’ll have to look at the pros and cons to decide. I like NOT having an oil tank in my home. I enjoy cooking with it and using it for my BBQ grill. For these reasons we decided gas was best for us. There simply is not right or wrong answer.

  • Dana says:

    Thanks for all the info. I will soon be purchasing a home on the south shore of Mass. The prior residents used propane fuel for boiler and hot water heater, not appliances. We will likely convert range and dryer to propane fuel source from electric. Any chance you can answer two questions for me? In a 1500 sqft home, 2 zones of heating, assuming efficient systems and insulation how often can I expect to fill a 320 gallon tank? And, why does utilizing propane over electric for appliances make using Propane more cost effective overall, simply propane is cheaper than electric?
    Thanks,
    Dana

    • Todd says:

      Dana – It’s extremely hard to predict how much fuel you’ll use. Quite a bit depends on how you run the system as well. I would think you’ll likely burn 200 gallons a month….maybe more..maybe less…it’s a real shot in the dark. So they will likely come once a month and top it off.

      Propane is a more efficient way of heating both water and air over electric elements. Having said that I’m not sure how much you’ll save by changing the range….the dryer might make some sense. For many it comes down to convenience, one bill, one fuel source, preference for cooking, etc.

  • Jimfisk says:

    I am debating changing out an oil furnace to propane in my apartments.
    The best price I got for oil this year is $3.50 and propane is $2.20.
    Last year I used 4000 gals of oil. Would it be cost effective to switch out to propane? Or would the payback be years? Tks

    • Todd says:

      Jim – It’s far more complicated than looking at the price of fuel. You’d really need to look at the cost of the new oil burner, cost of propane boiler, BTU’s of the fuel and efficiency of the boilers. I will tell you that propane vs oil pricing goes up and down and fluctuates so much that there are years when oil is better.

  • Andy says:

    This is a very interesting conversation, and I’d like to chime in with a few comments.

    First, the most important thing you can do to save energy is to stop air infiltration and insulate. Attics should have at least one foot of blown insulation… 15 inches is better here in New England. The rim joists in basements– those cavities where the joists in the ceiling lay on the concrete foundation should be sealed with foam board and caulking (or Great Stuff sprayable foam) or else professionally spray foamed.

    Here in NH the electric company PSNH arranges for a comprehensive energy audit. It costs $100, which is refundable if you do any of the recommended actions, from buying a new furnace or boiler to insulating something. Plus, they have money that pays for half of any insulation project up to $4000 I think.

    The economics of oil vs propane completely depend on current pricing, but here in NH, after all is said and done, propane will cost about 20% more than oil for the same amount of heat. That takes into account that propane boilers are somewhat more efficient than oil burners.

    We are planning to replace our 25 year old boiler with an oil burning System 2000 boiler. This boiler has an energy manager computer that seems to deliver better overall system efficiency than oil boilers with outdoor reset– those devices that adjust boiler temps to match outdoor temperature. Plus, System 2000 is much quieter than conventional oil boilers… About as loud as a microwave.

    Propane would be attractive if it were cheaper, but in our area it doesn’t make sense. By the way, I never smell oil in our house, not even in the basement next to the oil tank a few feet from our boiler. We do use propane for our stove and outdoor grill, but that’s it.

    Like some other posters here have noted, the state of the art modcon propane boilers deliver their best efficiency when they heat water to 140 degrees or cooler, enabling the return water to be 120 degrees or cooler. This is condensing range… The condensation returns heat to the system, improving overall efficiency.

    Almost all baseboard today is copper tubing with aluminum fins, which heats air by convection. It has to have water at least 150 degrees in it to get the air flowing through the fins. Those modcon units work better with radiators and old fashioned cast iron baseboards which radiate… sInce radiation ( including in the floor radiant systems) can work very well at cooler temps.

    The bottom line is that some homes are better suited to some solutions than others. One common inefficiency is that almost all homes haves systems that are oversized. They create too much heat too quickly for the home and thus short cycle, which is inefficient… Burns excess fuel and wears out a system faster.

    • Todd says:

      Andy – Great points, thanks for sharing your thoughts. One point that I’d like to clarify. Here in NH, at least where I’m located, propane is FAR cheaper this season. Even when you factor in the BTU’s per dollar. Having said that you are correct, pricing does fluctuate and it really comes down to personal preference.

      • Andy says:

        Todd- I priced propane a few weeks ago here in the Nashua area and it was $2.92/gallon if you bought at least 1200 gallons a year. Oil was $3.59 at the time.

        Since it requires 1.53 gallons of propane to yield the same number of BTUs as a gallon of oil, that means you’d have to buy $4.46 worth of propane vs. $3.56 of oil.

        Even if you allow that propane can burn 10% more efficiently than oil using a mod con, that still means that $3.59 worth of oil is the same as $4.02 of propane. So propane would be at least 11% more expensive.

        But if you don’t get that full extra 10 percent of efficiency or buy less than 1200 gallons of propane a year (and have to pay more per gallon), it becomes even more expensive.

        • Todd says:

          I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on the actual BTU comparison. I contend that oil is 130,000 BTU per gallon while propane is 95,000 which is a ratio of 1.36.

          Using your pricing:

          1200 gallons of oil = 1200 * $3.59 = $4,308 assuming 100% efficiency. Now add 15% to get to an 85% efficient boiler and you’ll be at $4,954

          1200 gallons of propane * 1.36 to get equal BTU’s = 1,632 gallons. 1,632 * $2.92 = $4,765. Now add 5% to get to a 95% efficient boiler and you’ll be at $5,004.

          This is based on your pricing. Where I’m at oil is running in the $3.75 range and propane last week was $2.75.

          The point here is pricing is a wash in my cases. Always has been. If you look at BTU’s per dollar they are extremely competitive with each other. Price isn’t the issue at all.

          • Andy says:

            Todd,

            The U.S. Energy Information Administration says heating oil has 138,690 BTUs per gallon.

            The U.S. Dept. of Energy says a gallon of propane has 91,330 BTUs.

            If you accept these numbers, then heating oil has 51.8% more BTUs than propane. Put another way, a gallon of propane has 65.8% of the BTUs in a gallon of heating oil.

            Also, (and I don’t mean to be annoying on this point), but it is a rare homeowner who will actually get (%% efficiency from a propane modcon boiler. You’d have to operate consistently in condensing mode, which would be impossible for any house with conventional fin-tubed baseboard, unless the installer put in at least twice the amount that is typical.

            I called around and can’t find propane any cheaper than $2.89 in our area. Oil is $3.59. So I did some math based on all these numbers:

            1200 gal of oil = 1200 * $3.59 + $4,308 at 100% efficiency, plus 15% extra for an 85% efficient boiler = $4,954

            1200 gallons propane * 1.518 to get equal BTUs = 1,821 gallons @ $2.89 = $5,263 and added 10% (realistic annual efficiency of a 95% efficient modcon boiler would be about 90%)= $5,789

            So propane would cost $835 more per year… or be 16.8% more expensive.

          • Todd says:

            Like I said, you can spin the numbers in many different ways and get different outcomes. Price isn’t the issue as you can find examples on and off historically showing that one fuel or the other is cheaper.

            We use lots of condensing boilers up here because there’s so much radiant heat being installed. That runs a much lower water temperatures which makes those systems more efficient.

            Thanks for all the input on an interesting conversation.

      • Jack C says:

        Todd, I know that prices fluctuate but quite frankly I don’t see home heating oil ever going down. I bought my house in 2001
        and paid 54c/gallon for fuel oil. It has only gone up in the last 12 years and is currently at 4.24/gal. Propane has gone from 1/gal to 3/gallon and is currently about 2.20 in our area. I too am at the crossroads of going to propane because as a retiree I just can’t afford 800/gal of fuel oil at 4.24
        My furnace is only 13 years old but my calculations using the
        current cost of oil for 800 gal = 3392/yr vs 2476/yr with
        propane at 2.29. That calculation was done using the 139K BTU
        for oil vs 92K for propane and factoring in 85% vs 95% efficiency factors. The savings of 916/yr + 150/yr for boiler
        maintenance makes it currently 1066 cheaper to use propane vs fuel oil. The cost of 6K for the new LP boiler minus 1500 in tax credits makes the break even point about 4.3 years. Since I need a new system soon it seems to make sense to go with propane. In addition I have an inline megastore water heater which if I am correct may be more efficient with the HE gas furnace. The last thing to consider is that natural gas lines are less than a mile from our home and certainly in the next 10 years more than likely will be extended to our neighborhood. I have contacted our congressman in NY and he agrees that the likelyhood of heating oil going down is nill. Obama released heating oil from the northeast stratgic reserves due to Huricane Sandy and home heating oil prices continued to rise. Life is a gamble but unless you see some flaws in my thinking..I am heavily leaning towards LP.

  • Andy says:

    Yes, I would agree that radiant heating systems are the ideal situation for installing propane modcon boilers because they can deliver effective heating with lower water temps– exactly the sweet spot to gain the benefits of modcon efficiency.

    There was a period lasting a few weeks during which I had convinced myself to move to a propane system with a nice little modcon boiler. That abruptly ended when I realized that our house was somewhat under-baseboarded and we’d have to run the system at 180 degrees except for when temps were above 40 degrees or so.

    If your situation is such that your house cannot efficiently take advantage of a condensing boiler, then propane becomes a tough sell, at least at the pricing levels here in southern NH.

    BTW, I’ve been enjoying this site– lots of interesting content!

  • Susanne says:

    I really enjoyed reading the previous posts. My situation is that I have a 35 year old oil boiler and according to my oil company, it is in fine shape (they keep replaceing parts of it), so I am not planning to replace it at this time. I have a wood stove that works very well, but only when I am home to feed it every hour. My house is 1300 sq ft and I have been using between 600 – 700 gallons of oil per year. I would like to find ways to save on my oil bill. I had an energy audit done and as a result I had blown in insulation put in the attic and I am planning to have a radiant barrier installed over it. I have new thermopane windows. Any suggestions to cut down my oil bill which is running about $4.00 a gallon and only going up as I write this?

    • Todd says:

      Susanne – Windows and attic insulation are definitely the top 2 on the list. Have you reviewed the insulation in your walls? rim joist? Have you sealed any drafts and air leaks? Doors can also be the cause of heat loss.

  • Antonella says:

    This is a very interesting discussion! Just what I was looking for.
    And if fact – before finding this thread – I sent the same question (oil or propane?) to my real estate friend and now there is a similar discussion going on at

    http://www.boston.com/realestate/news/blogs/renow/2012/02/propane_or_oil.html

    One thing I cannot find a true answer about is the following:
    do oil burner *really* loose efficiency over time? The stock answer is
    “yes” (especially from gas companies), but I could not find any real explanation of why – assuming of course that a boiler is properly maintained.
    Any info.

  • Dan says:

    Todd- Thank you for this very informative site. Like many others, I am confronting a very confusing situation. I am in a 1500 square foot house with an oil furnace with a steam system and a water heater circulating through the boiler to provide domestic hot water when the boiler is running. I have an underground 550 oil tank that is 12 years old (put in after a leak by a prior owner). I am concerned that it may be coming up on the point of time when it could develop a leak. I would not like to continue to have an underground tank due to the potential costs of an oil leak. There is no NG available in our area and I currently have a small propane tank for our stove. After the freak October snow storm left us without power for almost 4 days I am looking into installing an 8KW Essential circuit generator to be fueled by propane. The only area the generator and tanks can go outdoors is in close vicinity of our underground tank. I will need to get dual larger propane tanks to service the generator’s needs and the plumber tells me he will need to trench in an area from the tanks to the generator that will most likely be right above the underground oil tank. Now I am thinking about whether it makes sense to consider removing or abandoning in place my underground oil tank and change over my heating system to propane in connection with the installation of the generator. I have a number of questions:

  • Dan says:

    Sorry but the last post went out before I could ask my questions: My burner and boiler are old but fine and do not need immediate replacement. Would you think it makes sense to switch to propane or should I just continue with the oil and just try to solve my underground tank issue by relocating tanks to above ground? If I bury a propane tank is it also subject to deterioration over time and will it need to be replaced? How big a propane tank would I need to service the furnace, stove and generator’s needs? What would you recommend as a propane based furnace that would be efficient and compact as my basement is very small? If I stay with oil and remove the underground tank, are there small enough oil tanks to fit into my basement where the problem I have is that I have only one small door on the first floor of the house to get anything into the basement and the doorway is only 23 inches wide? Thanks for considering this rambling post.

    • Todd says:

      Dan – You’ve got some big issues to consider. Let me try to answer a few of your questions, feel free to leave another comment if I don’t get to all of them.

      - Propane tanks can last underground quite a long time because they are attached to sacrificial anode bags that deteriorate instead of the tank. Properly maintained they should last a very long time.

      - The size of the tank will depend on your use, however, a house that size with a small generator is likely to only be 1,000 gallons.

      - You can get a furnace today that will heat a 4,000 sf house that fits inside a large suit case.

      - Whether or not you switch to a new system will really come down to money. You can certainly get a much more efficient system, use an outdoor lpg tank, and rid yourself of the possible liability of an oil tank leak. However, it’s going to come at a fairly steep price.

      - I’m not aware of an oil tank small enough to work for your situation. Frankly 90% of new construction that we build is now lpg.

  • Ted says:

    I have been installing and working on oil units for 20 years. I also
    install natural gas and propane units. Problems with oil is you need
    a delivery frequently during the winter obviously. Inclement weather
    can hold up delivery and you can run out. Propane also, not natural gas.Oil can run sooty more so than propane or natural gas. Very rare
    propane or NG ever have puff backs(soot house up). Oil fired boilers
    hold about 10 to 15 gallons of water on average or more. Condensing
    boilers are about 1.5 to 3 gallons on average. If your oil boiler heats up the water it just sits there and will eventually lose it
    up the chimney.This efficiency isn’t shown in the afue. This is called standby loss. Condensing gas boilers have very low loss, theres hardly any water in it.Warm start boilers like most oil
    systems lose heat constantly when in standby mode, especially
    when heated up to 180 degrees.I haven’t seen an oil fired condensing boiler that would be service or trouble free of soot.
    Since oil is not a purely clean fuel like NG or propane the soot factor and sludge in the oil tanks is the most common problems people conplain about. If you have NG on the street, do it. Everybody I have switched from oil to NG or Propane has loved it.
    No more noisey boilers, NG and Propane units are almost silent when installed correctly. I hope this has helped you.

    • Todd says:

      Ted – Thanks for sharing your experience….especially from the installers point of view. We install almost 90% propane here in NH. Yet I’m amazed at all the folks that will defend oil furnaces until they are blue in the face. Thanks again!

  • Yani says:

    need to remember that propane system is maintenance free compared to oil boiler- need to do tune up once a year, what is minimum $100. Also efficiency of oil boiler will go down during a year while carbon monoxide will build up on boiler ribs.
    another thing how the sistem is working. in gas type you can install tankless water heater and use fuel only when using hot water, in a oil type systems boiler must stay at some range of temperature 24 hours

    • Todd says:

      Yani – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to disagree on a couple things.

      - Propane still needs maintenance. They need to be cleaned out, igniters checked, check for leaks, etc.
      - Oil systems can also use a tankless water heater and run exactly the same as propane.

      • Yani says:

        thanks for response, good to know about propane maintenance

        i have oil tankless water heater and even during the night in summer time boiler kicks in a few times just to keep temp range, so that means in winter time it kicks in more often course its losing heat faster.
        also another complaint about oil tankless water heater: open hot water- using heat from boiler water, boiler kicks in when temp drops to low limit, u still using hot water but not enough heat from boiler and need time (30-60 sec in my case) to build up this temp difference. we can raise LL, this way idle temp will be higher and boiler kicks in even more often.
        i heard lot about indirect water heater, but from my point of view its even worse, boiler still has to keep temp range and kick in once an a while and if you take long shower all hot water will be gone from the tank and boiler cant supply enough heat to build difference in live time, also boiler still has to kick in almost right after using hot water and keep running until it reaches hight limit in the tank
        propane tankless water heater will kick in only if it detects water flow and temp will be same

        how will propane heating system work if i have in my house hot water baseboards?

        • Todd says:

          Yani – Seems as though your system isn’t either sized properly or set up correctly. Regardless or oil or propane we use tankless water heaters successfully all the time. Today’s modulating furnaces also use outside temperature sensors to adjust the boiler temperature depending on the time of year. Sounds like you either need your system to be re-evaluated or it might be time for a new one.

  • Rick says:

    Hi. I am finishing off a major addition to an old house. When it is done it will be about 2500 sq feet living space plus basement. I was planning on an oil furnace, forced hot water. Recently I was told I should go propane. So I started my research. I found this information and others which are mind boggling. I see everywhere the costs per btu roughly based on this or that being how many btu’s are put out. Well one factor that although not a great amount, is the cost of running the furnace. With the oil you have a motor running the whole time also, and yearly tuneups practically required. With the propane I look at that as needed less maintenance over the course of a 10 year picture. I live in Central NH, and NG will never be an option here, and I refuse the thought of wood pellets, as that is to much work, I might as well go cut down trees in my yard and burn wood if I am going to go tat route!
    Anyhow, I see benefits to both. And I also see some disadvantages to each also.
    I am a couple weeks away from having to lock into one or the other. I am looking for that little thing to push me one way or the other at this time.

    • Todd says:

      Rick – As you can see it’s a fairly close tie between the two. For me the deciding factor has always been more options with gas. If you’re going to heat your home with gas you then get a large tank (most often buried). From that large tank you can heat, cook, hot water, attach your bbq grill, even a standby generator. So at the end of the day I like all the options and additional items I can run off gas and use just one source of fuel.

      Good luck!

  • Anx says:

    Just the right discussion for me. May be you can help me with advice–I bought a 830 sq. ft house in the cold part of California (high in the mountains, so it gets very cold here in winter and even in summer can be below freezing overnight).

    There’s no source of heat in the house at all, except electric space heater. The water heater is electric and I’m using electric burners for cooking. I’m thinking to install either wall propane furnace or oil monitor heater in the central area of the house to provide heat. I’d ideally go with a wood stove but it’s not considered a valid source of heat for FHA if I resell the house.

    My understanding is that I could get a wall gas heater for $600 in Home depot (with 1000 sq. ft coverage) and a used small 100 gallon propane tank for as low as $100. With oil monitor heater (there’s no any kind of baseboards or boilers here, they’re not common here), just the new monitor heater would cost $2000 at least, plus the oil tank. Propane here is very expensive, about $4/gallon. Oil is expensive too, I was told. I’m putting new insulation in attic and crawlspace, but was told that no matter what insulation the county doesn’t consider anything electric as a valid source of heat for old houses here (I thought of hydronic electric baseboard heaters originally).

    What sounds like the best option for heating this 830 sq. ft house?
    considering I use electric water heater? In reality, only the kitchen and living room area will be heated consistently.

    • Todd says:

      Anx – While $4/gallon seems expensive, oil likely costs that much or more. If you’re only going to use a small amount then I’d go with propane. That way you can also use it down the road for making hot water. Either way you’ll do just fine. Good luck.

      • Anx says:

        I see. The thing is that with propane (and oil probably) being that expensive (some people are even being charged $4.50 a gallon here), I don’t understand how a good electric heater (such as convection type or hydronic baseboard heater) can be much more expensive than propane to use for heat? US department of energy calculator actually gives me propane as the most expensive heat source when I put in local propane prices)

  • Antonella says:

    Hello, we are switching from oil to propane in Arlington, MA and we are now down to deciding what system with want.
    Choice is essentially between the new combination heating/hotwater system made by HTP called VersaFlame or a more traditional boiler (Rinnai, WeilMcLain, Lochinvar or Buderus) + indirect Water heater system.

    We are really attracted by the VersaFlame but it is a new system and we cannot find many reviews. Do you have an opinion? Thanks.

  • Antonella says:

    Thanks! We are leaning this was too. Any experience or knowledge with Lochinvar Knight? This is what our favorite plumber is more familiar with…

  • Andy says:

    Great site!!!! I have a house in Northern New Jersey and NG is not yet available. The house was built in 1985 and is oil. It has a below ground oil tank that I am removing now and needs a new central air and water heater. I am considering oil vs propane and here is the general breakdown of installation cost I have been quoted (I am leaning to propane so I can switch to NG easily when it becomes available):

    Natural Gas Oil
    Removal of Oil Tank 1845 1845
    Installation of Oil Tank 0 3600
    Installation of Gas Tank (may rent) 1700 0
    Installation of Gas Furnace 3600 0
    Installation of AC 6100 6100
    Oil tank upgrades (to make last 20 yrs) 0 800
    Water Heater 2500 3500

    TOTAL: 15745 15845

    • Todd says:

      Andy – I think your pricing shows as I’ve said many times, that there’s no clear winner. It really comes down to what you plan to do in the future, and for me, oil tanks are far more of a liability than propane tanks. I’d go with your gut feelings.

  • Andy says:

    For the above quotes, my contractor is using the following

    + Luxaire 4 ton condensing 4 ton coil 14.5 SEER, 410A AC (6,100)
    + Luxaire 95% efficiency 100,000 BTU furnace (3,600)

    The house is about 1,900 SqFt. Is Luxaire a quality unit/company and do those quotes look too expensive? He is also doing piping etc to move from oil to propane….

    Finally – I asked for a quote on a “Regular” tank water heater and was cautioned that an on demand type is not always the best way to go with a 2 bath house as the temp will change in a shower if a 2nd shower is started – is this true?

    • Todd says:

      Your quotes are not out of line with pricing I see. I would however get at least one other quote from a reliable contractor for similar specifications so that you have a good grip on the pricing.

      Water Heaters – If you’re going to buy a hot air furnace then you’ll have two choices for hot water.
      1. Traditional gas water heater/storage tank.
      2. On-Demand gas water heater.

      We use a LOT of on-demand boilers today including ones that are used to do both domestic hot water and hot water for the radiators and radiant heat. So I’m of the opinion that if the unit is sized properly they can provide more than enough hot water for the home. Again, it’s about sizing it properly.

      On-Demand water heaters can often be vented through the side-wall whereas most gas hot water heaters must be vented up through a chimney which can be expensive.

      Good luck.

  • Phil says:

    Are today’s systems (like Carrier Infinity) in which components require more compatibility just better for gas/propane than oil? For example, is a Carrier Infinity propane furnace/heat pump/Infinity Control setup just more effective than one that uses one of their other oil furnaces — esp when it comes to controlling the system?

    • Todd says:

      Phil – I really can’t tell you. That’s something that you’d have to ask an installer with lots of experience with both versions. My preference is selecting a unit that the installer is very familiar with, dozens of installs, because that makes me feel as though they really know the unit and what to expect from it.

  • Clyde says:

    Great article with a lot of good information. However, another factor that needs to be considered when determining which furnace (fuel oil vs propane) is the best value is Propane furnaces have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years and a Fuel Oil furnace has a life expecctancy of 25 to 30 years. Another overall cost to consider.

  • Antonella says:

    We just completed our oil-to-propane conversion, but I must say that here in MA very few people have experience with propane.
    We have chosen an high-efficiency BAXI combo boiler (heat+hot water) and we seem to have a problem with gas pressure (no enough!).
    We would like to understand what is the formula for propane regarding pressure drop due to bends in the pipe. Do you know it off-hand or can you please tell me where to look? Thanks!

    • Todd says:

      You really should have your gas supplier come out to the house and measure the gas pressure. If they can’t/won’t then I’d contact a licensed gas fitter. That’s really not something you should mess around with.

      Good luck.

  • Susan says:

    We are building a new home in the lakes region of NH. The house will bave 2 levels plus a basement that will be partially (2/3) finished. Total living area will be about 3000 sf.

    We are considering geothermal heating with propane for cooking, gas grill, gas fireplace and back up generator. Hard to know if the investment in Geothermal will be less expensive in the long run than going fully propane. Purchase/Installation costs for Geothermal heating are high even with a 30% Tax Credit that is available.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • Todd says:

      Susan – My question to you is this, do you plan on staying in this home for 15-20 years. If the answer is yes then I think it’s typically worth it. If you see yourselves relocated or downsizing before that then I’d say maybe not. Frankly in most cases I’d recommend you spend some of the extra money on windows and insulation. The insulation and windows will make a HUGE payback much sooner in my mind. Regardless of which insulation method you go with, be sure that ALL joints, holes, cracks, etc are air sealed to stop the infiltration of air. Most credible insulation companies off an air infiltration upgrade which means they will go around and caulk (seal) every little joint including joints before framing lumber. It makes a huge difference!

      Good luck.

  • Sean says:

    I live in central CT in a 200+ year old post and beam 1600 sq ft home. Bought a new Weil McLain WGO oil boiler a few years ago. Went with an electric hot water heater. Replaced all 27 windows and insulated everything possible.

    I looked at converting to propane, but the overhead of a new tank, zoning regs and permits, etc just didn’t add up in it’s favor.

    I will say one thing that can dramatically affect how much you spend on heating oil- watch the traded commodity price and pay the cash price. HO is traded on the Chicago Merchatile Exchange (cmegroup.com) in futures by month. You can easily watch what the price looks like for months ahead. Add about 60 cents/gallon for retail price. Typically, there’s the biggest dip in HO prices in the late summer to September- fill up then! Prices are highest in the late winter and early spring.

    Do not let local oil companies play games with you- there is simply no payment plan or lock-in rate that gets you a deal. They are all designed to make money off you. Only pay cash price. I’ve heard all sorts of BS from delivery companies- like if I didn’t buy into a plan from them, they might ‘run out’.

  • Sherry says:

    Hi Todd. Great forum. I live in Maine and own a 2500 sq foot duplex style home where I rent rooms … a former B&B and now a rooming house. I live on one side with my family. I have an older oil burner. There used to be two but the other failed last year. Now, I have one burner and one oil tank. It’s FHA. My water is electric as are the washer, dryer, stove. I’m considering switching to propane for heat because I’m afraid the other oil burner is on it’s last leg and my chimneys are old and unlined. What will I be looking at for a propane burner in size and cost to heat my entire property? Its an 1890 home and is very drafty. This year I have been putting 100 gallons in every 10 days! I guess I’m asking … what would you do in my shoes?

    • Todd says:

      Sherry – First off a situation like yours will require someone with much more experience in home heating to analyze your home, the heat loss, etc to determine the proper new size of a boiler. Secondly, in your situation I’d call 3 or 4 heating contractors, have them come out to the house and have them develop detailed estimates for you.

      I’d price out both oil and propane, the more information you have the better informed you can be.

      I also recommend you ask around, see if family or friends have dealt with any of the contractors, try to get a good referral.

      Good luck!

  • Wes says:

    All of your calculations what’s is more efficient oil vs. LP heating go out the window when you are in the hostage situation as I am. I live in the Southern New England. Have a newer house (7 years old), 93% efficient “triangle Tube” two zone hydronic forced air heating system with an “inteligent” indirect water boiler and am being skinned alive by the propane guys that own my burried 500 gallon tank, which I “rent” from them. Rental came with the house when I bought it 3 yeras ago. I can’t shop around and am being forced by the contract to buy the LP from this one company. They charge me .75-1.0$ more than any other independent LP guy would. My yearly rental is $150 (they don’t do anything for that, tank and valves don’t need any maintenance). Each time the truck arrives with a delivery they charge me $25 HAZMAT fee (you don’t have that with oil). I am being gauged in a big way. If I factor all that in, I wish I had my heating oil back. The crooked LP company offers me a tank buy-out option. It is prorated with the age of the tank, and at this time does not make a business case to exercize it. The weasels have figured it all out. The tank will need replacement at the time you may be able to pay them a reasonable price. We live far away from the nearest NG main, and know that we will never get the natural gas service. That would have been an only solution for us. We are considering the latest hybrid Carrier “Greenspeed” inverter for about $25k investment, or cough up big bucks and buying the tank right out from the thieves for $8k (7 yeras old). Factor it all into any equation before you make a decision and never, never!!! rent a tank if you don’t have to. By the way LP is indeed a derivatiove of petroleum not NG. What makes it cheaper is that it is a byproduct in the distilation of oil and some of it is produced domestically, and if imported it is imported from lower cost countries.

  • Gary says:

    Hello, Todd I have read thru about a years worth of the propane vs oil thread. If price per gal is a wash and it is preference only, what is the difference really? And what about propane vs, electric? Quick info on my house oil forced air, with ac. 5 big ‘ole tanks in the basement, and I swear my sons room smells like oil, but I can’t pinpoint why or where. Anyhoo, thanks for any input and great thread!

    • Todd says:

      Gary – You point out the single biggest reason I prefer Propane. I hate the idea of storing fuel oil in my house. My first home had a tank in the basement and it had a small leak. I had it removed and converted to gas. When I built my new home it was an easy decision.

      For most people, the decision to change typically is timed with the need for a new furnace. Good luck.

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