Oil Vs. Propane Fuel Calculator

By Todd Fratzel on Air Conditioning, Energy Conservation

fuelbtucostcalculator 300x212 Oil Vs. Propane Fuel CalculatorThis is a post from last winter that’s been extremely popular. With Fall here and Winter heading our way I thought it was worth sharing again. Choosing between Oil and Propane Fuel is a hard decision. This Oil Vs Propane Fuel Calculator can help you make a decision.

Fuel Calculator

Recently I wrote about Heating – Propane Vs Oil and I received quite a few questions about which fuel would be best based on certain assumptions. So I created an Excel spreadsheet that you can use to calculate the cost per BTU based on current market pricing for propane and oil. You can also enter the efficiency of your furnace. The propane vs oil calculator will therefore give you a pretty good idea of the cost comparison of the two fuels.

If you’d like to use the free Fuel Calculator you can download it here.

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33 Comments

  1. Gary W. Prutchick says:

    Hi,

    We need to replace our oil furnace. It is about 14 years old.

    We have two choices for fuel, propane and oil.

    I know that propane furnaces have higher efficiency than oil (approximately 95% vs 85%) is what I’ve been told.

    Can you help with the decision? What do we need to consider?
    Cost is obviously a factor but I assume not the only one. For instance, is there a difference in the reliability of propane vs oil furnaces? Maintenance? Safety?

    How can I obtain a copy of your Excel calculator, which will show the cost difference?

    Thanks,
    Gary W. Prutchick

    • Todd says:

      @ Gary – There are many issues to consider. But, at the end of the day, both systems are very comparable with respect to cost. For instance, do you want propane so you can use it to cook with? or to add a gas fireplace at a future date? With propane you can bury a tank outside and eliminate an oil tank inside your home. My decision was easy, I didn’t want an oil tank in my home, we wanted gas to cook with and we have a gas fireplace. The costs end up being a wash over time as propane and oil prices fluctuate. I’ll email you the calculator.

  2. Jim Franklin says:

    Although your info is from several years ago, hopefully you are still available. We have a fuel oil boiler – weismann – and are thinking of converting to a propane burner. Are your numbers based on a propane furnace? Does it make a difference just changing burners? With the lower BTU content, do you get the same level of heat in the water system – we use hot water for heating – or does it take longer to get the same level of comfort?

    Thanks.

    • Todd says:

      @ Jim – You can re-create the same numbers if you find out what the efficiency of your new burner will be. I see now performance issues it’s really just about the amount of fuel needed to heat to a certain temperature.

  3. Jay says:

    Todd,

    We recently had to get a heating system replaced. With a lot of factors involved, I stupidly agreed to a heat pump with electric backup. Living in Delaware, it is not cutting it and is cutting into our budget. The company is coming out to “fit” our utility area for either a hybrid propane/heat pump or oil system. Not a lot of room in the utility area so I was told our choice might be limited. Can you forward your calculator as I would like to consider the oil if I am able. Any knowledge of this hybrid system them mentioned?
    Thanks kindly, Jay

  4. Steven Lima says:

    I could use some advice.. I have a new “OIL” Burner in my home. It’s the System 2000 which is very energy efficient. It has the capability to switch to propane by switching the burner element. I’m thinking about doing this because in the next couple of years I plan to redo my kitchen and thinking of the switch it to gas.
    Also, my oil tank is old and needs to be replaced.
    Does the system 2000 run even better on propane? How about the costs?
    Wondering cost and efficacy oil vs. propane working on the system 2000

    • Todd says:

      @ Steven – You can run the numbers using the calculator and the specs on the furnace. Typically it’s a wash depending on pricing of each fuel. Your boiler should have efficiency numbers for both oil and propane and you can also call and get current pricing on both fuels.

  5. ian says:

    I bought my new england house (CT) in Sept 2008. Had the house inspected etc…. then refined in 2009 had the home inspected by a different co. Then feb 2010 the forced hot air oil furnce started spiting out soot and we have the local fire co insure there was not Co in the house. They told me I had a propane hot water tank and an oil furnace both using the same brick chimmey (which they also told me was a major no no) They sugest I switch over to a Propane furnace. what make model do you sugest?

    • Todd says:

      @ Ian – There are several good manufacturers on the market. I suggest you get three estimates from reputable local heating contractors and then compare those brands. I tend to like Weil MacLain and NTI. The best approach though is getting a quality boiler from a company that knows how to service them.

  6. Barbara says:

    Hi,
    I just subscribed and am having trouble accessing your Oil vs Propane Fuel Calculator. Could you please e-mail it to me.
    Thanks,
    Barbara

  7. Mark says:

    Hi, I am also trying to to make the decision of propane or oil. I haven’t done extensive research the concenses is go propane for the many benefits it offers. Better is always relative with cost of operation being big factor in the decision. But if it burns cleaner, doesn’t require a chimney, is easier on the equipment extending the life of the product then it appears to be a wininng choice. Are these benefits backed up with study’s? I was not able to find any scientific studies. I look forward to your reply.
    -Mark

    • Todd says:

      Mark – From my experience I can say that Propane typically exceeds oil in those categories on a regular basis. It really is a personal decision however, propane really does stack up better than oil when you compare all the pro’s and con’s.

  8. Nick says:

    Todd: What are the home insurance implications? Is there a premium charged for having an underground propane tank on site? An insurance agency I spoke to stated that they did not underwrite home insurance for underground propane tanks unless the tank was “encased”. What does that imply?

    • Todd says:

      Nick – First off I think your insurance agent is probably confused/mis-informed. Buried propane tanks are extremely safe for a couple reasons. First off the tank is filled with liquid propane which is quite stable and safe. Secondly, I think the agent may be confusing a buried oil tank with propane. Buried oil tanks often have to have a double layer tank along with some type of containment.

      I’ve dealt with dozens of buried tanks on both residential and commercial projects and I’ve never heard this before. I’d start with your propane supplier and mention the insurance companies concerns. I think you can resolve this quickly.

      Good luck.

  9. Dave says:

    Like many others on this thread, I’m evaluating whether to replace my 26 year old furnace with another oil one or a propane system. One thing I am looking into is whether the tax credit would apply to any oil furnaces. I believe they need to be 90%+ efficient and I haven’t seen anything out there along those lines. I’m thinking that a highly efficient propane system coupled with a tax credit may be the way to go and the credit should cover the tank burial. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  10. Denise says:

    I live in an all electric home – supplemented by pellets. I am looking into propane or oil to make life easier. Problem – I don’t want to make heating my home more expensive! Do you think switching to propane or oil would be cheaper? Please send me your oil/propane calculator!

    Thanks.

    • Todd says:

      Denise – There is a link in the article to the Excel spreadsheet. The calculator will only help you compare the cost of oil vs propane, not electric and pellets vs oil or propane.

  11. Brigitte says:

    We are looking to buy a 2000 sq ft home that needs a new heating system. Currently it has oil, no natural gas is available. Is it still true that propane and oil are comparable in price in this market? What do you know about other heating systems, such as radiant and/or heat pumps and/or geofuel.

    • Todd says:

      It’s still true. Both oil and propane go up and down depending on market demand and speculation. The choice between oil and propane should really be made on some other factors like tanks, efficiency and other fuel use/type in home.

      Radiant can be used in almost any heating type.

      Depending on where you live heat pumps can be another feasible system. However, if you live in an area with extreme cold I’d be cautious about how well they might work on really cold days.

  12. Mike says:

    Bottom line…. assuming your furnace burns oil @ 85% efficiency or propane @ 95% efficiency… the cost of propane has to be less than
    about 73% of the cost of oil for propane to be deemed “cheaper”

    But since the cost of propane shadows the cost of oil…in most cases the BTU/DOLLAR is about the same. Pick you poison.
    I prefer oil since it burns hotter I never run out of hot water… we shower back to back to back to back and do not run out of hot water.

    No matter what you choose you have to pay the piper in some manner

  13. phillip webber says:

    My oil furnace is a 1977 and have been thinking about going to propane
    My first estimate was $3000.00 for the furnace and $2500 for labor plus $600.00 for propane. Is it worth switching? Seems to me it would take quite a few years to recover the cost and since I am 67 I may not live long enough….What say you?

    • Todd says:

      You certainly have a good point Mr. Webber. That’s why you need to run the numbers. You should look at your yearly maintenance costs now, fuel consumption, things of that nature if you want a true picture of the payback period. A furnace of that age is certainly walking a line….could last 20 more years…could die tomorrow.

  14. Joan says:

    Hi Todd,
    First I have to say WOW, you have given a TON of great information. Here is my question, if you can help. We currently live Part Time in Vermont. We have Propane for cooking and a gas stove. We also have direct vent for our oil boiler, which sadly passed away 2 weeks ago. Our tank for the oil is buried outside. Our thoughts are, do we get a larger propane take and just buy a propane boiler, and get rid of the Oil tank? OR, do we invest in a new oil boiler and keep what we have. As I am sure the new boilers are more efficient than what we had (20 years old). With the price of Oil going up and up, and being in rural Vermont, I’m concerned about pricing going up, efficient of Oil VS Propane and being the most energy efficient today AND going forward as this will become our full time home within 5 years..
    Thanks Todd, I do appreciate you taking a look at this for us.
    Joan

    • Todd says:

      Joan – Glad you found the site useful. I hope you’ll consider signing up for our FREE weekly newsletter.

      It really comes down to the pro’s and con’s for your situation. I frankly prefer propane as I feel it’s much cleaner. Good luck…not an easy choice.

  15. Paul & Tina Watt says:

    We are 54 and 50 years of age and have only ever used wood or coal to heat our home. We switched from wood to coal for less work and now that we are getting older are thinking about putting a furnace in. We are leaning towards propane because we would like to also switch to a gas kitchen range and have a small gas fireplace. Can you send us the Excel calculator please.

  16. Jon T says:

    One should also consider the following as well:
    1. Local cost of propane vs fuel oil
    2. A propane furnace can be equipped with a modulating gas valve allowing it to use only the amount of fuel it needs for the conditions at that moment. Considering a properly sized furnace is sized for the worst conditions of the year (think maybe -10 and very windy) and that it will only be those conditions for a few a days each year your furnace doesn’t really need to burn at full capacity. A modulating gas valve furnace starts at 35% of full capacity and ramps up in small increments to properly heat your home.
    3. A propane furnace can also be equipped with an ECM variable speed blower motor which will only use about 20% of the electricity that a standard blower motor will use. Beyond using less electricity, this allows you to circulate the air more regularly. If equipped with a whole home humidifier and high efficiency filtration system, this not only gives you better air quality but can also even out temperature variations throughout your home. Hard to put a price on air quality in your home.
    4. All this said, if you haven’t improved the envelop (insulation, air sealing and windows) of your home then you’re still throwing away your energy dollars.

    Get an energy audit or whole home assessment performed on your home first and see which improvements make the most sense for you, your family and your home.

    Hope this makes the readers think completely through their decision.

  17. Al Flint says:

    Our house/boiler (oil) is 11 years old. Boiler has a “power-vent” that gets beat up by falling ice. I’ve been told that it’s on borrowed time, that I should consider replacing it ($2,000). I’ve been considering switching to propane. I’m considering LAARS Mascot II or Weil-McLainGV90+.

    Would appreciate your thoughts. Have found your Oil/Propane calcualtor very helpful.

    I’m also in NH – central

    Thanks!

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Al – Thanks for visiting the site. First let me say 11 yrs isn’t all that old for a boiler. Having said that I’m not a big fan of oil boilers especially when they need a power vent due to side venting. The vent leaves lots of soot and obviously they don’t last forever. I haven’t built any homes with a LAARS so I wouldn’t be able to comment on that boiler. I have a Weil-McLain in my home and more than half the homes we’ve built over the last 8 years or so and we’ve had great luck with them.

      Sounds like you’re doing your homework which is half the battle. The decision needs to factor cost, future payback, pro’s & con’s of the two fuels. Best of luck!

      • Al says:

        Thanks for responding. I waiting for the oil/propane company rep to get back to me with an estimate. Although I would love to get the tank out of the cellar, after reading the info on your site, I believe it’s going to come down to price. I really concerned about the current power vent!

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