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In 2017, consumers in the US burned 27 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As impressive as that number is, natural gas only accounts for 29% of total primary energy use.
Oil is another fuel source that is becoming more popular. Some 5.7 million households in the US are taking advantage of this type of fuel for heating their homes.
Do you have the option to choose between these two fuels? What are the benefits of natural gas vs. oil?
Let’s take a look at some differences between these two options to help you decide which one is right for your home.
One of the big reasons that many people enjoy natural gas heating systems is the price. When you compare yearly costs between natural gas and oil, natural gas is a clear winner.
However, yearly costs are not the only ones you have to take into consideration. Installing a natural gas furnace can be very expensive. Add to that the cost of paying the gas company to install a line outside your house if there isn’t an existing one.
You may pay less in your monthly energy bills. But it will take several years to recoup the upfront installation costs. If you don’t live in the house long enough or if you need to replace your furnace you may never fully recoup those costs.
Of course, installing an oil system has its upfront costs as well. You have to consider the cost of the furnace as well as the oil tank installation cost. But the furnace lasts much longer, giving you more time to recoup your investment.
2. Environmental Concerns
Another big reason why many people like natural gas is that it is a clean burning fuel. People want to do their part to protect the environment by making their homes more eco-friendly.
Most people also erroneously think that oil burns dirty and will contaminate the atmosphere. In reality, new technologies have changed the way that oil heating systems work.
Heating oil is now mixed with biodiesel, a recycled product made from things like grease leftovers from restaurants. This is a great source of fuel that burns cleanly. In fact, a well-maintained oil system has fewer emissions than natural gas.
Plus, this biodiesel addition makes oil a renewable resource. Natural gas, on the other hand, falls into the fossil fuels category. Eventually, the world will run out of natural gas.
Another thing to consider is the extraction methods. Most gas is extracted using hydraulic fracturing. This process involves using high pressure to inject water, sand, and chemicals underground to break through and get to the gas. The process is destructive and damages the surrounding ecosystem.
3. Furnace Life Expectancy
Another thing to keep in mind is how long you can expect your furnace to last. The life expectancy for oil furnaces is an impressive 30 years. There’s a good chance that you’ll only buy one oil furnace depending on how long you plan to live in your home.
Natural gas furnaces, on the other hand, have a much shorter life expectancy. A well-maintained furnace will last at most 15 years. However, most furnaces will need to be replaced between the 11 and 14-year mark.
Many people have the misconception that oil furnaces are not very efficient. But this comes from the fact that most systems are old since oil furnaces can last for a long time.
Newer oil furnaces can be just as efficient, perhaps even more efficient than natural gas.
How? Heating oil burns quite a bit hotter than natural gas. This means that not only will it take less time to heat the same amount of space, but also you’ll burn less fuel to do it.
This hotter burn also creates less condensation which contributes to the longer lifespan of oil furnaces.
There’s one more benefit to a hotter burning fuel for those of you that like taking long, hot showers. It takes half the time to heat up your hot water tank so you don’t have to worry as much about running out of hot water.
As you probably already know natural gas is not the safest heating fuel in the world. A badly timed spark can cause an explosion. Leaks are hard to detect and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Around 400 people die per year in the US from carbon monoxide poisoning. Another 50,000 seek emergency medical care because of accidental exposure to the deadly gas.
Heating oil isn’t flammable until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll be heating your home to 140 degrees, oil explosions aren’t something you have to worry about.
6. Service Disruptions
One area where heating oil wins big is the control you have over your supply of fuel. Natural gas comes through a pipeline to your house. While they may sound handy, it can also mean service disruptions if there is a leak or explosion somewhere down the line.
Plus, it’s not common to have a choice between natural gas supply companies. You have to go with whichever company has a pipeline going by your house.
Oil, on the other hand, is much more independent. You store the oil in a tank on your property, so you don’t have to worry about disruptions. You can choose which company you would like to buy your oil from and how often they deliver it.
Natural Gas vs. Oil: Which Fuel Is Right for You?
We hope that this information has helped you settle the natural gas vs. oil debate for yourself. The truth is that one type of fuel isn’t necessarily better than the other, it just depends on what your needs are.
Are you looking for more great advice? Be sure to check out the lifestyle section of our blog to learn a little about tons of topics!