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Oil Versus Gas Furnaces

oil furnaces vs gas furnaces

As colder temperatures set in, the age-old question for homeowners invariably rises again: Which is best, an oil or gas furnace?

Like any other debatable issue, there are pros and cons to each.

New-home owners considering which type of furnace to install in their home, and those who must replace their furnace, should do thorough research on each heating method before making a decision. The furnace is one of the more costly investments for the home. Its effective, reliable operation, especially in northern climates in the middle of the winter, when the temperature drops and stays below freezing, is critical for keeping warm and safe and for avoiding disasters like frozen and bursting pipes.

The following points should be taken into consideration when considering whether a gas or oil furnace is the right option for the home.

Gas Furnaces

The first thing to determine is if gas is available in your area; it’s possible that this type of furnace isn’t even an option for you. 

Both gas and oil furnaces have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which measures the efficiency of the machine's combustion. The higher the rating, the higher the efficiency.

oil vs gas fuel prices

Much has been debated about gas and oil prices, with many people maintaining that natural gas prices are always cheaper than oil prices. This can be true in some areas. But the consumer should bear in mind that both gas and oil prices fluctuate on a regular basis, and predicting future prices of either fuel source is difficult at best.

One major drawback to gas furnaces is their purchase expense. New furnaces cost between $3,000 and $12,500, a much larger expense than that of a new oil furnace. Installation must be done professionally, which can also be costly.

At the same time, most new gas furnaces now have an AFUE rating of 89%–98%. If the newly installed gas furnace's AFUE is 90% or higher, it is considered high-efficiency and can qualify for tax credits.

Proponents of gas heating do appreciate the fact that no large tank is needed on their property, and that routine maintenance problems are taken care of by the utility company.

Natural gas has been thought of as more eco-friendly than oil, leaving less of a carbon footprint on the environment.

Oil Furnaces

Heating oil results with today's latest oil system technology that “reburns” fuel does produce lower emissions than before.

If there is a system breakdown in an oil furnace system, the warning signs—soot, smoke, or odors—are easy to detect. In comparison, a breakdown in a gas furnace can result in carbon monoxide leaking. Carbon monoxide poisoning and explosions in the home are considerable hazards with faulty gas furnace systems.

Oil furnaces heat up faster than gas furnaces and provide more heat per BTU than other heat sources.

Home oil tank

A large drawback for some people is the large oil tank on their property (if it’s not in the house, which poses its own risks) and the fact that the oil company has to come out and fill the tank periodically.

These furnaces do require regular chimney cleaning due to soot and dirt accumulation.

Maintenance on the oil furnace is performed regularly and easily, if under a service agreement, , or, in many cases can be performed by the homeowners themselves. By contrast, if there are big issues with a gas furnace, professional help must be brought in, due to the delicacy of the system and extremely dangerous consequences that could result from an incorrectly done job.

Oil furnaces typically have a life of 30 years or longer, whereas gas furnaces have an average life expectancy of 15 years, with a range typically between 13 and 20 years. This can be a big consideration for the homeowner, especially in light of the fact that oil furnaces purchased new are usually cheaper than newly purchased gas furnaces. Over the life of the home's mortgage, this can add up to a considerable amount of savings over gas furnaces.

Really, there is no definitive pro or con for either. The homeowner looking for their best heating option needs to sift through all the relevant data they come up with and make a final furnace determination at that point based on finances, the layout of their home, availability of options, and more.  

Get Free Professional Advice

The expert staff at Shipton’s would be happy to help you determine the furnace type that would best suit your needs and goals. Feel free to contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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