Natural Gas vs. Oil Furnaces: Pro’s and Con’s

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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For many years, oil furnaces were the first and foremost choice when choosing a heating system due to their reliability, durability, and cost-effectiveness. Today you may find oil-based heating systems in many older homes, but some newly constructed homes continue to utilize oil for a variety of reasons as well. If you live with an outdated furnace, you owe it to yourself and your family to consider the options that are out there in terms of upgrading your home’s heating equipment.

Natural gas furnace One of the most common upgrade options is a natural gas furnace but, depending on the type of home, an oil furnace could still be a preferable option. It’s important to realize that heating solutions are not arranged in a hierarchy allowing for any kind of clear-cut winner in a one-size-fits-all manner. We present the oil and gas furnace options in this article, but many other types of heat are employed on a regular basis, even including heat from a wood stove.

The bottom line is that each type of heat source has a number of characteristics that make them more ideally suitable for specific types of situations. This guide is designed to help you understand what both oil and natural gas furnaces offer you, as well as share a few of the drawbacks each option may have. No heating option is perfect, but picking the best option for your home keeps your costs low and your family warm for years to come.

Oil Furnaces – Pros

Just because a house has an oil furnace by no way means that it has an outdated or sub-optimal heating system. Since oil furnaces are often considered to be the more conventional option of the two, the first step is to examine the advantages of these time-tested heating systems.

Oil furnaces are an incredibly safe option for heating your home. The oil used in this type of heating system is stable and non-flammable. The risks of fires, explosions, and other combustion-related dangers are realistically non-existent. Oil furnaces can also be a very reliable option with regard to air quality inside your home,, especially with regular chimney maintenance. This is not to say that there are significant risks associated with other types of heating systems, however when evaluating the relative safety of the various options, it is important to understand that it is hard to top the safety offered by oil.

Oil furnaces are also typically more affordable than comparable natural gas furnaces. The equipment itself and the cost of installation is typically lower by as much as 25% when compared to a natural gas furnace. If your heating system needs immediate replacement and upfront cost is the primary determining factor in your decision, then an oil furnace may be a good option.

Oil Furnaces – Cons

Although oil furnaces are one of the most time-tested and popular options for home-heating, they are not without their drawbacks. For example, oil furnaces are slightly less efficient than other options. Usually, heating efficiency is looked at in terms of the AFUE – or annual fuel utilization efficiency – of the unit. Oil furnaces may be as much as 10% lower in their AFUE than other types of heating equipment.

Space and fuel requirements are also a consideration if you plan on using an oil furnace in the home. Unlike other types of heating, oil furnaces require specialized fuel that must be delivered to your home. The oil needs to be stored in a tank which requires additional storage space. Lastly, because of the use of oil as a fuel source, this type of heat requires additional cleaning and maintenance because the residue left behind by the burning of oil can build up in your chimney.

Natural Gas Furnaces – Pros

If environmental concerns are important to you, then a natural gas furnace may be high on your list of home-heating options. When any fuel is burned, there are by-products that are released into the atmosphere. Fortunately, natural gas is a very clean burning fuel— in fact, it is the cleanest of the options available for combustion-based home heating, releasing nearly 30% less carbon dioxide into the environment when held up against other heating fuel options. It also does not release the plethora of other toxic by-products that can be produced when burning other types of fuel sources.

Natural Gas FurnaceNatural gas is also a very good general-purpose utility to have installed in the home. It is available for a number of other purposes besides simply heating your home via furnace. If you go through the cost of installing a natural gas line to your home, you can also tap that line for purposes such as a natural gas stove, BBQ, fireplace, and even a clothes dryer. The affordability of natural gas means that you can use this general fuel source to greatly reduce the overall cost of your utilities.

Another advantage to natural gas is that it will be available 24/7, which is especially important if you live in an area that gets extremely cold in the winter. Electric heat can be unreliable in these environments because if the power goes out, you need to have a backup heat source in order to keep you and your family comfortable. Oil, on the other hand, relies on a set amount of fuel that you keep in a storage tank. If a severe storm causes interruption to other types of heat, natural gas continues to be reliable via its delivery through an underground pipeline.

Natural Gas Furnaces – Cons

One of the drawbacks of natural gas furnaces is the front-loading of the cost. Over the entire period of ownership, natural gas is typically the most cost-effective heating option available. However, the cost of installation of a natural gas furnace, especially in a home that was not previously equipped with a natural gas line, is more expensive than the installation of other types of furnaces.

Natural gas can be a less than ideal option in older homes without existing ductwork as well. Air ducts require a significant amount of space in order to move heated air from a forced air furnace to the entire home. If a home wasn’t designed with space already allocated for this type of ductwork, it can take up valuable space or require significant and costly retrofitting to the home in order to make room for the ducts.

Choosing the Right Furnace for Your Home

At the end of the day, the winner in the oil vs. natural gas furnace debate depends on you, your home, and your preferences. Both options have their own unique upsides and consideration and ultimately it comes down to assessing what the best option is for you.

If you’re looking for a safe, cost effective and reliable method of heating an older home, then an oil furnace is often the best option for your situation. On the other hand, if you’re building a newer home or looking to upgrade the furnace in a home with existing ductwork, then a natural gas furnace can make a lot of sense.

Making the Decision on Heating Your Home

Regardless of type, if you’re considering a new furnace installation in your home, your best option is to consult a professional in order to determine the right heating system for you. Our team at Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning would be happy to work with you to find the new furnace option that makes the most financial and practical sense for your home. Get a free estimate online or call us at (301) 719-3315 anytime to get your project started today!

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