No Contest: Electric and Gas vs. Oil
The advantages of a new heat pump or energy-efficient gas furnace are numerous compared to an oily alternative. Whether or not your home’s furnace is getting close to needing replacement or you just want to save significant money in the long-term when heating your home, heat pump installation is definitely worth looking into. The type of heating you choose, however, is of great importance, and should be compared. Here are some highlighted facts that may inform your decision.
Efficiency & Equipment
An efficiency comparison between the three types of heat sources, electric, gas, and oil runs the gamut. The basic estimates for efficiency are as follows:
- Oil with AFUE burner: 70%-80%;
- Natural gas with AFUE furnace: 80%-90%;
- Electric heat pump: 100%+ — In fact, ductless heat systems have an efficiency rating of nearly 300%.
As far as equipment goes, there are significant cost differences here. The cost of a natural gas system is approximately double that of an electrical heat system, with an oil furnace falling somewhere in between; this all depends on the make and type of the system, of course.
Clearly, electrical heat pump installation beats its competitors in this aspect (ductless electrical systems are more expensive but show massive increases in efficiency). Yet it is when energy prices are compared, one of these challengers falls way behind.
Efficiency numbers don’t mean much until the bill comes, of course, and one of them you may want to avoid receiving.
In a Sensible Energy article, the basic BTU prices are listed:
- Cost of natural gas = $1.10 for 100,000 BTU
- Cost of electricity = $2.93 for 100,000 BTU
- Cost of heating oil = $2.50 for 100,000 BTU
These numbers will need some context. On face value, natural gas seems to be the clear winner, but the annual energy bill is actually very close when considering electrical heat systems with upwards of 300% efficiency.
But the real loser in these comparisons? Oil heat systems. The average annual bill for oil is $1875 compared to a gas furnace at $733 annually and an electrical ductless system at $703 annually (Sensible Energy). That is not a defeat, it is a blowout.
Health & the Environment
Further adding to an oil system’s problems is the issue of on-site fuel. As opposed to natural gas’s built-in piping and electricity’s built-in wiring, operating an oil furnace requires the delivery and storage of oil on your home’s property. Any kind of storage leak or fire could endanger residents of an oil-burning home.
With regard to the environment, the amount of damage done in the production and use of energy is of supreme importance.
Oil: A fossil fuel which contributes to the problem of global climate change and is prone to spilling disasters on land and at sea; the cost of such disasters is hard to quantify due to their magnitude.
Natural Gas: Faced with the likelihood of increased prices over time and the need to increase production, companies have taken to “fracking” to extract natural gas from the earth which has had negative effects on the environment, including a massive increase in earthquakes in surrounding areas.
Electricity: This energy source is not immune from environmental harm due to some dependence on coal burning (another fossil fuel); however, that dependence has decreased steadily since 2002 (50.1%); today the dependence on coal is 38.9% and falling. Other sources, such as hydropower, are more environmentally-friendly.
Anytime is a good time to increase your home heating’s energy efficiency, which will save you money and help the environment. An investment now can pay off sooner than you might think. Improved technology in electrical and gas heating systems makes dumping oil an even easier decision. Although only 8% of homes use oil heating systems, that means thousands of Vancouver, WA and Longview, WA families who would benefit greatly from an electric heat pump installation or natural gas furnace. Your wallet and the Earth will thank you!
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