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Should I Buy an Oil or Natural Gas Furnace?

A furnace is an integral part of any home, helping keep you and your family cozy in the colder parts of the year. When those autumn months roll around and that familiar chill sets in, every homeowner asks themselves the same question: what’s the best way to keep my house warm? Before you get sucked into questions about models and brands, the first thing you should decide is what you want fueling the system. More often than not, that’s going to come down to a question between oil or natural gas.

There are plenty of options on the market, but it can be hard to tell which one is right for you. As your local HVAC experts, at Entek, we’re more than happy to provide you with expert opinions and advice for your heating solutions. Here are the few main things you’ll want to consider when choosing between an oil or natural gas furnace.

Affordability

A responsible homeowner should always be looking for ways to save money when possible. Heating is no exception, especially in the dead of winter when you’ll need it working overtime. Different costs can pop up when choosing between oil or natural gas heat, so be aware of them when before committing either way.

When it comes to your monthly bill, oil heating is more expensive than natural gas. The oil itself must be hand delivered to your home, and the regular maintenance costs are usually much higher than those of a natural gas furnace. On top of that, you’ll need to have your unit and chimney cleaned regularly in order for it to function at its peak performance.

While oil is more expensive over a long period of time, the cost of the unit and installation is significantly lower than that of a natural gas furnace. Additionally, if your home doesn’t already have a natural gas line, you’ll need to pay for the installation of that as well. For some people, installing the line is actually a worthwhile investment, as plenty of other appliances can run on natural gas as well. At the end of the day, it comes down to a long-term investment versus a short-term one. Saving money now or saving money in the future will all depend on how long you plan to stay in your current home.

Efficiency and Accessibility

Should I Buy an Oil or Natural Gas Furnace

In order to properly understand a furnace’s efficiency, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This is the industry standard for gauging a how efficiently a furnace uses its fuel, and knowing the statistics will help you make a more informed choice when choosing between oil or natural gas. Most modern furnaces are much more efficient than older models, so having a more up-to-date unit will help raise your efficiency regardless of the fuel it uses. Still, the fuel makes a difference, and that difference has a direct impact on how effectively it does its job.

Generally speaking, natural gas furnaces are more efficient than oil ones. The AFUE rating of natural gas furnaces can be as much as 10% higher than oil furnaces, and the fuel is more dependable. Since natural gas is delivered via underground pipelines, it is available whenever you need it. Oil furnaces still rely on storage tanks, and a particularly nasty winter storm can both burn through your supply and interrupt your usual delivery schedule. Some homes are just not built to support natural gas heating, though, requiring extensive retrofitting before the system can be implemented.

Older homes can lack the ductwork needed to support a forced-air system like natural gas heat, meaning you’ll need to have ductwork installed along with the unit. Some were built without considering space for air ducts at all, forcing you to have the entire home retrofitted before you can even install the ducts. Finally, a more remote home might not have access to a natural gas line whatsoever.

Natural gas is indeed a more efficient fuel, but you may find yourself running into trouble getting it into the house in the first place. Take stock of your home and what infrastructure is available to you and try to determine if oil or natural gas makes more practical sense.

Safety

As with any combustion device, a furnace can be a dangerous thing. Safety should always be priority number one, and while a modern furnace is significantly safer than an older one, there are still risks. Those risks, however, can be mitigated, provided you put in the time and effort to educate yourself. When you weigh the differences between oil or natural gas, be sure you factor in the safety concerns either fuel has.

Oil is actually an incredibly safe heating option for your home, and installing an oil furnace will help minimize the risk posed by your heating system. The oil they use is stable and non-flammable, preventing any unexpected fires or even explosions. If you make sure to keep up with regular maintenance and chimney cleaning, oil furnaces are really one of the safest options in home heating.

Natural gas heating, for all its advantages, is still more dangerous than oil. Leaks can lead to explosions or fires, and without proper ventilation, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of these dangers can be circumvented with proper maintenance and safety precautions, such as by installing carbon monoxide detectors, but they will still be something to consider. Your home’s safety is no light matter, so take all the time you need to weigh the options.

Whether you end up deciding to use oil or natural gas, be sure to contact a trusted HVAC expert for your installation and maintenance. At Entek, we are ready, willing, and able to provide any and all service you might need for your heating system. Still not sure which to pick? No problem! Whatever questions you have about which system to go with, we’re happy to go over the details with you and find the solution that’s right for you and your home. Whenever you are prepared to choose your new furnace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.