Fuel oil vs. Propane
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    TruckFarmer55's Avatar
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    Fuel oil vs. Propane

    We are nearing completion on our house we renovated. The house has an older fuel oil furnace. I personally like fuel oil, I think it pairs well with wood heat which is also in the house. We are having the furnace inspected and are finding a lot of people either dont like or aren't educated on fuel oil. Are costs for fuel oil really that much higher than propane? Our area pretty much has three choices that are economical, fuel oil, wood or propane.

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    What about geo-thermal? Geo is basically all electric. For what ever reason, heating with fuel oil is not very common in our area. Propane in the rural areas and natural gas are very common.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TruckFarmer55 View Post
    We are nearing completion on our house we renovated. The house has an older fuel oil furnace. I personally like fuel oil, I think it pairs well with wood heat which is also in the house. We are having the furnace inspected and are finding a lot of people either dont like or aren't educated on fuel oil. Are costs for fuel oil really that much higher than propane? Our area pretty much has three choices that are economical, fuel oil, wood or propane.
    I think it has to do more with lack of knowledge/experience than anything.
    Seeing a propane tank out back is commonplace. Seeing a fuel oil tank outside or in the basement not as much.
    I can't talk cost as we have natural gas. I will say seeing fuel oil is rare in my area.

    How does the efficiency compare? Currently propane is a few cents cheaper, but not enough to make a difference IMO.
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    TruckFarmer55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dodgeman View Post
    What about geo-thermal? Geo is basically all electric. For what ever reason, heating with fuel oil is not very common in our area. Propane in the rural areas and natural gas are very common.
    Theres a couple people around with geothermal. That being said it takes forever to get parts if something breaks as my aunt found out. Also anything electric here is not economical. Our power supplier likes to find ways to overcharge. Most people's electric bill's are $120-$200 a month in summer with no AC and $300-$600 in winter using wood or fuel heat....
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    For me, I can't speak about every where, the billing for the geo is separated, and it is a lower cost per kilowatt hour by a few cents. When ours was put in there was all so a huge incentive offered by the government that saved us about $8000, other wise it was pretty pricey. Going by memory but ours cost 20k but with the tax savings, it was about 12k installed. This is for an existing home with forced air already installed. Ours was installed about 7 years ago and the payback on savings was just a few years. We were on propane before.
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    Truckfarmer, I'm not sure where Lexington MI is, but geo thermal is great for people who don't see consistently cold temps. Also, you will still need a backup to geo when temps are below 20*. We sell/service both F/O and propane, what I would suggest would depend on your house. Propane likes a nice tight house, anything short of well insulated will be a money loss compared to F/O on the same house. More btu's in F/O almost make up for the difference in cost between that and propane, it takes much more propane to heat the same square footage, not to mention, F/O furnaces/boilers of today are competing much better in efficiency with the propane appliances. The only way I would heat our house with propane is if we had radiant in floor heat, but again, our house is old and still has a few sections that are not insulated as good as I'd like, though we keep working on that too.
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    This is all VERY area dependent. In New England, pretty much everyone has oil heat. The only way to get away from it is if you happen to live in an urban area that has natural gas service. Propane comes in 20lb tanks and is for firing up BBQ grills.

    Propane is almost always more expensive around here. Occasionally there is an oil shortage and prices on it spike but 99% of the time heating with oil is 75% or less of the cost of heating with propane.

    Here's a good comparison chart on costs

    Fuel Comparisons | Energy Kinetics
    Last edited by JimR; 09-30-2019 at 12:02 PM.
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    Used both

    I grew up in a house heated by fuel oil as were 90% of the houses around us. Most of the tanks were above ground, mounted close to the house. It worked; the heat was warm and except in the Jimmy Carter years affordable.

    When we bought our house it had an all electric forced air furnace installed. The first year we figured much of the heat was from the friction of the electric meter spinning and as soon as we could replaced it with a propane furnace. We considered fuel oil and in fact, it may have been more economical to heat with fuel oil but I had had to replace igniters, clean filters, replace pumps etc. with fuel oil and was looking for something that maybe had less maintenance. So far, that's worked out as we've had very little problem with the furnace.

    I will say if you go propane, consider buying the tank vs. leasing. We leased at first with Amerigas which had the best rate. The next year they went up. The third year they went up well beyond the competition plus added a tank rental fee. I happened to have some work being done when I called them about the tank rental and they said the only way out was for them to remove the tank and I would have to uncover it as it was an underground tank. I replied, "The backhoe is sitting in the yard, the tank will be uncovered by the time you get here." They dropped the tank rental fee but I realized that I would be money ahead to purchase the tank. The first year after purchasing the tank, I saved almost $1.00/gallon by using another supplier and it only took about 3 years to pay for the tank, even at an inflated cost.

    It worked out well for us because we've added a propane powered whole house generator running from the same tank. I don't worry about generator fuel going stale or running out.

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    BWV
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    I'm in upstate NY and use a high efficiency(95-97%) Propane forced hot air system. I've owned it for 10 years.. love it.
    I did hot air so that my Central AC and heating could share a circulation system. (I installed my own AC)
    Heating fuel cost would be about the same for both oil or LP systems... Oil has more BTU/Lb, LP is cheaper.. it evens out pretty close for $/BTU.

    But with propane, there have been no additional, nor "surprise" costs like I had when I lived in a a different home that had oil heat with an outside tank.

    I don't need a tank inside my home... can look at this two ways... In home = hidden but takes up space / outside= ugly tank outside. My tank is nicely hidden in a tree line.

    With LP, I don't need to worry about fuel quality, storage temps, different mixes, fuel filters, burner/boiler service, nor much maintenance(Just air filters).
    For all intents and purposes, it is a "touch free" system.

    I also have an LP fireplace and Kitchen stove, which i like.

    Ironically, I have an electric water heater... for several reasons...
    I did the math when I made this selection for my new house, because of where I wanted it, the higher cost of a gas unit, and the expense of a "chimney", the payback on efficiency was 10 years.(longer than the average water heater survives around here)
    I didn't want the "fire" in the water heater "closet".. I know they are safe.. but I'm paranoid.
    Ease of replacement... one wire, two hoses and a TP valve vent.
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    You don't need an additional back up for geo, its has built in back up, in the form of an electric grid. One disadvantage of geo is you need to leave the thermostat alone. If you turn it up or down more than 1 degree at a time, it wants to kick the electric grid on. You size the geo unit to the needs of the house. In the entire time we have had ours, the electric back up heat has only come on a couple of times, probably when it was well below zero. The post below might be talking about heat pumps, which do work much harder when its really cold out.

    Another advantage of geo is "free" hot water. You can add a second water heater tank with no coils in it that collects hot water from a de-super-heater. The harder the geo is working, such as on a really cold day, the more free hot water you get. The bad part of our install is we did away with our propane tank. Probably half of our heating and ac bill is making hot water. We had a high efficiency LP gas water heater and now it electric.

    As I recall in research, wood burning and natural gas were the cheapest. That includes paying for the wood as I recall. There are some spread sheets out there where you can put in numbers for costs and efficiency of the heat source and see what is cheapest. I would have gone natural gas if it was available to me be we live outside of town and that wasn't an option.
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