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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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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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Discussion Starter #4
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. :laugh:

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
 

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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.

Treefarmer
 

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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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Discussion Starter #11
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.
The house we have is 986 square feet with new windows. We kept the fiberglass insulation because there was nothing wrong with it and we couldn't justify the expense. The houses we have been in with propane were cold even with the thermostat turned up to 80.

To the person that said they're paranoid and doesnt want the flame in a closet, I hear you. We are having a wood stove in the house, no questions asked. A house two miles away from us burned down right after we bought this one due to a gas leak. LP and natural gas were on the property. Wasnt pretty to watch. I am not sure I would feel comfortable with LP in the house on the other side of the wall that the wood stove is against. Fuel oil seems a little safer in this scenario. Maybe I'm wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I really appreciate the explanations on how the cost compares in relation to BTUs produced. If we can, I think we will stay with fuel oil for the time being.
 

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Hybrid Water Heater

Since water heaters are coming up I will share the following for thought. Our home had an electric heater. We proactively replaced with a hybrid in the same basement location. The hybrid uses a heat pump above the tank to heat the water. There are also two elements if needed. You can select different modes/combinations of the elements or pump. We run heat pump only. Our yearly first year elec cost was under $110 saving us around $300. With the local elec supplier cash back rebate and the big box store sale we have a payback in just over three years. Based on what we are experiencing the hybrids are worth researching. We have a Rheem 65 gal.
 

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lots of intresting opinions and thoughts ....here are mine LOL

I have geothermal....as mentioned there were a lot of rebates involved that make the initial cost palatable, geothermal will work fine in extended cold temps if designed correctly ( would like to find out why some think differently) ....dodgeman stated geothermal has a electric backup system they can have electric heat strips, propane etc for backup, I designed mine for the max heating load so i did not put in a backup system at all for heat 10years never a problem, i heat/cool about 50,000cubic foot of home and shop year round with my system and whole house and shop is all electric bills never exceed $150 total anytime our electric cost rate is .07kwh we set our thermostat for max comfort year round, never had a breakdown but my system is name brand and rare parts are 1 day away, common parts are hrs away, .......being very rural i did feel i needed a backup energy source in-case the power went down in cold winter so i did install a propane full house generator for power backup and since i had the propane i use it for hotwater due to efficiency even though the geothemal will generate hot water.....i actually have 2 systems on one loop one for house one for shop and i drilled 5 vertical wells for the system total system cost including the generator system installed was under 30k before tax incentives and rebates..... i am EXTREMELY pleased with the system ..and would 100% recommend (our home system is a split system with forced air system with duct work, the shop is a package unit forced air no ducting all included in the cost)


my second choice would have been a remote exterior wood boiler setup


my third choice would be high efficiency propane (would check on tax incentives and rebates) due to it being clean simple and efficient........there have been mentions of ugly tanks etc...its common in our area to have underground propane tanks
 

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Our house (90 year old) had a fuel oil furnace when we bought it 22 years ago. We burned firewood for mostly the first 15 years as the heat exchanger in the old furnace was shot.

When I got somewhat crippled up we decided to replace the furnace - we kept it with oil for a couple reasons.

First was there was a relatively new 1000 gallon underground tank. If we went with propane that would mean either buying a propane tank or leasing one from a propane supplier. Leasing would cause you to be in a contract which I won't do - no way to shop the price.

Secondly I would hate to see a propane tank sitting in my yard.

Thirdly - our driveway is pretty steep and not conducive to getting truck deliveries in the winter. With the 1000 gallon oil tank I have it filled in the summer - done. I have no idea how large a propane tank I would have needed. Again - because the oil tank was already there was a lot of my decision.
 

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Our house (90 year old) had a fuel oil furnace when we bought it 22 years ago. We burned firewood for mostly the first 15 years as the heat exchanger in the old furnace was shot.

When I got somewhat crippled up we decided to replace the furnace - we kept it with oil for a couple reasons.

First was there was a relatively new 1000 gallon underground tank. If we went with propane that would mean either buying a propane tank or leasing one from a propane supplier. Leasing would cause you to be in a contract which I won't do - no way to shop the price.

Secondly I would hate to see a propane tank sitting in my yard.

Thirdly - our driveway is pretty steep and not conducive to getting truck deliveries in the winter. With the 1000 gallon oil tank I have it filled in the summer - done. I have no idea how large a propane tank I would have needed. Again - because the oil tank was already there was a lot of my decision.
Stan, you would likely have a 1,000 gallon propane tank as well, a delivery late fall and early spring would probably be necessary. It also pays to shop around, many smaller companies like ours do have tank lease, that is a large company deal and we refuse to make our customers pay to have OUR tank on their property. You're consumption of propane would be close to 25-30% more than your F/O usage, it's just what it is. That is exactly how I put it to a customer that switched from F/O to a new propane system, if you burned 700 gallons of F/O than prepare yourself for roughly 900-1000 gallons of propane to heat the same house. Again, the numbers don't lie, and I look at these numbers everyday.
 

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Stan, you would likely have a 1,000 gallon propane tank as well, a delivery late fall and early spring would probably be necessary. It also pays to shop around, many smaller companies like ours do have tank lease, that is a large company deal and we refuse to make our customers pay to have OUR tank on their property. You're consumption of propane would be close to 25-30% more than your F/O usage, it's just what it is. That is exactly how I put it to a customer that switched from F/O to a new propane system, if you burned 700 gallons of F/O than prepare yourself for roughly 900-1000 gallons of propane to heat the same house. Again, the numbers don't lie, and I look at these numbers everyday.
Great info - thanks Pat!
 

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We had a house in NJ with fuel oil and wood. The fuel oil also made our hot water. Worked so well that only in 2 years out of 20 did our fuel oil bill go more than $400 for the year. The wood was mostly free.

I do not like propane because of safety aspects. It is very dangerous. I worked in the lube oil industry for 31 years that had whole plants with gobs of propane or propylene either as a refrigerant or refrigerant and solvent. We never had an issue because we knew how to handle it except once in India where I had to make and emergency stop to figure out what to do after a big fire.

Now that geothermal is the thing, I'd seriously look at it with a wood stove backup instead of electric. They make wood furnaces that sit outside and heat a circulating hot water system. You could easily have a hot water coil in your inside circulating air system as backup/primary with your geo. It would, by far, be the lowest utility user. At my older age, I'd probably look at maybe a pellet stove that heats hot water with a coil in the air circulating system of the geo. Only reason I haven't looked at these is because my wife has a severe allergy to wood back smoke, even from a pellet stove. That is why she had so many allergy problems when we lived with wood in NJ and Vermont.

Ralph
 

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This thread has some great responses in it. I thought I would add my experience with the propane system I installed 5 years ago.

I built my house 5 years ago and opted for a propane heating system (it would be natural gas if it was available). My area in the northeast historically has used fuel oil for heat. In addition to the heating system I use propane for hot water, cooking, and clothes drying. I purchased and buried my 500gallon tank. My furnace is a modulating and condensing hot water boiler design that is rated at 95% efficiency. My domestic hot water is heated by the furnace with an indirect water heater.

My house is a 2000sqft cape cod design with a full concrete basement. Its insulated very well and is draft free. Heck I even put 2" ridged foam insulation around the foundation walls. I put a good bit of extra money into insulation to keep my heating costs down. No high efficiency furnace in the world will make up for a poorly insulated house.

In short my experience with propane over the last 5 years has been excellent.

Fuel cost - On average I burn 1000 gallons of propane a year. That is total consumption for heat keeping the house at 70F, hot water for a family of 5, cooking, and drying clothes. In the last 5 years I have never paid over $1.85 / gallon of propane. My last fill in August was at $1.33 per gallon. In general because I own my own tank I pay 1/3-1/2 less per gallon than customers who lease their tanks.

Maintenance costs - In the last 5 years I've needed to do zero maintenance to the boiler. There are no fuel filters or nozzles to clean or change. The combustion chamber is all stainless steel and self cleaning due to the condensing design. There is no masonry chimney, or metal exhaust to rust. The furnace is vented with PVC pipe. Having lived with and maintained oil furnaces in previous houses I know this is saving me on average $100 per year. Also having had to repair, and deal with 2 oil tanks that have sprung leaks in basements I'm super happy not to have that headache any more.

The downside for the propane furnace is that when parts do break there are expensive to replace. I haven't had to replace anything but I have looked up parts costs.

Operating noise - Not something many people think of when they think of their furnace but I've found has made a huge difference. The condensing furnace is virtually silent. Unless you are standing next to it and hear the fuel solenoid click open you can't hear the furnace run anywhere in the house. Every fuel oil furnace I have been around can be heard in most of the house.


I don't think I could ever go back to a fuel oil furnace. I would consider geo-thermal but I was quoted like 25k+ to have the wells drilled and system installed. Including the tank my entire propane system cost me around 10k. I did the installation myself.
 
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