Best choice? - Oil vs gas heat in your home

I am buying a home with an old oil furnace. The other appliances are electric. There is natural gas available on the street.
Seems to me it would be best to hook up to the gas and have all gas appliances, furnace, stove, water heater, dryer, etc.
I am not wealthy and will have to be on a tight budget.
What is your experience with gas vs oil?
Is the cost similar? How about convenience?
Are all gas appliances worthwhile? I only know that I like a gas stove top.
No experience with gas dryer or water heater.
And yes I just read about a natural gas explosion today. I think that must be rare, is it?
If I am going to have to replace the furnace soon should I go the extra mile and convert to natural gas?

From a 50,000 foot view, yes, if there is gas available at your address you should definitely convert at least your heat & hot water. Especially if you’re going to be replacing the furnace anyway. Gas is significantly cheaper than oil for heating.

From a lower view, converting will cost you more than simply replacing the oil furnace in place will - the additional costs include running a gas line from the street to your house, gas line(s) inside the house, removal of the oil tank, etc. So you have to balance available funds and time to reach break-even on the conversion. Where do you live? Some places (like Massachusetts) offer significant rebates for converting from oil to gas, which could offset a lot of those additional costs. The gas company that serves your address is the place to start, they’ll have a lot of the information you’ll need.

In terms of dryer & stove, you’d be doing it more for convenience/preference than cost savings. Especially if your current dryer & stove don’t need immediate replacing. You could just find out how much it would be to run gas lines to those appliances (since now’s the time to do it if you’re running gas lines anyway), but leave them capped until you’re ready to replace them.

Convert. You will be happy during the next blizzard when the oil truck cannot get to your street in five days,

Thanks. I will soon live in Asheville NC. Not known for blizzards.

muldoonthief - I did not think that I could run the gas lines and have them capped until ready for new appliances. Thanks for that good idea.

Convert. I went from oil to propane (NG not available) and the difference is night and day, cheaper and cleaner but more importantly all that messy and expensive annual maintenance goes away as well as the fear of the oil burner cut out tripping when I am away cutting off heat/freezing pipes.

Another for convert. And although it would probably be out of your budget, radiators over forced air.

Gas will cost less. If you don’t have a line from the street already that will add some up-front costs though.

One other point. A friend converted to gas and now he has heat during power failures. Including during the 1998 ice storm here in Montreal that left me unheated for 7 days in January. He explained that there is a small generator that generates enough power for the igniter. Not for the water pumps unfortunately, but there is significant gravity flow since the hot water is less dense than the cold. I assume that there is a small battery to jump start the generator.

Our next door neighbor converted to gas when his oil burner died. So there is a gas line that comes up along the line between our properties, so the cost of running gas into my house is minimal. However, most of our heating is electric until the temperature falls below -12C (about 10F).

I have radiators. One of the first things the real estate agent I am planning to list my house with told me was that no one wants them anymore and any buyer would be ripping them out and replacing them with forced air. :eek: Plus no central air with radiators. Maybe it’s different where you live.

Just curious - why use electric down to 10F? Solar/wind power?

We have gas with hot water baseboards. Very comfortable and more even than forced air. I gladly put up with the less than perfect look of the baseboards for the advantages over the forced air. No drafts, air isn’t so dry and having multiple zones makes it pretty efficient although I guess zones with FA is common these days(?)

IMHO, for a long time, at least in my area, oil heat has been more expensive than other forms, except perhaps electric.

But The Times They Are A-Changing. Just because gas is perhaps the cheapest right now, can anyone predict that it will still be in 5 years? 10 years?

Gas may not be abundant if fracking is subject to severe restrictions. OTOH, electric might be incredibly cheap if the current trend toward photo-voltaic generation cost reduction continues. (And if electric is cheaper, so are heat pumps.) And fuel oil could become much cheaper if it becomes more of a by-product than primary from other fuel processing.

So it’s impossible to predict much far ahead, even within the lifetime of a residential heating system. Yo’ pays yo’ money and yo’ takes yo’ chances.

People do consider radiators old fashioned. But forced air has the twin advantages of using the ducting for AC, and nothing else delivers the heat faster than forced air. If you are not home during the day you can lower the heat considerably for the day then turn it up when you get home, or use a timed thermostat to turn it up just minutes before you expect to return. Radiant heat takes a lot longer to warm up a room.

I have had both, and have forced hot air now, I would much rather have radiators. Central air may dictate forced hot air but ducts are just nasty dust distributors and in the worst case mouse superhighways (I’ve had that too). Benefit is no pipes to freeze. But I would think someone a fool if they ripped out baseboard heating to replace it with forced hot air.

Now perhaps the old style radiators I can see replacing them.

As a side note, propane costs don’t match natural gas. The price fluctuates, it can be lower than oil at times, but could easily exceed oil costs, especially now as oil prices are very low. The advantage of using forced air for heat and AC does apply to propane also but that’s about it. Propane startup costs can be lower than natural gas because you don’t need a line run from the street but that is only a short term advantage. And just like oil you’ll need fuel delivered.

The propane vs. natural gas dilemma may be answered soon in my residential neighborhood. After years of limited municipal services here (no natural gas lines, no sewer or water), it looks like we will have gas available next year. Right now, if you want gas appliances, you must use propane. Next year, you may have a choice. I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 5 years or so – will everyone that has a propane tank convert to gas service? And since some propane tanks are rented rather than owned, it might be revealing to see if those who have rented tanks convert more readily than those with owned tanks.

I converted five years ago and have loved it. I was paying literally thousands for oil. Now for a few hundred even in a very cold winter I have heat and a tankless hot water heater. FYI I took advantage of a program that gave me a a no interest loan for the cost of the upgrade. You should into seeing is there is anything like that available.

I’d be thrilled if they put a gas line on our street. Seems unlikely though, I haven’t heard of any new lines around here. They only run up two of the main streets that I know of.

I have a gas boiler for heat and a gas water heater. I love, love, love the hot water heat. No nasty duct work, no filters to change, it’s quiet, and a lot less dry air. Obviously, no central air unless I install duct work and such but I still think it’s better.

Not really and yes very different all at the same time. Forced air is forced dust and a lot of other issues houses with radiators don’t face. And the percentage of people picking houses so equipped has a pretty solid base; basically the same as all-electric households. I’ve lived with both and I’m stuck with forced air right now and hating it. AC I can work out/around, everything else I can work around. But if/when I move that radiator system is high on my must-have list.