As such, one of the most common debates is whether Northeasterns should convert their heating oil systems to natural gas.
The first question to ask is will it save you money in the long run?
The federal government’s 30% tax credit for upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace ended nearly a decade ago, and homeowners that didn’t jump on the credit may be left asking themselves if it’s still worth the effort.
Let’s cover the differences in each heating source, from the BTU output, conversion costs and environmental impact to discover which fuel suits your home best.
British thermal unit (BTU) is the most common way to measure a unit of heat in the United States. Specifically, BTUs measure the amount of energy needed to raise one pound of water 1°F at sea level. This measurement is a gauge for energy use, energy effectiveness, and heating system sizing.
Simply put, the higher the BTU rating the more powerful, and higher heat output it has.
When comparing natural gas and heating oil, consider the following breakdown:
Mathematically, heating oil contains more heat per BTUs than natural gas (and than most other fuels available on the market). Therefore, heating oil outputs more heat, making it the more efficient option of the two.
Heating oil is at its most efficient and environmentally-friendly state when used as bioheat.
Bioheat is a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil. The advancement in fuel properties from heating oil is great news for Northeasterns, as the fuel can be used in your oil tank without any modifications to your tank or furnace.
From an environmental standpoint, bioheat is notable because unlike natural gas, it’s a renewable fuel, and touts lower carbon emissions.
During the Paris Climate Change Convention in 2016, more than 200 nations agreed to limit carbon gasses that pollute the earth by promoting the use of renewable energy sources and low carbon options. Bioheat falls under the same category as wind and solar energy, which are all acknowledged as sources of renewable energy.
Natural gas, on the other hand, falls into the same bracket as petroleum and coal, which are nonrenewable sources of energy, also known as fossil fuels.
Methane losses from natural gas systems pose a significant problem for global warming as well. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times more dangerous than poisonous carbon dioxide. And, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, methane ranks amongst the worst of the greenhouse gases.
When considering the environmental impact between natural gas and biofuel, the heating oil option wins by a landslide.
Homeowners considering the conversion from heating oil to natural gas need to estimate the cost to make the switch. The grand total will vary based on many factors, including:
However, according to CBS Boston, the switch can cost anywhere from $4,500 to $7,000. New England Cable News increases the prices even more, stating conversions can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000.
Though there may be long-term savings with a natural gas conversion, the upfront cost, coupled with the environmental impact cause many homeowners pause.
According to the Consumer Energy Council of America, this fuel conversion could be an “expensive gamble”.
Experts zero in on some of the dangers of natural gas as a caution to homeowners considering the switch:
Though every homeowner will need to weigh the pros and cons of natural gas and heating oil for themselves, it’s important to inform yourself on all aspects of the conversion.
Want to learn more about the difference between heating oil and natural gas? Check out the following resources:
Actually, there are several drawbacks to natural gas, that have homeowners considering alternative fuel sources for their primary energy. For example:
To find a safer, more cost-effective and more environmentally-friendly fuel sources, homeowners are increasingly considering the following four types of fuel.
Propane, which comes from both natural gas processing and crude oil refining, is the most common alternative to natural gas. Propane is abundant, and also, when compared to natural gas, is a more cost-effective and efficient option. Even though consumers pay a higher price per unit for propane ($26.99 per gallon) than natural gas ($6.23 per cubic foot) by volume, one cubic foot of propane equals 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas equals 1,030 BTUs. This means propane provides more than twice the energy of natural gas, which makes it a far less expensive alternative to natural gas because you get more for your buck.
Though propane is a flammable substance and should be handled carefully, it’s not common for propane tanks to explode. Propane tanks are rarely connected or used in gas pipelines, which make this energy source less risky than natural gas. In comparison, natural gas lines pose a greater threat to leaking and causing potentially deadly accidents. Take, for instance, the 2010 PG&E natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Ca that left eight people dead.
Just like natural gas, propane is best used for everyday appliances like:
Propane is also an excellent fuel source for outdoor cooking as die-hard barbequers prefer the taste of food cooked over a propane grill to one fueled by natural gas.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective and familiar alternative to heat your everyday uses, propane is a good choice to replace natural gas.
Many homeowners are hesitant to install solar in their home because the upfront costs feel extreme. At the time this article was written, the average nationwide solar panel cost is $3.05 per watt. And, the average solar panel system size in the U.S is around 6 kilowatts (6000 watts). That means outfitting a home with solar will cost about $18,300. Even with the 30 percent tax credit the U.S. government offers, homeowners can still expect to pay roughly $12,810 for new equipment. The installation costs are similar to installing a natural gas pipeline into your home.
Solar power is energy derived from the sun then is converted into electric or thermal energy. Because of this process, the Solar Energy Industries Association, claims it is one of cleanest and most bountiful renewable energy source available. And while solar is much more eco-friendly and safe than natural gas, it’s worth mentioning solar panels pose small safety hazards and risks for technicians constructing, installing, and maintaining the panels, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Solar energy is versatile in its many uses and is used to generate electricity, provide lighting, and water heating. However, if you have many utilities powered by gas, solar energy may not be your best alternative, as there is no gaseous form of solar power.
Compared to natural gas, solar power is cleaner, safer, and cheaper and can be a great source of electricity. However, the upfront costs to install new equipment may deter many homeowners from converting to solar.
Biomass is an attractive fuel source because it’s renewable and easy to grow. Still, even for an easily accessed fuel, when compared to natural gas, biomass is a bit more expensive for residential use. Small-scale biomass electric plants have calculated the cost of biomass energy can reach $0.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), whereas natural gas is around $0.12. Though the difference is pennies, the costs will add up over the year. For example, a single, 500-watt halogen lightbulb, that you use for .25 hours a day, every day will cost you roughly $6.84 per year with biomass $5.48 per year with natural gas.
Biomass is a low carbon, low emission fuel, which is great for the environment. However, there have been concerns about biomass’ effect on human health. In 2016, numerous health organizations wrote a letter to Congress denoting that biomass negatively impacts human health, and contributes to asthma attacks, cancer, heart attacks, and poorer quality of health. The jury is still out on the overall safety of biomass, makes many homeowners reluctant to introduce it in their home.
If you are in search of a gaseous replacement for natural gas, biomass is an option. Specifically, biomass is a great alternative if you live in a rural area and it’s difficult to access natural gas or propane. Biomass can heat appliances and act as a portable cooking source if you’re a camper. Furthermore, biomass can also great for power generators and mechanical engines.
Depending on your geographic location, biomass may be a viable alternative for natural gas. However, its potential health risks may make it a riskier choice than other options on the market.
For those with access to a company selling wind energy, the cost of this alternative fuel is unbeatable. The current price per kilowatt hour averages a mere $0.02, compared to natural gas’ $6.23 per unit price. However, if you’re unable to purchase energy from a company, you’ll need a wind turbine that converts 100 kilowatts of energy to power your home, and that’s an expensive investment. Specifically, the initial cost and preparation of installing wind turbines can range from $50,000 to $80,000. Not to mention the space required to house such a large piece of equipment.
Wind energy is a clean and renewable energy source. It does not pollute toxins into the air or contribute to greenhouse gases as natural gas does. However, like solar energy, wind turbines do pose a safety threat to maintenance and installation workers. Wind turbines also have led to the increase in bird and bat deaths due to the aerial space they occupy, which has pushed some groups to work toward the creation of ‘no-blade’ turbines.
Wind energy is versatile and can produce both mechanical energy and electricity. That means, it’s great for all aspects of residential and commercial energy — from heating and cooling to everyday appliances.
When it comes to wind energy, if you have access to an energy company that provides the resource, or space, money, and proper climate to install your own wind turbines, it could have huge returns on your investment.
Other alternative fuels are on the horizon as well. For instance, syngas, which is typically reserved gas-fueled engines and generators, has started to become a viable replacement for the generation of heat and power on a small scale. Though the cost of syngas directly correlates to the prices of natural gas, it could eventually become a cost-effective way for homeowners to fuel their appliances.
At the end of the day, the alternate fuel you select will depend on your preferences and accessibility to new options.
With the growing use of natural gas in the United States, what do you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of this fossil fuel?
Natural gas is one of the three biggest fossil energy sources in the world today. The fuel develops deep beneath the earth’s surface from organic matter aged over millions of years. The largest component of natural gas is methane, though there are also traces of hydrocarbon gases and hydrocarbon gas liquids.
Though there are benefits of natural gas, the drawbacks are considerable. Specifically when it comes to extracting, transporting, and maintaining infrastructure for the fuel.
Now that we’ve gotten the drawbacks accounted for, let’s explore why a homeowner would consider natural gas.
Natural gas provides access to a cleaner fossil fuel that is equally effective to other energy sources available. While there are certain hazards which we must account for when using this resource, if carefully managed, natural gas is one of the most viable and clean energy sources on earth.
And, there are things all homeowners can do to mitigate risk:
Santa Fuel has been a reliable and dependable source for Connecticut heating services for decades. Not only does Santa Fuel provide heating oil services, but we also perform energy audits to decrease your heating bills, and offer alternative heating solutions such as natural gas system installations, conversions, and repairs, and offer 24-hour tech service when you need us most.