Real Estate Talk Boston

Gas Heating verses Oil Heating

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By Wayne Czybora

Every once in a while I am asked “Which is a better heating source, oil or gas? Well, to begin with both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

Historically, oil prices have been high and much more unstable than natural gas prices. This is partly due to the unrest that we’ve seen for so long in the Middle East. However, lately there hasn’t been much difference in the price of the two fuels but keep in mind oil prices can change quickly depending on what’s going on in the Middle East. By the way, only about 7% of US households heat with oil these days and most of those homes are here in the Northeast.

First of all, make sure natural gas is available in your area. If not, then you’ve already made your decision.

I’ve also included a short questionnaire that can help you make your decision.

Here are some points to consider when making your decision:

Gas Heating

• Gas generally burns cleanly and requires less maintenance.
• You don’t have to worry about making sure you have enough fuel like you would with oil.
• Gas prices are usually very stable, unlike oil prices.

Oil Heating

• Fuel oil is not explosive and inhalation of fumes is not fatal.
• Oil heat provides more heat per BTU than gas.
• Switching from oil to gas could cost several thousands of dollars.

There are often public and private rebates or financing incentives available to homeowners who upgrade their existing systems so make sure to check out all of your options before you make your decision.

Another important point, you can call MassSAVE at 866 527-7283 or go to and they may provide you a no-cost home energy assessment to identify the energy –saving improvements that are right for you. They also may provide money toward the cost of purchasing and installing approved energy-saving measures and money-saving rebates when you install qualifying energy efficient equipment.

If you check "Yes" on only on 1 to 3 questions, your current setup works fine. Check more than four, however, and it's worth investigating your options. Seven or more means it may be time to switch to gas.

1. Your oil-heat boiler or furnace is shot and needs to be replaced.
Yes No

2. Your chimney is old and needs to be rebuilt or relined. Note: New oil or gas boilers and furnaces can be vented directly through the side of the house, bypassing the chimney entirely. Yes No

3. You have a natural gas line available and the utility company's cost to run a lateral line from the street to your house is low.
Yes No

4. The company that will run the gas lateral to your house can place the gas meter conveniently--for example, so that the existing gas line inside the house can access the meter without significant mechanical disruption or remodeling. Note: You need a heating/cooling contractor's input to answer this question.
Yes No

5. It appears that the gas lateral will create minimal disruption to your property and landscape.
Yes No

6. Over the past ten years, you've tried several fuel oil providers in your area, at several different price and service plans. You're dissatisfied--either the quality of service has been poor from a mechanical standpoint, or the company just seems unfriendly.
Yes No

7. You want the fuel oil tank out of the basement. It's either old, rusty and smelly, or you just want it out to free up space down there. Note: Getting an old fuel oil tank out of a basement, especially a crowded one, is a big job. Take some careful measurements of the tank and all stairs or exterior doors before proceeding. PM contributor Pat Porzio, a mechanical contractor, reminds us that some municipalities may require you to pull a special building permit just for the removal of the oil tank, regardless of whether it's above or below ground, indoors or out.
Yes No

8. The fuel tank is free-standing and located outdoors. Although it's mechanically sound, you find its appearance unattractive and would like to be rid of it Note: See above, regarding tank-removal permits.
Yes No

9. The oil-fired boiler or furnace is located in a utility closet somewhere in close proximity to the living space (not the basement or in a crawlspace) and it's too loud. You're hoping to reduce noise in the living space with gas-fired equipment. Note: 10. Oil-fired equipment tends to be noisier than gas-fired, though there are exceptions to this broad rule of thumb. If you're replacing a furnace or boiler, speak to your oil-heat provider or mechanical contractor about noise reduction. If they know that this is an issue, they can better identify quieter equipment and noise-reduction measures (such as relocating equipment to a place where its sound will be less bothersome).
Yes No

10. You have an electric water heater that needs to be replaced along with the heating equipment. You're hoping to switch to a gas-fired water heater for better hot-water performance. Note: You can also get an oil-fired water heater. Oil-fired water heaters are generally more expensive than comparable gas-fired models, and they need to be tuned yearly, like an oil-fired boiler or furnace. On the other hand, they're extremely potent hot-water producers--residential versions of these appliances are nearly as powerful as their commercial counterparts. If plentiful hot water is an issue, they're hard to beat. Also, an oil-fired boiler can be equipped to produce sufficient hot water, as can a gas boiler. Again, investigate your options by talking to both your oil supplier and a heating/cooling contractor in order to make an informed decision.
Yes No

If you check "Yes" on only on 1 to 3 questions, your current setup works fine. Check more than four, however, and it's worth investigating your options. Seven or more means it may be time to switch to gas.

For more information you can reach out to Wayne directly by clicking here.

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