Propane, Natural Gas, Oil, or Electricity?
Written on: December 5, 2022
Understanding the Pros and Cons to Help You Decide
When it comes to heating your Texas or New Mexico home, you’ve got a lot of options at your disposal. There’s heating oil, propane, natural gas, and electricity. While there’s a lot of pressure to shift to “greener” electricity, there are also questions about whether ERCOT can support current use—let alone the huge increase in demand that would result.
So, what’s the best option for your home?
If your current system is new and performing well, there’s probably no reason to undertake the process of a system change. However, if your heating system is proving unreliable or is otherwise on its last legs, it might be time to entertain a replacement. Similarly, if you’re building a new home, it’s smart to consider the benefits and downsides of each to come to the best possible solution for the years to come.
Benefits of Propane Heating
- Propane equipment, on average, runs more efficiently than heating oil equipment.
- Propane doesn’t produce significant carbon dioxide; in fact, propane is approved as a “clean fuel” by the US Government.
- Propane heating equipment requires less maintenance and lasts longer than heating oil-fueled equipment.
- Propane is nontoxic and nonpoisonous, so it doesn’t contaminate groundwater or soil if it leaks—which means propane tanks can be safely buried out of sight.
- Propane is super versatile, and, like electricity, can be used to power other appliances such as ranges, dishwashers, laundry machines, and water heaters as well as grills and fireplaces. It can also be used to power a generator that will keep your home running when the electric lines are down.
- Propane gas is easy and safe to transport because it gets compressed into a liquid—you may have transported it yourself when you’ve exchanged or refilled a portable cylinder for your grill.
- All the propane used in the U.S. is produced in North America. That means nearly every gallon of propane you buy contributes to America’s energy independence.
Cons of Propane
- Propane produces fewer BTUs per gallon than heating oil—you need to burn more of it to achieve the same amount of heat.
- Propane-burning equipment often costs more to purchase than heating oil-based systems
- Propane is combustible in air, so precautions are needed to operate the equipment safely.
Benefits of Oil Heat
- Heating oil has a higher BTU output per gallon and is used up more slowly than propane; this could mean you will pay less to heat your house with heating oil, even if the per-gallon cost of propane is less.
- Equipment is generally less expensive to install.
- Ultra-low sulfur heating oil burns much more cleanly and particulate emissions have been reduced significantly from the already low levels of the past few decades.
- New heating oil systems now burn fuel 99.9% cleanly, according to studies conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven Laboratory.
Downsides of Heating Oil
- Heating oil tanks—especially older steel-lined ones—can corrode from the inside and develop leaks, which can be extremely expensive to clean up. This is a cost that is often not covered by homeowner’s insurance.
- Most heating oil comes from offshore sources, which means its price is subject to international market forces and is therefore more volatile than propane.
- Oil furnaces need to be cleaned more frequently than propane furnaces and tend to require more maintenance.
- In most homes that are heated by oil, other appliances—such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers—are run by electricity, which is not as efficient as propane.
- Heating oil is not as versatile as other options, so you still need other energy sources to power most of your other appliances and equipment.
Benefits of Natural Gas
- Because natural gas is delivered to your home via a pipeline, you don’t have to worry about scheduling any deliveries.
- Like propane, you can use it to run a range of appliances, including ranges and water heaters, as well as to heat your home.
Cons of Natural Gas
- Connecting to natural gas can be costly, or outright impossible, depending on how far you are from the service line. It also requires expensive excavation that can be destructive to your yard and garden.
- Aging pipelines can result in leaks that are hard identify and even more challenging to repair, while at the same time utilities and public utility commissions argue over who foots the bill. If it’s up to the utilities, that cost will get passed to customers.
- Leaking natural gas contains methane, a greenhouse gas, and harmful to the environment.
- When temperatures plunge and demand goes up, so do prices.
- Natural gas is less efficient than propane, which delivers more than twice the BTUs. So, you’d need more natural gas to produce the same heat as propane.
Benefits of Electricity
- Electricity is versatile. You can use it for heat, cooking, lighting, computers and smart phones, televisions, as well as your cooling systems, too.
- It produces virtually zero emissions when you use it…however, generating it is another story. The generation results in many harmful emissions.
- Electric heating equipment is generally inexpensive and low maintenance.
Downsides of Electricity
- Electric heat takes much longer to reach a comfortable temperature and can struggle to maintain it—driving up your energy usage—and your utility bills alongside it! Even without geopolitics driving energy costs up, electricity will cost you more.
- Electric heat pumps rely on outdoor air, which means they become less able to keep your home warm the lower the temperature goes. In fact, many homes with electric heat pumps need to have supplemental heat sources as a backup.
- Electric generation is the second-largest creator of greenhouse gasses in the United States. That’s because most of our electricity supply is generated by coal-fired power plants. More than 63% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas. Only the transportation sector creates more greenhouse gases.
- Our grid isn’t reliable enough to handle a wholesale switch to electricity. We’ve seen that through periods of both extreme cold and extreme heat. Imagine the inconvenience when you are relying completely on electricity.
The Bottom Line? Propane is a Choice You Can Be Confident With.
Want to learn even more about the benefits of clean-burning, efficient propane power for your home? Whether you are looking to convert to a propane heating system or explore converting more of your home’s equipment to propane, the experts at Pico Propane and Fuels can help.
We’re the go-to choice for homes and businesses from the Gulf Coast of Texas to Albuquerque! If you’re looking for a new home energy provider this season, contact Pico today and let us show you all the ways propane can make your home warm, comfortable, and more efficient.