The summer is winding down here in New England. We love taking in the last weeks of warm summer afternoons while enjoying the crisp and comfortable evenings. But, as September closes itself out and summer transitions into fall, New Englanders begin thinking (or worrying) about heating their homes. But, one question is asked more than most, and it’s a hotly debated topic. That age-old question “electric vs oil vs gas heat – which one is best and what should I use?”
Yes, it’s that special time of year where we must heat our homes to maintain comfortable living situations. Fall, winter, and early spring.
Many considerations and questions arise when one thinks about the best methods to heat their home.
“What’s the most cost-effective way to heat my home? What’s the most eco-friendly way to heat my home? How can I save money on my heating bill? What are some energy-saving tips I could use?”
-Every New Englander
These are all reasonable and responsible questions we ask ourselves as New Englanders. After all, over 51% of all home energy consumption comes for heating and cooling systems.
In this article, we are going to discuss the various pros and cons of these heating methods. This heavyweight three-way match of electric vs oil vs gas heat will be examined, and possibly a victor crowned?
Cost, Convenience, and Availability
Unless you’re building a new home or retrofitting an existing heating system, likely you cannot snap your fingers and choose between these different healing methods.
But, for the sake of this article, we’re going to compare cost, convenience, and availability for the contest of electric vs oil vs gas heat.
Oil-based heat is one of the oldest forms of heating we have in New England, and because many of the homes in New England are 150+ years old, most of them have old oil heating systems. New England and the mid-Atlantic regions have the highest consumption of heating oil in the country.
It should be noted that both oil and gas heating systems function in two ways. Either a furnace will push warm air through a ventilated system, or a boiler is heated which pushes hot steam through radiators and heating coils throughout the home. Electrical heating systems can be used for forced hot air, but typically not boiler systems.
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America is largely dependent on foreign oil importation, so oil prices are dependent on many factors we do not control – foreign relations, international stability, and global weather patterns all play a role.
The cost of oil will vary year to year. But overall, oil heating solutions are generally more expensive than both gas and eclectic solutions.
Oil is not delivered through underground piping like gas. It must be delivered and stored in a reservoir on-site. Oil heating is less efficient and more polluting. However, oil does produce more heat per British Thermal Unit (BTU) than gas or electric. So, for people living in particularly isolated and cold areas, oil heat can be the best option.
Gas supply for the United States is mostly produced domestically or in Canada, so its delivery costs are low and that translates into lower fuel costs for the consumer. It also burns more efficiently and cleaner, but as mentioned before, it does not have the same BTU output as oil.
If you live in a city or large town, chances are you have access to gas through municipal delivery systems. Gas accounts for over 50% of the household heating fuels across the United States. Depending on the rebates that are available in your neck of the woods, this may end up being the most cost effective option if you are placing a new system in your home.
Today, electrical heating systems are popular among people installing new systems or building new homes. And to be clear, we are talking about electrical systems that heat furnace air pushed through an HVAC system, not baseboard electrical heating systems, although they are still popular as well.
One of the most appealing aspects of electrical heating systems is the ability to accurately control heating from room-to-room, or zone by zone. Electrical heating systems have this advantage over older oil and gas systems, which do not allow as much tactile control of temperature zones.
Electrical heating systems do not have the same operational costs as oil and gas because there is less maintenance and delivery is much easier. Also, homeowners can power their electrical heating systems with off-grid green technology such as wind, solar, and geothermal.
Homeowners love the idea of generating their own electricity to power their homes and heating systems, and that’s why electrical heating is increasingly more popular.
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Electric vs Oil vs Gas Heat: Who Is The Victor?
Electric vs oil vs gas, who wins? Well for New Englanders, it’s going to be widely dependent on living circumstances and options.
For those living in colder remote climates in Northern New England, oil heating may not only be the best but only viable heating option available.
For New Englanders living in more densely-populated areas, gas heating systems may be all they need – with cheaper fuel costs and easier delivery methods, gas is preferred for homes and apartment buildings in these areas.
Electrical heating is undeniably the cleanest and potentially the safest option out there. But it may not be available to you. Building a home that is future-proof with electrical-generating capabilities sounds great, but it takes lots of foresight and investment upfront.
Going forward, as more green energy-efficient heating technologies emerge, electrical heating methods may replace all fossil fuel-based heating systems. But for now, New England will continue to be a mixed pot of heating methods.
Make Sure Your Heating System Is Safe
Regardless of the heating system in your home, it’s important to make sure that it’s up-to-code, safe, and working properly.
Please reach out to us with any questions regarding home heating systems inspections or homeownership. We specialize in commercial and residential building inspections in the Greater Boston Area.