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Pros & Cons of Oil-to-Gas Heating Conversion


Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-Licensed photographs by Gnomedude and Joanna Poe.

Oil heaters store a light petroleum in a tank and use it to fire a hot water tank or a household furnace. The advantages of oil is that it can be transported by a vehicle and many oil heater can function without electricity. This is convenient in rural areas, but there might be a better option for heating and cooling Tucson city residents might want to consider.

City homes with oil heaters can convert to natural gas. While petroleum products can vary in price, natural gas is more stable. The average cost of heating a home during the 2008 winter was $1700 with oil while heating with natural gas cost only $900.

There is a direct relation between the price of unrefined petroleum and oil heating. Petroleum is the base price of all derived products, ranging from gasoline to plastic to kerosene and house heating oil. While petroleum prices are currently low in the United States, this might change in a decade.

One advantage of oil is that it has a flash point of 52 degrees Celsius. This means that it does not form a combustible vapor at room temperature. While heating oil can be stored securely, it does require a storage tank. Natural gas pipes are well out of sight.

Natural gas risks an explosion if it leaks at a high enough concentration. The good news is that new installations have many safety features that minimize leaks. If gas does leak, aeration will remove it from a home. Oil is much more damaging if it spills, because it saturates surfaces and is difficult to remove.

Natural gas is better for the environment than burning oil, wood, or coal. It does not leave soot or a residue, and the only byproducts are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Natural gas is safe enough that gas stoves and fire places can be installed into a home without chimneys.

Because natural gas is delivered from an external source, there is no need to have a home inspected for fire safety every year. Oil and wood burning might increase the cost of insurance, while natural gas impacts insurance costs less. It might cost $2000 to install a gas line, but savings in annual heating might repay a family in only a few years.