The price of oil goes up and down. More natural gas deposits have been found. What does this all mean? Well, it might be time to consider converting your heating system from oil to natural gas.
Figure 1– Winter heating cost for an average home in the Northeast by fuel type. (Source: Cardwell, Diane, and Clifford Krauss. 2012. “As Price of Oil Soars, Users Shiver and Cross Their Fingers.” The New York Times, January 21)
The FACTS about switching from oil to gas
- New natural gas systems are small, quiet, and up to 95% efficient.
- Natural gas is cleaner to burn (~half the carbon of oil), and is produced domestically. Also, there are now a whole series of incentives to install a high efficiency gas boiler and water tank. These incentives, whether from your state or utility provider, generally range between $1,000 and $2,000. More importantly, there are numerous programs in place that provide interest-free loans to pay for the conversion.
- While switching is not cheap (upfront costs typically range $6,500 – $8,500), payback times are decent (3 – 5 years) and subsidized financing may be available for efficiency improvements.
- Timing: The utility can’t dig when the ground is frozen – so it’s worth considering come March or April. Especially if your furnace is over 20 years old, inefficient and near end of its life. You may have to replace it soon anyway and you might as well benefit from the subsidies the gas company gives new customers. The utility is slow and does need a couple months notice to perform an install, so don’t put it off until fall next year.
- Natural Gas relies on a controversial drilling method – ‘fracking,’ but the oil industry has its exploits too. And we don’t have to fight wars or trade with questionable governments for natural gas. For more reading on fracking, check out the Winter 2013 BTW Magazine.
- The takeaway: Both oil and natural gas are non-renewable fuels, and produce carbon when burned. Natural gas technology may be more economical, efficient, and Eco-friendly than oil, but fracking is a serious issue. To avoid the problems associated with carbon fuels, check out geothermal systems.
- For a detailed analysis of switching from oil to natural gas, read our guide.