Gas Furnace Or Oil Furnace: Which One Is The Better Choice?

Let's say that you want to keep your home or office space nice and toasty this winter and you're set on getting a furnace. Now you'll have to choose between getting a gas-fired furnace or an oil-fired furnace. But which one is the better deal for your home or office?

The following takes a look at the pros and cons of both types of furnaces. To make it a more fair comparison, this in-depth review won't take availability of gas or oil into consideration; although, the price of fuel will remain an important point to consider for comparison's sake.

Operation and Installation Costs

Many people are attracted to modern oil furnaces thanks to their relatively affordable purchase and installation costs. According to recent data from Angie's List, you can purchase and install an oil furnace for around $2,000 to $8,000. Meanwhile, a gas furnace can cost anywhere from $2,500 to as much as $14,000 to purchase and install.

However, the high cost of buying and installing a gas furnace is made up by its relatively low cost of upkeep, especially when compared against similar oil furnaces. With natural gas and propane as cleaner-burning fuels, it takes far less effort to clean up and otherwise maintain a gas furnace than its oil-fired counterpart.

Another advantage that gas furnaces have over oil furnaces involves the cost of fuel. Historically, natural gas has been the go-to for clean and relatively cheap heating fuel, with roughly 50 percent of households reliant on natural gas. Even with the recent drop in heating oil prices, natural gas still remains the most affordable form of heating available.

Performance and Efficiency

When it comes to overall performance, one advantage that oil furnaces have over gas furnaces is that they can get more heat energy out of their fuel. Using a gallon of #2 heating oil, the average oil furnace can produce nearly 140,000 BTUs of heat, compared to the 100,000 BTUs of heat a gas furnace can extract from a single therm of natural gas.

Nevertheless, gas furnaces remain on top when it comes to energy efficiency. Whereas a typical oil furnace offers an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating of 80 to 90 percent, a comparable gas furnace features AFUE ratings of up to 98 percent. This means that a gas furnace rated at an AFUE of 98 percent is capable of turning 98 percent of the fuel it uses into usable heat energy, making it exceptionally efficient and environmentally friendly in terms of emissions.

Furnace Lifespan

Oil furnaces tend to be built for the long run. You can expect the average oil furnace to see anywhere from 15 to 25 years of use before needing replacement. Some models can last for up to 25 years or more with the proper maintenance. In comparison, the life expectancy of most natural gas furnaces tops out at around 15 years. However, there are plenty of models that are capable of meeting or even exceeding this average life expectancy.

Which One Should You Choose?

To recap, gas furnaces have a higher initial cost, but they make up for it by having lower long-term maintenance costs and lower fuel costs overall. Gas furnaces are also cleaner-burning, less messy to clean up and offer cleaner emissions.

On the other hand, oil furnaces have a lower cost of entry, plus you can get more out of a gallon of heating oil than you could from a therm of natural gas. However, oil furnaces are more expensive to maintain, give off higher levels of emissions and the fuel costs are somewhat higher than natural gas. Oil furnaces usually last a few years longer than most natural gas furnaces.

If you're on a budget or if you live in climates where maximizing your furnace's heat output is critical, an oil furnace is the ideal purchase for better indoor comfort. If you're looking for long-term savings while enjoying a cleaner and cheaper form of energy, then a gas furnace is your best bet.